Dear friend,

 

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with community leaders and fellow lawmakers to lend a hand to those struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest.

 

As I’m sure you’re aware, these events have hit our small business community particularly hard—but there is help available.

 

The Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program is a series of grants totaling over $540 million for shops, restaurants, salons, fitness centers and more to help them stay afloat through this time of crisis and ensure they have the resources to open safely in the coming months.

 

 

 

 

The first round of BIG funding will award $60 million to 3,500 businesses. Here’s how those funds will be distributed:

 

Businesses in disproportionately impacted areas will receive $20 million in grants to offset the cost of recent property damage.

 

The program will award 1,000 grants of $20,000 each to businesses who have suffered property damage in recent weeks.

 

Businesses must have been operating for at least three months prior to March 2020 and must have brought in less than $2 million in revenue in 2019.

 

Bars and restaurants who cannot operate during Phase 3 will receive $20 million in grants to support them through closures. 

 

The program will award 1,000 grants of up to $20,000 each to restaurants who have been unable to resume service during Phase 3, whether due to prohibition by local ordinance, lack of access to outdoor space or financial infeasibility.

 

Half of the grants will go to businesses in disproportionately impacted areas, with a focus on areas having recently suffered property damage.

 

Establishments must have been operating for at least three months prior to March 2020 and must have brought in less than $3 million in revenue in 2019.

 

Barbershops and salons will receive $10 million in grants to help them cope with closure-related revenue losses.

 

The program will award 1,000 grants of $10,000 each to barbershops and salons who were forced to close due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Half of the grants will go to businesses in disproportionately impacted areas, with a focus on areas having recently suffered property damage.

 

Businesses must have been operating for at least three months prior to March 2020 and must have brought in less than $500,000 in revenue in 2019.

 

Fitness centers will receive $10 million in grants to ensure they can reopen safely when restrictions are lifted.

 

The program will award 500 grants of $20,000 each to facilities that have suffered significant losses due to closure or reduced operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Health or fitness service providers without a permanent location—such as those who deliver remote services or travel to different client locations—are not eligible to receive funds.

 

Nearly a third of grants will go to facilities in disproportionately impacted areas.

 

Facilities must have been operating for at least three months prior to March 2020 and must have brought in less than $2 million in revenue in 2019.

 

Applications for these programs will open Monday, June 22 and will remain open for 7-14 days. One week after the application period closes, grant administration partners will begin reaching out to recipients.

 

DCEO will post a full list of eligible costs and covered losses alongside each grant application. Businesses that have not received other grants and loans will be given priority. 

 

I hope this information will be useful to you or a business owner you know. I encourage you to share these details with your friends, family and neighbors, to see if they know someone who may benefit from the BIG program—it’s vital that we reach out to help one another during these challenging times. 

 

As applications open, deadlines approach and more grants are made available, I will be sure to keep you informed. If you have questions about the BIG program or other issues facing our community, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office via email here.

 

Sincerely,

Heather Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

Dear friend,

As protests continue in Chicago and across the nation this week, I encourage you to find ways to support peaceful protests and stand in solidarity with businesses that are trying to recover from damage at the same time they are cautiously reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.


We must stand together to say that Black Lives Matter. We must commit to the work ahead to reform our justice system and dismantle the layers of harm of systemic racism. As we stand in support of the peaceful protesters who are seeking reform, I want to highlight resources we can use to amplify Black voices and help in our communities. Read below for information on those resources.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

Groups to support and follow for information on the protests and on seeking justice

 

Chicago/Illinois Organizations:

  • Assata's Daughters is a Black-woman led organization that organizes young Black people in Chicago by providing them with political education, leadership development, mentorship, and revolutionary services. (https://www.assatasdaughters.org/)
  • Black Lives Matter Chicago Chapter works to end state violence and criminalization of Black communities by deconstructing white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy. (https://www.blacklivesmatterchicago.com/about-us/)
  • Brave Space Alliance performs social activism against discrimination, racism, and bigotry against queer people of color. It provides resources to marginalized communities including a food pantry. https://www.bravespacealliance.org/
  • Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression is a local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. This group addresses and fights against discrimination based on race and religion. (https://www.caarpr.org/?fbclid=IwAR2xIoQjUyn3fXyoverRY9b4CBWFehByn7gd3AqF7g8FvaFYex4MBlo2XCw)
  • Chicago Community Bond Fund raises money for bail for those arrested in the protests who cannot afford it. https://chicagobond.org/
  • Chicago COVID-19 Hardship and Help organizes mutual-aid to families that are hard hit by the virus. Families make requests to the organization. Volunteers fulfill those requests. https://transformativespaces.org/2020/03/15/chicago-covid-19-hardship-and-help-page/amp/
  • My Block, My Hood, My City funds and organizes efforts to repair small businesses. It also provides aid to seniors for COVID-19. https://www.formyblock.org/
  • Imagine Englewood works to strengthen and empower the Greater Englewood community through teaching local youth and their families healthy living, environmental awareness, and positive communication skills. (https://www.imagineenglewoodif.org/). They are also using funds for neighborhood clean-ups.
  • SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Liberty and Unification) seeks to empower and support low income residents on the South Side. Currently, they are arguing for the release of arrested protestors and putting them in touch with legal services while spreading information about demonstrations/protests. (http://www.soulinchicago.org/)

