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Coronavirus News Updates

Updated: 4 days ago

This blog post will be updated with news and information as events evolve. The most recent posts are at the top of the blog. Our Coronavirus Resource Center page is available via this link.

Governor Pritzker’s office will hold conference calls twice a week to share information with government officials about the coordinated response to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. The calls will be on Tuesdays and Fridays from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The call-in information is as follows:

Phone Number: 312/535-8110

Access Code: 804 978 987#

March 27, 2020

Posted at 2:42 p.m.

Federal COVID-19 Relief Package Approved

The United States Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748). The Act was passed by the Senate on March 25 and the House on March 27. President Trump indicated he will sign the legislation into law. This significant relief package is the largest in U.S. history and will provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to major industries and small businesses, direct cash payments to taxpayers and significantly expand unemployment benefits. The package includes several relevant provisions for county governments. The National Association of Counties (NACo) has prepared a section-by-section analysis of these provisions. The NACo analysis is available via this link.

Transfers from County Jails Suspended

On March 26, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order (EO) 2020-13 (available via this link). The EO suspends, through April 7, 2020, transfers of prisoners from county jails to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Exceptions are allowed for limited essential transfers if approved by the Director of IDOC.

OMA and Remote Meetings

ISACo’s March 19 e-mail (linked here) referenced Governor JB Pritzker’s Executive Order (EO 2020-07 – linked here) suspending elements of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to allow for local governments to conduct business without having to physically convene. We also shared Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s guidance (linked here) concerning OMA and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in light of the Governor’s Executive Order. ISACo would also like to share a document providing tips for hosting virtual meetings (available here).

Executive Order Modifies Requirements for Signing Legal Documents

Governor Pritzker signed EO 2020-14 (linked here) on March 26 to allow legal documents to be signed in counterparts by the witness(es) and the signatory during the period of the disaster proclamation. A Notary Public must be presented with a fax or electronic copy of the document signature pages showing the witness signatures on the same date the document is signed by the signatory if the Notary Public is being asked to certify to the appearance of the witnesses to a document. 

General Assembly Cancels More Session Days

The General Assembly will not convene next week (March 30-April 3) and continues to push key legislative deadlines to later dates on the calendar.

State Tax Filing Date Delayed

On March 25, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that the date to file Illinois income tax returns will be extended to July 15, 2020 (press release available via this link). The federal income tax filing deadline had already been pushed back to July 15, 2020.

Small Business Emergency Assistance

Governor Pritzker announced a new package of emergency assistance programs for small businesses in need of additional capital, totaling more than $90 million. Illinois businesses will be able to apply for these programs on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) website (available via this link).

IDES Addressing Surge in Unemployment Claims

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is taking steps to deal with the increase in unemployment benefit claims. Additional information is available via this link.

Real ID Deadline Extended

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) is pushing back the deadline for REAL ID enforcement October 1, 2021. The previous deadline was October 1, 2020. The press release is available via this link.

The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

March 25, 2020

Posted at 2:55 p.m.

Governor JB Pritzker announced that Illinois will delay its income tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020.

ISACo Executive Director Joe McCoy sent a letter to Comptroller Susana Mendoza requesting that revenues normally distributed to counties be prioritized. The letter is available via this link.

March 21, 2020

Posted at 3:26 p.m.

Governor JB Pritzker is requesting that retired health care workers to return to service to help in the fight against the Coronavirus. The Governor indicated licenses would be expedited and fees waived.

March 20, 2020

Posted at 7:39 p.m.

The Governor’s Executive Order (EO) requiring residents to "shelter in place" describes the kind of government services exempt from the order and provides local governments with the authority to determine what is an essential governmental function and what employees or contractors are involved with these functions. From the EO:

Section I, Number 10

For purposes of this Executive Order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, law enforcement and corrections personnel, hazardous materials responders, child protection and child welfare personnel, housing and shelter personnel, military, and other governmental employees working for or to support Essential Business and Operations are categorically exempt from this Executive Order.

