Illinois may pay bonuses to get workers to take jobs again

Illinois may pay bonuses to get workers to take jobs again

To combat above-average unemployment, Illinois state leaders discussed a possible back-to-work bonus. The state would pay cash to those who go off unemployment.

As Illinois’s 6.7% unemployment rate looms above the 5.5% national average, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is looking for ways to get some of roughly 440,000 Illinoisans off unemployment. His latest plan is a back-to-work bonus.

The idea is to give a lump-sum payment to Illinoisans for returning to work. Similar programs in Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma offer residents about $1,000 for getting a job.

In other states, lawmakers have used different incentives and programs to get residents back to work – some by offering money, some by taking it away. Twenty-six states have suspended, or plan an early end to the $300 weekly federal unemployment supplement. Some state policymakers say the federal supplement is keeping workers on unemployment.

Pritzker has no plans to suspend the federal supplement early. It is set to expire Sept. 6.

In addition to the potential back-to-work bonus, Illinois is pushing a return to work by subsidizing child care for low-income families. Families who fall below the poverty line will be eligible for subsidized child care, with copays of as little as $1. Many lawmakers claim subsidizing child care will eliminate a hurdle for many unemployed families who want to return to work.

“How many stores that we go to have ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, asked at a press conference. “Well, the reason there’s a ‘Help Wanted’ sign is because the worker can’t come to work. The worker can’t come to work because they can’t find child care.”

Child care costs may be a factor in Illinois’ current unemployment bloat, but even subsidized child care and a back-to-work bonus may not be enough. More money for no work is just too good for some to turn down.

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