LISTEN: Natalie Beck of the Community Foundation

LISTEN: Natalie Beck of the Community Foundation

July 16th, 2020- Natalie Beck of the Community Foundation talks about the amazing work of the young people in the community who are providing 150 meals to those in need, the reception of the new mural, and where they are in their 20th year. Listen to the podcast now.

LISTEN: City Hall Insider with Paul Osborne

LISTEN: City Hall Insider with Paul Osborne

July 16th, 2020- Former mayor Paul Osborne talks about how he feels the mayor is doing, the announcements by companies that they will be enforcing mask-wearing, the variety of conspiracies out there, and the return to school. Listen to the podcast now.

Coalition Continues Push for Fair Tax

Coalition Continues Push for Fair Tax

July 15th, 2020- The grassroots coalition “Vote Yes For Fair Tax” is once again making a push to persuade Illinoisans to approve the progressive tax amendment in November.

The amendment would scrap the state’s flat-rate income tax for a new structure allowing lawmakers to tax different levels of income at different rates.

Sam Tuttle, the executive director of the coalition “Vote Yes For Fair Tax”, said the amendment is good for Illinois.

“It’s the fair tax, right?” he said. “It’s about both making sure that everyone pays their fair share and working families get a cut, but we also invest in our communities across Illinois and that we get a win-win out of this amendment.”

Shortly after Gov. J.B. Pritzker donated more than $50 million dollars of his own money to a committee supporting a graduated income tax constitutional amendment, a new coalition was formed to defeat the measure.

Mark Grant, the Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, is part of the coalition.

“He can throw as much money at this thing that he wants to,” Grant said. “If it’s a really bad idea, people aren’t going to buy it.”

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Farm Bureau have also come out against the measure. Kevin Semlow is the director of state legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“Currently we are reaching out to our membership and encouraging them to vote no,” he said.

It will be up to the voters in November whether the flat tax will remain in place as it has since 1970. Lawmakers have already approved the rates that will become law on January 1. Rates would remain flat or decrease for those making $250,000 or less, while they would increase for those making above that amount.

Gov. Pritzker Announces New COVID-19 Mitigation Plan

Gov. Pritzker Announces New COVID-19 Mitigation Plan

July 15th, 2020- Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike today announced a new COVID-19 mitigation plan focused on combating a resurgence of cases while maintaining the progress the state has made towards bending the curve over the last four months. As states across the country experience a surge of new COVID-19 cases, Illinois remains an outlier with lower hospitalization and infection rates and one of the highest rates of testing in the U.S.

The resurgence plan recognizes that the state is in its strongest position to combat the virus since the pandemic began, with a robust testing operation regularly yielding more than 30,000 tests per day, expanded tracing operations with 1,450 contact tracers, a growing stockpile of personal protective equipment, and hospital surge capacity. The plan also accounts for months of additional data and research as public health experts reach a greater scientific understanding of this virus and how it spreads.

“Illinois now has the lowest infection rates among all our neighboring states and one of the lowest positivity rates in the country – and it’s because of the individual actions of millions of our residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Opening up our economy does not have to come with a spike in cases. Other countries have done it successfully while reducing cases and infection rates. But that requires vigilance on the part of all of us. It’s imperative that individuals, families, workers, and businesses follow the recommendations doctors have given about vital mitigations and that we act quickly if we see any outbreaks and upticks, signs that could lead to a surge of coronavirus infections.”

“This plan ensures we are looking at all available data to make timely decisions to protect the health of our communities,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “By assessing key metrics that indicate both the disease burden and the capacity of each COVID-19 region to respond, we can then take targeted actions within specific regions to help mitigate the spread of this deadly disease while keeping as much of our state open as possible.”

The resurgence prevention plan developed by IDPH outlines three tiers of general and industry-specific mitigations that can be acted upon to prevent a renewed spread of COVID-19. To provide for a more granular approach, the mitigations outlined will be applied on a regional basis based on the 11 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions that have traditionally guided IDPH in its statewide public health work.

 

METRICS AND MITIGATIONS 

The administration has relied on science and data to guide its approach to battling COVID-19 from the very beginning and will continue to do so when determining the metrics and mitigations necessary to prevent a resurgence of cases in Illinois.

The following metrics will be used to determine when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations:

  • Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:
    • Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness
    • Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%)
  • OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate

The updated guidance from IDPH establishes three tiers of mitigations that can be implemented should a region meet the resurgence metrics.

Some mitigation strategies in higher-risk settings, like indoor bars and restaurants, will be automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19. A larger list of mitigation strategies relating to settings like retail, fitness, and salons and personal care will be available if testing and contact tracing data at the local level indicate those mitigations to be prudent.

The list of optional measures included in the updated guidance is not exhaustive. Other industries could require additional mitigation if indicated by the region’s data.