Essential Government Functions means all services provided by the State or any municipal, township, county, subdivision or agency of government and needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety and welfare of the government agencies, and including contractors performing Essential Government Functions. Each government body shall determine its Essential Governmental Functions and identify employees and/or contractors necessary to the performance of those functions.

Posted at 4:34 p.m.

Governor Invokes “Shelter in Place” Order

On Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker instituted a “shelter in place” order for Illinois residents beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 and continuing through Tuesday, April 7. Under the order, “non-essential” business and operations must cease. Grocery stores, food delivery services, pharmacies and healthcare facilities are among those businesses that will remain open. Essential local government services will not cease. Residents can still venture outdoors for a walk while practicing social distancing. The Executive Order (EO 2020-10) is available via this link.

Additional Actions by the Governor

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker announced additional measures to assist Illinoisans during the pandemic. These measures are discussed in the press release available via this link. A bullet point summary is below:

  • Sales Tax Deferral for Bars and Restaurants (additional information via this link)

  • SBA Approval of Small Business Loans in Illinois

  • New Grocery Store Hours for Older Residents

  • Expansion of Health Care Services

Executive Order 2020-09

Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-9 on March 19, 2020. The EO expands telehealth services and requires insurance companies to cover the services. The EO is available via this link.

Unemployment Insurance and COVID-19

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has created a website to answer frequently asked questions about unemployment insurance. The page is available via this link. Employees laid off for seven days or otherwise separated from payroll must be provided with the document available via this link. Employers must provide the document.

Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Guidance

On March 19, 2020, the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) developed an initial list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help State and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The memorandum is available via this link.

Federal Tax Payments Deferred Until July 15, 2020

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. The filing deadline for tax returns remains April 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who cannot file by the April 15, 2020, deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request a six-month extension to file their return. Additional information is available via this link.

Municipal Bond Market Backstopped by Federal Reserve

One of the impacts the pandemic is having on the economy is increased borrowing costs for states and local governments as a result of a large selloff in municipal debt. According to an article inThe Washington Post, “the Federal Reserve will make loans available to financial institutions that can be secured by ‘high quality’ state and local bonds. This will make owning these tax-exempt municipal bonds more attractive and should help ensure there is plenty of demand for these bonds as many states and cities begin to issue more debt in the coming weeks and months.” The Federal Reserve Board took this action on Friday, March 20, 2020. The Post article is available via this link. The press release from the Federal Reserve is available via this link.

Document Coronavirus Expenses

As indicated in our prior e-mail communications, it is imperative that counties keep careful documentation about all expenses associated with their Coronavirus response. Accurate records will greatly assist in obtaining revenue reimbursements.

March 19, 2020

Posted at 1:06 p.m.

OMA Protocols During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order (EO) 2020-07 (linked here) allows for the suspension of elements of the Open Meetings Act (OMA). The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has issued guidance for local governments with respect to OMA and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The information is available via this link. Local officials are encouraged to review the document and plan accordingly.

FEMA Public Assistance

This morning ISACo received an inquiry about whether a county needs to declare an emergency before being eligible to receive public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Other county officials may have this question as well. Because President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020, and included emergency declarations for each state, local governments are not required to formally declare an emergency for their jurisdictions in order to receive FEMA assistance.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has made a document available (available via this link) to aid local governments in applying for federal funds through the Public Assistance Program. Applications must be received by April 12, 2020.

IDOR Coronavirus Resources

Like many employers, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) has reduced staff during the pandemic. Consequently, the taxpayer phone system is not available. According to IDOR, a limited number of staff will be monitoring and responding to emails. The website with the e-mail addresses for various topics is available via this link. You may want to share this information with your residents.

Congress Approves Coronavirus Aid Package

On March 18, 2020, the United States Senate approved a second, bipartisan coronavirus aid package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). The multi-billion dollar bill had previously been approved by the House on March 14, 2020. President Trump signed the legislation into law on March 18, 2020. An analysis by the National Association of Counties (NACo) is available via this link.

Key Provisions

  • Free Coronavirus Testing

  • Food Assistance 

  • Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) Rate Increase

  • Unemployment Aid

  • Paid Sick and Medical Leave

  • A provision requiring local governments receiving funds or assistance to ensure their State Emergency Operations Center receive regular and real-time data-reporting on testing and results from state and local public health departments.

