BIG program slow to provide help; Contact tracing figures released

Business Interruption Grant program slow to provide assistance

A report from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has shown that the state has been slow to help many struggling businesses which have applied for assistance through the new Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program.

The BIG program was created in the spring to help the many businesses which have been hit hard by the pandemic shutdowns. Every month DCEO is required to file a report with the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, of which I am a member. The latest report was filed last week. It showed that even though 4000 grants have gone out, totaling $95 million, the state’s small business community has reported that the figure is still far short of the amount needed to keep the state’s struggling businesses afloat.

When the stay-at-home orders were issued back in the spring, Illinois’ unemployment quickly tripled, and many of those jobs have still not returned. We have to do more to help.

State releases coronavirus contact tracing data

Last week I told you that I had joined in the effort to make the state’s contact tracing data public. These figures are used to determine which parts of the state are shifted backwards into ‘enhanced mitigation’ because of increases in coronavirus cases, but the numbers produced by the efforts have not been available for public review. We need to see this data to better understand how and why public health officials are making decisions.

On Friday, the Department of Public Health at last made that information available. The state will begin publishing data, “representing outbreaks and exposure locations for cases of COVID-19 in a variety of setting types, to be updated on a weekly basis.” The information to be found includes outbreak locations, exposure locations and school exposures. To find out more, please click here.

Sales tax revenue increases in October, but challenges remain ahead

As some of those small businesses re-open, and other economic activity gradually resumes, the state has been able to collect more in sales tax revenue according to a report filed with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

In October the state collected $787 million in sales tax revenue, which was an improvement of $44 million from the same time last year. The additional revenue was sorely needed because the state continues to lag in revenue from other sources like casino taxes, which fell from $21 million in October 2019 to zero in October 2020.

Challenges remain ahead, however, as the state works to climb out of the revenue it has been placed into by the economic disruptions. The re-imposition of some lockdown orders throughout the state due to a rise in coronavirus cases have once again driven down sales tax revenue from restaurants, not to mention the jobs which have been lost. It is expected that Illinois’ revenue picture will suffer another harsh blow next month.

Join us to discuss open enrollment in Illinois’ health insurance exchange

Please join Brian Gorman of the Illinois Department of Insurance and Margaret Dunne of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and me for Live with State Rep Tom Bennett as we talk about the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, its open enrollment period as well as Medicaid Health Insurance programs and expanded COVID access and eligibility. Visit my Facebook page at 5 p.m. on Monday November 16 to participate in the conversation.

Happy Veterans Day!

Amidst all that has happened and all that has changed this year, one thing that has not changed is the respect we all hold for our veterans. Those who have worn the uniform of our nation’s armed services have earned a special place in our hearts and deserve our continuing thanks for all they have done to make this the greatest nation in the world. Thank you to all who have served and to their families as well for the sacrifices they have made for all of us.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health – 10,573 new cases

Governor’s office announces possible COVID-19 exposure

Hunters in Illinois encouraged to think safety first

Caterpillar truck made in Decatur named ‘Coolest Thing Made in Illinois’

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).