SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Employment Security Thursday released data they have now processed over a million claims since March 1. They say this is nearly 12 times the number of claims the department processed over the same period last year. The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program launches on Monday. Workers who believe they may be eligible for new federal benefits under the PUA program, must first apply for regular unemployment insurance before applying for benefits under PUA when a new application portal opens on Monday via the IDES website. PUA provides 100% federally-funded unemployment benefits for individuals who are unemployed for specified COVID-19-related reasons and are not eligible for the state’s regular unemployment insurance program, the extended benefit (EB) program under Illinois law, or the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (PEUC), including independent contractors and sole-proprietors. Up to 39 weeks’ worth of benefits are potentially available under the program for COVID-19-related unemployment claims.