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Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* OK, campers, I’m taking next week off. Other than the governor’s campaign announcement, state news is kinda boring and slow these days. I’ll come back if anything big breaks. Peace

‘Cause it won’t be too long

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Weekly COVID-19 update: The trend is not our friend

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 7,983 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 47 additional deaths since reporting last Friday, July16, 2021. More than 73% of Illinois adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and more than 58% of Illinois adults are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,407,929 cases, including 23,401 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Since reporting on Friday, July 16, 2021, laboratories have reported 241,150 specimens for a total of 26,534,129. As of last night, 670 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 135 patients were in the ICU and 44 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from July 16-22, 2021 is 3.3%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from July 16-22, 2021 is 3.5%.

A total of 13,056,857 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 19,928 doses. Since reporting on Friday, July 16, 2021, 139,495 doses were reported administered in Illinois.

*All data are provisional and will change. Additional information and COVID-19 data can be found at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19.

* Because so many people are vaccinated, case numbers aren’t quite as relevant as before. Also, testing is way down. Even so, Franklin County’s test positivity rate is above 12 percent. Just 30.46 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, so that’s a real problem. As always, hospitalizations and ICU usage and deaths are lagging indicators. Hospitalizations are trending sharply up, but still only about a tenth of what they were last November. And ICU availability is getting tight throughout the state maybe because hospitals have shut down temporary facilities since the fall/winter surge ended. But, yeah, it’s not great. DuPage’s ICU availability is 27.6 percent. Cook County’s is at 18.8 percent. 20 percent is the red zone…


* Related…

* Vaccinated America Has Had Enough: In the United States, this pandemic could be almost over by now. The reasons it’s still going are pretty clear.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Rate Pritzker’s three new TV ads

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Press release…

Today, Governor JB Pritzker’s campaign released three ads featuring Illinoisans who came together and stepped up to help lead efforts in their communities to get Illinois through the COVID pandemic.

“It’s the people of Illinois all across the state who came together during tough times to lead the effort to save lives and protect livelihoods during the state’s response to the COVID pandemic,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s the people of Illinois who motivate me every day and I’m excited to be running for re-election to continue to lift up working families and move Illinois in the right direction.”

No word yet if these are scheduled for broadcast or cable. I’ll let you know.

…Adding… The spots will begin running on broadcast and cable TV this weekend throughout the state. [Headline updated to reflect this new info.]

…Adding… The cable/satellite buy so far for the first week is $153,854.

* “Meet Jenica”

Script…

Meet Jenica. When things were at their worst she volunteered to be part of the state’s response to COVID, one of the many nurses who put themselves at risk to save lives, and they needed protection to keep up the fight. Illinois health care workers never wavered, and people like Jenica showed us that together, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.

* “Meet Corey“…

Script

Meet Corey. In addition to being a physician assistant, for seven years he’s been a committed member of our Illinois National Guard. And when I called on the Guard to help set up testing and vaccination sites they led the way to getting the job done. Our state is back to business because we refused to let this pandemic beat us, and people like Corey remind us anything is possible for Illinois.

* “Meet Doris and Rick”

Script…

Meet Doris and Rick. When COVID hit, they stopped production of bourbon at their distillery to instead make hand sanitizer for nurses, doctors, and other frontline workers. Like so many Illinoisans they understood that the only way through the pandemic was looking out for each other. Now the bourbon’s flowing again in Rochelle and we’re on our way back. I’m so inspired by the people of Illinois—we can accomplish anything if we continue to work together.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Background is here if you need it. From the Shriver Center on Poverty Law on behalf of several groups…

Dear Governor Pritzker:

We write in response to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s (IRMA’s) July 13 letter. This letter ignores the realities of struggling families in Illinois, grounds its assertions in misleading or inaccurate information, and glosses over the significant effects that the pandemic continues to have on Illinoisans. We want to set the record straight.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is Supporting Families Who Continue to Struggle in the Pandemic

The letter you received last week accuses you of applying “artificial brakes” to the Illinois economy and alleges that employers must compete with a purported $35/hour that unemployed workers have received over the last four months due to “enhanced UI benefits, tax credits, and stimulus payments.” This projection of employee wages is provided with no supporting evidence or documentation, likely because it is wholly baseless. Indeed, were this to be true, unemployed workers in Illinois would be making over the equivalent of $70,000 per year. As organizations who work with low wage workers across the state, we assure you that this is not the case. Indeed, it willfully obscures the reality of the economic challenges facing too many Illinois families.

