SPRINGFIELD — Congress this week voted to continue the federal emergency unemployment insurance program, enabling about 90,000 Illinoisans to continue to receive benefits.

Workers at the federally funded Illinois Department of Employment Security, however, still have no answer on their own budget.

Congressional action came as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. The emergency unemployment compensation insurance program will continue through December.

The federal program extends unemployment benefits past the 25-week state insurance period, generally providing benefits for weeks 26 through 53. Congress, however, did not add any new weeks of benefits.

If Congress had not acted, about 90,000 Illinoisans would have received their last unemployment benefits within two weeks, Illinois Department of Employment Security spokesman Greg Rivara said Wednesday.

Congress, however, has not resolved budget questions for the Illinois department, the operations of which are funded almost entirely by the federal government.

“Congress’ actions have offered no clarity with regard to our funding situation,” Rivara said.

Federal operational funding is tied to the number of people collecting unemployment, which has decreased, reducing the Illinois department’s operating budget by an anticipated $11 million annually. But the number of claims is still 38 percent higher than 2008 levels, Rivara said.

Congress has two months to act before the federal funds “sequester” will automatically cut the Illinois department’s budget by an additional $17 million.

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