 

PLAN REGIONS

Mitigations will be applied on a regional basis based on the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Regions that have traditionally guided IDPH in its statewide public health work. Expanding to 11 regions allows for a more granular approach in this phase of the response to COVID-19. The new regions follow county lines to account for counties that are in more than one region of the EMS system.

The new regions are:

  1. NORTH: Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, Winnebago
  2. NORTH-CENTRAL: Bureau, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Kendall, Knox, La Salle, Livingston, Marshall, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Warren, Woodford
  3. WEST-CENTRAL: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Macoupin, Mason, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott
  4. METRO EAST: Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, Washington
  5. SOUTHERN: Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White, Williamson
  6. EAST-CENTRAL: Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby, Vermillion
  7. SOUTH SUBURBAN: Kankakee, Will
  8. WEST SUBURBAN: DuPage, Kane
  9. NORTH SUBURBAN: Lake, McHenry
  10. SUBURBAN COOK: Suburban Cook
  11. CHICAGO: City of Chicago

A map of the resurgence plan regions will be available on the state’s coronavirus website: www.coronavirus.illinois.gov.

 

COVID-19 TESTING AND TRACING

Since March, the Pritzker administration has implemented policies and programming to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Measures have included issuing a stay at home order to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, expanding the state’s contact tracing program, and building upon testing availability across Illinois.

The administration has been proactive in expanding testing access since the onset of the pandemic. Illinois was the first state to establish COVID-19 testing capabilities to reduce reliance on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Today, the state is currently experiencing a weekly average of more than 33,000 tests per day, recently surpassing 2 million tests total. This expanded testing programming contributed to a significant decrease in the state’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate, now averaging just over 3.0 percent.

The state has also worked to expand its contact tracing operation, with approximately 1,450 contact tracers now working across Illinois. Over the next week, 26 local health departments will receive additional funding from the state, representing over $127 million of available grant funds for contact tracing. With these funds, local health departments will hire approximately 1,330 contact tracers over the next few months and significantly expand their contact tracing efforts.

COVID-19 Cases in IL Increasing as State Reopens

COVID-19 Cases in IL Increasing as State Reopens

July 15th, 2020- The number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois is increasing as the state reopens, more people return to work and quarantine fatigue sets in – a confluence of events that has led some public health officials to remind people about the importance of personal responsibility. 

The increase in Illinois is not like the resurgence that some other states have reported. However, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for three consecutive days at the end of last week. State public health officials said that the seven-day positivity rate for positive cases as a percent of total tests from July 6 to July 12 was 3.0 percent.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently tweeted out a reminder about the need for people to maintain vigilance. 

“We remain concerned that cases are rising and positivity rates are inching up,” he said. “Now more than ever, we must rely on what the science is telling us. Wearing a face covering is an effective tool in the fight against #covid19.”  

Others blame “COVID fatigue” for the uptick.

Officials warned that a significant rise in cases could put increase the number of hospitalizations, which could slow the state’s reopening or move it backward on Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan. Illinois moved into Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan in late June. 

While the state’s case count is rising, other metrics remain relatively flat. 

The seven-day trend in hospitalizations remains lower than it had been last month, at 1,342 as of July 11.

Yesterday, the state reported 707 new cases. 

Better Government Association Keeping Illinois’ Governments Operating Transparently During COVID-19

Better Government Association Keeping Illinois’ Governments Operating Transparently During COVID-19

July 15th, 2020- The Better Government Association wants to keep Illinois’ governments operating transparently at all levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonpartisan watchdog group in Illinois recently held a discussion via Zoom on the fight for access to public information.

The event was called “Open or Shut Case: COVID-19 and the Fight for Public Records.” The topic was how governments have tried to relax the requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act during the coronavirus emergency and the efforts to resists such moves.

Panelists also shared insights on a recent victory in a lawsuit to preserve police misconduct records, and how FOIA requests can be misunderstood.

“I think that the public tends to look at FOIA as sort of a media versus government thing and not to really understand that it really benefits them and what we do is on their behalf,” BGA Policy Director Marie Dillon said.

BGA general counsel Matt Topic said the lack of resources for media sources, especially in downstate Illinois, is prompting the general public to make FOIA requests.

“Little things like getting the expense reports and credit card bills from (a) downstate library board. No one is watching that,” he said. “Local papers are stretched thin and don’t always do that kind of journalism work so I am seeing a lot more just average people doing this.”

The Better Government Association began in 1923 when a group of lawyers, clergymen, and businessmen created an organization to fight corruption in government.