 

National Organizations:

  • Black Youth Project 100 is a grassroots organization building a network focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy, and education. Our membership core believes in the principles of decision-making, radical inclusivity, and is building a Black politic through a Black, queer, feminist lens. (https://www.byp100.org)
  • Color of Change is an online organization that develops campaigns to challenge
    injustice, hold corporate and political leaders accountable, commission game-changing research on systems of inequality, and advance solutions for racial justice that can transform our world. (https://colorofchange.org)
  • Dignity and Power Now is a grassroots organization grounded in the principles of abolition, healing justice, and transformative justice. Dignity and Power Now has multiple programs centered around activism, health and wellness, and leadership building. (http://dignityandpowernow.org)
  • Campaign Zero supports the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide. (https://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision)

Aid for businesses affected by civil unrest

The state's Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is working to secure access to helpful resources for businesses affected by circumstances arising out of the past weeks of protests and police action. DCEO is working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely affected by these events in counties that have received a disaster declaration (including Cook). As a part of this process, DCEO is collecting information from businesses that have been negatively impacted. You can access the form by clicking here.

Dear friend,

 

Last week the Illinois General Assembly completed a truncated session, passing a budget, revising gaming law to enable Chicago to create a casino, providing assistance to Illinoisans impacted by COVID-19, and enacting a new hospital assessment program to provide critical resources to health care providers across the state. Below are overviews of the action we took. I will provide additional details on the budget in a future email. Please reach out with any questions or concerns at 773-769-1717.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

 

Budget

Building a budget in this uncertain time proved challenging. With the pandemic and associated closures of many economic sectors, revenues have dropped precipitously in Illinois, as in every state. It remains unclear what additional assistance the federal government will provide states, how Illinois’ economy will bounce back as the state reopens, and whether or not enacts a progressive income tax.

 

Given these unknowns, we opted for a budget that preserves services during this time of need, knowing we may need to adjust the budget in the fall. Overall the budget keeps most programs funded at the same as the current year. K-12 education, higher education, public safety programs and general government services are preserved so that our school districts, universities and community colleges, and police and correctional institutions can maintain critical services. In human service arena most programs are also maintained at current levels, with some new investments in the Department of Children and Family Services and programs that care for elderly and developmentally disabled individuals. We also implemented a new funding mechanism in the Medicaid program to direct additional resources to health care providers around the state.

 

If additional assistance from the federal government is not provided and Illinois does not change its income tax structure, we provided authority for the administration to borrow up to $5 billion through the new Federal Reserve Bank credit facility it recently established. I will provide more details on the budget in my next newsletter.

 

A Chicago casino

Included in a package of legislation on gaming was a major change that will finally make it viable for a casino to operate in Chicago. All revenue from a Chicago casino will go toward paying the city's police and fire pension funds.

 

Senate Bill 516 removes a 33.3% tax on a casino’s income, and adjusts the rates on table games and slots. 

 

As Illinois moves to expand gaming statewide, we must ensure the process remains transparent and well-regulated. This is just the beginning of a long process that will result in a Chicago casino. Under the legislation, there are public posting and presentation requirements for a proposal for a new casino. As that process moves forward, I will provide further updates.

 

Health care

One of the most important things we can do right now is ensure the long term viability of Medicaid and our hospital system. I sponsored Senate Bill 2541 to increase rates for hospitals serving low-income individuals throughout the state, raise physician rates, and enable hospitals in under-resourced communities to improve health care access and address social determinants of health.

 

The legislation includes $250 million in increases through the hospital assessment program, $50 million in physician rate increases, and $150 million for a hospital transformation fund to help hospitals facing difficulties change what type of institution they are in the interest of more cost-effectively providing care to their community.

 

Additional consideration is included for safety net hospitals and critical access hospitals through a fixed pool funding approach, and high Medicaid hospitals through an increased fixed rate approach.

 

The $150 million hospital and health care transformation program allows an application for funding from the hospital and health care transformation program to incorporate the campus of a hospital closed after Jan. 1, 2018 or a hospital that has provided notice of its intent to close.

 

There were other major pieces of health care legislation that passed the General Assembly last week as well. Senate Bill 1864 contained numerous important health care provisions in light of the pandemic. Among other things, this omnibus package:

  • Directs the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services to require Medicaid coverage for services under the psychiatric Collaborative Care Model and to adopt a similar model of its own.
  • Allows HFS to take a set of necessary actions to address the COVID-19 public health emergency to the extent allowed by federal rules until up to a year after emergency. The intent is largely to bypass administrative hurdles and ensure families who need care can access it.
  • Allows individuals who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid to qualify for COVID-19-related medical assistance for the duration of any federal or State declared emergency due to COVID-19.
  • Allows HFS to cover and provide medical assistance to undocumented individuals who would otherwise meet the eligibility requirements for the duration of the state emergency period.
  • requires HFS and the Dept. of Human Services to seek a federal waiver or state plan amendment to allow remote monitoring and support services to be waiver-reimbursable services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and seniors requiring in-home care.

