There are 39 counties in the Central Region as defined by the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan, and according the Governor’s own metrics our region should have been in Phase 4 of his reopening plan weeks ago. Despite this, today we will finally enter Phase 4 along with the rest of the state. Equally frustrating, this step in the right direction comes on the heels of another blow for our region, the unilateral decision by the Governor to cancel the State Fair. I am tremendously disappointed the Governor took this action without any consultation from the legislature or local leaders in our region. Through state law, the General Assembly has mandated that Illinois shall have state fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin. This decision is yet another one in which the Governor has exceeded his authority during the pandemic and will be in violation of state law.
Read below for more information about entering Phase 4 and other important topics.
Pritzker cancels State Fair.
The Illinois State Fair is the premier annual event for the entire region surrounding our capital city. It has very special meaning here in my own Northend Springfield neighborhood, and the economic impact the State Fair has on our region has been estimated at over $86 million annually.
I fully understand the seriousness of the health impact of COVID-19, yet this cancellation is another serious blow to the economy of Central Illinois. Springfield’s economy has been hit especially hard due to the cancellation of most of the General Assembly’s spring session, the shutdown of facilities such as the Bank of Springfield Center and State Fairgrounds, and the closure or work-at-home duties of most state government offices. Read More Here.
Guidelines released for Phase 4.
All four regions of Illinois will move into Phase 4 of the Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan today. Phase 4 guidelines were designed by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) in coordination with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Under Phase 4, restaurants, bars and taverns will be allowed to reopen their indoor facilities under conditions of social distancing. Schools and universities will be allowed to make plans for reopening in fall 2020. Health and fitness clubs, gyms and swimming pools will be allowed to reopen under strict guidelines, as well as other recreation facilities. Read More Here.
Democrats unbalanced budget increases spending.
Despite the economic downturn Illinois and the rest of the country is facing due to COVID-19, Illinois Democrats passed the largest spending plan in the state’s history. This irresponsible budget increases spending by 6.8%. The budget spends $42.9 billion while revenues are expected to be only $36.8 billion, including $5 billion in new borrowing from the Federal government to be paid back over the next decade. Even with the $5 billion in borrowing, the budget is unbalanced by $6 billion. In addition, it essentially gives the Governor a blank check to spend $3.6 billion in Federal CARES Act money with virtually no guidance or oversight of the legislature. The budget does not provide any stability or certainty for taxpayers, schools, local units of government, social service providers and those who rely on critical state services. During a time when Illinois families and businesses are cutting costs, the majority party leaders in Illinois went in the opposite direction. All Republicans, and even a House Democrat, voted against this irresponsible budget.
Yes… the budget includes a legislator pay raise.
Despite the public misinformation being propagated – according to Illinois law, state legislators are scheduled to receive a pay raise each year unless they vote to reject the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). House Republicans filed legislation (HB 5777), which I co-sponsored, to block the automatic pay raise this year and Democrats refused to call the bill for a vote. They also refused to include language to ban the COLA in the budget package they passed, citing an “agreement” they had made with the comptroller. However, the comptroller does not have the legal authority to stop continuing appropriations.
So, while more than a million of our fellow Illinoisans are filing for unemployment, Democrats in the House and the Senate voted to give themselves a raise. More information about the legal realities are available Here.
SBDC gets $7.3 million to support IL small biz.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a new $7.3 million investment from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program – a statewide network focused solely on supporting Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs in starting, growing and maintaining their businesses. There is no cost to small business owners for SBDC services. In the wake of COVID-19, SBDCs have played a vital role in connecting businesses with support resources and assistance programs designed to help keep businesses afloat. Read More Here.
Business Interruption Grants program launched.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is launching the first round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG) by providing $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. The BIG Program is available for up to 3,500 businesses that experienced a limited ability to operate due to COVID-19 related closures. DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses in early July. The total program funding will amount to at least $540 million in grants for small businesses, $270 million of which has been set aside for childcare providers and is funded by the CARES Act. Read More Here.
State ed. boards release guidelines for in-person learning.
The state’s three education boards for K-12, higher education and community colleges have announced guidelines for Illinois schools and colleges to return to in-person instruction as the state advances to Phase 4 of the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan. Some of the guidelines have immediately been met with concern from parents, students and educators alike. Read More Here.
Governor signs ‘Cocktails to Go’ legislation.
Among the legislative victories of the special session was the overwhelming support of legislation to allow bars and restaurants to sell pre-made cocktails for pick-up or delivery as part of the reopening of Illinois’ economy. The legislation, House Bill 2682, which I was glad to co-sponsor, was signed by Governor Pritzker earlier this month. It is a vital step in the right direction, similar to outdoor seating, to help struggling bars and restaurants weather the coronavirus shutdown storm as alcohol sales are one of the most important revenue generators for the industry. Read More Here.
Online preregistration available for driver’s lic. renewals.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office has launched an online driver’s license and ID card preregistration application program to reduce the processing time of transactions at Driver Services facilities. Visit cyberdriveillinois.com to access the preregistration application for driver’s licenses and ID cards and input specific information regarding their upcoming transaction. As a result, once the customer visits a Driver Services facility, the clerk will not have to enter all of the data like a change of address or a change of height and weight into the electronic application form because the customer has already updated the information. This will improve the efficiency of these transactions and cut down wait times. Read More Here.
Reminder: income tax filing deadline is July 15.
For those who have not yet filed, state individual income tax returns and payments are due July 15, the same date set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for federal returns. Taxpayers who have yet to file their 2019 state individual income tax returns must act by July 15 to avoid penalties and interest. The tax filing season was extended three months from the normal due date of April 15 to help Illinois taxpayers experiencing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More Here.