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STATE OF ILLINOIS RESPONSE TO COVID-19

NOTICE“Stay at Home” order in effect in Illinois, essential services remain available. Grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations will remain open throughout the pandemic. The order goes into effect March 21 and is extended through April 30. As of March 31, 41 of the 50 U.S. states have implemented some form of nonessential business closure order. Under these orders, nonessential businesses are supposed to cease their operations, or transform them into a work-from-home setting. In most states including Illinois, there is a significant list of exceptions: the exceptions include health care, food retail, gas stations, home delivery services, and work done in outdoor environments such as construction.  The State of Illinois has posted a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the Stay-at-Home order.

Where can business owners verify if their business is exempted from the Executive Order -10?

The Department of Commerce and Economic Development will be answering questions regarding SBA loans and providing guidance for whether a business is deemed essential under EO-10. Please direct questions to 1-800-252-2923 or CEO.support@illinois.gov. DCEO has also put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Essential Businesses and operations here.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS ISSUED BY GOVERNOR JB PRITZKER (FULL LIST). See the full list and link to the full text of every Executive Order issued by the Governor since January 1, 2020.

ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE TO FAMILIES

MEDICAID. The Governor is suspending the annual renewal process for Medicaid recipients; fast tracking Medicaid enrollment; guaranteeing covered costs for COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured; and the State of Illinois is requesting waivers to allow doctors to offer Medicaid care without waiting for approval.

Unemployment benefits may be available to some individuals whose unemployment is attributable to COVID-19. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible. Learn more here.

A list of frequently asked questions and answers has been compiled by my office here.

YOU ASKED, SO WE GOT ANSWERS— What actions are taken to address the high volume of calls at IDES claims services line?

IDES hired additional staff and expanded their business hours to vulture the extremely high volume of calls. The caller is advised to try their call again if they get a busy signal. When the call gets through, there will be an average wait of 20-30 minutes before they speak to a specialist. To date, the department has taken several steps to improve the unemployment benefit claims process via the online portal and the call center. 

Online Filing Schedule:

Call Center Filing Schedule:

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether you receive benefits or your benefit amount.  Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19.

IDES is currently working through an unparalleled number of unemployment benefit claims and questions, both online and through the call center.  Over the first three weeks of March, IDES has received over 130,000 unemployment benefit claims, an increase of close to 400% compared to the corresponding weeks the prior year.  The department received close to 115,000 claims for the week of March 21 alone, an increase of nearly 1,400% compared to the corresponding week the prior year.  Additionally, the call center continues to field hundreds of calls per minute, per day.

IDES is doing everything possible to support our customers and meet the demand for unemployment benefit inquiries and claims.

Those with questions or in need of assistance with unemployment benefit at this time are encouraged to visit IDES.Illinois.gov.

YOU ASKED, SO WE GOT ANSWERS— If a business decides to shut down voluntarily before mandated, will staff be able to qualify for unemployment? And does this go against the employer if they do so? If a business decides to shut down, employees would be potentially eligible for benefits and are advised to open a claim as soon as possible. IDES is working with the Governor’s office on legislation that would remove charge ability to employers for claims involving COVID-19 related issues.

FEDERAL STIMULUS PACKAGE IMPACT ON UNEMPLOYMENT (NEW ON APRIL 1, 2020)

The federal government recently enacted legislation to address the dramatic economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, including an unemployment benefits expansion. While this will financially help unemployed Illinoisans in the months to come, not everyone will be eligible for all the benefits contained in the package, and some benefits will not begin immediately.

Please note, IDES is asking employees potentially covered under this expansion to NOT call to inquire about these new federal programs. IDES employees are processing applications for current benefits. Further details about the new federal programs and how to apply will be made available once they have been finalized. IDES estimates that independent contractors will be able to file for benefits at the end of April, and those benefits will be backdated to the date when they lost employment.

How will this affect Illinois unemployment benefits?

