State agencies take proactive steps during COVID-19 outbreak

A number of state agencies are making changes to hours of operation and the handling of issues they oversee as a result of public closures and recommendations for social distancing during the current health crisis. This is the latest information, in alphabetical order by agency, as of March 18, 2020. 

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has set up a process for cannabis craft grower, infuser, and transporter license applications to be taken via U.S. Mail instead of in-person.

This is in response to the concern over the Coronavirus and recommended social distancing. Meanwhile, the deadline to submit applications for the licensing positions is extended to March 20, 2020. Applications must be submitted via the U.S. Postal Service by certified mail. Submissions via UPS, FedEx, or other mail delivery services will not be accepted.

Applications submitted via certified mail must be postmarked on or before March 30, 2020 and mailed to the following address:
 
Illinois Department of Agriculture
c/o Bureau of Medicinal Plants
P.O. Box 19281
Springfield, IL 62794-9281

Additional details about the updated application process can be found online at the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s website at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Plants/Pages/Adult-Use-Cannabis.aspx.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office will remain open during the current health crisis, but with reduced staff.

Many of the employees at the main offices in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale, as well as the six regional offices will be working from home. If you have a consumer complaint about price gouging during the health emergency, the office is making an online consumer complaint available at the office’s website: https://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/.

The Illinois State Board of Educationjoined with the Office of the Governor, teacher unions, the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), Illinois Principals Association (IPA) to release a joint statement March 17, which reads in part:

“From March 17 through March 30, all school district employees on the district’s payroll will get paid as if the schools were functioning normally, regardless of the district plans developed during this time. These school days will not be made up. All employees will get paid as if they did all the normal work they would have done if schools were functioning normally. Normal pay includes salary, hourly and stipend pay, benefits, and employees will receive full and normal service credit in their pension systems.

From March 17 through March 30, the employer can expect school district employees to participate in work activities in some form. The concrete details of the work, including stipend work that will occur during this timeframe must be worked out through mutual agreement, but negotiations should focus on ensuring (1) continuity of education, (2) provision of meals, and (3) other student support measures as appropriate for each district. Public health and safety of students and staff are paramount, and to the extent work can be done remotely, it should be. Illinois Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on social distancing and group gatherings should be adhered to. Employers should not require any more employees than absolutely necessary to come to school.

No school district can unilaterally change the use of benefit days. We encourage local collaboration on the use of benefit days and encourage ways to support anyone who is sick or is caring for a sick family member.

We acknowledge that the current law on teacher evaluation and Reduction in Force (honorable dismissal and layoff) remains in full force, including all timelines and existing statutory language. If necessary, meetings and evaluation conferences associated with these statutes will occur remotely.”

The joint statement can be viewed in its entirety online at www.isbe.net/Documents/Joint-Statement-20200317.pdf

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is delaying the launch of YouthCare services for DCFS youth in its care by a minimum of 30 days. Letters are being sent to all families and group homes, informing them of this delay.

YouthCare was the scheduled transition to a Managed Care health system to improve the coordination and access to health services for youth in DCFS care. The agency says delaying the rollout will allow DCFS to remain focused on addressing the emerging challenges of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and ensure a smooth transition to YouthCare in the months ahead. However, progress toward YouthCare has been made before the current delay

During the delay, YouthCare staff will continue to remain available to support families, including through the Rapid Response system, at 844-289-2264 or ILYouthCare@centene.com.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) will continue to operate during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, but there is no walk-in access to the Illinois Commerce Commission Transportation Bureau’s Springfield or the Des Plaines Offices until further notice.

Applications, with original signatures, should be mailed with appropriate fees to: 

Illinois Commerce Commission, 527 E. Capitol Avenue, Springfield, IL 62701. Any questions should be directed to 217-782-4654.

Until further notice, direct access to the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Consumer Services Division (CSD) utility dispute line will be available, but with limitations. Consumers with a utility complaint are encouraged to file complaints online at https://www.icc.illinois.gov/complaints/or by mail to the ICC address above.

