Illinois Government Responses to Covid-19 Updated 6/18/2020
Today’s update discusses:
- Illinois Manufacturers’ Association joining IEMA and FEMA to provide masks to businesses
- ICC reaching agreement on utility consumer protections after shut-off moratorium ends
- U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling on church service restrictions
- Illinois GOP filing lawsuit against Governor
- Governor cancelling Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs
- Chicago’s Millennium Park reopening with restrictions
- Chicago officials adjusting metrics for city to move into Phase 4
- Governor’s announcement of a $900 million program
- Some Illinois manufacturers will provide face masks for any Illinois company in need. (As a reminder, under Phase 3 of Governor Pritzker’s reopening plan, face coverings are required for staff and employees working at open businesses.) The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association has partnered with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide masks to businesses. To determine eligibility, a business in need should take the survey linked below by June 19. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency will ship the masks directly to the business.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has been working with utility companies and consumer groups across the state to continue protecting consumers once the moratorium ends on terminating utility service for failure to pay. The moratorium is in effect until the state enters Phase 4 of Governor Pritzker’s reopening plan, which could occur on June 26. The agreement made with the Illinois Commerce Commission allows deferred payment arrangements up to 24 months, reduced down payments, payment plans, and waiver of deposits. In addition, companies will need to report disconnection, credit, and collections data for the next several months.
- Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments regarding Governor Pritzker’s ability to restrict religious gatherings. The attorney for the churches argued that places of worship should have the same limitations as places like warehouses and supermarkets. The three-judge panel disagreed. The court ruled that Governor Pritzker has the power to restrict religious services in response to the pandemic without violating any freedoms. Justice Easterbrook wrote, “reducing the rate of transmission would not be much use if people starved or could not get medicine, that’s also why soup kitchens and housing for the homeless have been treated as essential. Those activities must be carried on in person, while concerts can be replaced by recorded music, movie-going by streaming video, and large in-person worship services by smaller gatherings, radio and TV worship services, drive-in worship services, and the Internet.” Although Governor Pritzker revised the mandates to recommended guidelines for churches to follow, the court held that the governor has the authority to reverse course in the future and reimpose restrictions if needed for the safety of residents.
- The Illinois GOP sued Governor Pritzker on Monday seeking an exemption from the limit on public gatherings. Currently, Governor Pritzker’s Phase 3 guidelines for reopening puts a 10-person limit on gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The GOP’s lawsuit alleges that the limit infringes on their First Amendment rights and that the court should exempt political parties from the restriction so they may freely hold meetings without restrictions as they prepare for the November election.
- Governor Pritzker has announced cancellation of the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs. The decision to cancel these events, which provide significant economic support for the state, comes from “guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and other experts” due to concerns about increased transmission of COVID-19. Illinois GOP lawmakers criticized the decision, stating that the governor has exceeded his authority. In an effort to honor 4-H members for their hard work throughout the year, the Illinois Department of Agriculture plans to host a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September.
- Chicago has officially opened Millennium Park, though restrictions remain. For example, the number visitors will be limited, social distancing rules will be in place, and visitors will be required to wear face masks. In addition, certain landmarks, such as the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the Bean), may only be viewed from a distance.
- Allison Arwady, Chicago’s Department of Public Health commissioner, announced late last week that officials have considered adjusting the metrics required to move the city from Phase 3 to Phase 4. Those changes include a percent positivity rate of less than 7 percent, adequate hospital capacity, at least 4,500 tests per day, and contact tracing investigations of 90 percent of cases within 24 hours of positive results. Because the city is on track to satisfy the revised metrics, Arwady stated that the city could move into Phase 4 on July 1.
- This week Governor Pritzker announced a $900 million program designed to support communities and businesses who have faced hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Governor, the state’s plan with the funding is to prioritize “those who were hurting long before we’d ever heard of COVID-19.” The $900 million funding will be disbursed to multiple state programs. For example, the Illinois Housing Development Authority is launching a $150 million program for rental assistance and a $150 million program for mortgage assistance, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is launching a $540 million business interruption grant and a $25 million distressed capital program, and the Department of Human Services is launching a $32.5 million program designed to mitigate poverty.