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Activation of Illinois Preference Act will Save Jobs and Support Illinois Communities

July 14, 2020

After two consecutive months of rising unemployment in Illinois brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Department of Labor took the positive step of activating the Illinois Preference Act on July 1. Activation of the Act means that from this point forward until unemployment subsides 90% of workers on new and ongoing public works projects throughout the state must live in Illinois. This will help preserve jobs for Illinois workers and needed revenue for Illinois businesses and communities. Activation of the Act triggers certain notification responsibilities on the part of public bodies who undertake these projects. For more information, see the following FAQs:


Employment of Illinois Workers on Public Works Act (Illinois Preference Act) Also known as the Illinois Preference Act, it requires contractors to use at least 90% Illinois laborers on all public works projects that receive State funds or funds administered by the State during a period of excessive unemployment.

The Illinois Department of Labor activated the Illinois Preference Act on July 1, 2020. The Illinois Preference Act can be enacted by the Illinois Department of Labor the month immediately preceding “excessive unemployment” in the State of Illinois. A period of excessive unemployment is defined as any month immediately following 2 consecutive calendar months during which the level of unemployment in the State of Illinois has exceeded 5% as measured by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in its monthly publication of employment and unemployment figures.

The Act applies to all labor on public works projects or improvements, including projects involving the clean-up and on-site disposal of hazardous waste, but excluding emergency response or immediate removal activities, whether skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled, whether manual or non-manual.

It is the duty of the Department of Labor to enforce the provisions of this Act. The Department has the power to conduct investigations in connection with the administration and enforcement of this Act, and any investigator with the Department is authorized to visit and inspect, at all reasonable times, any places covered by this Act and is authorized to inspect, at all reasonable times, documents related to the determination of whether a violation of the Act exists. The Department may compel, by subpoena, the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books, payrolls, records, papers, and other evidence in any investigation and may administer oaths to witnesses. The Department of Labor, as represented by the Attorney General, is empowered to: (i) issue and cause to be served on any person or entity an order to cease and desist from further violation of this Act, (ii) take affirmative or other action as deemed reasonable to eliminate the effect of the violation, (iii) collect any civil penalties assessed by the Department pursuant to Section 6 of this Act, and (iv) sue for injunctive relief against the awarding of any contract or the continuation of any work under any contract for public works or improvements or for the clean-up and on-site disposal of hazardous waste at a time when the provisions of this Act are not being met.

As a public body engaged in the solicitation of or actual procurement of public works as defined within the Illinois Preference Act, you are required to notify any employer who has been retained for the purpose of performing public works that the Illinois Preference Act has been implemented by the Illinois Department of Labor and as such, each employer performing public works has a legal obligation to be in compliance with the Illinois Preference Act. If you are in the bidding stages of your public works project, as a public body you have the obligation to incorporate reference to the Illinois Preference Act within your solicitation of bid documents.

This message is presented by the Tri-Council Development Fund

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