Gov. Pritzker Announces New Investments Expanding Illinois Apprenticeship Program to Support More Than 17,000 Apprentices in 2020

Gov. Pritzker Announces New Investments Expanding Illinois Apprenticeship Program to Support More Than 17,000 Apprentices in 2020

July 15th, 2020- Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced a $4.7 million investment that will expand the Illinois Apprenticeship Program to serve an additional 568 residents in training programs over the next two years. To help more Illinoisans take part in apprenticeship training programs aligned with high-demand career fields, the administration is awarding grants to 25 organizations across the state to expand training programs and employer partnerships, with an emphasis on growth in underserved communities. With additional grant funding to sustain and expand the program, the Illinois Apprenticeship Program will see a record level of investment of $20 million and will serve a record 17,000 participants in 2020.

“Amidst one of the most difficult job markets in a generation, Illinois is expanding our state Apprenticeship Program to bolster training opportunities and employer partnerships through today’s $4.7 million investment. These investments are a down payment on the future of Illinois and will help many more of our residents who haven’t previously had access to on the job training the ability to do so,” said Governor Pritzker. “While COVID-19 has placed an enormous economic burden on many of our communities, we want job seekers to know they aren’t alone in navigating this crisis. That is why our apprenticeship programs involve Illinois employers, community colleges, local workforce partners, and so many others working together to expand job training programs and to do it in a way that is equitable.”

DCEO is awarding grants to 25 partner organizations through a new $4.7 million investment, made possible by a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor awarded to DCEO as well as $1.9 million in discretionary workforce funds invested by the state. These investments will pave the way for training in new industries, while also helping more residents in underserved communities to unlock jobs in high-demand and highly paid career fields. Investments announced today to increase capacity, along with a $5 million investment in the Apprenticeship Tax Credit and $10 million for historic Illinois works initiative brings the total investment to a record $20 million for 2020.

“While Illinois weathers record unemployment and economic instability due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we know that apprenticeships can be a powerful gateway into highly skilled, highly paid careers,” said Michael Negron, Acting Director of DCEO. “To expand opportunities for all Illinois residents, Governor Pritzker continues to make investments in growing partnerships with community colleges, community-based organizations, and corporations with an interest and a commitment to helping more Illinois residents reach the next step in their career.”

New apprenticeship partners were selected through a competitive review process geared toward helping the State expand programming to underrepresented communities. Through the expansion, apprenticeship intermediaries will begin to operate for the first time in DeKalb, Sterling, Rock Island, Moline, Rockford, and Springfield. These investments will also provide existing programs serving underserved communities with additional capacity. DCEO partners currently offer programming in East St. Louis, Southern Cook County, and Southern Illinois.

“National Able Network has taken a leading role in IT apprenticeships because we know it’s a proven way to help people transition from low paying jobs into growing and sustainable careers that lead to stability for families and flourishing communities,” said Bridget Altenburg, CEO of National Able Network. “We applaud Governor Pritzker and DCEO for their continued work to expand quality apprenticeship opportunities for those who have previously lacked access. This will result not only in more apprentices earning globally recognized certifications but will in turn help more employers build their talent pipeline.”

The grants will fund 17 organizations that serve as apprenticeship intermediaries and develop and deliver industry-aligned curriculum to train participants; intermediaries include community colleges, local governments, and community-based organizations. The investment will also fund a total of 8 navigator organizations that work with company-based apprenticeship programs to match them with participants in high-needs areas.  A full list of new apprenticeship partner organizations is available on DCEO’s website.

Program participants will have access to apprenticeship training opportunities spanning a wide range of industry professions, with program availability dependent upon region. New programs focused on in-demand industry areas such as IT and medical assistance offer apprentices access to new certifications and high paying jobs.

New investments to expand the State’s apprenticeship programs adopt an equity centric approach following a dual review of the Illinois Apprenticeship Programs earlier this year. In the first review, DCEO conducted a statewide analysis of apprenticeships and work-based learning programs that revealed disparities in apprenticeship program participation – with the vast majority of participants, 85 percent, not including women, people of color or other underserved populations. In a complementary report, partner workforce organizations, Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) and Young Invincibles (YI),  developed a roadmap for ensuring apprenticeships are diverse and accessible to all people.

“With the economy in disarray and workers facing an uncertain job market, ensuring apprenticeship opportunities are available to everyone is more important than ever,” said Angela Morrison, Policy Associate for Chicago Jobs Council. “The State of Illinois’ plans to bring new apprenticeships to communities and residents that have been historically underserved is a step in the right direction to improving access for residents to earn and learn.”

The reports concluded that apprenticeship intermediaries and navigators are an important strategy for increasing the number of diverse participants and increasing engagement from underserved communities. DCEO has seen an uptick in statewide participation in recent years, with programs serving an additional 900 participants since 2019.

