December 24, 2020 Update

Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ezike will no longer hold daily COVID-19 press briefings, instead offering availability as needed.
On Wednesday, Illinois reported 6,762 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 135 additional deaths. As of last night, 4,593 in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 953 patients were in the ICU and 536 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators. The 7-day statewide case positivity rate stands at 7.5% and the test positivity at 9%. This week Illinois will receive nearly 235,000 more COVID-19 vaccines. By Wednesday, 60,450 Pfizer dosages will be delivered, of which 40,000 will be appropriated to long-term care residents and the rest given to healthcare workers. Also, on Wednesday-Thursday, providers will receive 174,000 Moderna vaccines. To date, more than 63,000 people have been vaccinated in Illinois, not including Chicago.
The CDC issued recommendations to states about who should be next in line for vaccination. Essential workers such as firefighters and police; teachers and school staff; those working in food, agricultural and manufacturing sectors; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service employees; public transit workers; and grocery store workers should be next in line. Next in line after essential workers, according to the CDC, should be people aged 65 to 74; those aged 16 to 64 with medical conditions like obesity and cancer who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19; and a tier of other essential workers. States make the final decision on how vaccines will be distributed in their state and the Governor noted Illinois will announce next steps for Illinois in January. Illinois vaccination plan is here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $9.709 million in federal funding to Illinois to provide COVID-19 public health infrastructure support, including data monitoring capabilities for vaccination distribution and administration. The Illinois Department of Public Health will receive $6,691,329 for vaccine distribution, laboratory support, and other activities, and the Chicago Department of Public Health will receive $3,017,831. 

Budget Update: Last Thursday, Illinois closed on an additional $2 billion in borrowing from the federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility. Comptroller Mendoza is using the funds to pay down the state’s bill backlog, reducing it from $8.9 billion to $6.99 billion on Friday. The loan is backed by a general obligation pledge with a three-year term. The state previously borrowed $1.2 billion to address the FY20 budge hole, which must be repaid by June 30, 2021.

Gaming: The Illinois Gaming Board issued a complaint against Accel Entertainment, seeking to levy a $5 million fine. The complaint alleges Accel entered into a deal with the online sports betting company DraftKings in order to pay commissions to business owners to entice them into putting Accel gambling machines in their establishments, a move that the Gaming Board says is in violation of the Illinois Gaming Act. Accel responded in part by saying “the Company disagrees with the IL Gaming Board and it intends to vigorously defend itself.” A full copy of the complaint is here.

Executive Order:Executive Order 2020-75 Repeals Executive Orders 2003-10 and 2010-10 in order to return certain trades employees from the Department of Central Management Services to the Department of Human Services.   

Strong Communities Program: The Illinois Housing Development Authority awarded $10 million in funding to support affordable housing and community revitalization efforts across the state. Awarded under the new Strong Communities Program, funding will be provided to 68 units of local governments and land bank authorities for the acquisition, maintenance, rehabilitation and demolition of abandoned residential properties in their communities. 
Program funds will also reimburse municipalities for acquisition, rehabilitation, and maintenance including tree, shrub and debris removal, lot treatment and greening and other reasonable costs associated with returning blighted properties to productive use. Program funds may also be used for demolition in cases where properties are beyond repair and negatively impacting neighboring residences. More information is here.

Healthcare and Family Services: The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Dec. 18 announced that it was providing $56 million in capital to community organizations and providers across the state. The monies come from a substitution from quality payments that HFS normally provides annually to its Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). That is, every year the state holds back a portion of the payments due to the MCOs to instead be allocated to them on the basis of performance.  This year, however, HFS determined that performance metrics were among the many aspects disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and instead asked the MCOs for proposals on investing the funding into Illinois communities. Nearly half the total – $27.6 million – is to be spent in disproportionately impacted areas. So far, health plans have put into place many measures during the pandemic to help Medicaid members and providers. Among them are:– $13.8 million spent to increase reimbursement rates for behavioral and mental health. The Medicaid health plans boosted by 20% the reimbursement rates for this area, so as to ensure adequate funding was in place for Medicaid members in need of such services. — $4.6 million on expanding telehealth capabilities and infrastructure. — $4 million spent with vendors and organizations owned by minorities, women, and people with disabilities to bolster engagement in Black and Latinx communities hardest hit by the pandemic. — Over $2.7 million was invested in housing benefits for Medicaid members to ensure they could maintain their current services and also remain the community where they felt most comfortable. As will be noted in future HFS reports, the healthcare plans have recently increased housing support to over $6 million.  For more examples of HFS investments as well as more details overall on the program, see here. Next year, HFS intends to revert back to its pay for performance approach for its five MCOs: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; CountyCare; Aetna; Better Health; Meridian; and Molina.

 COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Funding – a 2020 Recap: This year, more than $1.3 billion has been awarded to Illinois businesses and families to combat the devastating effects of the pandemic. Assistance was targeted to: Help for Illinois Families Program; Business Interruption Grants; Emergency Housing Assistance; and the Local CURE Program. Help for Illinois Families. This $275 million initiative launched in June and includes the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) programs. To date, more than $80 million has been directed to 36,000 households for LIHEAP while CSBG has granted $13 million to 36,000 households. 
Business Interruption Grants. Working in tandem with the legislature, the Pritzker administration developed the $540 million BIG program. About half of the funding went to childcare businesses while the other $270 million went to small businesses suffering impacts from the pandemic. IDHS facilitated the release of the aid to childcare providers. The majority of childcare providers closed beginning in March due to COVID-19, and Illinois responded with the Child Care Restoration Grants. DCEO led the funding assistance effort to the small businesses, and recently concluded round two of applications for grants. So far, more than $214 million in grants has gone to 7,500 businesses across the state, with priority placed on an equity approach of aiding especially hard-hit businesses in vulnerable geographic areas. More than 500 cities are represented among the grantees, with almost half the grants going to minority owned businesses, $98 million to restaurants and taverns, and almost $80 million to downstate businesses. DCEO is still reviewing grants and will notify BIG applicants by Dec. 30, 2020 if they are grant winners. More information can be found here.  
Emergency Housing Assistance.  The Governor and the Illinois Housing Development Authority announced in August that $325 million would be available to aid renters and homeowners through either the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program and the Emergency Mortgage Assistance (EMA) Program. There were 38,000 ERA recipients who each received $5,000 in rental aid, paid directly to their landlords. Homeowners struggling with COVID-19 income loss could apply for relief through grants up to $25,000, paid to their mortgage servicers. In total, 9,500 homeowners received $84 million in grants. Applications for both programs have closed and repayment is not needed.
Local CURE Program. Federal CARES Act monies were made available to help municipalities with ongoing pandemic expenses through the creation of the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) program. To date, more than $158 million has been paid out/committed to aid more than 700 downstate communities. Funds can be used for such aspects as PPE, payroll, contact tracing, and other emergency public health expenses. Funding remains available, and DCEO will accept requests through Jan. 31, 2021. More information is available here

While the prospect of a January lame-duck session looms on the horizon, no actual dates have been scheduled for the 101st General Assembly to meet and conclude its business prior to the new General Assembly convening on January 13th.   
Representative Anne Williams filed legislation, HB5868, to allow the Illinois General Assembly to meet, conduct legislative business and vote remotely in the event of a pandemic or other emergency which renders it dangerous or impossible to meet in person. The Illinois Senate adopted rules to permit legislators to participate remotely as long as a physical quorum is present, as well as provide for virtual committee hearings. Senator Martwick filed identical legislation in the Senate. The House did not adopt rule changes to allow for remote committee hearings or voting. A bill to permit virtual lawmaking failed in the House during the May special session.
HB 5868 specifically provides that if a joint proclamation is made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, members of the Illinois General Assembly may participate remotely in session and in committee – and requires the House and the Senate to adopt rules to permit such participation. Remote participation is defined as simultaneous, interactive participation by members not physically present. The bill also permits a quorum to be present remotely – thus allowing all members to participate remotely. The legislation also contains an explicit provision to ensure that members of the public can view such sessions and committee meetings in real time.
Tina Pacione-Zayas, a policy executive at Erikson Institute, was appointed to fill the 20th Senate District seat vacated by Senator Iris Martinez, who was elected last month as Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court. 
Illinois Senate Democrats prepared a listing of new laws taking effect January 1, 2021. View the list here.
State Representative Mark Kalish, who lost his primary election bid in March, has been hired as the CEO of Chevra Hatzalah, the country’s largest ambulance organization.  
Former State Representative Eddie Jackson, Sr. died Friday of COVID-19. He served in the Illinois House for 8 years.  

The Illinois Senate published the 2021 spring session calendar which can be viewed here. The House has not published a 2021 session calendar at this time. All deadlines below pertain only to the Senate. 

2021 Key Session Dates:

January 13 – Inauguration of the 102nd General Assembly

January 27 – State of the State Address

February 5 – Senate LRB Request Deadline

February 17 – Governor’s Budget Address

February 19 – Deadline – Introduction of Substantive Senate Bills

February 23 – Consolidated Primary Election

March 26 – Deadline – Substantive Senate Bills out of Committee

April 6 – Consolidated Election

April 23 – Deadline – Third Reading Substantive Senate Bills

May 14 – Deadline – Substantive House Bills out of Committee

May 28 – Deadline – Third Reading Substantive House Bills

May 31 – Adjournment

Please have a safe and Merry Christmas