Farm safety reminder; Federal funds for lost wages

Safety on the roads

This week is National Farm Safety and Health Week, and the National Safety Council is using the occasion to put a special focus on safety on rural roads and around farm vehicles. These busy weeks surrounding the fall harvest are among the most dangerous for farm workers in Illinois and around the country. It is important not only for those who work on farms to exercise safety measures, but also for motorists in rural areas to be aware of farm equipment on the highways.

This is also Rail Safety Week in Illinois. Last year there were 104 vehicle crashes at railroad crossings in Illinois, causing 19 deaths and 26 injuries. Another 29 people were struck and killed by trains while walking on railroad tracks. More than 80% of these crashes occurred at intersections which were equipped with warning devices. This is an opportunity to learn about the dangers associated with railroad crossings and to learn all the aspects of rail safety. For more information, click here.

Illinois receives federal funds for lost wages

The federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program has approved Illinois for $1.3 billion in assistance to those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eligible claimants may receive an extra $300 per week under the federal program. So far close to 700,000 Illinoisans have received more than $650 million in payments since additional unemployment benefits were first enacted earlier this year.

This LWA program takes the place of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program which was created back in the spring to provide an additional $600 in unemployment benefits to those who lost their jobs during the outbreak. These funds were made available by FEMA while Congress continues to work out a plan for further relief going forward. For more information, please click here.

Will and Kankakee Counties return to Phase 4 of Restore Illinois plan

After having additional mitigation measures put in place due to an increase in coronavirus cases, our neighbors to the north in Will and Kankakee Counties have seen enough improvement to return to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois re-opening plan. The Department of Public Health announced on Friday that indoor dining and other practices which had been suspended in that area due to the increase could begin once again. The region was able to move to Phase 4; which is the same level as most of the state; after their rolling positivity rate declined to 5.6%.

Join our upcoming conversation about restarting fall sports

I hope you will be able to join us on Thursday at 5 p.m. for a conversation about what our local schools are doing to keep student athletes safe as they restart some of our fall sports. What might we see for the rest of the high school sports season as we move forward? Join me for a Facebook live conversation with two local high school athletic directors, Brock Niebuhr of Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Cathy Ferguson of Dwight as we talk about high school sports in the pandemic.

Around the district

As our local coronavirus rates have continued to remain low I have been glad to finally get the chance to get out and about across the district over the past few weeks. One of my favorite aspects of this job is getting to meet and talk with so many interesting people from each of our communities. Last week I got the chance go over to Crescent City to visit with Bill Gullquist and Paul Bowers and the members of the East Central Illinois Fur Takers, an organization of sportsmen who preserve the age-old art of trapping. I appreciate the conversations.

It was also nice to get outside in the nice weather in Pontiac on Saturday and see some classic cars for the cruise night. This is usually a summertime event, but it was extended into September because of the cancellations earlier in the year. Many of our region’s outdoor events are still going on, albeit with a few restrictions. We still have to be mindful of the outbreak and take some basic safety precautions, but I am so glad that we are able to enjoy events like these. My thanks to everyone who helps makes these events such a success!

More news from around the state

The latest Department of Public Health update includes another death in Livingston County

Small businesses: Register here for the BIG grants webinar tomorrow (September 23)

24 Illinois counties at warning level for coronavirus disease, none in our district

Illinois unemployment drops to 11% as pandemic recovery continues

Growing enrollment trend has Eastern Illinois University eyeing goal of 9000 students by 2025

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).