“We’ve seen firsthand that apprenticeships can give young people the skills they need to secure stable, good-paying jobs that can help them build a financially secure future for themselves and their families,” said Morgan Diamond, Midwest Program Manager at Young Invincibles.  “But if we’re going to continue growing Illinois’ economy and ensuring the next generation of Illinoisans can flourish, expanding these job opportunities must be done in a way that’s equitable. Using new reports as a guide for addressing racial and gender gaps in access to apprentices, we are eager to partner with the State of Illinois to build a roadmap to equity in apprenticeships for generations to come.”

Since taking office, Governor Pritzker has made expanding apprenticeship training programs a priority, creating the Apprenticeship Tax Credit to incentivize employers to increase high-quality career training opportunities in Illinois. Additionally, the Illinois Works program which is funded by the Governor’s historic Rebuild Illinois capital plan will oversee efforts to increase diversity and participation in state-funded pre-apprenticeship opportunities in the building trades.

“We are excited and appreciative to be awarded the Apprenticeship Expansion Grant from DCEO as we work with other area colleges and industry partners to provided workforce training and educational opportunities through apprenticeships,” said Terry Wilkerson President of Rend Lake College. “Apprenticeships offer the unique opportunity to provide high-quality education with practical experience – while allowing the participant to become a working professional.”

“Apprenticeships are a proven tool for workforce development and provide new workers an opportunity for a long-term career path,” said State Senator Ann Gillespie. “Today, Illinois reinforces our commitment to investing in apprenticeships and the options they provide for both employers and youth, options even more critical as we work our way through the far-reaching economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I’m thrilled to see National Able’s work recognized,” said Representative Theresa Mah. “This is an important investment in workforce training and apprenticeships by the State of Illinois, and it couldn’t be coming at a better time.”

Over the past several weeks, the Pritzker administration has initiated a series of new programs and recalibrated existing programs to assist both employers and workers in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.  This includes the launch of the Get Hired website to pair job seekers, providing an expansion of cost-free virtual training, career fairs, and hiring opportunities in real-time.  Since launching just weeks ago nearly 1,000 residents have registered to participate in over 3,000 courses.

Residents or employers interested in joining the Illinois Apprenticeship Program may visit www.ApprenticeshipIllinois.com to learn more about apprenticeship eligibility and pathways available across a variety of industries in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Authorizes $60 Million Dollars in Emergency Grants for 3,500 Hard-Hit Illinois Businesses

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Authorizes $60 Million Dollars in Emergency Grants for 3,500 Hard-Hit Illinois Businesses

July 15th, 2020- Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently authorized $60 million dollars in emergency grants for 3,500 hard-hit Illinois businesses, but a business group said the state’s minimum wage increase could impede recovery.

Mark Grant, Illinois director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said restaurants and bars are among those that will be eligible for the emergency grants.

“We were encouraged to hear that Illinois will be using $60 million of its CARES Act money to provide Business Interruption Grants (BIG) to help 3,500 small businesses hardest hit from the extended shutdown,” he said.

Grant said the relief comes at the same time as a scheduled boost in the Illinois minimum wage – a move that Grant and his members urged the governor and General Assembly to postpone.

The minimum wage in Illinois increased from $9.25 to $10 an hour on July 1. In his election campaign, Pritzker pledged to raise Illinois’ minimum wage in increments until it hits $15 an hour. As soon as he took office in January 2019, lawmakers passed legislation that Pritzker signed to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.25. On Jan. 1, 2021, the Illinois minimum wage is set to rise again to $11 an hour.

As the COVID 19 shutdown continues to wreak havoc on Illinois’ economy, Grant said the July 1 hike in Illinois’ minimum wage does not make sense. Illinois’ small businesses can’t afford Gov. Pritzker’s minimum wage hike in this economic climate and it puts a damper on new hiring, Grant said.

Grant and his members were unsuccessful in their attempts to convince the governor and the Legislature to postpone the July 2020 increase from $9.25 an hour to $10.

Raising the minimum wage for entry-level employees means that business owners must give all employees a raise as well, Grant said. He argues that with many workers still furloughed and with companies still trying to figure out how to reopen, now is a terrible time to burden businesses with a mandated wage increase.

Grant said his members are relieved that the governor finally moved Illinois to Phase 4 of the reopening process on June 26. He is telling his members to contact one of Illinois’ 40 Small Business Development Centers for help in applying for the new BIG funding.

Another issue on Illinois small business owner’s minds is state protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) believes that businesses following the rules and doing everything in their power to protect the health and safety of their customers and their employees should receive liability protection.

Grant said the NFIB will continue to lobby the governor and the General Assembly to give businesses protection from frivolous lawsuits that try to exploit the pandemic.

LISTEN: DMH’s Drew Early

LISTEN: DMH’s Drew Early

July 15th, 2020- DMH’s Drew Early talks about how he has learned about the resiliency of his team and the community through the response to the pandemic, encouraging people to get the treatment they need, the ways they are helping with weight management, and the positive reception their virtual services have gotten. Listen to the podcast now.