Additional information about the ICC and the services it provides are available through their website at https://www.icc.illinois.gov/.

The Illinois Department of Corrections is temporarily suspending all visits with inmates until further notice.

The Department says while it recognizes the importance of visitation as an essential component of rehabilitation, family connection, and quality of life for those in its care, their top priority is the health and safety of those who live and work in corrections facilities around the state.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is a resource for information about what you can do to keep your family safe during the Coronavirus health crisis.

There’s Information for businesses, healthcare workers, households, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, schools, and travelers. The agency’s Illinois Coronavirus Update page can be found at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Press/Pages/031320.aspx.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES)recently filed emergency rules to clarify that individuals unemployed due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) can generally qualify for unemployment benefits to the full extent permitted by federal law.

If an individual is off work through no fault of their own, they can seek unemployment insurance benefits from IDES. The emergency rules, once filed, will assist individuals who may be restricted in the type of work they can perform due to COVID-19.

Illinois is also asking Congress to waive interest on any federal loans that Illinois and other state Unemployment Trust Fund accounts might require due to added strain from the outbreak, as well as maintaining the full federal unemployment tax credit for employers in states that may require those loans

The Illinois Gaming Board suspended all video gaming operations at all licensed video gaming establishments and suspended gambling operations at all casinos until March 30, 2020, due to COVID-19. 

The Board is continuously developing in connection with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis and will update licensees and the public as warranted.

The Illinois Power Agency has implemented remote work plans that it says may reduce the agency’s operational capacity and delay responses to inquiries.

The change may also impact the administration of the Adjustable Block Program/Illinois /shines, Illinois Solar for All, and Spring Block Energy and Capacity Procurement. 

Questions about the Adjustable Block Program can be answered via email at https://illinoisabp.com/contact/or by phone at 877-783-1820. Questions about the Illinois Solar for All Program can be answered via email at info@illinoisSFA.com or by phone at 888-970-4732. The IPA’s Main Office telephone number: 312-793-0263.

The Illinois Department of Insurancehas issued a helpful Frequently Asked Questions list in light of the ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak to assist consumers with questions about health insurance coverage and access to health care services during the crisis. 

Questions covered in the document include;

  • Who pays for COVID 19 diagnostic testing if needed?
  • What if I have health concerns that require emergency medical services?
  • Should I fill or refill my current prescription drugs in anticipation of an emergency?
  • Can my insurance carrier cancel or refuse to renew my insurance policy if I am diagnosed with COVID 19 or a preexisting respiratory illness?
  • And others.

You can view the entire FAQ document at https://insurance.illinois.gov/Newsrls/2020/03/COVID-19-FAQ.pdf.

According to the Department, if you have questions regarding health insurance and HMO inquiries, you can call toll-free at 877-527-9431. Medicare Beneficiaries and Caregivers can call with questions toll-free at 800-548-9034. 

The Illinois Department of Labor has canceled all scheduled hearings until further notice due to the Coronavirus.

The cancellations include all in-person and telephone hearings from Tuesday, March 17, until further notice. If you have a hearing scheduled during this time, please do not appear or expect a call from the Illinois Department of Labor on your hearing date. Because of the uncertainty of the current situation, the Department is unable to provide new hearing dates at this time, but will reschedule hearings as soon as possible. People who have had their hearing dates canceled will receive written notice of a new hearing date.

The Illinois Department of Labor website: https://www2.illinois.gov/idol/Pages/default.aspx. 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is temporarily closed to the public due to concerns about the Coronavirus. 

The closure cancels all lectures, educational programs, school field trips, and other events open to the public. At this time, the cancellation applies to events through April 10. Please check www.PresidentLincoln.Illinois.govfor updates.

Anyone who has bought tickets to the museum or upcoming events will automatically receive a refund.

People with questions about Lincoln or Illinois history will still be able to get help from library staff online or by telephone. The phone number is (217) 558-8844. The presidential library’s website and social media channels will continue offering information about the 16th president.

