Week in Review: Stay-at-home extended, jobs, unemployment & more

Gov. Pritzker modifies and extends Stay at Home Order through May. Governor JB Pritzker announced Thursday that he will sign a modified version of the state's stay at home order that will go into effect on May 1 to continue the life-saving progress made over the last month while also allowing residents additional flexibility in the safest way possible.

In conjunction with Thursday's announcement, the Governor released modeling put together by top academic institutions and researchers in Illinois that predicts the course of coronavirus in the state over the coming months. On our current trajectory, the state is projected to see a peak or plateau of deaths per day between late April and early May, but if the stay at home order were lifted this week, the model anticipates a second wave of the outbreak in Illinois starting in May, which would claim tens of thousands of lives and greatly exceed the state's hospital capacity.

"Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives. By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies," said Governor Pritzker. "I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices we've made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working — and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job."

Lifting mitigation measures is only possible with widespread availability and access to COVID-19 testing, tracing and treatment. The data show that if the state were to lift mitigations abruptly this week, this would result in a second wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

After consulting with doctors, scientists and experts in Illinois and across the world, the Governor has announced he will sign a modified version of the state's stay at home order that will go into effect on May 1 and extend through the end of the month. The modified order will strengthen the state's social distancing requirements while allowing residents additional flexibility and provide measured relief to non-essential businesses in the safest way possible.

The new executive order will include the following modifications effective May 1:

  • OUTDOOR RECREATION: State parks will begin a phased re-opening under guidance from the Department of Natural Resources. Fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people will be permitted. A list of parks that will be open on May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website HERE . Golf will be permitted under strict safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and when ensuring that social distancing is followed.
  • NEW ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries may re-open as essential businesses. These stores must follow social distancing requirements and must require that employees and customers wear a face covering. Animal grooming services may also re-open.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL: Retail stores designated as non-essential businesses and operations may re-open to fulfill telephone and online orders through pick-up outside the store and delivery. 
  • FACE COVERINGS: Beginning on May 1, individuals will be required to wear a face-covering or a mask when in a public place where they can't maintain a six-foot social distance. Face-coverings will be required in public indoor spaces, such as stores. This new requirement applies to all individuals over the age of two who are able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask.
  • ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES AND MANUFACTURING: Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six-feet of social distancing, as well as follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. This will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
  • SCHOOLS: Educational institutions may allow and establish procedures for pick-up of necessary supplies or student belongings. Dormitory move-outs must follow public health guidelines, including social distancing.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will also be issuing guidance to surgi-centers and hospitals to allow for certain elective surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions, starting on May 1. Facilities will need to meet specific criteria, including proper PPE, ensuring enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available, and testing of elective surgery patients to ensure COVID-19 negative status.

Statement from Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on ‘Stay At Home’ Extension and Order Changes. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement on the Governor Pritzker’s changes to the ‘Stay At Home’ order:

“The new Stay At Home order that includes many recommendations from the House Republican caucus is the first step in moving Illinois forward. Working together and implementing smart policy decisions will increase the safety of Illinois residents and allow our economy to begin opening up in an equitable fashion while still protecting employees and customers. I want Illinoisans to know that the Executive Order is not final, but it is a working document subject to change. While I am pleased with today’s actions, we must do more to restore economic vitality of the state while maintaining the health and safety of our citizens.”

In recent weeks, the House Republican Caucus has been proposing common-sense and thoughtful ways to improve the stay at home order:
  • Associated Press: GOP Lawmakers Suggest Plan For Gradually Re-Opening Illinois
  • Chicago Tribune: Illinois Republican Lawmakers Urge Pritzker to Open State Parks and Some Businesses
  • SJ-R: Illinois House Republicans Offer Ideas to Reopen State 
During a legislative leaders call with the Governor Wednesday afternoon, Leader Durkin reiterated the suggestionsfrom the House Republican Caucus outlined in his letter sent to the Governor. Many of those suggestions have been included in the revisions to the extended stay at home order.

House Republicans propose strategies to safely re-open Illinois’ economy. Illinois House Republicans discussed an array of proposals and ideas on ways to safely re-open Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these proposals include a safe, responsible re-opening of hospital systems, essential retail operations resuming online or curbside pick-up and the re-opening of state parks.

State Rep. Mark Batinick has been a vocal advocate for increasing the use of personal protective equipment. With safety in mind, Batinick says it is time to revise current restrictions and make plans for a first-phase reopening of Illinois’ economy.

“This is a critical time in our fight against COVID-19,” Batinick said. “We believe we can reopen some parts of our economy with a focus on protecting the health and safety of Illinoisans. There are items in the governor’s orders we feel can be changed in the event of a new disaster declaration that will help some employers get back to business.”

State Rep. Ryan Spain says many businesses shuttered by the governor’s orders can reopen soon by following certain guidelines.

