Benefit weeks, which are weeks in which you receive unemployment compensation, are closely regulated by your state's unemployment compensation laws. If you live in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) calculates your eligible unemployment based on your previous wages and state laws. It doesn't calculate benefit weeks. Instead, it calculates the amount you're eligible to receive per week and the amount you're eligible to receive for the total claim. From that point, the number of benefit weeks can be determined with simple math.
Maximum benefit amount (MBA) is the total amount of unemployment compensation you can receive each benefit year. Benefit years are the same as calendar years, except a benefit year begins the Sunday of the week you filed your initial unemployment claim. You don't have to exhaust your MBA in consecutive weeks. If you go on unemployment, receive some of your MBA and find a job, your MBA is still in effect until your benefit year is over. If you begin receiving benefits again during that year, you can only collect what's left of your MBA. When you've reached that maximum, your claim is closed until the new benefit year.
Calculating Illinois MBA
Each claimant's MBA is relative to his own claim. The IDES calculates your MBA by totalling your base period covered wages. Your base period is the first four of the last five full calendar quarters. Covered wages are those earned from work protected by the Illinois unemployment insurance laws. That's most forms for work, with exceptions for self-employment, independent contracting and employment paid by commissions only. Your Illinois MBA is the total amount of covered wages you earned during your base period.
Illinois Maximum MBA
Illinois's unemployment compensation laws limit various aspects of your claim to avoid abuse of the program and draining the fund with a few overly large claims. So your MBA is limited to no more than 26 times your weekly benefit amount. Your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is the total eligible compensation you can receive on each week of unemployment. When the IDES approves your claim, it sends you a notice detailing what your WBA is.
Essentially, you can divide your MBA by your WBA to determine how many weeks of Illinois unemployment you can collect. However, you may not always receive your total WBA. If you earn money or receive pension payments or severance pay, your payments may be reduced for a week in question. This is called partial unemployment, because you're only eligible to receive part of your compensation. However, your MBA will remain the same. So if you're working a part-time job and that only leaves you eligible to collect half your WBA each week, it's possible that you can collect twice as many weeks of payments at that reduced rate than if you were receiving the whole WBA.
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