The closure affects all of the Library and Museum’s three Springfield buildings; the library, museum, and historic Union Station.

While members of the public will not be able to visit, the staff will continue working to protect Lincoln documents and artifacts, maintain museum exhibits, and conduct research and plan future programming.

The Illinois Lottery claim centers are closed until further notice to promote social distancing during the Coronavirus health crisis. However, winners of prizes under $1 million can still claim their prize money via U.S. Mail.

The Lottery says for all prizes over $600 and less than $1 million, and players can mail in their claims to the address below. To ensure that your prize claim is processed correctly, follow these steps:

  • Sign the back of your ticket
  • Print and fill out a claim form
  • Make and keep a copy of your ticket and claim form
  • Place the original ticket and claim form in an envelope
  • Include your return address on the envelope
  • Mail your claim via registered mail

Address the envelope to: 

Illinois Lottery Claims Department
P.O. Box 19080
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9912

The Illinois Lottery website: https://www.illinoislottery.com/

The Illinois National Guard is part of the state’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Troops, some of whom with medical backgrounds, will be helping expand medical triage if needed. The Guard can also provide temporary shelters to help with patient intake and prevent medical facilities from being overburdened, if necessary. The call-up was part of the recently declared state emergency.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) closed all state recreational sites in reaction to the coronavirus health crisis.

Illinoisans impacted by a cancellation or closure are encouraged to call the IDNR’s Parks Administrative Information Line Monday through Friday at 217-782-6752. The closure affects all state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas, and historical sites as well as upcoming scheduled events.

A complete list of state sites can be found on the IDNR website at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/default.aspx or https://www2.illinois.gov/dnrhistoric/Experience/Sites/Pages/Default.aspx.

The Property Tax Appeal Board will be operating with a reduced staff during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.

Until further notice, walk-in traffic is not being permitted in the Stratton Office Building in Springfield or the Suburban Regional Office Facility in Des Plaines. The office will respond to inquiries as quickly as possible.

Property Tax Appeal Board offices:

402 Stratton Office Building
401 South Spring
Springfield, Illinois 62706
Phone: 217-782-6076

9511 West Harrison Street
Suite LL-54
Des Plaines, Illinois 60016
Phone: 847-294-4121

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) created a statewide telephone hotline and email address you can use for questions or concerns about the Coronavirus. The number is 800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.

Symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Public health officials are encouraging the public to remain vigilant about keeping germs from spreading.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some useful tips to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

IDPH also has an active website for updated information at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus.

The CDC’s website: www.cdc.gov/COVID19.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s office closed all of its Driver’s License facility offices, but don’t worry about your expiring license or license plates.

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification (I.D.) cards, vehicle registrations, and other transactions and document filings are extended by 30 days through an emergency rule.

Please be aware many transactions with the Secretary of State’s office may be conducted online at www.cyberdriveillinois.com. Customers are encouraged to take advantage of these online services, some of which include:

  • Obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or I.D. card;
  • Renewing a vehicle registration;
  • Obtaining a driver record abstract;
  • Renewing a standard driver’s license with the Safe Driver Renewal program;
  • Filing Business Services documents, such as incorporations and annual reports;

Customers with issues involving administrative hearings may contact 312-793-3722 or 217-782-7065.

A note about the REAL ID: The Illinois Secretary of State’s office recently joined other states and industries requesting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security push back the October 1, 2020 deadline due to the impact of the Coronavirus

The Illinois State Fair canceled all public events that were to be held on the Illinois State Fairgrounds through April 30, 2020. Updated information regarding Fairgrounds events will be posted as it becomes available. The State Fair website: https://www2.illinois.gov/statefair/Pages/default.aspx.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission closed all of its offices to the general public, and all in-person events and meetings are canceled. However, ISAC is offering help via phone, email, text, and webinar.

Assistance is available using the Search by ZIP Code tool on the ISAC Student Portal: 

studentportal.isac.org/isacorps.