“After weeks of hearing from struggling employers and employees, we feel there are common sense and responsible steps our state can take so Illinois residents can buy the things they need and get the services they need in a safe and healthy environment,” Spain said. “In addition to online ordering and curbside pickup, many businesses can utilize social distancing, face coverings, and density restrictions to operate in a responsible manner. We need to begin the safe economic recovery for Illinois as soon as possible.”

State Rep. Tony McCombie weighed in on the decision to suspend all ‘elective’ medical procedures at Illinois hospitals.

“Illinoisans across the state are not able to receive standard and necessary care, like cancer preventative screening services,” McCombie said. “In some parts of Illinois, hospitals and healthcare organizations have stabilized and need to provide access to vital health services. If the governor extends his disaster declaration, we are strongly advocating he revise his orders on non-COVID-19 related medical care.”

State Rep. Dave Severin said he believes the state can safely reopen state parks and recreational facilities following proper social distancing guidelines.

“We feel that we can open our parks, monitor them using conservation police and park staff, and allow Illinoisans to enjoy outdoor activities,” Severin said. “Camping, hiking, golfing, hunting, fishing…these are all activities that folks can do while maintaining a great deal of distance from other people. Following guidance from the White House and the governor, we feel we can reopen Illinois using a regional approach. We are not advocating for an ‘all-at-once’ reopening, but we can get started moving in the right direction very quickly if we can get the governor to agree.”

Nearly 40,000 coronavirus cases in Illinois. On Friday, April 24, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 2,724 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 108 additional deaths.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 39,658 cases, including 1,795 deaths, in 96 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.

For more information, please visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or ilcovid19info.com.

Help for those facing economic hardship. COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown has caused economic hardship for many Illinoisans. If you are facing tough economic times please know you are not alone and there are programs out there to help. Please visit The Caucus Blog for a list of some of the programs available to help with utilities, mortgages and student loans.

Illinois lost nearly 40,000 jobs across metro areas. The number of nonfarm jobs decreased over-the-year in March in twelve Illinois metropolitan areas according to preliminary data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Data also shows the unemployment rate temporarily decreased over the year due to the shrinking of the labor force as businesses began to close and workers transitioned due to COVID-19. The unemployment rate and labor force fell in thirteen metropolitan areas.

Data shows the number of nonfarm jobs decreased in twelve Illinois metropolitan areas and increased in two. Total nonfarm jobs were down in Rockford (-4.0%, -6,000), Peoria (-2.5%, -4,300), and Lake-Kenosha (-1.7%, -7,200). Jobs were also down in Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights (-0.2%, -8,800). Illinois businesses added jobs in Kankakee (+2.0%, +900) and Champaign-Urbana (+1.3%, +1,500). The industry sectors recording job growth in the majority of metro areas included Education and Health Services (10 of 14).

Not seasonally adjusted data compares March 2020 with March 2019. The not seasonally adjusted Illinois unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in March 2020 and stood at 12.2 percent at its peak in this economic cycle in January 2010. Nationally, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in March 2020 and 10.6 percent in January 2010, at its peak. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment.

Massive problems with unemployment claims continue at IDES. The Illinois Department of Employment Security is the agency that oversees and pays out claims for unemployment insurance (UI). By federal law, this responsibility now also includes some forms of COVID-19-related disaster compensation that are different from traditional unemployment insurance. This includes aid for unemployed workers who were not “employed” in the traditional sense, and who are thus not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance. Examples include self-employed individuals and independent contractors, such as personal trainers, hair stylists, and drivers for Lyft or Uber.

Many employees at IDES are working very hard to complete UI benefit claims. House Republican members continue to hear from their constituents, however, that the agency as a whole is doing a very poor job of helping people. Inundated by conventional UI claims, the agency has set up a convoluted pathway to file claims online. Each claimant has to spell out their last name, and then sort themselves into a category depending on the first letter of their last name. People with last names starting with letters A through M are supposed to try to contact the Department online on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and people with last names starting in letters N through Z are supposed to establish online contact on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Saturdays are set aside for people “who could not file during their allotted window.” Reports indicate that the Department is especially busy on Saturdays.

At the same time, independent contractors are facing an even longer road ahead. IDES does not currently have a functional pathway for independent contractors to get the money to which they are entitled. People in this category are being explicitly told by IDES to file a conventional UI application, be rejected, and then their names will be added to a pile of rejection slips while a new form is made out for them to apply. Gov. Pritzker has said that the members of this group may start getting help by May 11. By that date, more than 30 days will have passed since the enactment by Congress of the independent-contractor relief program. Meanwhile, states such as Michigan are already accepting and processing applications from all potential beneficiaries, including self-employed individuals, 1099-independent contractors, and sole proprietors.

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