IL COVID-19 Update #12

By COVID-19
A few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker completed his daily briefing. He discussed senior grocery shopping hours, sales tax relief for bars and restaurants, and expanding Medicaid to telemedicine. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered a televised addressed which is covered below.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING
Governor Pritzker, standing with IRMA President Rob Karr, encouraged Illinois grocers to provide special hours for senior citizens. The idea is to allow consumers who are more at-risk to shop when the stores are cleaner. Several Illinois grocers had already implemented such measures but in the last 48-hours many more have embraced the Governor’s call. Illinois consumers can view the list here. Grocers, or other retailers, who wish to implement senior-only hours and want to be added to the list, can contact IRMA here.
Pritzker announced that the state is offering relief to more than 20,000 bars and restaurants by allowing a two month delay on sales tax payments to the state and local jurisdictions as well as waiving late filing fees and interest. Under the directive,eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May made late. The Department of Revenue estimates this will give relief to nearly 80% of bars and restaurants in Illinois. Penalties and interest will be automatically waived; however, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax return even if they are unable to make a payment. Any taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin.
The Governor also noted that small businesses across the state can apply for low interest, coronavirus disaster assistance loans. He thanked Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth for their work pushing this initiative through Congress. IRMA members can find more information here and here.
The Governor announced the signing of an Executive Order expanding telemedicine for Medicaid and those who are privately insured, which will allow more providers reimbursement as well as more flexibility and safety for patients. The EO can be viewed here.
CITY OF CHICAGO
At 5:00 p.m., Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered a televised address. In the address, she ordered anyone showing symptoms (fever, cough, fatigue) to remain home unless seeking medical care or essential items like food or medicine. Additionally, she strongly encouraged vulnerable populations to stay home. Finally, she announced that Chicago Public Schools would remain closed through April 20th.
The City is suspending late fees and default for all city debt including speeding, red-light cameras and parking tickets, countinuing all court dates until at least April 30th without penalty, limiting ticketing and towing of vehicles to public safety issues. Cook county Sheriff Tom Dart has suspended eviction notices. She called on financial institutions to suspend eviction and debt collection efforts.
the Mayor announced the creation of the Chicago Small Business Reliancy Loan Fund with $100 million in targeted loans to severely impacted small businesses. It is a public-private partnership between the City, Goldman Sachs and others. Additionally, the City is suspending collection of the following taxes: bottled water tax, bag tax, amusement tax, restaurant tax, hotel tax, and parking tax. IRMA thanks the Mayor for her continued leadership. 
SHELTER-IN-PLACE (Oak Park, IL)
Late yesterday, the Village of Oak Park, just a few miles west of Chicago, instituted a shelter-in-place order. Thankfully, they did so in a thoughtful manner. In short, their list of essential services was expansive recognizing the on-going needs of consumers while they live AND work from home in Oak Park. You can view the order here.
BUSINESS DAY 2020 CANCELLED
Business Day 2020 has been cancelled. IRMA members and co-hosts received notification of this via email this morning. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to Springfield in 2021!

IL COVID-19 Update #11

By COVID-19
A few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker completed his daily briefing and he was joined by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING
The Governor conducted his briefing from Murphysboro in southern Illinois and announced a new centralized resource for all COVID-19 information.   www.coronavirus.illinois.gov
The Governor emphasized that essential services such as groceries, pharmacies, and gas stations, will remain open. IRMA would like to thank the Governor for continuing to emphasize this message. We believe the Governor’s examples as just that, examples. Here is a list of the types of stores IRMA believes should be considered essential and we communicated this widely to the Governor’s office nearly a week ago: (1) Stores with grocery items; (2) pharmacies and stores with pharmacies; (3) convenience stores and gas stations with grocery items; (4) restaurants (as done currently); (5) stores that sell cleaning and sanitation supplies; (6) stores with pet supplies; and, (7) stores that sell electronic items (e.g computers, cell phones, routers, chargers, etc. everything you need to support remote work).
There are now 288 COVID-19 patients across 17 counties. The State has created a new website to convey all information regarding this pandemic.
DRIVER DOCUMENTS
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has pushed back renewal dates for drivers’ licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations and other documents 30-days. The press release can be viewed here. IRMA would like to thank Secretary of State Jesse White for his actions. 
PRICE GOUGING
 
