More states opting out of $300 a week federal unemployment boost, some asking for Illinois to do the same

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)- A growing number of states have announced plans to opt-out of the federal boost to unemployment benefits and now some are calling for Illinois to follow suit.

If you drive around, odds are you’ll find a sign that reads “Now Hiring” outside a business.

“We could fit 250 people in here, 300, but if we don’t have the staff to cook or serve you, we have to shrink our restaurant,” said Pat Sullivan, Owner of Kelleher’s Irish Pub.

This is happening amid a shortage of workers that many businesses say they are seeing more than a year into COVID-19.

“They still have people on unemployment making more at home than they are working,” Sullivan said.

As more states opt out of the $300 dollar a week increase in unemployment, 20 as of Tuesday evening, Governor J.B. Pritzker said the resource has been crucial for some Illinoisans.

“The reality is there are many people who have children at home they still need to take care of because of the circumstances of the pandemic,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker also says the state’s economy is improving, stating that roughly 93,000 people were hired in the first quarter of 2021.

But some state lawmakers say they don’t believe the boost in benefits is still serving its purpose.

“The program’s designed to bridge a gap to help you through those difficult times, not to put you on the road to retirement,” said Rep. Dan Brady, 105th District-(R).

Brady explains that businesses have been hurt by a lack of employees.

“That means they close. They close on what may have been a Sunday that they’re open, or a Monday that they’re open,” he said.

Brady explains that addressing unemployment has been a focus for the Illinois House Republican Caucus and he says that state and federal benefits should be decoupled.

Sullivan says he also works with carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, and it is a struggle finding workers in those fields as well.

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