As small businesses and restaurants across the state continue to feel the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, new assistance measures have been put in place to provide relief to Illinois' small business community.
The Illinois Department of Revenue will defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 bars and restaurants.
Bars and restaurants that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on late payments due between March and May. However, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax return even if they are unable to make a payment, and will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities in four installments beginning May 20.
Additionally, Illinois has now been approved for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing challenges amid the growing health crisis. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans available through the U.S. Small Business Administration. To learn more, visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov.
Health Care Services
Illinoisans will soon have greater access to healthcare from home as the state continues to work to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rules have been relaxed around telemedicine for Medicaid and private insurers that will allow more providers to be reimbursed for providing these services. Plans regulated by the Department of Insurance will be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits. Private health insurers are prohibited from imposing any cost-sharing for in-network providers. For Medicaid, the emergency rules also require providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits.
Additionally, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services has filed an 1135 waiver with the federal government that would remove barriers for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The goal is to increase access to telehealth, increase the number of health care providers that can screen patients, allow 90-day prescription supplies without prior authorization and early refills.
The Department of Human Services has also filed a federal waiver that would ease eligibility requirements for food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, which cover 1.8 million Illinoisans and 174,000 pregnant women and parents of young children, respectively.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released updated guidance for schools on various issues related to mandatory school closures due to Covid-19/Coronavirus.
One area of concern has been advanced placement or AP tests. According to ISBE, the College Board, which administers AP programs, is finalizing options for students to be able to take the tests from home, if necessary, in May. The College Board is also developing tools to help students in AP programs by providing students and teachers with online resources available through mobile phones and other devices.
Open Meetings Act (OMA) requirements have also been relaxed to allow school board members to attend meetings remotely.
All days of mandated school closure will be counted as Act of God Days, so schools will not have to use emergency days. Teachers should be paid during the closure, and their time will still count toward their retirement.
Schools are still encouraged to provide e-learning materials and other work for students during the closure. However, the districts will have more flexibility in terms of preparing materials, and the schoolwork should not negatively impact a student’s grades or academic standing.
ISBE is also extending deadlines for applications for Early Childhood Block Grants (to April 15) and Title III (to April 27). The state board is also strongly recommending that schools work to provide meals for students who need them. ISBE has obtained a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give non-congregate or to-go meals.
Because the Secretary of State offices are also closed at this time, all driver’s licenses and instruction permits that would have expired on or after March 17 have been extended 30 days. A 30-day grace period is also being offered for School Bus Permits.
During the closure, all pre-kindergarten programs at K-12 schools, extracurricular activities, internships, experiential learning opportunities, and school-based driver’s education training are closed as well. Non-public driver’s education programs are not required to close. While schools could open on March 31, no official date for re-opening has been announced.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has announced that it will extend deadlines for professional license renewal and continuing education requirements.
Any professional licenses issued by IDFPR that have renewal dates from March 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020, are granted an automatic extension to renew to September 30, 2020.
Also, all current licensees under IDFPR’s jurisdiction whose license renewal deadlines are from March 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020, shall have through September 30, 2020, to complete their continuing education coursework.
A complete list of professions affected by this renewal extension is available at https://www.idfpr.com/forms/DRE/3%2017%202020%20IDFPR%20Variance%20Press%20Release%20Exhibit.pdf.
Grocery Store Hours
After a wave of a panic buying that saw stores jammed with customers and merchandise depleted due to stockpiling, the Governor and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association have worked to organize a statewide coalition of grocery stores. This coalition will set aside one or more hours of operations for senior citizens and other vulnerable populations.
These special shopping hours will typically take place before the store opens to the general public, which should help ensure our most vulnerable can find essential items.
Some notable stores that will be holding special shopping hours include ALDI, Costco, Jewel-Osco, Schnucks, Target and Walmart. For the full list of participating grocery stores and their designated special shopping hours, follow this link: https://irma.org/covid-19-senior-shopping/