Yesterday, Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned against price-gouging. IRMA has received notices from several retailers about suppliers significantly increasing the cost of items – particularly meats. IRMA encourages members to pass along any suspected price-gouging from suppliers so that we can initiate a conversation with the supplier in advance of potential referral to the Attorney General. Otherwise, retailers take the public blame when they are not actually at fault.

UTILITIES

Utilities, including water, have agreed not to suspend service for the foreseeable future.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

IRMA has spoken directly with the heads of the Community Bankers Association of IllinoisIllinois Bankers Association, and the Illinois Credit Union League. All assured IRMA that their members are open and willing to work with any employers who are facing liquidity issues. IRMA strongly encourages retailers who are facing or concerned about near-term liquidity to contact their financial institution. IRMA would like to thank the members of these associations for the willingness to assist economic victims of this pandemic. 

LEGISLATIVE SESSION

The General Assembly has cancelled legislative session for next week. However, the notice also stated that members could be called back on short notice to address ‘urgent matters’.

IL COVID-19 Update #10

By COVID-19
A few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker completed his daily briefing and he was joined by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING
The Governor opened by expressing his condolences to the family of the first COVID-19 related death in Illinois. A female patient in Chicago in her 60’s with underlying conditions. On behalf of its members, IRMA joins the Governor in extending our condolences to the family of the victim.
The Governor clarified his comments yesterday regarding restaurant closings. As IRMA worked out with Governor’s Office, restaurants can provide ready-to-eat meals via curb-side, drive-through, take-out and delivery. This info-graph provides an easy explanation. Additionally, the Governor’s Executive Order made it clear. The Governor recommended that customers contact their favorite contacting restaurants individually to see what is available. The Governor’s Administration noted that several large restaurant delivery companies have agreed to suspend charges to restaurants during this time.
The Governor also emphasized that price gouging will not be tolerated (see ‘Price Gouging’ below)
Governor Pritzker noted the actions he has taken to protect citizens including unemployment insurance expansion, utilities agreeing to halt shut-offs, filing waivers with the federal government for medicaid coverage expansion, filing waivers with the federal government to expand SNAP and WIC eligibility, as well as working to protect small employers.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has secured necessary documentation to file a statewide injury declaration with the Small Business Administration. Once approved, small employers negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic will be able to file for and receive assistance. Filing can be accessed through the DCEO website.
The Governor noted that the prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people applies to event venues, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, and faith-based events. Grocery stores, pharmacy, hospitals, etc. are not included.
During Q&A, the Governor commented that they are in continual discussions on various scenarios including possible uses for the Illinois National Guard. An example he gave was using the Guard to help deliver groceries in areas of the state where people can’t make it out.
PRICE GOUGING
Attorney General Kwame Raoul stated his office has received complaints from consumers around the state of suspected price-gouging particularly on items related to the COVID pandemic. This includes items like face masks, disinfectants sprays, hand sanitizers, wipes and equipment for medical providers have been the most commonly mentioned. AG Raoul strongly urged businesses to refrain from any hint of price-gouging. He mentioned he had been in contact with IRMA on that point – which he has been. They are also offering on-line sales.
He also warned the public to be ignore claims of items being a cure or preventing COVID-19. he noted that at this time such products do not exist. You can read the Attorney General’s press release here.
The Attorney General echoed IRMA’s message and implored people not to hoard. To buy only what they need.

IL COVID-19 Update #9

By COVID-19
Good morning! As of a few moments ago, Governor JB Pritzker ordered the waiver of all overweight fees for transportation of emergency/relief supplies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PLEASE read the permit order here for additional details.
Additionally, IDOT Acting Secretary Omer Osmen announced that haulers may carry up to 88,000 lbs on 5 axles or an additional 10% above legal loads on fewer axles. PLEASE read the IDOT announcement here for additional details.
These authorizations expire on April 12, 2020.
With these orders, Illinois has removed all known regulatory inhibitions. Please contact IRMA if you have questions or face obstacles.