Once the stimulus package has been implemented in Illinois, individuals receiving unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 each week above what they would receive in regular unemployment benefits until July 31, 2020. This will not be retroactively applied to unemployment benefits received in the past. In many cases, individuals will also be eligible for more weeks of unemployment above the 26 weeks provided under regular unemployment rules. Both of these benefits will be applied automatically if you qualify.

What do I do if I have already received my maximum benefits?

Some individuals who have received their entire 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for more weeks of benefits under the stimulus package. If you have exhausted your benefits, or you are close to exhausting your benefits, we are finalizing the process to continue benefits under the stimulus package. Details will be available as soon as we have received further guidance from the US Department of Labor.

I am self-employed. Do I qualify under the new federal unemployment program?

Under regular unemployment rules, the incomes of self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are not subject to unemployment taxes and so typically these individuals are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The stimulus package creates a new, temporary program to help people who lose this type of work as a direct result of the current public health emergency. IDES will provide information about how to apply for this benefit as soon as it is finalized. Please do not apply at this time.
Thank you for waiting to apply until further details are available. This will allow IDES employees to address the large volume of claims for those individuals who are eligible under current benefit programs.

HOUSING

The Governor has ordered all state, county and local law enforcement cease enforcement of orders of eviction during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation. Individuals are still required by law to pay rent and mortgage payments and to comply with other obligations under tenancy or mortgage.

The Arts Illinois Relief Fund

The Governor announced that a new fund was created to support Illinois artists during this tumultuous time. The Arts Illinois Relief Fund is a relief fund to support artists and artisans.  Initial donations allow for $4 million in grants for non-profit programs, individual artists, and performers.

JOBS (NOW HIRING)

FEDERAL & STATE INCOME TAX DEADLINE POSTPONED

ASSISTANCE TO EMPLOYERS

In addition to loans and grants from the US Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has put together a comprehensive list of Emergency Resources to Businesses here.

Business advisors at our Illinois Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are available to assist small businesses with the loan application process and are currently operating remotely. Businesses can locate their nearest Small Business Development Center here.

TAX CREDITS TO EMPLOYERS FOR PAID SICK AND PAID FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE Subject to certain limits, in the case of an employer, there shall be allowed as a credit an amount equal to 100 percent of the qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages paid by the employer with respect to the calendar quarter.

BUSINESS INSURANCE COVERAGE. Business Insurance Issues Resource Page from the Illinois Department of Insurance can be found here.

SALES TAX DEFERRAL FOR BARS & RESTAURANTS The Illinois Department of Revenue will defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small and medium sized bars and restaurants- accounting for nearly 80% of all such entities statewide. Establishments charged less than $75,000 in total sales tax liability 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 return on time, even if they are unable to make a payment. Informational Bulletin with more on this here.

PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM

FEDERAL CARES ACT

What does it mean to Illinoisans? Congress approved and the President has signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The $2.2 trillion economic rescue package provides help for families, small business, hospitals, local governments and others. A brief outline of the CARES Act can be found here. A Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act can be found here.

GRANTS

Illinois Hospitality Emergency Grant Program

Downstate Illinois Small Business Stabilization Program

NONPROFIT GRANTS

The United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations announced the launch of the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund (ICRF), a new statewide fundraising effort to support nonprofit organizations serving those whose lives have been upended by this pandemic.

The ICRF is launching with nearly $23 million in initial donations. In the upcoming weeks, the steering committee will evaluate and disburse funds to the initial wave of charitable organizations serving at-need communities across the entire state. All donations and distributions will be available to the public. Donations and applications for assistance can be made here.

LOANS

Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund

Business Invest” Low Interest Bridge Loans backed by State Treasury

FOOD SECURITY

SNAP & WIC. The Illinois Department of Human Services is submitting multiple waivers to the federal government to deliver as much nutrition support to as many Illinoisans as possible. DHS has been able to automatically extend SNAP certifications set to expire March, April or May, another six months until September, October and November. DHS has also been able to waive the physical presence requirements for SNAP applicants and participants, enabling people to further reduce the time that they spend outside their homes and increase the ability to apply for assistance online.

