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home : local news : local news

3/31/2020 8:48:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
CAPITOL RECAP: State, national unemployment spikes amid COVID-19 outbreak

By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - More than 114,000 workers in Illinois filed first-time unemployment claims in the week ending March 21 as the United States saw its biggest one-week spike in recorded history. 3.2 million workers filing for benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the seasonally-adjusted number was due entirely to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has forced bars and restaurants to close, halted public gatherings and severely restricted travel across the country. The department said economists typically expect to see a decline in new jobless claims during the third week of March.

The previous national record of 695,000 initial claims in one week was set in October 1982.

The total number of new claims in Illinois last week was 114,663, a 950-percent jump over the previous week and a 1,338-percent increase over the same week last year when there were only 7,933 new unemployment claims.

Total claims for the month of March in Illinois now stand at 133,763, nearly five times as high as the same point in March 2019 when it stood at 27,493.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, new jobless claims were already beginning to climb before last week. There were 10,870 new claims in the week ending March 14, a 25-percent increase over the week before.

The sudden and historic spike last week followed two executive orders by Gov. JB Pritzker severely restricting social and economic activity. On Sunday, March 15, he ordered all public and private K-12 schools to close. Then on Monday, March 16, he ordered bars and restaurants to close for consumption on their premises and banned public gatherings of 50 or more people.

On Friday, March 20, he issued a sweeping stay-at-home order banning virtually all public gatherings and directing people to keep a distance of six feet between themselves and anyone else while out of their homes. It took effect the following day.

* * *

CORONAVIRUS CASES: A male prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill was one of eight new deaths from COVID-19, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Monday, March 30. As the death toll rose to 73, the number of cases in Illinois rose by 461 to 5,057 In 52 counties.

"There are 12 men who were incarcerated at Stateville who are now hospitalized, several requiring ICU and ventilator support," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

She said 77 additional inmates and 11 staff members have symptoms and are being isolated at the facility.

Ezike said the Illinois Department of Corrections is taking steps to control the spread of the virus inside prisons, including having all staff wear PPE and getting their temperatures checked daily, as well as locking down some prisons.

"Correctional centers with a confirmed case are placed on lockdown, which means that there will be no movement around the facility except for medical care," she said.

When someone shows symptoms, they are normally told to quarantine alone. In a prison setting, however, Ezike said, officials are considering grouping multiple laboratory-confirmed cases together.

The eight deaths reported Monday are people in their 50s through 70s in Cook, DuPage, Kendall and Will counties.

* * *

WRONG MASKS SENT: As state leaders try to gather as much personal protective equipment (PPE) as possible to distribute to health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, Gov. JB Pritzker says the federal government sent Illinois 300,000 of the wrong type of mask.

In his daily press briefing about the novel coronavirus disease outbreak Monday, March 30, in Chicago, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state's third shipment of relief supplies from the feds arrived Sunday, but likely includes 300,000 surgical masks instead of the N95 respirator masks Illinois requested.

"While we do not have a final count on this yet, I can say with certainty that what they sent were not the N95 masks that were promised, but instead were surgical masks, which is not what we asked for," Pritzker said.

Made of thin fabric and held loosely onto the face, surgical masks do not provide as much protection against COVID-19 as N95 masks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surgical masks create a loose barrier for the mouth and nose against coughs and sneezes, while tight-fitting N95 masks are able to "filter small particles from the air and prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales."

"PPE is the first line of defense for our health care workers. It's not a luxury that they should have to ration," Pritzker said.

A consistent critic of the federal response, Pritzker added that the size of the latest federal shipment "still pales in comparison to our requests and appears to be even smaller than our previous two shipments."

* * *

FIELD HOSPITAL AT MCCORMICK PLACE: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday, March 30, that Chicago's McCormick Place convention center will soon be converted into a field hospital for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who do not require intensive care.

As Chicago and Cook County continue to be hotspots for the disease with more than 3,700 combined cases, Pritzker said using the convention center as a medical facility will help free up space at traditional hospitals.

