As the Stay Home Order continues across Illinois, I wanted to provide an update on some key issues related to this health crisis. I receive regular updates from DuPage County and you can click here to read about DuPage County’s COVID-19 cases as of April 6. Unfortunately, it is expected that identified cases and deaths will continue to increase in the coming weeks. There are different data sets that predict Illinois’ peak to occur at different times. The best thing we can all do now is stay home. It truly will save lives.
As a reminder, I have added two COVID-19 information pages to my web site. One is filled with general information from sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and information from the Governor’s Office, and the other includes more targeted information specific to the 42nd District. The general information page can be reached at https://ilcovid19info.com/, and the more localized site can be reached at https://repgrant.com/covid-19/.
A Special Message to Medical Professionals and other Essential Workers
I want to personally thank the thousands of medical professionals and first responders who comprise the medical and public safety communities within the 42nd District. I am so appreciative for the work they are doing to keep us healthy and safe. While the vast majority of us can remain inside our homes and distance ourselves from those who may be sick, these brave women and men are on the front lines battling the virus, saving lives, and ensuring public safety. Each of these individuals has my deepest gratitude and respect.
I also want to thank other “essential” workforce members who are ensuring our supply chain for food and supplies remains strong and others who are still working in settings outside of their homes. These people are also putting themselves in harm’s way to help Illinois slow the spread of the virus.
Beware of Scammers during Coronavirus Pandemic
Sadly, amidst this health crisis, there are those who would take advantage of people through a variety of illegal and unethical activity. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides these tips to keep from becoming a victim of scams:
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
Other Important Links:
42st District Stepping Up to Help During Crisis
Almost daily I hear positive stories about members of our community who are going above and beyond in their efforts to help Illinois through this health crisis. With each story, I am reminded of why the communities that comprise the 42nd District are such wonderful places to live. People are supporting local restaurants offering curb-side and delivery options, and making purchases from local businesses through web sites. Individuals are stepping up to donate blood, donate or volunteer at local food pantries, or volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels to seniors. Neighbors are checking in on elderly neighbors and offering to run errands so seniors can remain indoors. Every act of kindness is a reminder of the goodness found throughout our communities.
With the CDC’s new recommendation that all people wear cloth masks that cover the nose and mouth whenever they leave their homes, I’m also hearing great stories about individuals who are sewing masks and donating them. The 42nd District is filled with wonderful people doing wonderful things right now to help fight COVID-19. If you have a positive story to share, please email my office at email@example.com so I can share additional examples of the kindness and generosity coming out of the 42st District.
Deadline to Put Fair Maps Before Voters Approaches
While Governor Pritzker’s focus right now is on Illinois’ efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, there is another very important issue that he must address- fair maps. The deadline by which a Constitutional Amendment can be approved for placement before voters this November is May 3. If we miss that critical deadline, efforts to end gerrymandering in Illinois will not occur prior to the drawing of new maps that will dictate legislative districts for 2022-2032.
For the current 101st General Assembly, I am a co-sponsor of HRJCA 10, which would place a Constitutional Amendment question before voters that would, if approved, take the legislative map-drawing process out of the hands of lawmakers. HJRCA 10 would replace today’s unfair system where lawmakers from the political party in control draw their own maps with an independent commission. This legislation was filed in January of 2019 at the very start of the 101st General Assembly, and remains in Speaker Madigan’s House Rules Committee. Fair maps is one of the most important issues pending in the General Assembly at this time. I implore the Speaker to allow any of the fair maps bills filed in the 101st General Assembly forward prior to the May 3 deadline. I will support any of the fair maps bills, regardless of the sponsor.
Illinois-Based Abbott Labs to Produce Coronavirus Test with Results in Five Minutes
Among the greatest challenges with slowing the spread of the coronavirus is the length of time it takes between when a test is administered and when results are delivered. Illinois-based Abbott Labs recently received emergency FDA approval for production of a point-of-care coronavirus test that can detect positive case in just five minutes, similar to the timeframe for the doctors’ office rapid strep test. Abbott Labs has the ability to produce 50,000 of these rapid-test kits every day. Click here to learn more about this private sector business that is stepping up in a big way!
CARES Act Provides Aid to all 50 States
The federal government is actively stepping in to help Illinois employees, employers, and small businesses. One of the key elements in the federal CARES Act, passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, is the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. This program will provide bridge financing to eligible small businesses and nonprofits. One element of the eligibility will be an agreement by the employer to retain his or her employees on payroll. The goal of this program is to keep money flowing through employers to employees so that American workers can continue to meet their obligations, pay their bills, and buy essential supplies for themselves and their families.
The Paycheck Protection Program is overseen by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), which already knows how to oversee money lent to small businesses throughout the U.S. The actual transactions will be signed by local businesses/nonprofits and their community-based financial advisors. The Paycheck Protection Program is different from a separate disaster-loan program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. SBA disaster loans are targeted towards employers who have been affected by a natural disaster such as COVID-19. For some employers, it may not be possible to benefit from both programs.
Illinois’ share of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund is estimated to total $4.9 billion, with the State receiving $2.7 billion and local governments receiving $2.2 billion. To access a detailed Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act, click here.
State and Federal Measures Provide Assistance and Relief to Small Businesses
There are a variety of low-interest loans and grants available to help offset the impact the coronavirus response is having on our businesses. There has been so much information released about programs and assistance measures, but most of it has been piecemeal. To assist our local small business owners and directors of non-profits, my staff has pulled together a comprehensive list of state and federal programs that have been put in place to provide help during this health crisis. I’m hoping that business leaders can review the list of what’s available, and seek remedies that are most appropriate for them. As always, my staff and I remain available to provide assistance in any way we can. Click here to view the combined list of state and federal small business relief measures.
IDES Struggles to Accommodate Unprecedented Volume of Unemployment Claims
Illinois’ Department of Employment Security (IDES) is experiencing unprecedented high numbers of Illinoisans seeking to apply for unemployment benefits. My office is being flooded with phone calls from frustrated constituents who cannot get through on phone lines or file unemployment forms through the IDES web site.
Twice now, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has written a letter on behalf of our caucus, imploring the Governor to do whatever it takes to ensure that every Illinoisan who has been laid off or furloughed can access the unemployment benefits owed to them. Steps taken by IDES so far, including web site infrastructure improvements to handle increased demand, expansions to call center hours and increased staffing, and utilizing an alphabetized system for claim filings, have not worked. People still are unable to submit the forms by web or by phone. I join Leader Durkin in his call for immediate action to fix these failings. You can read the latest letter sent to the Governor here.