 

 

Pandemic response

Moving quickly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic must remain our top priority in state government. As part of our efforts during a very short session in Springfield, we directed federal CARES Act funding to help in areas that included contact tracing, rental and mortgage assistance, more assistance for businesses, and child care facilities. Among those efforts:

  • $396 million in rental and mortgage assistance. This will go toward helping renters afford their apartments and toward ensuring rental properties are safe and operational. These resources will aid units that are not already receiving federal or state rental subsidy and have experienced losses due to a tenant’s inability to pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $376 million in grants for businesses that have experienced interruption during the pandemic.
  • $260 million for child care facilities that have had to close their doors due to COVID-19.
  • $600 million to expand the state’s contact tracing capabilities. A complete transformation of our contact tracing system in Illinois is key to eventually defeating the virus.
  • $700 million in state pandemic response that includes spending for PPE, state agency health and safety measures, and other emergency response costs through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

 

As we enter Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, we also need to ensure safe workplaces for employees as businesses operate in pandemic conditions. House Bill 2455 creates a “rebuttable presumption” that a first-responder or essential worker who contracts COVID-19 did so in the course of their employment. An employer would have certain means of rebutting the worker’s claim.

 

Employers may rebut the presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace through the following means:

  • Demonstrating that for at least 14 days prior to the date the employee claims injury (their COVID-19 infection) the workplace was following up-to-date public health guidelines appropriate to their type of business issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Demonstrating that the employee in question was working from home for a period at least 14 days prior to the injury claim.
  • Demonstrating that the employee was exposed to the virus by an alternative source outside the workplace.

 

The legislation also ensures Illinois continues to qualify for federal relief packages by extending unemployment benefits, waiving the one-week unemployment insurance waiting period, and expanding eligibility for unemployment to non-instructional education employees, such as lunch workers and teachers’ aides. Employers would also not be charged for unemployment benefits paid to those out of work due to COVID-19 for benefits issued between March 15, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020.

 

Finally, another reason to get excited: Curbside cocktails are now legal. In the interest of helping bars and restaurants operate during the pandemic, House Bill 2682 allows cocktails mixed by employees to be sold for curbside pickup and delivery. Some restrictions:

  • To-go cocktails must be held in a sealed container with a tamper-proof lid and drivers must store them in a trunk or other compartment inaccessible to themselves or passengers.
  • Delivery must be done by a trained employee over the age of 21 who will verify the age of the purchaser. Third party delivery of cocktails is prohibited. (No Grub Hub or Uber Eats!)
  • The container must also be labeled with the ingredients of the drink, the name of the license holder, the address of the business that sold the product, the volume of the drink, and a message saying the container was filled less than 7 days before the date of sale.
  • This sunsets after a year.

 

 

Ensuring transparent government operations

 

Senate Bill 2135 makes a wide variety of changes to laws that affect state and local government in response to the COVID-19 crisis, aimed at making it easier for local governments to comply with the Open Meetings Act and creating groups to respond to the challenges brought on by the crisis. Some provisions:

  • Government bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act are authorized to meet via audio or video conferencing, as long as the public still has the ability to see or hear the meeting and that two days’ notice of each meeting is provided.
  • Creates the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to monitor the governor’s actions regarding the state’s reopening plan.
  • Creates the Task Force on Business Interruption Insurance Policies to investigate these insurance policies in light of COVID-19 and make recommendations for changes.
  • The Broadband Advisory Council is given authority to undertake a study on free internet for all.

Dear friends,

I’m writing to you to provide some information on the ongoing concerns about confirmed cases of Coronavirus here in the United States. As of now, a small handful of cases have been confirmed in Chicago among people who traveled directly from the city in China where the outbreak originated.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health to monitor and respond to the situation. The risk to the United States — and Illinois in particular — have been deemed low, but as this outbreak coincides with flu season, it’s a good time to remember the usual precautions for disease prevention: Wash your hands frequently, sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow, and limit contact with anybody displaying flu-like symptoms.

And – although I know it’s not possible for everyone due to the realities many working folks face – if you feel sick, stay home from work or school, if at all possible.

For more information about the disease and the city’s response to it, you can visit the Chicago Department of Public Health’s information page here. The Illinois Department of Public Health has information here.

The Cook County Department of Public Health is also monitoring the situation, and you can visit their page here.

The Centers for Disease Control has more information about the U.S. response to the virus here.

Stay healthy and well.

Sincerely,
steans sig
Heather Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

COVID19 Updates

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