Illinois Government Responses to Covid-19 Updated 5/21/2020
Today’s update discusses:
- removal of a representative from yesterday’s special legislative session
- Governor’s attempt to remove a lawsuit to federal court
- Illinois moving into Phase 3
- attempting to ease issues with unemployment benefits
- launch of pilot online purchasing program for SNAP benefits
- more testing sites to open
- One of the Illinois House’s first actions in special session yesterday was to vote 81-27 to remove Representative Darren Bailey from the proceedings. Bailey, the representative who sought a temporary restraining order against the statewide stay-at-home order, was removed for refusing to wear a face covering as required by rules the House adopted. Representative Jim Durkin stated, “we cannot ignore nor compromise the health and safety of every member of the General Assembly, their family members, [and] every one of our staffers who works tirelessly for us.” Governor Pritzker commented, “[Bailey] has shown a callous disregard for life, [and a] callous disregard for people’s health.”
- The Illinois legislature has passed a workers’ compensation bill, making it easier for essential workers to claim they became sick with COVID-19 while on the job. As reported here last month, the Workers’ Compensation Commission attempted to enact an emergency rule, but the business community strongly opposed the rule and filed a lawsuit. The Commission then withdrew the emergency rule. Senate Bill 471 maintains some parts of the emergency rule, but includes important exceptions that were not part of the rule. For example, “the death of any policeman as a result of the exposure to and contraction of COVID-19. . . shall be rebuttably presumed to have been contracted while in the performance of an act or acts of duty. . .” but “the presumption shall not apply if the policeman was on a leave of absence from his or her employment or otherwise not required to report for duty for a period of 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the date of contraction of COVID-19.” The same presumptions apply to firemen and any employee who is deemed a COVID-19 first responder or front-line worker as defined in the legislation.
- Rep. Bailey’s amended lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the stay-at-home order was set to be heard in Clay County Circuit Court on Friday. That hearing may be delayed due to the Governor’s removing the case to federal court under federal question jurisdiction. The press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General stated, “because Mr. Bailey’s amended complaint alleges violations of his federal constitutional rights, we removed his case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.”
- As reported briefly yesterday, the Governor has announced that the state will move into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan next week, and he has revised the plan somewhat to allow more businesses to open than originally planned for that Phase. More details have been released regarding the changes, including that restaurants and bars will be allowed to add limited outdoor seating starting as early as next Friday. Governor Pritzker noted that “with the right restrictions, tables six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff and other precautions, the experts believe that these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities and give our hospitality industry a much-needed boost.” But, the Chicago Mayor has stated that Chicago restaurants will not be ready to open next week. Other changes include state parks and other parks reopening, outdoor activities such as camping and foursome golf resuming, and outdoor recreation businesses reopening.
- As unemployment claims continue to rise in Illinois, the state office through which residents must sign up for benefits doubled its number of workers. Residents have continued to complain that they cannot reach anyone via phone, and the website will not allow them to sign up. Many are reaching out to their legislators for help.
- Starting June 2, Illinois residents who are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits will be able to use those benefits to purchase groceries online. This change is expected to make grocery shopping safer for the duration of the pandemic, but it will also be a permanent feature moving forward. The plan got the go-ahead from the federal government this week. So far, Walmart and Amazon have agreed to accept online SNAP orders. Currently 19 states are participating in the program, with 17 others planning to join.
- CVS is opening 19 testing sites in Illinois. These sites are part of an effort to launch 350 new testing locations across 14 states. The testing at these locations will be self-administered and available for residents meeting the CDC guidelines. Beginning tomorrow, residents who qualify for testing may register and schedule an appointment.