IL COVID-19 Update #8

By COVID-19

Governor JB Pritzker just concluded his daily briefing. What follows is an overview as well as additional information related to COVID-19.

GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING
The Governor’s briefing occurred in Springfield at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Emergency Response Center.
At 9:00 p.m. tonight all restaurants and bars must close their dining rooms throughout Illinois.
Schools are being encouraged to expand meals to ANY student. Not just those eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Casino and video gaming operations are suspended thru March 30th. The Illinois Gaming Board notice can be found here.
Currently, IDPH is reporting 105 cases in 15 counties in Illinois.  Cases have occurred in all age ranges and the number of cases that do not have a clear connection to travel or a known COVID-19 case is increasing. Tracking can be found here.
RESTAURANTS
As of 9:00 p.m. (CST) this evening, restaurants and bars in Illinois have been ordered to cease in-restaurant/bar service. However, restaurants can continue to offer drive-thru service, curb-side service, delivery, and take-out (i.e. consumer enters, orders, pays, gets food, leaves). Take-out was not part of the original announcement but was added, in part, through the joint efforts of IRMA and McDonald’s. You can view the Executive Order here.
IRMA has developed and distributed through media outlets, elected officials, etc. this infograph to help inform consumers. Please feel free to utilize as you deem appropriate. IRMA would like to thank the Governor’s Office for their consideration of this change and its importance to giving consumers options and hopefully relieving the pressure on grocers while still accomplishing the goals of containment.
GROCERIES
In an effort to try and calm consumers, IRMA issued this release this morning. Additionally, IRMA communicated with all four legislative caucuses and asked that each of their members echo IRMA’s message. That message is: “There is plenty of food if everyone practices common-sense and returns to normal shopping patterns. As an example, if you shop on Thursday for the following week, then shop on Thursday and get what you need for the following week. Not for the next three weeks. There is ZERO need for hoarding. Hoarding is creating a problem that doesn’t need to exist. Even in countries that have imposed in-home quarantines, people have been allowed free access to necessities. Simply practice good hygiene and social-distancing when you shop.”
THANK YOU
We are a LONG way from the end and will have more challenges to overcome but I want to take a moment in the midst of the crisis to thank those IRMA members who have been willing to constructively coordinate with IRMA’s efforts to protect the Illinois retail community as much as possible thru this crisis. For example, grocer members of all sizes have been extremely open as to the challenges they were facing in the supply chain and willing to engage in a targeted way to support IRMA’s efforts to remove those obstacles. Additionally, they have been very helpful in leveraging relationships in other states to support IRMA’s efforts in Illinois to obtain an increase in truck weight limits. Another example is in the restaurant area. McDonald’s (IRMA Board member Ashli Nelson) coordinated closely with IRMA in obtaining a change to the Governor’s order to allow take-out in addition to drive-thru, curb-side, and delivery. On behalf of IRMA staff, I want to say thank you and emphasize how close coordination is the most effective way to accomplish change – whether in a crisis or the regular course of business.

IL COVID-19 Update #7

By COVID-19

Governor JB Pritzker just concluded his daily briefing. What follows is an overview as well as additional information related to COVID-19 including WIC, Workers’ Compensation, state government, and the Assembly.

