Your NPR news source

Is Blago Eligible for Unemployment?

SHARE Is Blago Eligible for Unemployment?
Is Blago Eligible for Unemployment?


Yesterday was a day of change for the State of Illinois. It was also a day of change for Rod Blagojevich, who obviously lost the title of governor and took up the title of private citizen. Blagojevich also took up another title. After a career in politics, the former governor joined the ranks of the unemployed. That got us wondering—wondering whether getting impeached would qualify Blagojevich for unemployment.

Last night, after lawmakers voted unanimously to remove him from office, Blagojevich was at his home on Chicago’s northwest side.

Outside, reporters were camped out in the cold, waiting to see if he would come out and talk.

And then he did.

BLAGOJEVICH: Let me begin by saying that I’m obviously saddened and disappointed.

Blagojevich said a lot things he’d said before—like how much he enjoyed being governor and working for the people.

BLAGOJEVICH: Ordinary people. Average people.

Like he’d been doing for weeks, Blagojevich called the impeachment process unfair.

BLAGOJEVICH: It was a foreordained result.

But things were different.

One big thing—and as he stood there in front of his house, surrounded by tv lights, microphones and cold reporters—Blagojevich pointed it out.

BLAGOJEVICH: There are tens of thousands of people all across America, just like me who are losing there jobs or lost their jobs.

It’s worth noting that the governor is not a wealthy man.

On more than one occasion he’s talked about having money trouble—and in an interview with the New York Times yesterday, he said he was concerned about making his mortgage payment.

So, Blagojevich, talking about his impeachment like he’d been laid off from a car plant, made me curious.

Does impeachment qualify you unemployment?

RIVARA: People are qualified for unemployment insurance if they lose their job through no fault of their own, and they are looking for gainful employment.

Greg Rivara is a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

To be clear, Rivara says if you lose your job and you’re looking for one, you meet the two basic requirements for unemployment.

But, now, if you get lose your job and it’s your fault—as in you get fire—then you don’t qualify.

The Department of Employment Security refers to this as being discharged for cause.

RIVARA: If you’re discharged for cause, you don’t collect.

So the question in the governor’s case would seem to be—is does getting impeached count as losing your job unexpectedly through no fault of your own?

Blagojevich made it sound kind of like that outside his house.

Or, does getting impeached as governor count as getting fired for cause?

RIVARA: I don’t know the answer to that question. That question has never been considered. It’s a road we’ve never had to travel.

But, it turns out, there’s a good reason, Rivara doesn’t know the answer to the question.

And it’s not just that Blagojevich was the first governor to be impeached and removed from office.

RIVARA: Elected officials throughout Illinois, the wages that they earn in those capacities do not count towards unemployment insurance.

Rivara says elected officials don’t put money into the unemployment system, so they don’t qualify benefits.

So Rod Blagojevich won’t be collecting unemployment checks any time soon. But not because he was impeached.

RIVARA: No elected official would be eligible to qualify for unemployment insurance based upon the wages that they earn in their official capacity.

The other thing that means is that, when he spoke outside his house, Blagojevich was wrong.

While he did lose his job, the former governor is not just like tens or thousands of Americans who have lost theirs.

The Latest