DHS Director Hou indicated that the recent passage of the federal Family First legislation will cause monthly SNAP benefits to increase dramatically – in some cases by over 90%, a month. For example, a single person with a disability, or an older adult with less than $2,000 of monthly income is eligible for $194 in monthly SNAP benefits. Now, before the legislation passed, they would have received $16 a month. A family of four making less than $42,000 a year is now eligible for $646 a month in SNAP benefits.

Between April 8th and April 20th, all eligible SNAP recipients will see their first additional funds if they are not currently receiving the maximum benefit.  This will impact more than 450,000 Illinois households. The additional funds are intended to help Illinoisans obtain food and support for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The maximum SNAP benefit amounts will be implemented for April and May. It is not known at this time whether these extended maximum payments will continue beyond May. 

Increased benefits will be automatically loaded onto SNAP recipients’ Link cards, and there is no need for anyone to re-apply, to visit an office, or to call. All new applications authorized in April will also receive the maximum allotment for their household size. 

CHILD LUNCHES.  The USDA has launched of an online tool – the “Meals for Kids” Site Finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. The “Meals for Kids” interactive map directs people to local sites where kids can get free meals. The map is available in both English and Spanish at www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids

UTILITIES

On March 18, 2020, the Illinois Commerce Commission formalized an order to cease disconnections and the threat of disconnections during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This applies to electric utilities, natural gas, water, and waste water utilities. The order also calls on them to suspend late payment fees until May 1, 2020, or the crisis has passed, and to implement flexible utility credit and connection procedures to ensure customers remain connected to essential utility service when the emergency status ends.

FREE INTERNET ACCESS RESOURCES. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is providing information on programs offering free internet access to Illinois families to support learning during the school closures. Information on these resources can be found at ISBE’s Keep Learning website.

HOW TO HELP/ CALLS TO ACTION

Visit serve.illinois.gov for more info on volunteering.

The Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund has been established to support Illinois nonprofits and the individuals, families and communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

BLOOD SUPPLY

AMERICAN RED CROSS.  The Red Cross urges healthy individuals to give blood amid coronavirus concerns.  Low donor turnout could hurt U.S. Blood supply.  Learn more and schedule if you’re feeling healthy and well here.

MISSISSIPPI VALLEY REGIONAL BLOOD CENTER.  The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center urges healthy individuals to give blood amid coronavirus concerns.  Low donor turnout could hurt U.S. Blood supply.  Learn more and schedule an appointment if you’re feeling healthy and well here.

ROCK RIVER VALLEY BLOOD CENTER.  The Rock River Valley Blood Center urges healthy individuals to give blood amid coronavirus concerns.  Low donor turnout could hurt U.S. Blood supply.  Learn more and schedule an appointment if you’re feeling healthy and well here.

MEDICAL PERSONNEL & PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT(PPE)

HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGISTRATION. The State of Illinois is calling on all licensed healthcare providers, available to help in the fight against COVID19, to register at www.IllinoisHelps.net. This includes physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physician assistants, medics, LPNs, CNAs, Podiatrists and Dentists.

RETIRED HEALTHCARE WORKERS. On March 21, the Governor announced a call to action in the fight against COVID-19 for anyone working in the healthcare related field who has let their licenses lapse or chose to retire. He is calling on physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants, and respiratory therapists to come back and join the fight against this outbreak. To make this process easier the Governor will be implementing the following actions in the very near future: Waving fees and expediting licensure for healthcare positions; Automatically extending licenses soon to expire; Making it easier for out-of-state healthcare professionals to practice here, that way border communities can deploy physicians where they are needed most. Applications available online at IDFPR’s website include: Health Care License Reinstatement Physician License Reinstatement Out of State Temporary Practice Permit

