SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Senate held its first appropriations hearing Tuesday to start the budget process for Fiscal Year 2022. Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Business Regulations and Labor heard from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Commission officials requested a flat budget from last year at $28.8 million. The WCC will transition to paperless in April to cut costs and help litigants file or review documents online.
The commission is also moving out of Chicago’s Thompson Center this year. Officials said construction is already underway for hearing rooms in the lower level of the Daley Center. Chairman Michael Brennan said that should reduce the commission’s lease space by 25-30%. He also noted the group purchased about $400,000 worth of computers for employees using dollars from a special fund to help the commission improve equipment.
“There should not be a negative dollar impact on our budget or on our needs during the coming years resulting from COVID,” said Brennan.
Decreased workload due to COVID-19
Brennan explained the commission’s workload decreased by roughly 5,000 cases due to many people out of work throughout the pandemic. The commission usually averages 37,500 to 40,00 claims per year. However, the group reported approximately 33,000 claims filed in 2020.
Brennan said he expects that number to go back up once the economy recovers from the pandemic. He emphasized the pandemic is pushing the commission five years ahead of schedule in adapting to a virtual age.
“It’s our goal to change the methodology for which cases are set for trial so that they actually go to trial. We do not want a system, as has existed in the past, where we have 100 people standing in a room and getting nothing done. We’re moving ahead with what we’ve implemented as a result of COVID,” Brennan added. “We believe trial time will become far more efficient for the arbitrators. And we believe that the commissioners are still working hard.”