"McCormick will be dedicated mostly to non-acute COVID-19 patients," Pritzker said, "people whose condition could benefit from the care of medical professionals but who are not likely to need a formal ICU."

Using $15 million of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois National Guard is working with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to set up 3,000 beds by the end of April. Pritzker said he expects 500 to be set up by the end of this week.

"The first place we are directing our patients is to existing hospital beds, maximizing our underutilized hospitals first," Pritzker said. "If we never have to go beyond our existing facilities, we will all be extremely happy. But since we can't guarantee that, and in fact, we don't have the data yet to suggest otherwise, we're actively building out capacity."

Workers are also in the process of setting up temporary beds at closed hospitals in the suburban Chicago cities of Blue Island and Elgin.

* * *

MORTGAGE AND RENT: Foreclosure sales and evictions have been suspended for single family and multifamily home loans financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the department noted some may be eligible for forbearance or reduction of mortgage payments for up to 12 months. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced the guidance measures Monday, March 30.

Evictions and foreclosures are also suspended for 60 days on Federal Housing Authority single-family home loans and reverse mortgages for seniors.

Per IDFPR, affected homeowners or renters should contact their landlord and mortgage servicer immediately to learn about mortgage relief programs. Certified housing counselors through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can be found at www.HUD.gov.

The department also urges renters to contact legal assistance agencies, and they urged visiting https://www.carpls.org/client-services/ for free legal advice.

Veterans with questions about mortgage options can call the St. Paul VA Regional Office at 1-877-827-3702; the Illinois Attorney General's Mortgage Helpline is available at 1-866-544-7151; and IDFPR can be called at 1-888-473-4858.

* * *

STUDENT LOANS: Interest rates on federal student loans held by the U.S. Department of Education have been reduced to 0 percent until Sept. 30, and repayment on those loans is suspended until the same date. Involuntary collection on federal student loans, including wage garnishments and offsets, will be suspended until that date as well. Credit reporting will take place as if the borrower were making timely payments.

Borrowers can find out if a loan is a federal student loan by visiting the Department of Education's National Student Loan Data System at https://studentaid.gov/ or by calling 1-800-433-3243 or 1-800-730-8913 (TTD).

Borrowers are urged to contact their student loan servicer as quickly as possible if they are having trouble making payments. Those having trouble with their student loan servicers are encouraged to call the IDPFR Division of Banking at 217-785-2900 or the Attorney General's Student Loan Helpline at 1-800-455-2456.

* * *

BANKS AND CREDIT UNIONS: In its guidance for banks and credit unions on Monday, March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation "strongly urges" the entities "respond to borrowers affected by the current economic environment, such as small businesses, hourly workers, and independent contractors," according to a news release.

IDFPR is encouraging all banks and credit unions to offer payment deferment at no cost while eliminating fees such as late payment, ATM usage and overdraft charges, and increasing daily ATM withdrawal and credit card limits.

The department also guides banks and credits unions to: provide new loans on favorable terms; ease restrictions on check cashing; alert customers to the heightened risk of scams; remind customers to contact their financial institutions before entering into unsolicited financial assistance programs; and ensure that consumers don't experience service disruptions should the institutions close their offices.

If a lender closes its doors for health reasons, they must provide notice to IDFPR and provide reasonable ways to ensure borrowers can make payments to avoid delinquency, per the release.

* * *

HEALTH CARE ACCESS: Gov. JB Pritzker said Saturday, March 29, that to help meet the growing need for hospital space there, the city of Chicago and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to convert the McCormick Place Convention Center into a field hospital. He said details of that project would be released in the next few days.

To help make sure all Illinoisans have access to health care, Pritzker said his administration is seeking waivers from the federal government to make Medicaid more accessible. Those include requests to suspend the annual renewal process, to fast-track enrollment by waiving many of the verification requirements, guaranteeing that people who are uninsured will have their costs covered and covering all out-of-pocket costs for people who have regular insurance.

