THIS COVERS ILLINOIS-SPECIFIC COVID-19 UPDATES INCLUDING PAID LEAVE THROUGH UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE.
Good evening! A few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker concluded his daily COVID-19 press conference including a joint appearance with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The Governor noted the following actions being taken:
- The State is recommending that large gathers of more than 250 participants be cancelled.
- Contrary to rumors, schools are NOT being closed but that option is being reviewed on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, the state is encouraging schools to cancel any activities that include more than 250 people.
- Closing the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago to anyone who does not have business with the state.
- Working with all state agencies to provide options for tele-work for state employees.
- Asking any business that can allow employees to work from home, to do so immediately. Those that cannot are being strongly encourage social distancing at work.
- The March 17th Illinois primary election will go on as planned. Local election authorities are being asked to extend early voting hours.
The Governor appealed to everyone to not feed the rumor-mill and re-emphasized reducing social contact.
Earlier this afternoon, IRMA attended a private briefing with Mayor Lightfoot. IRMA was one of only three groups representing employers in the room. The City stated that they are doing everything they can to preserve the summer and fall trade shows scheduled to come to Chicago. For example, to-date, the City has lost over $200 million in economic activity as a result of cancelled shows. There is another $520 million in economic activity at stake with shows currently scheduled for April and May.
The Chicago Department of Public Health displayed a graph showing that Illinois is currently following, or just ahead, of the number of cases in Italy at the same time in their outbreak – by percentage of population. You can obtain Chicago-specific information here as well as sign-up for City updates regarding COVID-19.
On behalf of the City of Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot stated the following:
- The City is banning any community event of 1,000 or more scheduled to occur anytime in the next 30-days be cancelled. Not talking about stores, schools, public transport, etc.
- The City said they would NOT be cancelling schools at this time. Like the state, they will continue to review. Chicago Public Schools will cancel events and guidance in the event a school experiences a positive test result.
- The City said they would NOT be requiring business closure. Also said they will be issuing proposals to ease the impact on businesses in the near future.
- City encourages private employers to implement work-from-home.
- The City said they would NOT be shutting down public transportation.
- They will be producing guidance for office buildings in the very near future.
PAID LEAVE VIA UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
As you know, IRMA serves as the point-entity on behalf of the Joint Employers for Unemployment Insurance in Illinois. At the behest of the Governor, tomorrow morning the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) will file emergency administrative rules expanding eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. They are doing this by expanding the definitions of ‘able to work’, ‘available to work’, and Under Illinois law, you only receive benefits if you are able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. You are considered ‘able to work’ if you are ‘physically and mentally capable of performing work for which you are otherwise qualified’ and you are considered ‘available for work’ unless you impose a condition upon acceptance of work that is so narrow there is no reasonable prospect of securing work. The emergency rules broaden what constitutes ‘able to work’ and ‘available to work’ to include looking for work that can be done from home. Further, the emergency rules do not apply only to COVID-19 cases.
Keep in mind that emergency rules are in effect for 150-days. That means that if they want to make this change permanent, they will have to propose permanent rules and those can be addressed with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
IRMA made clear that a specific employer cannot see their UI taxes increase as a result of this rule changes and that any impact to the UI Trust Fund, from which benefits are paid, needs to be universalized across society- not just employers. Further, IRMA emphasized that while the UI system works for normal economic cycles, it was not designed for this purpose and employers must not be saddled with any costs.
We will continue to keep you posted. As always, please do not hesitate to contact IRMA if you have any questions.