Chesney Guest Column: Pritzker Must Begin Process of Regional Re-Open of Illinois

Over the past month, I have put Northwest Illinois Values on the forefront as we discuss our regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have helped share stories of neighbors helping neighbors, businesses retooling their production lines to produce life-saving Personal Protective Equipment, encouraged opportunities to get involved and updated my COVID-19 website constantly with the latest information and resources for constituents, many of whom are suffering greatly because of the economic shutdown brought about by the government’s reaction to this virus.

In that time, I have done my level best to withhold criticism of Governor Pritzker’s style… except when he brought politics to the podium instead of crisis response. I have also withheld criticism of the Governor’s substance… except areas of disagreement about what parts of the economy are essential and what parts are not. But now, as we approach the first deadline for the first Stay at Home Order and we see it has been modified and extended for another 30 days without legislative consent, it is important that we all have the honest discussion about how to begin to re-start our economy safely and about who is making these decisions.  Your duly elected Representatives and Senators have been totally locked out of these policy discussions and the Governor’s unilateral actions to date.

To be clear, we owe a great deal to our first responders, healthcare professionals, and public health experts fighting COVID on the front lines. However, we cannot possibly make good on that debt if we do not begin to have the discussion about how to ease the Stay at Home Order to begin to allow the economy to get started again, under safe and responsible conditions.  Our hospitals are expected to fight this fight, all while the Government has restricted this private industry’s (one of the largest in our economy) revenues completely.

While the switch to our economic engines was turned off overnight, it also cannot be turned back on in one fell swoop safely. We will need to step this re-start out, with safely protocols in place to continue flattening of the curve and prevent a second wave of COVID infections. However, we also cannot continue as we have for the past month. While Governor Pritzker recognized some of these changes in his modified order, other changes and revisions are still needed.

Nobody can blame the Governor, local officials, and health experts at all for the abundance of caution exercised to date. But we will soon face the solemn reality of being “out of money” to fight the fight if we do not get more of the economy going again. Think about this; less than 10% of all businesses have reserve funds to be out of business for 30 days. We are at 30 days for most now. Certainly, many businesses will already, unfortunately, never re-open. It is not heartless to acknowledge that someone must pay for all these government programs and services, insufficient as they may be against the immensity of this threat. We must find a way, not as partisans, but as statesmen and stateswomen, to discuss these issues honestly and find solutions to get Illinois working again.

Guidance can and should be issued to not just to STOP activities, but to safely START them again. Many Illinoisans are beginning to understand there are a lot of “big box” winners in this battle and most of us are doing our level best to prevent our “Main Street” small businesses from being the biggest losers. The battle these small business owners have been fighting didn’t start with this virus, but it shouldn’t end with it either.

Carroll County is not Cook County. Governor JB Pritzker was elected to represent ALL of Illinois, not just Chicago. If a plan is not devised that recognizes those regional differences and works for ALL of Illinois, not just Chicago, it will be a failure of leadership the likes of which may just permanently petrify the deep cracks of regional division plaguing Illinois. Please, Governor, show us you hear our plead.