Our offices have been getting a lot of questions about COVID-19, so we wanted to answer a few of them and provide links to resources. We will be issuing updates as we get them!
On March 13, Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered that all K-12 schools (both public and private) close from March 17 through at least March 30. The order also includes early childhood programs located in public and private schools. Internships, experiential learning opportunities, and behind-the-wheel driver’s education are included as well.
According to executive order, all school days that are missed will be counted as Act of God days. While he recommended that schools provide students with learning opportunities or schoolwork during the closure, the work completed will not count toward or affect students’ grades. Schools aren’t required to provide meals to students during the closure, but districts have the option to offer programs to provide food to needy students.
The U.S. Department of Education has indicated that it will make waivers available for assessment and accountability issues caused by the closure order. At this time, the Illinois State Board of Education is awaiting direction from the College Board regarding how to handle issues with Advanced Placement exams.
Schools may be allowed to open on March 31, but further school closures could be ordered as well.
For more information, visit this link: https://www.isbe.net/COVID19.
In light of ongoing health concerns surrounding the coronavirus/COVID-19 health crisis, a number of Illinois’ utility companies have announced measures being taken to help alleviate unnecessary stress and burdens for Illinois residents.
As of March 17, Illinois American Water, Ameren, ComEd, Nicor, and AT&T have all announced holds on shutoffs during the coronavirus outbreak. Ameren Illinois, ComEd and Nicor each will suspend service disconnections and forgive late payment fees for non-payment through May 1.
On March 13, AT&T took the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” promising not to terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic for the next 60 days.
In addition to their announced moratorium on disconnecting services, Illinois American Water plans to restore services to customers whose service was previously shutoff prior to March 12.
Ameren customers who need assistance with paying their bill can contact their customer care team at spr.ly/amerenillinois for payment options.
ComEd customers who are experiencing financial hardship can visit ComEd.com/CARE or call 800-334-7661.
For information about Nicor energy assistance programs, visit nicorgas.com/residential/billingandpaymentoptions/energy-assistance-programs.html.
To view AT&T’s full pledge, visit about.att.com/pages/COVID-19.html.
On March 16, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-07, which took a number of actions, including suspending several portions of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) that require meetings to take place in person and portions that limit remote participation. In the case of meetings that absolutely must occur, organizers are encouraged to utilize electronic access.
Various organizations representing local governments have been contacted and have made the following communications to their members.
- The Township Officials of Illinois have communicated to members that regular township board meetings do not need to commence, or may be conducted via electronic communication.
- At this time, the required Annual Township Meeting is still considered to be required.
- The Illinois State Association of Counties has communicated to members about the OMA suspension and has been compiling and updating information about the number of cases in each county.
- Several Counties, including DuPage, Kendall, Lake, and McHenry, have issued disaster proclamations and requested state and federal resources.
- While many counties are still determining specific meeting protocol, some such as Kendall are experimenting with using an app top hold meetings electronically.
- The Illinois Municipal League has communicated to members that members may wish to cancel meetings during the next two weeks, but notes that this is a local decision and advises each municipality to make the decisions that serve the best interests of the community.
- Over the last couple of days, many municipalities and cities, including Chicago, Bloomington, Peoria, Springfield, Champaign, etc. are canceling council meetings and other public events and are updating their websites frequently.
All restaurants and bars will close tonight through March 30, but you can still support these small businesses by utilizing drive-thru, delivery and curbside pickup where offered. Also, consider buying gift cards online to use later. This small step can help these local businesses get through this difficult time.
Most banks are staying open, but following social distancing recommendations by closing their lobbies and providing drive-up services or online banking. They are committed to work with those experiencing unforeseen hardships. Also, during this time, bankers are reminding customers to protect their personal information. A bank will never ask you for sensitive information over the phone.
More information is available at https://linkprotect.cudasvc.com/url?a=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cbaionline.com%2fdownloads%2fTalkingPoints03172020.pdf&c=E,1,qNLlm1ekHVtFQmO7FpvTjKhmk8OYzYpa_Rm8Xf3BSAR70A4DCs-b-uxT0GPRxWp7IQC8oFXSFQK3X3R8XUJBrdH7jx04sx36hx9YXu4rX1l2XbKkpwLN7RzfkNo,&typo=1
Under Executive Order 2020-03, some licensing-application requirements for cannabis sales have been changed, and some deadlines pushed back. Some dispensaries are taking precautions and enforcing social distancing recommendations. At least one Chicago-area dispensary has ceased recreational-cannabis sales to protect its medical cannabis customers.
If you’re a small business in need of help, the Small Business Administration will provide disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. More here: https://www.sba.gov/coronavirus.
If you’re looking for ways to help local businesses, consider the following options:
- Order delivery or curbside pickup from restaurants offering it
- Buy gift certificates online for later use
- Shop local online
- Buy what you need – but avoid stockpiling
- Sign up for virtual community experiences
- Follow your businesses and chamber of commerce on social media to hear more about how you can support small businesses in your area
Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES)
To protect employees and the public through social distancing, Illinois Department of Employment Security Offices are closed until further notice.
