Yesterday the Governor announced he is extending the Stay at Home order through the month of April. I appreciate that our leader is following the advice of epidemiologists and health care professionals, and understand his desire to have folks stay home to save lives. It is challenging on many fronts, so please reach out if you have suggestions on ways we can assist individuals and families that are faring poorly during this pandemic.

 

As COVID-19 has spread across the country, other states have followed Illinois’ lead by limiting crowds, closing nonessential businesses, and instituting shelter-in-place orders.

 

To address the uncertainty and instability many Americans are facing during this outbreak, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides assistance to hospitals, nonprofits, individuals, and businesses.

 

If you are wondering about what the CARES Act means for you and your community, here’s some information that may help you navigate the legislation:

 

How will the CARES Act help individuals and families?

  • Individuals who earn less than $75,000 annually will receive a direct payment of $1,200, plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under. Married couples who file a joint return and earn less than $150,000 are eligible for up to $2,400 plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under.
  • Eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of state unemployment benefits to cover lost wages. Part-time, self-employed, and gig-economy workers are newly eligible for benefits.
  • States will receive $3.5 billion in Child Care Development Block Grants to help provide child care to health care workers, first responders, and other essential employees.
  • Federal student loan payments will be suspended until Sept. 30.

 

What about protections for health care workers and first responders?

  • Over $120 billion in assistance will go to hospitals and health agencies to help them cover COVID-19 expenses, replenish life-saving supplies, and purchase tests.

 

Will the CARES Act support local and state governments?

  • State and local governments will receive $150 billion to pay for new expenses related to COVID-19. The CARES Act also doubles the amount of FEMA funding available to state governments, local governments, and nonprofits.

 

What kind of benefits will schools receive?

  • Schools across the country—including colleges and universities—will receive over $30 billion in emergency support.

 

Will businesses get relief?

  • Small businesses and non-profits will have access to $350 billion in forgivable loans to help them retain employees and pay for expenses like rent, mortgages, and utilities.
  • The Small Business Administration is offering $10 billion in emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief to local business owners. SBA has also established the Debt Relief Program to cover six months of interest payments for small businesses with existing loans.

 

Will my unemployment insurance be affected by this payment?

The Illinois Department of Employment Security explains how this relates to your unemployment insurance here, including details on additional money those on unemployment insurance will receive, as well as a new, temporary program to help people like self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are not normally subject to unemployment taxes.

 

If you have other questions about the CARES Act, I encourage you to read this summary from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means.

 

The COVID-19 outbreak is bigger than Illinois—it’s a nationwide crisis. When we follow recommendations from our top health experts by washing our hands, keeping our distance from others, and staying home as much as possible, we are protecting our fellow Illinoisans and our fellow Americans from this illness.

 

Updates and guidance on the COVID-19 crisis are available 24/7 from the Illinois Department of Health or at the state’s dedicated COVID-19 response website, coronavirus.illinois.gov.

 

And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office with questions and concerns. My staff is working remotely, but we are still responding to calls and emails. You can contact us at (773) 769-1717 or through my website here.

 

Stay safe and healthy.

 

Sincerely,


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

At a time when many are experiencing a greater need for assistance than ever, I want to make you aware of resources you can use as you adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic in your home or at your business. In addition to an expansion of availability for services like food, shelter and housing assistance, you should know that both the state and federal government have made a wide variety of resources available to help small businesses weather the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and resulting business disruptions.

 

I will also be sending out an update soon on the federal relief package recently passed. Read below to find out more, and don’t hesitate to contact my office at http://senatorsteans.com/contact-us or by calling (773) 769-1717.

 

Sincerely,


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

 

Help for families

For needs like food, shelter, child care, and help for those experiencing domestic violence, the Illinois Department of Human Services has made strides in expanding coverage wherever possible in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can access information and links to applications for these services here. Among the services available through IDHS:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). The online application process can be reached here.
  • A list of food pantries.
  • Medicaid coverage.
  • The Illinois Healthcare Portal, which provides information about a broad range of services for which you may qualify.
  • Get Covered Illinois, which provides Illinois residents the opportunity to purchase a health plan if they do not qualify for Medicaid coverage.
  • Homeless services such as rental or utilities assistance.
  • A list of homeless shelters.
  • Lists of substance use disorder and mental health services, found under the Recovery tab.
  • An application for someone to help bathe you, clean your home, buy groceries, or help with other needs in your home because you have a disability, or for another reason, through IDHS' Home Services program.
  • Expanded child care options for those deemed essential workers.
  • Information about domestic violence help.
  • IA list of resources for immediate help because of a mental health crisis through IDHS’ Talk To Someone tab.

 

Help for businesses

Loans

  • Small business loans – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering assistance loans to affected businesses.
  • Small business disaster assistance loans – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering disaster assistance loans for up to $2 million.
  • Low-interest loans – Backed by the Illinois treasury, banks and credit unions throughout Illinois are offering low-interest loans to businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hospitality Emergency Grants – The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Activity is making $14 million in emergency grants originally earmarked for tourism development to help bars, restaurants, and hotels for expenses like payroll and rent
  • Chicago-only: Small business loans – The city of Chicago has created its own small business resiliency loans.

 

Tax deferment

  • Sales tax deferment – Small- and mid-sized restaurants and bars will be able to defer sales tax payments for February, March, and April.
  • Income tax collection postponed – The federal government has postponed income tax collections until July 15.
  • State income tax filing deadline extended – Illinois has announced that, like the federal government, income tax filing has been extended to July 15.

