CHICAGO (STMW) — Like thousands of Illinoisans who have lost their jobs, former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has applied for unemployment benefits.
But newly minted Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s administration officially “protested” the claim with the state’s unemployment agency.
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“. . . Former Board President Todd Stroger did submit an application for unemployment,” said a source in the Preckwinkle administration who is familiar with the application. “That application was protested because, as a former elected official, he is ineligible.”
Greg Rivara, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security said he can’t talk about specific unemployment applications.
But he did explain that his office is the first stop for the jobless seeking unemployment benefits.
Those benefits are tied to wages earned in the year leading up to the job loss. But state law doesn’t recognize the wages an elected leader earns in office when it comes to unemployment benefits.
“When someone applies, their weekly check is based on how much money they’ve earned,” Rivara said. “Could be from one source, could be from multiple sources, but wages earned from doing the job [someone was] elected to don’t figure in.”
In other words, it’s as if they didn’t work — or earn a dime.
That could effectively disqualify Stroger from collecting unemployment benefits — at least benefits resulting from his elected position.
It would be different if he were a regular county employee or worked in the private sector. If he could prove his case — that, say, the voters didn’t fire him for cause but that he lost his job through no fault of his own — he might qualify for unemployment, according to state law.
In that case, Stroger, who earned $170,000 annually as board president, would get about $530 a week in unemployment, according to the state.
On Friday, it was unclear where Stroger’s request stood. County officials hadn’t gotten final word from the state.
If he loses his bid for benefits, Stroger has the option of appealing his case all the way to circuit court.
Repeated attempts to reach Stroger at his South Side home and by phone were unsuccessful.
The 48-year-old married father of two left office on Dec. 6 when Preckwinkle, who edged him out of office in last year’s primary, was sworn in. On his way out the door, he told reporters he was thinking of getting into the insurance business and couldn’t rule out a return to politics.
The county was notified about his unemployment request on Jan. 7 of this year.