To file an Unemployment Insurance claim, go to: https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/aboutides/Pages/10%20Things%20You%20Should%20Know.aspx
If you have questions about Unemployment Insurance, please call the IDES Customer Service Center at 800-244-5631 or 866-488-4016 TTY.
Unemployment benefits may be available to some individuals whose unemployment is attributed to COVID-19. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible. To keep up with any changes or updates please visit: https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/COVID-19-and-Unemployment-Benefits.aspx
IDES has answered a number of frequently asked questions on their website including:
What if I’m temporarily laid off because the place where I work is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus?
Answer: An individual temporarily laid off in this case could qualify for benefits as long as they were able and available for and actively seeking work.*
What if I quit my job because I’m generally concerned over the COVID-19 virus?
Answer: A person who leaves work voluntarily without a good reason attributable to the employer is generally disqualified from receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI).
What if I’m confined to my home for any of these reasons?
- A medical professional has diagnosed me as having COVIID-19
- I must stay home to care for my spouse, parent or child, whom a medical professional has diagnosed as having COVID-19
- A government-imposed or government-recommended quarantine
Answer: An individual in any of those situations would be considered to be unemployed through no fault of his or her own. However, to qualify for UI, he or she would still need to meet all other eligibility requirements, including the requirements that the individual be able and available for work, registered with the state employment service, and actively seeking work from the confines of his or her home. The individual would be considered able and available for work if there was some work that he or she could perform from home (e.g., transcribing, data entry, virtual assistant services), and there is a labor market for that work.
Federal Guidance for State Unemployment Benefits
Federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work.
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over.
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.For the full U.S. Department of Labor Press release, please go to: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200312-0For the full U.S. Department of Labor Press release, please go to: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200312-0
According to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the federal emergency declaration has added flexibility to the Medicaid system that will help cover costs involved with testing for and treating patients for COVID-19.
The flexibility includes covering testing and treatment for uninsured patients and current Medicaid members as well as speeding up the process for applying for Medicaid coverage for affected patients.
This flexibility will also help with healthcare providers who need to offer services at alternate sites, offering telehealth and telepsychiatry options, and providing certain services without prior authorization for therapy services. In addition, through at least June 1st, telehealth rules and requirements will be significantly broadened to help providers offer services in new places and through new methods of communication.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is continuing to update health providers as they learn more about what resources and options are available.
Some healthcare providers are waiving out-of-pocket costs for Covid-19 testing, and insurers may be temporarily halting the dropping of insurance coverage for specific reasons.
Healthcare providers can read updated bulletins from the here Department of Healthcare and Family Services: https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/MedicalProviders/notices/Pages/default.aspx
Seeking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Illinois Department of Corrections is suspending all prison visits until further notice.
While no positive cases of the virus have been identified in the Department of Corrections system, IDOC officials believe suspending in-person visitations is necessary to protect the health and safety of both inmates and employees.
In place of in-person visitations, inmates will receive credits for both phone and video calls.
In addition to temporary visitation policy changes, the IDOC is taking necessary precautions to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 within their facilities.
The IDOC is making hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, and cleaning supplies available to all staff and inmates. Meanwhile, staff and incarcerated individuals are being encourage to practice good health habits and being kept informed of the ongoing health situation. Any employees or inmates with symptoms are being screened by trained medical personnel.
Meanwhile, attorneys will be allowed access to their clients housed inside DOC facilities.
The United States Census Bureau is currently monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will follow guidance set out by federal, state, and local health authorities to prevent the spread of the disease. The bureau is pushing for more electronic and mail responses without the need for enumerators to follow up in person.
Additionally, the bureau announced that it is modifying some of the 2020 census operations:
- The bureau is adjusting operations to ensure college students are counted. The bureau has contacted college/university student housing administrators to get their input on the enumeration methods that will allow students to participate in the 2020 Census. According to the document “in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic” and the Census is asking schools to reach out to students to remind them to complete the census electronically with their school address.
- The bureau is also reaching out to group quarters (jails, prisons, long term care providers, etc.) to prevent less in-person contact. They are encouraging all group quarters to complete an electronic response to reduce the number of in-person responses required.
- The bureau is determining the best way forward to assist service providers (shelters, soup kitchens, and mobile food vans) to ensure the homeless are counted. The original plan was to begin in-person interviews of individuals being served between March 30th and April 1st. The bureau is currently reaching out to see if facilities will be open between March 30th and April 1st and asking the providers to give the homeless paper responses to complete.
- The bureau is delaying the early nonresponse follow-up operation from April 9th to April 23rd. This program sends reminders and staff to households that have not completed the census.
- Finally, the bureau is delaying the start of the Mobile Questionnaire Assistance program. This program offers assistance with responding to the census at festivals, houses of worship, and places where people naturally congregate.
For individuals, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will postpone the April 15 federal tax-payment deadline for another 90 days. The IRS will also waive interest and penalties. This delay is available to people who owe $1 million or less. Go to https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/treasury-and-irs-to-delay-tax-deadline-by-90-days.html
For businesses, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will postpone the April 15 tax-payment deadline for another 90 days. This will apply to corporations that own $10 million or less. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/treasury-and-irs-to-delay-tax-deadline-by-90-days.html
Illinois has not yet announced if it will extend the state income tax deadline.