Secretary of State offices to partially re-open; Help for pork producers

Secretary of State offices to re-open on Tuesday

Secretary of State driver services facilities in our area will re-open on Tuesday. The re-opening will be focused on new drivers and those with expired licenses/ID cards and vehicle transactions. According to the Secretary of State there are more than 700,000 expired licenses and 1.9 million expired registrations. SOS offices have been closed to in-person visits since early in the coronavirus pandemic. The re-opened offices will have extended hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. For more information, click here.

Local small businesses suffering from statewide lockdown

Benjamin Grice opened The Humble Hog barbeque restaurant in Paxton six years ago, creating 20 jobs in his home town. He was able to renovate another building in town and open a second business a short time later, creating another 20 jobs. His business is an important part of the community. But then the coronavirus struck and it was shut down. The restaurant has been able to recoup some losses through curbside service, but Benjamin reminded me that other businesses in town have not been able to utilize even that small lifeline. He argues that we need a regional approach to re-opening, rather than a blanket statewide order.

“We did not plan any of this around Chicago policy or being Republican or Democrat,” he wrote. “Instead, my family and I saw hope for a town we love, and we decided to put every ounce of effort into making our town of Paxton the best it can be. We never in a million years worried that any policy concerning Chicagoland’s needs would hold our business, our goals, or our state in a failing position. And yet, after six years of trying to help Central Illinois, here we are.”

I could not agree more with his closing statement: “Now, more than ever, we need small businesses to succeed statewide.”

Help line available for pork producers

The shutdown of meat processing plants around the country has presented severe difficulties for pork producers in Illinois. To try and help our pork farmers through this challenging time, the Illinois Pork Producers’ Association has set up a hotline to help answer questions. That number is 217-393-8498 and is available by phone between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, or via text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses

Funds are still available through the U.S. Small Business Administration for small businesses struggling with the continued shutdowns. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program makes as much as $10,000 available to eligible businesses to “provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.” SBA is now accepting loan applications for agricultural businesses. Click here to find out more.

A few wins from the spring session

Over the weekend I told you about some of the major pieces of legislation which passed the House in the closing hours of session. Overall, it was a series of missed opportunities to do good things for the people of Illinois. The House failed to act on property tax reform, pensions, redistricting or ethics reform, and then passed an unbalanced budget which will only make our fiscal crisis worse.

But there was a little bit of good news to report from the four days in Springfield. The very first thing which happened was a decision by the administration to withdraw an emergency rule which would have allowed criminal charges to be brought against Illinois businesses who open their doors before they receive permission from state government. This was a massive overreach, and so many Illinoisans joined our call to stop it that the proposal was scrapped before it could be voted down by the legislature’s Joint Commission on Administrative Rules.

Last week we saw some flexibility from the administration on moving Phase 3 of the re-opening which is set for this weekend. Changes were made to the plan in order to allow restaurants to re-open for outdoor seating and child care centers were given clearance to re-open with smaller class sizes. We still have a ways to go, but I was pleased to see these two additional steps get taken.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health

Information about the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program

Filing for benefits under regular unemployment or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Illinoisans head to Indiana to spend money as stay-at-home order continues

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at dph.sick@illinois.gov.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).