Students or parents with questions about ISAC’s financial aid programs, student loans, or other related topics can call the ISAC Call Center, which is available via email at isac.studentservices@illinois.gov or by phone at 800-899-ISAC (4722), Monday through Friday from 8 am through 4:30 pm Central Time. 

ISAC College Q&A is a free text-messaging service that allows students to text any questions they may have about the financial aid process, their FAFSA, and the college planning process in general. Each question is answered on an individual basis by ISAC staff members. Students can also receive alerts about important deadlines, upcoming events, or other critical information. A student or parent can sign up by simply texting their first and last name to the phone number with the area code closest to where they live. More information is available at isac.org/collegeqa.

For professional webinars, visit www.isac.org/pdfor information on scheduled webinars through March and April, to view recorded webinars on the Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) framework, or to request a webinar training for a group of your own.  If you have any questions for our Professional Development team, you can contact them by email at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

The Teachers Retirement System recently implemented “work from home” procedures for staff until March 31.

TRS says it will continually reevaluate the necessity to extend or change the policy as circumstances warrant.

Benefits for retired members and beneficiaries will continue, but since staff access to TRS office will be severely limited, you may experience slower responses and other minor inconveniences. These temporary operating procedures will close the TRS Call Center to members seeking help over the telephone.

Until further notice, members that have critical situations which need assistance should email the TRS Counseling Office at members@trsil.org. Questions will be answered as quickly as possible. TRS offices in Springfield and Lisle are closed to all visitors. 

The Illinois Tollway has temporarily implemented all-electronic tolling to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The tollways are open to traffic, however the staffed tollway booths at mainline toll plazas will be replaced by automatic toll payments machines. This includes ramps. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is also extending grace period tolling. Violations will be held through the duration of the toll plaza service interruptions. Toll collection will be entirely handled via I-PASS, E-ZPass, and through the Tollway’s online payment portal. I-PASS and E-ZPass customers will see no impact on their day-to-day travel. Motorists are advised to keep moving and not stop at toll plazas.”

Those without I-PASS are encouraged to do the following:

  • Visit illinoistollway.com to calculate missed tolls and pay online within seven days or use the search by plate feature after seven days. 
  • Visit a Jewel-Osco store to obtain an I-PASS transponder and activate the transponder online. 

I-PASS customers can review and manage their I-PASS accounts online at www.getipass.com.

The Illinois Tollway’s Customer Service Centers located at Oases and Tollway Headquarters will also be closed to the public during this time. 

The Tollway’s maintenance staff, incident management personnel, and HELP truck drivers will remain on duty. 

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office is currently working with a reduced staff to encourage social distancing in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.

However, investment programs overseen by the Treasurer (e.g., college savings, Secure Choice, ABLE) remain staffed and open. Those with accounts are encouraged to visit their respective web pages for more information.

College Savings: https://illinoistreasurer.gov/Individuals/College_Savings

Secure Choice: https://illinoistreasurer.gov/Individuals/Secure_Choice

ABLE: https://illinoistreasurer.gov/Individuals/ABLE

More information is available at the Treasurer’s website: https://illinoistreasurer.gov/

The Workers’ Compensation Commission suspended all regular in-person Arbitration and Commission Review Proceedings for a two-week period. This period will run from Tuesday, March 17, 2020, through Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Requests for emergency hearings should be made to the Chairman’s Office. The Chairman’s Office may make space available as needed for emergency hearings or other extremely time-sensitive matters on a case-by-case basis, to be scheduled or conducted at the IWCC’s Chicago, Collinsville, Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield hearing sites. After a discussion with the parties, the Chairman may assign a case to one of these sites after a pretrial hearing by an assigned arbitrator.

All other Commission operations will continue as usual. Parties are advised that any statutory filing deadlines and statutes of limitation will not be affected by these measures, and the Commission will continue to process all usual documents and filings, made in person or by mail.

The Chairman’s Office will reassess the need to extend or expand these measures on an ongoing basis.

The Commission can be contacted toll-free anywhere in Illinois at 866-352-3022. The Commission email address: wcc.infoquestions@illinois.gov.

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