On March 24, Senate Democrats rammed through legislation that underfunds the state’s massive $4.5 billion Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund deficit that State Senator Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) is calling both ill-advised and financially irresponsible.
Senate Bill 2803 appropriates only $2.7 billion from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 funds for the state’s UI Trust Fund. Sen. Bryant noted that the late additions in the bill, including roughly $1.4 billion of the state’s General Revenue Fund for paying old health insurance bills, a $300 million boost to pension payments, and paying more than $200 million in College Illinois debt, were positive proposals that could have easily gained bipartisan support if they had not been lumped with the shortchanging of the UI Trust Fund.
“This proposal will still leave our state’s UI Trust Fund with a $1.8 billion debt that will force businesses to fill that hole by either paying the highest business tax increase in recent Illinois history or cutting benefits to workers. Instead of using our federally gifted funds to fix this problem, we continued to delay which allowed the debt to grow,” said Sen. Bryant. “By shortchanging the UI Trust Fund, we are going to harm the people who need the most help within our state. This will hurt our hospitality and restaurant industry, an industry who is still struggling to recover from the Governor’s imposed shutdowns, more than anyone else.”
The state of Illinois received $8.1 billion of ARPA funds from the federal government, which was designed to be used for COVID-19 relief and help with economic recovery. The federal government approved ARPA funds to be used on items like the UI Trust Fund, which prompted several states to use their APRA dollars to fully fund their own deficits.
“What Democrats did today is simply not right. It’s wrong for our state to lay the burden of fixing this problem on our state’s employers when they did absolutely nothing to create the debt. It’s even more disgraceful that Democrats decided to force this upon them when our state was given nearly double the amount of funds needed to replenish this deficit.” continued Sen. Bryant. “We could’ve and should’ve avoided this by allocating some of the billions of federal dollars we got from the federal government last year. However, when we asked Democrats and the Governor to put the federal dollars into the trust fund, they chose to ignore us and claimed we had plenty of time to address the problem. Now, a year later, we are being told by those same people that we are out of time and that this is the best that our state can do.”
Senate Bill 2803 passed out of Senate and House along a partisan roll call and is now headed to the Governor’s desk.