* * *

GROCERY STORES: Gov. JB Pritzker on Saturday, March 29, announced that after discussions with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, grocery stores throughout the state will soon start implementing a new set of "best practices" to prevent the virus from spreading in stores.

Customers will soon see signs at the entrance and hear regular announcements on the public address systems reminding them to maintain six feet of separation from fellow shoppers. Stores will also place markers on the floor near checkout aisles indicating where people should stand.

Other measures include installing shield guards at checkout counters to protect employees, a temporary prohibition on reusable bags, offering the option of curbside pickup and encouraging the use of self-service checkout.

* * *

BENEFITS FOR NEEDY: Gov. JB Pritzker announced new measures benefitting the homeless and people on supplemental nutrition programs Friday, March 27.

The governor announced the expansion of SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, benefits. According to the governor's office, a combination of federal law and the state's requests for special waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will mean $80 million more in federal money for SNAP benefits to Illinoisans.

"SNAP is a federally funded program that puts food on the table for nearly 900,000 Illinois households, feeding over 1.7 million people in our state and stimulating our economy," said Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou, noting benefits could nearly double for some Illinoisans.

Officials said while IDHS offices remain open, SNAP applicants are encouraged to sign up online by visiting DHS.illinois.gov/helpishere.

The governor's office also announced $6 million in new funding to support the 19 Continuums of Care for homeless persons across the state, along with $2 million to support housing and other services for people experiencing homelessness.

* * *

FEDERAL PRESSURE: Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday, March 27, continued to urge President Donald Trump to employ the Defense Production Act to force U.S. companies to manufacture needed medical supplies such as ventilators.

"It will prioritize Americans over foreign countries and allow states on the front lines to access the equipment we so badly need," Pritzker said. "He needed ... to activate the Defense Production Act weeks ago or even yesterday, but it still will make a massive difference in our national health care system if he simply moves quickly."

Trump issued a statement Friday afternoon saying he would do so to require General Motors to "accept, perform, and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators," and Pritzker said it was good news.

"So I'm so pleased to hear that there's some movement, but that's only GM. That's terrific. But we need more, we need much more," Pritzker said.

The governor said the market for medical equipment and personal protective equipment, or PPE, is "like the Wild West," and states are competing against each other as well as the federal government and foreign nations in their attempts to procure the medical gear.

"That's why you need the Defense Production Act to be invoked, so that we can get the ventilators here in the United States for what our needs are here," Pritzker said. "We're making them in the United States, we should be able to buy them here in the United States. But, you know, that's not happening for everybody today, and there certainly aren't enough ventilators going around."

* * *

CHILD CARE PROVIDERS: Child care providers licensed to operate during the pandemic will be provided with stipends to address added costs, according to the governor's office. Licensed homes will receive $750, while centers with one to two classrooms will receive $2,000 and centers with three or more classrooms open will receive $3,000.

Applications for the stipend will be available Monday, March 30, to providers through their local Child Care Resource and Referral agency, and more information on child care providers is available at https://emergencycare.inccrra.org/ or by calling the state's toll free number at 888-228-1146.

* * *

EMERGENCY FUNDING: New federal and charitable funding will soon be available to Illinoisans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the state on Thursday, March 26, saw its largest one-day spike of new cases and deaths during the pandemic.

President Donald Trump approved Illinois' disaster declaration on Thursday, allowing the state to access emergency funding to expand health care services like increasing hospital and housing capacity and expanding telehealth services.

In his 18th consecutive daily briefing on the pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday he is also seeking a disaster declaration for all 102 counties from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This would give us resources like more unemployment benefits for those not currently eligible for state unemployment insurance, enhanced benefits for those seeking shelter, food and emergency supplies, new legal services and financial assistance to our underinsured households," Pritzker said.

More federal assistance is likely on its way in the coming days after the U.S. Senate on Wednesday night voted unanimously to pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, 96-0.

Expected to be passed by the House of Representatives as early as Friday and signed into law by the President, this third wave of COVID-19 relief will help people, hospitals and restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic, said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Illinois Democrat.

