SPRINGFIELD — The agency that hands out unemployment benefits in Illinois may soon be doling out relief checks to some of its own workers.

At the Illinois Department of Employment Security, an overall drop in the state’s unemployment rolls likely means less federal aid to the state.

When combined with potential cuts from the so-called “fiscal cliff” debacle in Washington, D.C., as well as an end on Saturday to an emergency federal unemployment program, the agency may be facing a $44-million cut in funding.

Although the department has already been paring back on some staffing, spokesman Greg Rivara said the 20-percent reduction in federal revenue could trigger more layoffs.

“It’s possible that we will have to consider further office reductions,” Rivara said Thursday. “How we approach that has not be determined.”

The possible cuts come as 90,000 Illinoisans are set to lose their federal emergency unemployment benefits as of Saturday.

The federal program serves as an extension of a 25-week-long state aid program by providing unemployment benefits for weeks 26 through 53.

The state program will remain in place.

After Saturday, the reductions in the number of people receiving the federal benefits will continue, affecting about 2,800 recipients per week.

While the number of Illinoisans collecting unemployment benefits is down by about one-third since the height of the Great Recession in 2009, it remains about 38 percent above pre-recession levels, Rivara said.

But when fewer people are receiving benefits, the state receives less federal money to operate the program.

To live within its budget, the IDES has stopped calling in 216 intermittent employees. The agency also has consolidated eight offices and vacated 10 outpost locations shared with partners.

In comments to reporters at an unrelated press event Thursday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he believes Congress and the president will be able to hammer out a deal on the “fiscal cliff.”

“I’m confident President Obama will get us to a better place,” Quinn said.

Contact Erickson at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043.

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