NACo issued a statement following passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (available via this link). Congress is working on a third relief package expected to receive a vote by the end of the week. The first bi-partisan legislation enacted into law to assist with the Coronavirus response was an $8.3 billion package signed into law on March 6, 2020.

March 18, 2020

Posted at 4:21 p.m.

Congress has approved additional legislation intended to aid the response to the Coronavirus pandemic. President Trump has indicated he would sign the bill into law. The bill includes the following provisions:

  • Offer two weeks of paid sick and family leave to many American workers who are in quarantine, helping a family member with COVID-19 or who have children whose schools have closed. Workers will get 100% of their normal salary.

  • A total of 12 weeks of paid leave to many of those who have children whose schools have closed. Workers would get about 67% of their normal salary for this period.

  • Bolsters unemployment insurance

  • Free testing for the coronavirus for those who need it

  • Boosts food assistance (SNAP) and federal funding for Medicaid

Posted at 1:19 p.m.

On March 17, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-08 – linked here). The EO suspends expiration provisions of state law applicable to driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, parking decals and other programs and services handled by the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office. The SOS offices are closed through Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Posted at 11:15 a.m.

ISACo has been in communication with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to inquire if the agency has developed a plan for releasing federal funds intended for local governments that will first pass through the agency. This funding is part of the $8.3 billion package approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump (H.R. 6074 - available via this link). We will share this information as it becomes available.

FEMA Emergency Protective Measure Reimbursement

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is directed to assist state, local, tribal, territorial governments and other eligible entities with the health and safety actions they take on behalf of the American public. FEMA actions will be in support of HHS and in coordination with state, tribal and territorial governments. Eligible emergency protective measures taken at the direction or guidance of public health officials in response to this emergency, and not supported by the authorities of another federal agency, will be reimbursed strictly under the FEMA Public Assistance program. FEMA assistance will be provided at a 75 percent Federal cost share. Reimbursable activities typically include emergency protective measures such as the activation of State Emergency Operations Centers, National Guard costs, law enforcement and other measures necessary to protect public health and safety. Counties are encouraged to work directly with their local emergency management offices and through the State Emergency Management Agency for all requests for assistance.

Expanded Medicare Telehealth Coverage

The Trump Administration announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage that will enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. Beginning on March 6, 2020, Medicare administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country. Consistent with President Trump’s emergency declaration, CMS is expanding Medicare’s telehealth benefits under the 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. This guidance and other recent actions by CMS provide regulatory flexibility to ensure that all Americans—particularly high-risk individuals—are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Overweight Truck Permit Fees Waived

Governor JB Pritzker has waived overweight permit fees for trucks delivering emergency relief supplies. The press release is available via this link.

Attorney General Fights Price Gouging

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a warning against price gouging and indicated his office is prepared to take action against unfair pricing with a primary focus on essential medical supplies, such as protective gear, and other items identified in the governor’s executive order. The press release is available via this link.

National Guard Activated

Governor Pritzker has activated the National Guard to assist with logistical support and medical staffing. Story available via this link.

March 17, 2020

Posted at 4:08 p.m.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has an informative analysis of various federal legislative initiatives introduced to address issues related to Coronavirus. This includes revenue and assistance to state and local governments. The document (PDF) is available via this link. Be patient while it loads.

President Trump has already signed an $8.3 billion funding bill into law (H.R. 6074 - available via this link). This new law includes:

  • $2.2 billion in public health funding to support prevention, preparedness and response efforts, including a $1 billion set-aside for State and Local Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grants to support states, counties, cities and tribes, half of which will be distributed within 30 days. Under this provision, each state will receive at least $4 million in PHEP grants. While the federal money will be expedited to the states, there is no timetable on how long the states will take to suballocate the money to local governments. ISACo will work with county officials and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to expedite the flow of money to counties.

  • $100 million in supplemental appropriations for Community Health Centers (CHC).