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE). During this unprecedented public health emergency, supplies of PPE for healthcare providers are being rapidly depleted. Health care personnel need to protect themselves when caring for patients by adhering to infection control and prevention practices, which includes having access to a sufficient supply of PPE. On March 17, IDPH provided guidance to hospitals, outpatient surgical and procedural centers to limit non-essential adult elective surgical procedures, including all dental procedures until further notice. IDPH is encouraging all outpatient surgical and procedural centers, ambulatory surgical centers, and veterinarians to donate their unused PPE that is not immediately needed to assist those on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. Especially of need are surgical gloves, gowns, goggles, face shields, surgical masks, and N95 respirator masks.  To donate PPE (including homemade masks) locally to FHN, click here. To donate PPE, please e-mail PPE.donations@illinois.gov. To donate to the State of Illinois’ PPE Donation program, please e-mail PPE.donations@illinois.gov. -In addition, the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO), working with the State, has established a fund so people and organizations can donate money to help healthcare workers and first responders here.

PPE AND CRITICAL SUPPLIES PROCUREMENT. With Illinois well-positioned with in-state manufacturers of diverse goods and services, leads or connections on COVID-19–related goods or services (i.e. PPE) can be sent to the State for maintaining elements of the critical supplies supply chain. Businesses interested in supplying the necessary goods/needs for the current crisis, can contact the Governor’s Office related to these offers of products at Covid.procurement@illinois.gov. If a business wants to retool to manufacture PPE in Illinois, they may also contact the Illinois Manufacturing Association at ima@ima-net.org.

SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES/ COMMUNITY EVENTS

RELIGIOUS SERVICES

SCHOOLS

CHILD CARE CENTERS & EARLY EDUCATION PROGRAMS

PETS AND COVID-19 (ADVICE FOR PET OWNERS)

AGRICULTURE

OUTDOOR RECREATION

GOVERNMENT

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

BUSINESSES AND WORKPLACES

GROCERIES

RESTAURANTS & BARS

YOU ASKED, SO WE GOT ANSWERS! Can bars and restaurants seek authority to sell pre-mixed drinks/cocktails “to-go” and for “delivery” in the non-original packaging? The Illinois Liquor Control Commission released a reminder that, for reasons stated herein, the Commission has not authorized the sale of premixed cocktails in non-original containers for off-premises consumption. For the complete release, click here.

 VULNERABLE POPULATIONS

TRANSPORTATION

CONSUMER PROTECTION

YOU ASKED, SO WE GOT ANSWERSAre individuals obligated to attend in person any legal witnessing such as getting documents notarized or witnessing signing a will? Per Executive Order 14, any act of witnessing required by Illinois law may be completed remotely by via two-way audio-video communication technology provided certain requirements are met. Please refer to the Executive Order 14 for further guidance.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

ACTIVITIES FOR ADULTS WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

CENSUS

Complete the 2020 Census Online.  Illinois residents can now complete the census questionnaire online at my2020census.gov.  Completing the census online will ensure that Illinoisans get both the representation and federal funding for the critical services that they deserve,

The online questionnaire is the quickest and easiest way to get counted in Illinois and can be accessed from a smart phone, tablet, laptop, computer and terminals at local libraries. The census is nine questions long and will take less than 10 minutes to complete.


An accurate count of Illinois’ population is essential to ensure the State receives the funding needed to properly care for its residents and provide critical services and programs. In 2015, Illinois received $19,738,866,367, or approximately $1,535 per capita, in federal assistance for sixteen programs. Failure to count every Illinois resident will have devastating effects on Illinois’ ability to meet the needs of its residents. Even a one-percent undercount would result in the loss of $19,557,435 per year, for a decade, resulting in a total loss of $195,574,350 for the State of Illinois. Additionally, the number of seats Illinois has in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 10 years will be determined by the census count this year. Illinoisans deserve proportionate representation in the U.S. Congress, and a fair and accurate census count is how we ensure that happens.

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION OFFERS FREE WEBINARS AND TRAININGS. With all in-person meetings currently canceled or postponed until after May 31, U of I Extension is expanding their online webinars and trainings. Check back frequently for new upcoming or recorded webinars. These are offered by Illinois Extension professionals unless otherwise noted. Learn more here.