GOVERNOR’S UPDATE

The Governor noted that from now on every decision is hard.
He is ordering all bars and restaurants to close as of close of business Monday, March 16th thru Tuesday, March 30th. They are going to allow food delivery, drive-thru and curbside pick-up. Carry-out, defined as a person walking into the establishment to pick-up food, will not be allowed. He acknowledged the impact this would have on small businesses. He also stated that over the weekend people did not take his guidance seriously to not gather so he is now responding and this closure order is a result.
Echoing Dr. Fauci’s comments on NBC this morning, the Governor says he hopes at the end of this crisis people will say that the government over-reacted. He believes that will be a sign the government acted correctly.
The Governor noted that Illinois’s food supply chain is among the strongest and healthiest and he is committed to keep it that way. He noted that his administration asked for the advice of grocers. Based on that feedback, he and his staff have connected with municipalities to end prohibitions on over-night grocery deliveries.
He asked that consumers not hoard food. Buy what you need but don’t be selfish. This is a message IRMA has been asking be included in the daily briefings.
Earlier today, Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, Allison Arwady, MD, ordered that any establishment within the City that sells or serves alcohol must restrict its occupancy to 50% of the establishments legal capacity. Additionally, lines or other gatherings at or in the immediate vicinity of the entrance to the establishment were prohibited.
He encouraged those who are interested in ensuring food banks have enough to assist those in need to donate to Feeding America.
Additionally, he encouraged those who are healthy and feeling well to donate blood.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed the Governor’s calls to avoid public gatherings.
The Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike noted there were 29 new cases today and that the number of positive test results continues to increase ‘exponentially’. She noted that cases were now in Champaign, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, Dupage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, and Woodford counties. In short, statewide.
WIC VENDOR TRAINING
WIC vendors are required to undergo training on an annual basis. That training occurs March thru May in Illinois. WIC vendor trainings for the month of March are being postponed. The WIC Bureau has communicated that do vendors. IRMA will keep you posted as to rescheduling or other options.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM
On a call this afternoon with the members of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board, of which IRMA is a member, the Commission Chairman shared curtailment plans. Effective Tuesday, March 17th thru Tuesday, March 31st, the Commission will do the following: (1) suspend hearings; (2) continue all cases to their next regular status call; (3) suspend oral arguments; and (4) will re-evaluate as March 31stnears. There will be a mechanism for emergency cases. That mechanism will consist of a request being vetted through the Chairman’s office, assigned to an arbitrator who will conduct a telephone conference and will then make a determination as to how to proceed. If a hearing is necessary, a hearing will be scheduled in a Commission-controlled office. Again, this process will be revisited as Tuesday, March 31st nears.
STATE GOVERNMENT
The Governor had previously closed government buildings to anyone who did not have official business. It appears they are quickly moving to shutting down non-essential functions and operate on a limited basis. It is NOT a complete shut-down. For example, courts have announced they are stopping operations except on an emergency basis. All agencies are being asked to implement such plans. That said, we will still have access and essential people available to field questions and handle problems.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The General Assembly did not have session last week and has cancelled session for this week. They are also in the midst of contingency planning. That includes preparing a list of must-pass legislation (e.g. a state budget) with the idea they would return for one-day, pass what they must and adjourn.

IL COVID-19 Update #6

By COVID-19
This is communication is all about rumor-control. As we have been, IRMA will communicate an update after the Governor’s briefing at 2:30 p.m. (CST).
This morning on NBC, Governor Pritzker indicated they are considering ‘going on lockdown’ which means closing bars and restaurants similar to what has been implemented in Spain and Italy. He did back-up slightly modifying his comment to state they are looking at all options. The interview can be seen here. This came on the heels of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stating Americans are ‘going to have hunker down more’. He also said ‘when you think you are doing too much you probably aren’t doing enough’. That interview can be seen here.
In anticipation of this progression and watching developments in other nations, yesterday IRMA communicated with the Governor’s Office, as well as the office of the Chicago Mayor, that IF they consider such a move, they need to, at the very least, keep the following entities open:
1. Stores with grocery items;
2. pharmacies and stores with pharmacies;
3. convenience stores/gas stations with grocery items;
4. stores with pet supplies; and,
5. stores that sell electronic items. (This is necessary as people will need electronic items if they are working from home.)
IRMA also suggested they encourage, and allow, all of these entities to provide curb-side pick-up or delivery if possible. We also warned that while the temptation will be to close restaurants outright, they need to keep in mind this will significantly heighten pressure on stores with grocery items and that additional pressure is not needed. We suggested they allow restaurants and all other stores the option of delivery, drive-up, and curb-side pick-up.
Additionally, IRMA has been asking for a few days for the Governor’s Office to being to incorporate into their messaging the fact that people need to abide by their normal shopping rhythms. For example, if someone shops once a week and usually buys enough for the next week, stick to that schedule. There is ZERO reason for the hoarding. Simply practice social distancing and good hygiene practices.
Again, IRMA staff is available 24/7 during this time should you have questions/needs and you will receive an overview of the Governor’s briefing after it occurs at 2:30 p.m. (CST).

