Thousands are applying for unemployment benefits in Illinois after being laid off due to COVID-19. Credit: Sam Cholke/DNAinfo

CHICAGO — Illinois has extended unemployment benefits for another 20 weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.

People who have already gone through the typical 26 weeks of unemployment benefits can get the 20-week extension, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Illinois is one of just 19 states offering the 20-week extension.

People with questions or in need of help can go online.

The move comes as workers throughout the state continue to struggle due to the pandemic.

More than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. In Illinois, roughly 1.45 million residents have filed unemployment claims due to the crisis.

Hopes the federal government would pass another stimulus to help workers dimmed this week, as negotiations between Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill.

And Illinois’ employment benefits system has faced sharp criticism since the pandemic’s start, with many people saying they had to wait weeks to file or have encountered errors that left them without pay and with little help from the state.

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