* * *

STATE RESPONSE: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday, March 26, an independent fund, operated by the United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations, to support nonprofit organizations serving people most impacted by the pandemic.

Led by the governor's sister, Chicago real estate investor and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund has already raised more than $23 million.

"These funds will help many people across our state who are really, really hurting now," she said.

In the coming weeks, the fund's steering committee, comprised of philanthropic leaders across the state, will disburse money to charitable organizations that serve communities in need. Money will go toward things like emergency food and basic supplies, housing and shelter, primary health care services, financial services and support for children.

* * *

FINANCIAL RELIEF: Gov. JB Pritzker announced a number of financial initiatives Wednesday, March 25, to assist owners of bars, restaurants, hotels and other small businesses during the economic slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

By Friday, he said, owners of businesses with fewer than 50 employees and less than $3 million in 2019 revenue can qualify for a piece of $90 million in state emergency assistance through three new programs.

Pritzker additionally is pushing Illinois' tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 to match the federal government's action.

The first of the state's new programs, called the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund, caters to businesses outside of Chicago. That program includes $60 million for loans worth up to $50,000. Each allows five years for a borrower to make payments, with a delay window of six months.

That offers "crucial time for business owners to begin recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19," Pritzker said during a daily press briefing in Chicago.

The second program also focuses on businesses outside of Chicago, "specifically in areas with low to moderate income populations," the governor said. The Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program provides grants up to $25,000.

The Hospitality Emergency Grant Program offers funds to owners of hotels, bars and restaurants for payroll, rent and job training costs, as well as technology upgrades to allow for pickup or delivery of food and beverages, "which for now have become central to many restaurants staying open," Pritzker said.

Applications for the loans and grants are available at coronavirus.illinois.gov or on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's website.

* * *

HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday, March 25, urged homeowners to contact their mortgage servicer to take advantage of an initiative Pritzker said he helped negotiate. Institutions, including the federal government and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that own mortgages agreed to offer multi-month payment delays.

His office additionally sent memos to the three national credit bureaus asking them not to diminish Illinoisans' credit ratings due to the current "instabilities."

Treasurer Michael Frerichs said his office "rolled over $200 million in investment notes, or loans," to the comptroller's office to pay medical bills. Because the treasurer is permitted to invest up to $2 billion in Illinois' bill backlog at a reduced rate, as opposed to a 9 or 12 percent interest rate, this step will save money, he said.

"The enduring impacts of COVID-19 on Illinoisans' lives and livelihoods will be significant," the governor said. "We must take every action possible to help people all across our state."

* * *

PRISONER TRANSFERS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday, March 26, signed two executive orders. One suspends all prisoner admissions from county jails to state prisons during Illinois' disaster proclamation.

The director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, the order states, has the authority to make exceptions. County sheriffs, however, want the decision reevaluated because they say it risks the health of inmates and guards because of overcrowding.

"Local sheriffs across the state believe this policy further puts every county across Illinois at higher risk, jeopardizes the safety of inmates and correctional officers, and requires local government to burden additional costs," said Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, in a statement.

The other executive order allows notaries to witness the signing of forms if parties are using a two-way, audio-video communication.

* * *

TESTS AND SUPPLIES: Coronavirus tests, which remain in short supply, are prioritized for hospitalized patients and patients with severe underlying conditions as well as symptomatic health care workers, first responders and other critical infrastructure workers.

Illinoisans who feel unwell should call their doctor to relay symptoms. Depending on that assessment, the clinician will determine whether further action, including a test, is necessary.

The Department of Public Health's current guidance is for those who are ill to stay home for at least seven days after their symptoms, including a fever, cease. That number is down from 14 days, Ezike said, due to new information medical officials across the globe are learning every day.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday, March 25, urged Illinoisans to follow the state's guidance, as opposed to that offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because it is specific to the state. The CDC's directions "really has been a one-size-fits-all," he said.

"We're doing what we think is right and believe this (the stay at home order) is a very effective way for us to diminish the spread of COVID-19," Pritzker said. "... We're doing what is best for the people in Illinois."

