Older workers who lose their jobs face an additional hurdle in Illinois: a discriminatory law that cuts their unemployment benefits in half. To make matters worse, Illinois is one of only three states in the nation where older workers are discriminated in this way, and in the next few months it could be among the last two.
To help thousands of workers affected by this law, AARP announced today its support behind two bills - House Bill 5047, sponsored by Representative Karen May, and Senate Bill 2640 sponsored by Senator Heather Steans. AARP also launched the Social Security Unemployment Offset Hotline (1-800-664-9903) to connect members and the public directly to their legislators and urge passage of both measures.
"Too many older adults have been forced by the recession to stay in the workforce, or have had to return to work to make ends meet. Employers already pay into the unemployment fund for all their workers. To further penalize those who get Social Security when they lose their jobs, just because of their age, is wrong and must be repealed," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director. "AARP commends Representative May and Senator Steans for introducing bi-partisan legislation aimed at putting an end to this discriminatory practice."
HB 5047 and SB 2640 would permit eligible older workers to fully collect the unemployment benefits they are due. Current Illinois law penalizes older workers by reducing their unemployment benefits by one-half of the amount they receive through Social Security. Illinois is one of only three states in the nation that has not taken a repeal action against this discriminatory law.
Complicating the matter is the fact that older workers have a much more difficult time finding a new job once they become unemployed. According to a November 2009 AARP report, workers over age 55 are unemployed for an average of 36 weeks, whereas unemployed persons under age 55 were out of work an average of 28.3 weeks.
Since 2002, 19 states have repealed the offset law. Utah, one of the remaining three, is on its way to eliminate it if a bill passed by the State House also passes the Senate, leaving Illinois and Louisiana as the only states still penalizing older workers.