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IL COVID-19 Update #4

By March 13, 2020March 17th, 2020No Comments
Good afternoon/evening! A few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker concluded his daily COVID-19 press conference. These will continue daily through weekends. At the outset, I would like to note that the Governor’s Office and the entire executive branch, as well as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, have been communicative and cooperative setting an excellent example of partnership.
The Governor has ordered the closing of all K-12 schools starting Tuesday, March 17th thru Monday, March 30th. These days will be treated as ‘act of God’ days meaning school employees will continue to be paid. Schools will continue to distribute two meals a day for qualified students through pick-up and delivery options. Also coordinating with food banks and food manufacturers to ramp up capacity.
Governor Pritzker encouraged employers to keep workers employed to the best of their ability to pay.
The Governor has asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to initiate an emergency proceeding to halt energy shut-offs and collections.
IRMA is working in coordination with state agencies and federal groups to try and temporarily increase weight limits on trucks and suspend or increase the number of hours drivers are allowed to work. These changes would help eliminate a bottle-neck in the current system. Additionally, IRMA is working with groups representing local governments and the Governor’s office to encourage local governments to temporarily suspend hours-of-delivery restrictions.
A few local governments have taken draconian and unnecessary actions recently that drive unnecessary fear. Earlier today, Sangamon County issued a rule from their health department prohibiting the gathering of more than 250 people at any location. They then proceeded to start contacting restaurants and other stores telling them they had to shut down. They did not consider the impact on the ability of citizens to obtain necessary items. As this goes to press, IRMA has initiated meetings between Sangamon County Health Department and Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office. We will keep you posted as, to their credit, they are re-considering the scope of their order.
The City of Champaign declared an emergency and then published all the things they are allowed to do including shuttering retail stores and effectively declaring martial law. While it was already in statute, they chose to re-enact.
These ill-conceived steps unnecessarily contribute to panic and fear which are not needed at this time. IRMA is working with the Governor’s office and groups representing local governments to encourage local governments to prioritize encouraging the calm and reason that is needed at this time.

As noted in yesterday’s summary, Illinois is allowing anyone left unemployed, permanently or temporarily, to obtain unemployment benefits. To review, 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.
The emergency rules and be viewed here. A Q&A issued by the Illinois Department of Employment Security can be found here . This Q&A gives various scenarios and guidance on how IDES will interpret.
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 are currently working with IDES on a draft.
We will continue to keep you posted. As always, please do not hesitate to contact IRMA if you have any questions.