The state's medical community is receiving new personal protective equipment, such as gowns, gloves and face masks, "all the time now," the governor said, though not "all that much" from the federal government.

* * *

HOSPITALS PREPARE: Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday, March 24, the state is stockpiling medical supplies and working to expand its hospital capacity, even by converting some closed hotels into isolation facilities, as it braces for a sharp increase in demand due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

"In a worst-case scenario surge, the state would turn existing hospitals into almost entirely COVID-19 response hospitals, moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals including these re-outfitted locations," Pritzker said during his daily briefing in Chicago.

"In our worst-case scenario projections - that is without the stay-at-home order - in one week, we would need over 2,500 more non-ICU beds and 800 ICU beds than we have in existence in the entire state today," Pritzker said. "Further still, in two weeks, we would need over 28,000 additional non-ICU beds, and over 9,400 additional ICU beds. That's untenable."

In addition to that, he said that without protective measures, the state would need 4,100 more ventilators to outfit ICU beds within two weeks.

Pritzker said hospitals in Illinois are operating at a little more than 50-percent capacity in their non-ICU units and 57.4-percent capacity in ICU beds. Approximately 28 percent of the state's 2,229 ventilators are in use at this time, he added.

In addition to expanding their capacity, Pritzker said hospitals throughout the state are setting up triage tents where patients displaying symptoms can be prioritized. It has also set up four drive-thru testing sites in the Chicago area, including one operated by the Illinois National Guard. The other three are being operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Walgreen's and Walmart.

* * *

PRICE GOUGING: The Illinois Attorney General's office has been working with a reduced and mostly remote staff the last 10 days, but it continues to warn against COVID-19-related price gouging, scams and utility shut-offs.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a news release warning businesses to "maintain fair prices on goods" and announcing that his office will "take action to stop unfair pricing on items that are crucial to stopping the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak."

On Wednesday, March 25, Raoul's office issued another release announcing efforts with a bipartisan group of 32 other attorneys general urging Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to "rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services."

Raoul and the coalition said while companies are cooperating with the states' efforts to stop price gouging, they asked the online retailers to do more to monitor listings by third-party sellers.

* * *

SESSION CANCELED: Lawmaking remains on hold in Illinois amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the state's Senate and House each canceled next week's scheduled session Wednesday, March 25.

The House was scheduled to be in Tuesday through Friday, March 31-April 3, and the Senate was set to be in Tuesday through Thursday, March 31-April 2, ahead of a scheduled two-week spring break from April 6 until an April 21 return.

"For now, we are taking it day by day and urging everyone heed the advice of health care professionals by practicing social distancing, regularly washing hands and avoiding all unneeded travel," Senate President Harmon, D-Oak Park, said in a statement.

A letter to House members from Jessica Basham, chief of staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said members "should be prepared to return to Springfield to address urgent matters, including during the weeks of April 5 and April 12 (the legislative spring break)."

The statement from Harmon's office said he asked members to keep their calendars clear for possible return dates as well.

* * *

EXECUTIVE ORDERS: Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is on a pace to set a modern-day record for issuing the most executive orders by an Illinois governor.

Since 1999, which is as far back as the executive orders page of the governor's website goes, the most executive orders any governor issued in a single year was 20. That mark was set by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009. The average from 1999 through 2019 was 11.2 executive orders per year.

But in just the first three months of this year, Pritzker has already issued 12 executive orders, including 10 since he declared a public health disaster on March 9 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Some of the orders Pritzker has issued deal with multiple, unrelated issues.

Some of the executive orders have made headlines, such as the one he issued Friday, March 20, the stay-at-home order directing people essentially to shelter in place except for limited purposes, imposing social distancing rules and ordering certain non-essential businesses to close. That order also contained a provision halting residential evictions throughout the state for as long as the disaster proclamation remains in effect.