IL COVID-19 Update #5

By COVID-19
Happy Saturday to all! Illinois Governor JB Pritzker just completed his daily COVID-19 briefing. What follows is a summary of his briefing. I would like to once again add that the Governor and his staff have been inclusive, communicative and cooperative.
HIGHLIGHTS OF GOVERNOR’S COMMENTS
The Governor emphasized the need for people to seriously abide by the guidance Illinois issued yesterday limiting crowds to fewer than 250 people. If you can institute remote work and limit unnecessary travel, he again encouraged employers to please do so. He noted to all citizens that the entire focus is on bending the curve as it relates to outbreaks so the medical system is not overwhelmed.
The Pritzker Administration has applied for a waiver from the Federal government to allow the medicaid program to expand medical services.
To date, the case count including those who have recovered was at 46. Eighteen new cases were added today bringing the total count to 64 spread over 8 counties including central and southern Illinois. According to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, 30% of these cases are travel related, 30% are related to contact with an individual known to have COVID-19, and the remaining cases have unknown sources.
The rest of his comments were directed at consumer behavior.
He did close by profusely praising the response of the Illinois business community.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the Director of the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, made a clear point that while consumers should maintain social distancing, wash hands, etc, consumers should continue to shop for their daily needs according to their normal patterns. IRMA would like to thank Dr. Arwady for this much-needed message and we hope others repeat it profusely. 
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS UPDATE
IRMA has worked with Sangamon County Health Department regarding their initial notice yesterday regarding crowds of more than 250 people. You will recall from yesterday’s briefing that they had issued a requirement that no more than 250 people could gather anywhere. After conversations last night and this morning with IRMA, they are issuing a clarification that this does not apply to normal shopping. However, it will apply to restaurants in Sangamon County. This means no more than 250 people at one time within the restaurant. They refuse to move on this point. Nevertheless, IRMA would like to thank Sangamon County for their communication and willingness to clarify. 
SUPPLY CHAIN
 
IRMA continues to work with the Governor’s Office and others to convince the Federal Government to temporarily increase the weight limit on trucks carrying supplies to restock shelves and other items for the relief of COVID-19 to 90,000 lbs. Additionally, IRMA is working with the Governor’s office and leaders of entities representing local governments to temporarily suspend any restrictions on times trucks may deliver. The Illinois Municipal League (IML) has been particularly helpful in this area and we thank them. If IRMA members are aware of a municipality enforcing such an ordinance, please contact us.
Additionally, IRMA is attempting to convince the Governor’s Office and legislative leaders to offer up repeated statements that consumers should continue their normal shopping patterns when it comes to life necessities such as food, medicine, pet supplies, electronics, clothing, etc.
It is the feedback of IRMA’s grocery members that these actions, combined with the Feds temporarily suspending the limits on the hours truck drivers can operate, will remove a significant obstacle in the supply chain and help calm consumers.
We will continue to keep you posted. As always, please do not hesitate to contact IRMA if you have any questions.

IL COVID-19 Update #4

By COVID-19
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.
HIGHLIGHTS OF GOVERNOR’S COMMENTS
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.
SUPPLY CHAIN
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.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
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.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

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.

IL COVID-19 Update #3

By COVID-19
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:
  1. The State is recommending that large gathers of more than 250 participants be cancelled.
  2. 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.
  3. Closing the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago to anyone who does not have business with the state.
  4. Working with all state agencies to provide options for tele-work for state employees.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. City encourages private employers to implement work-from-home.
  5. The City said they would NOT be shutting down public transportation.
  6. 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.