 

Licensing extensions and modifications

 

Utilities

  • Utilities – The ICC has banned disconnections during the crisis and assessing late fees through at least May 1.

 

Unemployment help

IDES is now implementing a new alphabetized schedule to help reduce wait times for claims filed both online and over the phone. The day or time of day you call will not affect whether you receive benefits or your benefit amount. The schedules are as follows:

 

Online Filing Schedule

  • People with last names A-M are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesday or Thursdays.
  • People with last names N-Z are asked to filed claims on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Saturdays are available for those who are unable to file during their allotted time.

Call Center Filing Schedule

  • People with last names A-M are asked to file claims on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • People with last names N-Z are asked to file claims on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. will be reserved for those who are unable to file during their allotted time.

 

IDES has indicated it will soon provide guidance on implementing the changes to unemployment compensation in the federal relief package known as the CARES Act, including self employed and gig-economy workers.

 

You can file your unemployment insurance claim online here. To file your claim over the phone, you can call 1-800-244-5631. Although this new schedule is expected to improve this process, IDES says you may still experience some wait time to file your claim, and asks for applicants' patience.

We are here to help. If you need assistance getting groceries or medicines, applying for unemployment compensation or identifying where to go for a small business loan, please reach out at 773-769-1717 or click here to reach me via email.

 

Below are updates on where to go for the latest information about the state’s response to COVID-19. For the latest news about state government’s response, you can visit coronavirus.illinois.gov and for important health and safety guidelines you can visit the Illinois Dept. of Public Health’s coronavirus information page here.

 

Sincerely,


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

 

Volunteering

Are you interested in volunteering? Please visit the Serve Illinois Commission’s homepage for information on how to volunteer and how to connect community services with other volunteers who can help. Also included is a link for those able to donate protective equipment.

 

Job opportunities

If you have found yourself out of work due to widespread closures, you should know there are some essential businesses actively looking for more employees. If you visit The Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s COVID-19 information page, you will see links to retail employers who are currently hiring. If you’re a small business owner, you can also find information about assistance there.

 

Visit the Illinois Dept. of Public Health site if you need guidance on how to adapt to COVID-19

COVID-19 forces us to consider the need for social distancing and best public health practices in every space. If your business or organization is an essential service that must remain open during the stay-at-home order and you are wondering what you can do to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, you should visit the IDPH’s coronavirus site and look along the left side of the page for links to specific guidelines on what to do.

 

Help for the homeless

Illinois Dept. of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou has informed stakeholders throughout the state that IDHS will make $6 million available for emergency lodging for people experiencing homelessness. The emergency funds will be made available through local Continuums of Care (CoC), local or regional planning bodies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that coordinate housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals.

 

For more information on how IDHS is responding during this pandemic, you can read more at the department’s coronavirus page.

 

Illinois Treasurer will assist small businesses

Small businesses and not-for-profits can also seek aid through a program created by Illinois Treasurer Frerichs' office. A new program will allow financial institutions that administer loans to businesses and non-profits to to apply as depositories who can receive funds from the state and administer loans to businesses and not-for-profits. To learn more visit their website here.

 

DCFS supporting private agencies that have needed to suspend services

The director of the Illinois Dept. of Children & Family Services has said it will ensure payments continue to agency partners who are providing essential services to families and that private agencies that must slow or stop non-essential services during the emergency will not be financially penalized. For more information about how DCFS is adapting during the pandemic response, you can visit the DCFS coronavirus page.

Dear friends,

This afternoon, Governor JB Pritzker issued a Stay at Home Order for the people of Illinois. The text of the order is available here. A FAQ that should answer most questions is available here.

For many of you, this order will not mean any new, significant changes. If you are already working from home (or performing an essential function) and following the recommendations to stay in except for essential needs, nothing should change.

Rest assured that vital services will remain open. Medical facilities, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and banks and credit unions will not close.

You will still be able to go out for vital supplies, take care of elderly and infirm friends and relatives, walk your dog, and seek medical attention. If your heater goes out, you can still call a repair service. You can still go to the laundromat.

Here’s what the order means:

  • Unless you work for an essential business, your employer can’t allow you to come to work.
    • They can still require you to work from home, and they can still require a skeleton crew of staff to come in to secure inventory and other assets and to enable others to work from home.
    • If you do have to go in, your employer should institute social distancing and other protocols to protect your health, if they aren’t already.
  • You can only travel for essential needs. This includes medical visits for health emergencies, getting vital supplies for yourself, and getting vital supplies for friends and loved ones who cannot or should not go out on their own.
    • Do not go out for supplies if you’re sick. Get a friend, loved one, delivery service, or neighbor to get supplies for you, and minimize contact when they drop them off.
  • When you are healthy, you can still go for walks and go outside to get other exercise, but practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your immediate household at all times.

I know this order is difficult. Many people are afraid and suffering, but we are taking these steps to help protect the most vulnerable among us and to ensure that our heroic health care providers don’t get overwhelmed. Working together, we will get through this.

As your state senator, I promise to do all I can to support you through this difficult time and to provide you with as much information as possible. Please, don’t hesitate to call my office at (773) 769-1717 or respond to this email if you have any questions or I can help in any way.

Sincerely,

Heather A. Steans

State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

COVID19 Updates

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