It is also dishonest to cite benefits like stimulus payments and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) as disincentives to work. All but the wealthiest Illinois families have been eligible for both tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and stimulus payments regardless of employment status. Consequently, those benefits cannot be the reason that some Illinoisans are not returning to the workforce at this time. Fortunately, we have actual data to show us who may not be working or who may be working less, and the real reasons for these decisions.

Too many jobs in Illinois do not pay a living wage. The United Way’s ALICE report data shows that before the pandemic 35 percent of families did not earn enough to afford the cost of living, and more than half of all jobs paid below a survival wage of $20 per hour. When you consider recent data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showing that a family living in Illinois must earn more than $22 per hour to simply afford a two-bedroom apartment – a number that is higher in the Chicago metropolitan area – we know that Illinois needs more good paying jobs. While employers may be offering short term bonuses or incentives to bring people back to work immediately, we see no evidence that they are offering ongoing job opportunities that will continue to pay sufficient wages and provide workers with adequate benefits and worker protections against COVID and other on the job safety hazards. If they were, we would expect workers to be responding to those incentives and filling those positions. Instead, however, workers are using their bargaining power to demand truly good jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families and work under safe conditions.

In addition, on May 14 the University of Illinois and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute released a paper showing that nearly 40 percent of working mothers in our state lost jobs or lost work hours due to the pandemic. When their children’s schools or childcare facilities closed, the numbers were worse – 60 percent of women worked fewer hours. And pre-pandemic racial disparities have persisted – more than 50 percent of mothers of color were forced to decline work due to school or childcare closures, versus 39 percent (still far too many) of white mothers.

None of this demonstrates a lack of desire to work; it is plainly because too many parents have had no choice but to stay home and care for young children. Enabling them to work requires meaningful pro family policies, such as expanding childcare, offering paid sick leave, and providing paid family and medical leave. Our organizations would happily join IRMA et al in advancing these policies, though unfortunately we have seen them thwart these vital worker protections for many years.

For Many Illinois Communities, the Pandemic is Not Over.

We also note that the COVID pandemic is not over. As you recently noted, the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 is becoming more prevalent in Illinois and will likely be the dominant strain in the state by fall, if it is not already. Unfortunately, we continue to see severe racial disparities in vaccine rates – 68 percent in the north suburbs versus 45 percent in the South suburbs; more than half of white suburban residents have been vaccinated, while the rate is 40 percent for Black residents and 45 percent for Latin/a/x residents. We commend the state’s efforts to shift away from mass vaccination sites and focus on providing vaccines in community-based settings, to increase uptake among communities who are most in need of vaccines. But until vaccination rates are higher, many people, especially people with underlying health conditions, will remain concerned about working with unvaccinated people. We urge a continued humane focus on vaccine distribution versus a punitive policy of eliminating safety net unemployment insurance benefits.

FPUC Benefits Expire on September 6

The letter of June 13 recommends elimination of “PUA” benefits, suggesting that PUA is the program providing an extra $300 per week to unemployed Illinois workers. This is not correct. PUA is providing a regular weekly benefit to many workers who did not otherwise qualify for regular UI, including gig workers and independent contractors who otherwise would have had no safety net during the pandemic. PUA’s costs are covered by the federal government, and it should not be eliminated before the federal government chooses to do so (currently the end of September). Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provides both “regular” UI and PUA beneficiaries with an additional $300 benefit during each week of unemployment. We ask you to maintain your earlier decision not to eliminate this benefit; as this letter has established, FPUC is not the reason that some people remain unable to work.

In addition, the additional $300 per week expires in the first week of September. Any decision to end the supplement would require a 30-day notice, which would mean that the earliest benefits could stop would be late August, with mere weeks to go before they will expire. We assume that the organizations who wrote to you are aware of this fact, which helps reveal their letter for what it is – a pure political statement rather than a set of prudent policy recommendations.

ARPA Funds Should Be Used to Support Illinois Families First

Finally, the letter of June 13 urges you to restore the UI trust fund to solvency. We certainly support this concept, but disagree with the proposal to do so by taking the remaining $5 billion from ARPA fiscal relief funds to fill the Trust Fund. UI is a counter-cyclical program. When the state’s economy is strong, and unemployment is low, fewer people claim UI benefits and the Trust Fund grows. When unemployment is high, as during the pandemic, more people claim benefits and the Trust Fund shrinks. As we are now at such a moment we must look to how the Trust Fund can best be replenished. In considering proposals to do so, we should remember that the primary responsibility for the Trust Fund’s solvency lies with employers, who do so by paying taxes – including increased taxes when the Trust Fund is at a low point. By ignoring the obligation to provide money for the Trust Fund through ordinary and regular means, employer groups are seeking to transfer a significant tax burden away from themselves and to workers who are the primary intended beneficiaries of the state fiscal relief funds. While restoring solvency to state UI Trust Funds may be an eligible use for ARPA fiscal relief funds, there are several reasons why it cannot responsibly be the best way to spend all of Illinois funds that remain.

