Unemployment debt payment; Remember to get your flu shot

Illinois makes another partial payment on unemployment debt

During the pandemic Illinois had to borrow nearly $5 billion from the federal government to pay the huge number of unemployment claims resulting from the lockdowns. Many of the states which obtained similar loans used money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to repay their debts. Illinois, however, spent that money on other projects, paying back only a portion of the debt. The budget which was passed last spring left $1.8 billion unpaid, and beginning to collect interest.

Recently the state made another partial payment on this debt, but it still remains over a billion dollars behind. Many of the Illinoisans who lost their jobs in 2020 have been able to get back to work, meaning that their employers are now paying unemployment taxes on their payrolls. Last week the state transferred $450 million in unemployment tax revenue to repay another part of the debt which Illinois owes Uncle Sam.

Unfortunately, even with this payment, we still owe $1.35 billion, and that debt continues to accumulate interest which the state will also have to pay. It is just another example of the consequences of short-sighted budgeting and spending decisions in Springfield.

Doctors reminding Illinoisans to get flu shots this fall

Every year at this time we hear the reminders to get flu shots ahead of the typical flu season which runs throughout the fall and winter. This year, doctors are being especially vocal about flu shots due to a couple of different factors.

Flu rates were down significantly in the past couple of years as people stayed home and avoided contact with others. There is some concern that there could be a rebound this year as people are interacting more and resistance may be lower after a couple of slow flu seasons. The flu season in Australia, where flu tends to strike before reaching the United States, was also said to be especially severe this year.

Certain groups are more at risk from complications from the flu, such as seniors and infants, as well as pregnant women, kids and people with underlying health conditions. Contact your physician or your local health department for information about flu shot availability in your community.

Mortgage rates, other interest rates surge in response to inflation

The latest figures from the Consumer Price Index show that prices of items in some parts of Illinois have gone up by an average of 8.8% over the last 12 months. Some prices, like many grocery items, have risen by double digits in that time.

In response to levels of inflation not seen in almost 40 years, the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates, which has caused the rates on mortgages to go up as well. The median rate for a 30-year fixed interest mortgage is now in the area of 7%. These higher mortgage rates tend to hit first-time homebuyers the hardest, and these rising rates are making it much harder for middle-class Illinois households to buy a home.

Real estate sales in Illinois are down by 8% from the peak back in June, just as interest rates started rising. With rates continuing to rise, this trend is likely to continue. Unfortunately, most Illinoisans have not received the kind of pay increases that would be necessary to keep up with these levels of inflation.

Honoring a fallen hero

On Saturday October 1, U.S. Army Air Corps Private First Class John L. Ferguson was laid to rest at the Gridley Cemetery with full military honors and a procession befitting a hero who gave his last full measure of devotion to his country. He died as a POW on December 10, 1942, in the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines. In March 2018, his remains were identified and now, after 80 years, he is finally home.

On behalf of State Rep. Dan Brady and myself, I presented to the family House Resolution 951 and a flag flown over our state and national capitols honoring PFC Ferguson. May God bless his family and may God bless America.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,204,063,243 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.3 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.

Did You Know?

A 21-year-old Abraham Lincoln was taking a flatboat of supplies to New Orleans when he got stuck on some rocks on the Sangamon River. Unloading his cargo near a small settlement, he noticed that the town lacked any kind of general store. Changing his plans, he decided to settle down and sell his goods there instead of New Orleans. It was from this small village; called New Salem; that Lincoln entered politics and won his first election, a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. The rest is history.

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