As information about the response to COVID-19 is constantly changing, I want to provide you with an update on some important topics, as well as make you aware of some changes I have made to the “COVID-19” resources tab on my website. The resources tab will now take you to ilcovid19info.com.
This new website is a comprehensive source for critical information to stay up to date. The website features:
- Rolling news updates;
- News from the Governor;
- Department of Public Health resources;
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources;
- Price gouging resources from the Attorney General’s Office;
- Unemployment benefits resources from the Department of Employment Security;
- Support for small businesses through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Small Business Administration;
- Resources from the State Board of Education;
- Resources from the Department of Aging.
Below are some other important updates.
Governor Issues “Stay at Home” Order for Illinois Except for Essential Needs.
Let me start by clarifying that although this order seems drastic, everyone will still be able to do various daily and essential activities like walk the dog, go the grocery store, get gas, and even order take-out or delivery.
The order goes into effect tomorrow, Saturday, March 21 at 5 p.m. through April 7 and directs all residents to remain at their place of residence, except to conduct essential activities, some of which I highlighted above. All businesses, other than essential businesses and essential government functions, are required to cease operations. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single family or living unit are prohibited.
All travel, including but not limited to walking, biking, driving, or taking public transit is prohibited, except to perform essential activities, operate essential businesses, or to maintain essential government functions. Individuals may go on a walk, get exercise, or take a pet outside, as long as at least six feet of social distancing is maintained.
Essential Activities – Individuals may leave their place of residence to:
- Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor;
- Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food, and getting supplies necessary for staying at home;
- Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running provided that you maintain at least six feet of social distancing;
- Performing work providing essential services at an essential business or essential government function (defined below);
- Caring for a family member in another household;
- Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
Exemptions – Individuals may leave their place of residence to:
Operate an essential business, which includes:
- Healthcare operations, including home health workers;
- Essential Infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities;
- Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores;
- Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities;
- Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities;
- Gas stations and auto repair facilities;
- Garbage collection;
- Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses;
- Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning;
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
- Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, and goods directly to residences;
- Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work;
- Roles required for any Essential Business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll, and similar activities.
Perform an essential government function:
- This includes all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Expanded Small Business and Employee Support.
Earlier this week, I sent a letter to Gov. Pritzker urging the consideration of several proposals to help small businesses and their employees weather the damaging economic impact of the current COVID-19 situation. Yesterday, the Governor announced that two new measures are going into effect to defer sales taxes and provide disaster assistance loans.
As a former small business owner, I understand all too well how the current situation will impact small businesses and the men and women who work for them. I am pleased that the Governor recognizes this as well and has taken these additional steps to provide relief to minimize this devastating economic impact.
Under the sales tax measure, the Department of Revenue will defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants. Eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May made late. Qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax returns even if they are unable to make a payment. Any taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin available at tax.illinois.gov.
The other measure announced yesterday was that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at https://disasterloan.sba.gov.
These measures are in addition to some measures that were included in Gov. Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-07 on Monday, such as waiving the waiting period for unemployment benefits. That order also made it clear that customers will be able to obtain food from restaurants via drive-thru, curbside, delivery or take-out/carry-out by entering an establishment.
More still needs to be done to help our small businesses and their employees survive the current crisis, but these measures are important steps in the right direction.
Please Maintain Normal Shopping Patterns.
You have undoubtedly experienced the shortage of grocery and personal care items at grocery stores. These shortages are NOT due to a disruption in the supply chain. The supply chain remains strong. To that end, there is plenty of food and household supplies if everyone practices common sense and follows normal shopping patterns. As an example, if you shop on Thursday for the following week, then shop on Thursday and get what you need for the following week. Not for the next three weeks. There is ZERO need for hoarding. Hoarding is creating a problem that doesn’t need to exist. Simply practice good hygiene and social-distancing when you shop – things we should be doing under any circumstance. To provide a safer shopping environment for seniors, stores throughout the state are holding special hours for seniors. A comprehensive list of stores providing these special senior shopping hours is available – Click Here.
Take Advantage of Carry-Out or Delivery Restaurant Service.
As I referenced above, while restaurants and bars are closed for dine-in service for the time being, consumers can still obtain food from restaurants via drive-thru, curb-side, delivery or take-out/carry-out. I would encourage you to utilize these take-out options to help restaurants and those employed by restaurants during this difficult time. I have been in contact with many of these businesses throughout our district and they are offering this service in an attempt to not only provide for our communities, but to keep their doors open and their staff employed in the long-run. Please consider supporting one our local small businesses the next time you order food.
Filing for Unemployment Due to COVID-19.
I am hearing from constituents who are unsure how they should go about seeking unemployment benefits if they lose their income as a result of measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is the agency that handles unemployment issues, and they have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about employment issues associated with COVID-19. Click here to read that FAQ.
Thank you for reading. I understand that many of these changes, particularly the “stay at home” order are difficult for all of us, if you have any questions or concerns about anything you read, please feel free to contact me at anytime.