Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: State making progress on paying down unemployment debt

Good government news isn’t always flashy, but it still warrants attention.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security recently announced the unemployment insurance trust fund balance can afford $450 million to pay down federal loans incurred during COVID-19 mitigation, which Gov. JB Pritzker said reduces the remaining balance by 25% and should save about $10 million on interest payments over one year.

Scott T. Holland

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said the payment is possible because low unemployment claims yielded a $1.2 billion surplus. Pritzker further vowed to wipe the remainder of the debt by the end of 2022, which requires negotiation involving his office, lawmakers, employers and workforce representatives in order to stave off a change in federal unemployment tax credits that will increase the amount employers owe to the tune of $21 per worker.

So work remains. Illinois is not immune from fraud in the system, exacerbated during early pandemic stages, and it’s never hard to find people who wield any unemployment statistics against incumbent leadership. But this surplus, payment and savings are big-picture wins for the state’s economic outlook.

Shrewd Democrats will not just campaign on this development, but do so with easily understood messages.

EARLY VOTING: With 40 days before Nov. 8, early voting has opened across Illinois. Registration is available at through the end of Oct. 23. That page includes a link for checking the status of an active registration, which also reveals voting district information and polling places – including early voting sites and mail-in ballot drop boxes – as well as whether grace period registration is available on site up to and including on election day.

Monday’s mail included a letter from our county clerk including an application for permanent vote by mail status. There was a helpful letter explaining the changes under 2021 legislation, and although I plan to vote in-person when practical, it’s nice to see the application and be able to understand where the clerk’s office and an election judge will be involved, to know signatures will be checked against those supplied during registration and a reminder there are criminal penalties for lying on the form.

While websites are helpful, it’s always possible to simply call or visit your local election authority (typically the county clerk’s office) to address any questions.

ON THIS DAY: Enrico Fermi was born Sept. 29, 1901, in Rome, and though New York and Italy have their claims on his legacy, Fermi’s work as a nuclear physicist at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory are essential to the state and American history. Though just 53 when he died of stomach cancer in his Chicago home, Fermi ranks among the most influential scientists of the 20th century and remains an Illinois institution.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at