First, it is premature. Last week you met with President Biden to discuss how to best ensure the solvency of the Trust Fund. Under his leadership and in cooperation with your administration, the US Department of Labor may offer states options ranging from waiving repayment of borrowed federal funds to significantly lengthening the period in which funds must be repaid, to provide employers with more time to pay any needed taxes. Illinois should not take unusual steps to fill any holes in the Trust Fund until the federal response becomes clear.

And second, there are additional important uses for much of the $5 billion in ARPA state funds – uses that would benefit the lowest income people in our state. The signatories to this letter urged that these funds be used to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), further support undocumented immigrants with direct cash payments, offer premium pay to frontline workers who risked their lives daily to keep working during the pandemic, and offer cash payments to workers who could not even qualify for UI , as well as returning citizens and people receiving public benefits. To promote equity, these policies must be prioritized over reducing taxes on big business.

* The Question: Has this letter changed your opinion at all from last week when we debated this same topic? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Tinfoil hats crushed in Kane County

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* James Fuller at the Daily Herald

A small group of [Kane County] Republicans, based mainly in the Campton Hills area, have spent the past couple months pushing county officials to have an independent, third-party, forensic audit of the 2020 election. The request is based on the group’s interpretations of election data posted on the Kane County clerk’s website and anecdotal experiences posted on conservative social media. […]

[Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham, a Republican] said all of the concerns are attributable to the group not understanding the election data or attaching worries about fraud that aren’t supported in reality. The 2020 election saw multiple recounts and intense examination after the close 14th Congressional District contest. Nothing illegal or unethical was found to have happened at any point, he said. […]

Republican Party Chairman Ken Shepro, who also serves on the county board, said his examination of the questions and suggested fraud lost all credibility when the major allegation about an impossible growth in the number of registered Kane County voters “carelessly” didn’t account for the dissolution of Aurora Election Commission and Kane County absorbing those voters.

Oh, for crying out loud.

There’s more, so go read the rest if you want a good look at the extent of ignorant conspiracy mongering in this state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Another year, another federal “strike force” for Chicago

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* From the Tribune’s coverage of the US Attorney General’s visit to Chicago yesterday to announce a new “strike force”

The strike forces — a mix of federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other law enforcement agencies — will be tasked with identifying and disrupting pipelines that are responsible for bringing illegal guns onto city streets. Law enforcement officials for years have blamed lax gun laws in neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin for making it easier for Chicago criminals to obtain guns when they’re not allowed to own them. […]

The teams are the latest strategy in the federal government’s effort to fight gun violence, and Chicago has been a focal point of that fight.

Last year, under the Trump administration, Chicago and other cities received a surge of federal agents to fight violence as part of Operation Legend, named in honor of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City, Missouri. In Chicago, the operation involved a few hundred federal agents from the ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Chicago police and other big-city police departments routinely work with federal law enforcement on criminal investigations. Such partnerships over the years have included Project Exile, aimed at shifting more gun prosecutions to federal court for tougher penalties, and Project Safe Neighborhoods, designed to better coordinate federal resources and local intelligence on crime.

The difference this time, however, is the federal government is providing grant money for violence prevention and violence interruption, on top of the state’s significant appropriation.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Kind of odd

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* This Virginia Mercury story is mildly amusing on two levels outside of the paper’s legit local angles

A coalition of gambling companies hoping to get slot machines back into Virginia convenience stores and bars kicked off its legislative push this week with a private flight for four lawmakers to Chicago.

While the plush jet raised some eyebrows — Virginia politicians have generally eschewed gifts of private air travel after scandal consumed former Gov. Bob McDonnell — organizers said it was strictly an opportunity to learn from Illinois, which broadly legalized video gambling terminals in 2009.