March 16, 2020

Posted at 9:28 p.m.

The Illinois Gaming Board is suspending all video gaming operations at licensed video gaming establishments effective at 9:00 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020. This suspension will extend through Monday, March 30, 2020. The announcement is available via this link.

Posted at 8:26 p.m.

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is suspending all wage claim and other scheduled hearings until further notice. The press release is available via this link.

Posted at 7:46 p.m.

Governor Pritzker approved Executive Order (EO) 2020-07 (linked here). This EO clarifies what businesses are affected by the Governor's action to close bars and restaurants to prevent any service to customers other than take-out. The provision is below:

"Beginning March 16, 2020 at 9 p.m. through March 30, 2020, all businesses in the state of Illinois that offer food or beverages for on-premises consumption -- including restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food halls -- must suspend service for and not permit on-premises consumption. Businesses located in airports, hospitals and dining halls in colleges and universities are exempt from the requirements of the EO. Hotel restaurants may continue to provide room service and carry-out. Catering services may continue."

EO 2020-07 also includes the following language prohibiting gatherings of 50 people or more:

"Beginning March 18, 2020, all public and private gatherings in the State of Illinois of 50 people or more are prohibited for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation. This includes venues such as fitness centers/health clubs, bowling alleys, private clubs and theaters. This does not include venues that provide essential goods and services such as grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, banks/credit unions and shelters."

The provisions above will be enforced by the Illinois State Police (ISP), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

The EO also suspends provisions of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to allow public officials to attend official meetings electronically during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation. This provision should be of great benefit to local officials seeking to conduct important public business over the coming weeks.

In the section of the EO suspending OMA provisions, the Governor encourages local governments to postpone public business where possible and to provide the public with opportunities to monitor meetings where electronic attendance occurs.

Posted at 3:34 p.m.

During his daily press briefing, Governor JB Pritzker warned that people living in counties outside of the Chicago metropolitan area should not assume they are safe from the spread of the Coronavirus. Residents of these counties are at risk just like everyone else.

Posted at 2:09 p.m.

Closings include the Illinois State Museum and its branches (press release available here). Illinois Department of Natural Resources has closed all state sites as well (press release available here). The state's server appears to be experiencing problems and pages may not open immediately.

Posted at 1:46 p.m.

House Democrats received a memo from House Democratic Chief of Staff Jessica Basham indicating that members will only be expected to return to Springfield for legislative work during the public health crisis if necessary. The memo is available via this link.

Posted at 9:23 a.m.

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that all schools would be closed through March 30, 2020. Executive Order 2020-05 is available via this link. This Executive Order was amended by Executive Order 2020-06 which is available via this link.

On Sunday, March 15, the Governor announced that all restaurants and bars would be closed to dine-in service through March 30. The closure will begin at 9 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020. These businesses will be permitted to continue providing take out service to customers.

Details of this bar and restaurant closure policy have not yet been clarified. For example, how does the policy affect bowling alleys and other entertainment venues that serve food and beverages? What is the role of local public safety agencies? I have been in contact with the Governor's staff and told that these kinds of details are being worked out and will be communicated on Monday, March 16. ISACo will provide this information on our blog.

The press release announcing the closure of restaurants and bars is available via this link.

As indicated in an e-mail we sent out on Friday, March 13, 2020, inquiries have been made about amending state law to allow all local officials to participate in official meetings through electronic means. I have nothing new to report about this issue at this time, but ISACo is supportive of such an accommodation during times of public crisis.

The decision to cancel some or all public meetings for a limited period of time rests with local leaders. The decision by the State of Illinois to close schools, restaurants and bars through March 30, 2020, may provide a useful timetable for the duration of time public meetings should be cancelled. Should meetings be held, it is recommended that reasonable protocols be pursued. This includes restricting meetings to essential business, practicing social distancing and making hand sanitizer available.

ISACo continue to serve as an intermediary between counties and the federal government through the National Association of Counties (NACo).

We have created a resource page with essential information about the Coronavirus along with best practices to avoid contraction and transmission. This page is updated as new information becomes available. You can view this resource page via this link.