* * *

RECESSION AHEAD?: A commission that advises the General Assembly on revenue and economic issues is warning that a slowdown of business activity caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to bring about a recession that could cause a 20 percent drop in state revenues, spread out over a number of fiscal years.

The Commission on Government Finance and Accountability, or CoGFA, gave that warning as part of its three-year budget forecast, which it is required to make annually. Those forecasts include an analysis of potential threats and opportunities to the state budget.

"While the certainty of the country, and world, plunging into recession seems to grow each day, attempting to value the impact of COVID-19 on state revenues is virtually impossible," the report stated in the section dealing with economic threats. "With that caveat, it seems reasonable to offer a scenario with more devastating impacts on revenues in the near-term than even the 'Great Recession.' As a result, should revenues experience a peak-trough decline of 20 percent, a revenue reduction of over $8 billion would be experienced, although likely spread over multiple fiscal years."

CoGFA is an agency made up of 12 legislators, divided evenly between the House and Senate, and between Republicans and Democrats, and staffed by financial experts. It is headed by a full-time executive director, Clayton Klenke.

In an interview Wednesday, March 25, Klenke described the possibility of a 20 percent decline in revenue as a "worst case scenario," based on the state's experience in previous recessions.

* * *

ECONOMIC, BUDGET IMPACTS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday, March 24, acknowledges the state's economy is likely to suffer due to social restrictions to slow the coronavirus outbreak, and that state revenues are likely to suffer as well, which could lead to budget cuts.

In his budget message to the General Assembly in February, Pritzker outlined a $42 billion spending plan that was based, in part, on an economic forecast of continued modest growth, both in the state and nationally. But Pritzker acknowledged Tuesday that assumption no longer holds.

"There is no doubt that any estimates that were made even two months ago would be not useful at this point," he said. "I don't think anyone expected where we would be today."

Pritzker said he has been meeting with the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, as well as with Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, to get an estimate of how steep the downturn in revenue will be, suggesting there might need to be spending cuts for the remainder of the current fiscal year and adjustments to the budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"And of course there are expenditures that we're needing to make to save people's lives, to protect people across the state," he said. "We're going to do what we need to do, there's no question about that. But yes, of course, behind that we've got to look at our budget situation and do whatever we need to do to address it, and then we've got to also consult with the General Assembly on what we will do for next year's budget."

* * *

COUNTY FAIRS: The social distancing guidelines that led Illinois county fairs to cancel off-season events on their grounds through the end of April is one part of a financial impact double-whammy, a trade official said.

Many local fairs use revenue from off-season events and activities to "pay the bills," Ken Tyrrell, president of the state's Association of Agricultural Fairs, said Friday, March 27.

Guidelines from Gov. JB Pritzker's office regulating the number of people allowed to congregate shrank over the past few weeks from 1,000 to 50 to, finally, 10. County fairs canceled expositions, contests and other events back when that number was 250.

The other problem, Tyrrell said, is a delay in reimbursements from the comptroller's office for costs incurred last year. Under statute, the state is responsible for paying county fairs 66.67 percent of what organizers spent on agricultural premiums. That includes activities related to horticulture, poultry, livestock, horse races and rodeos.

Tyrrell said fair organizers "have never received that" - in recent years, they were reimbursed 25 percent of eligible costs.

"That's beginning to hurt a lot of fairs in the state of Illinois. We're told it's been at the comptroller's office since December," he said. "Possibly if the state would pay their bills, it would really help fairs."

County fairs in Illinois begin hosting their main events in June. If the novel coronavirus pandemic continues into the summer, forcing fairs to begin cancelling, Tyrrell said "it would be devastating."

Tyrrell is the vice president of the Sandwich Fair's board in northern Illinois' DeKalb County, one of the largest in the state in terms of fair entrants. He said county organizers of summer events have not yet discussed fair cancellations, and are taking "a wait-and-see attitude."

"I'm being optimistic, and I'm thinking this will take care of itself by the first of June," he said. "The main concern right now is that we've lost revenue from cancelling off-season events and lost revenue, and the state of Illinois not paying us what we're entitled to."





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