“It was a fact-finding mission,” said Dylan Bishop, the lobbyist who organized the trip on behalf of the new Va. Video Gaming Terminal Coalition, which represents five gambling operators that have collectively given nearly a quarter million dollars to Virginia politicians in recent years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. […]

Like Bishop, who organized the trip, Morrissey framed the roughly 36-hour excursion as all-business, beginning with a stop in Effingham, Ill., where J&J Ventures Gaming is headquartered. The company is the state’s most profitable video gambling operator, according to industry press. […]

The group then flew into Chicago, where they met with state lawmakers who work on gambling legislation.

1) The City of Chicago has never opted in to legalized video gaming;

2) They flew into Effingham, the heart of the Eastern Bloc, to talk about… gambling.

That’s it. I got nothing else. Talk amongst yourselves.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Jerry Nowicki at Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker isn’t considering using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay down a multi-billion-dollar Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit […]

The reason Pritzker won’t consider using federal ARPA funds on the $4.2 billion Trust Fund deficit, he said, is because he did not believe it a permissible use of the funding, and he is hopeful that the federal government will provide aid or rule changes to accommodate the 17 states that have outstanding federal borrowing balances in their trust funds amounting to $54 billion cumulatively. […]

Interim U.S. Treasury rules for ARPA funding and the plans of dozens of other states, however, contradict the governor’s statement on the use of ARPA funds to repay the Unemployment Trust Fund deficit. The Associated Press reported on May 27 that “at least 29 states already have transferred or proposed to use a total of more than $12 billion of federal coronavirus aid for their unemployment trust funds.”

Per the interim final rule, published May 17 in the Federal Register, “recipients may make deposits into the state account of the Unemployment Trust Fund … up to the level needed to restore the pre-pandemic balances of such account as of January 27, 2020, or to pay back advances received under Title XII of the Social Security Act.”

* Yep…


Oops!

The General Assembly will have to be involved if the state uses the remaining ARPA money to patch the trust fund, but Democrats want to wait to see if the federal government takes any action before proceeding. Pritzker should’ve known this. It’s been in all the papers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Open thread

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* What’s up?

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


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Friday, Jul 23, 2021

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Pritzker campaign manager Quentin Fulks to take over Sen. Warnock’s re-election bid, replaced here by Mike Ollen

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker today announced Mike Ollen will lead his 2022 re-election campaign as Campaign Manager.

“I’m excited to kick off this campaign and continue to fight for the people of Illinois and lift up working families all across the state,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “With Mike at the helm I know we will build a robust operation that is not only going to keep the Governor’s Office blue but also make sure we’re electing Democrats up and down the ticket across Illinois to keep moving our state in the right direction.”

Ollen is a Democratic campaign veteran of numerous US Senate and presidential campaigns, including those of former President Barack Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan. Pritzker also congratulated longtime political advisor Quentin Fulks on his new position as Campaign Manager for Senator Raphael Warnock’s re-election campaign in Quentin’s home state of Georgia.

“Quentin has been instrumental in our work to put Springfield back on the side of working families and make incredible progress for the people of Illinois. I’m so thankful to have had him on my team these past few years working to advance our Democratic values and I can’t wait to watch him continue to fight for the people of his home state of Georgia. I consider him family and I wish him the best of luck,” said Pritzker.

This week Governor JB Pritzker announced he and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton will run for re-election to a second term in 2022, releasing a video that highlights the strength of the state’s response to the COVID pandemic and JB’s commitment to the people of Illinois.

That’s a huge opportunity for Fulks. Warnock’s campaign will be at the top of the national Democratic priority list, so a potential win there would be a very big thing indeed. And he gets to go back home.

…Adding… Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There’s a new mover-and-shaker in Georgia politics who deserves your attention: Quentin Fulks.

The native of Ellaville – the tiny Georgia town that also produced comedien Blaire Erskine – Fulks was deputy campaign manager for J.B. Pritzker’s campaign for Illinois governor in 2018 and later oversaw the Democrat’s political operation while he was in office.

Fulks is now returning to his home state to serve as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s re-election campaign. The senator called Fulks a “national talent who brings vast experience and a love of our state.”

“I know he’s the right person to lead our campaign in 2022,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Reader comments closed for a week
* Weekly COVID-19 update: The trend is not our friend
* Rate Pritzker's three new TV ads
* Question of the day
* Tinfoil hats crushed in Kane County
* Another year, another federal "strike force" for Chicago
* Kind of odd
* Unclear on the concept
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Pritzker campaign manager Quentin Fulks to take over Sen. Warnock's re-election bid, replaced here by Mike Ollen
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
* Yesterday's stories

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