[The timestamp of this post has been altered for Thursday visibility purposes.]
* Press release…
Building on measures to address the unprecedented economic challenges facing Illinois as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker provided an update on the state’s revenue forecast outlook and efforts to provide fiscal stability during these unprecedented times.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the U.S. economy, leading to an unexpected loss of revenues across all 50 states, with early projections showing combined state budget deficits of $500 billion over the next two years. In Illinois, general revenue funds are being revised down $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $4.6 billion in fiscal year 2021. With short term borrowing to bridge through this crisis, the total shortfall for fiscal year 2021 is $6.2 billion when compared to the spending plan put forth by the Governor in February. That shortfall expands to $7.4 billion if the constitutional amendment to move to a graduated income tax does not pass.
While states are slated to receive federal funding to address costs associated with the pandemic, this funding can not be used for the broader impact on COVID-19 on state revenue. Gov. Pritzker is working with our federal partners and calling on Congress to pass an additional aid package that will provide funding to states to make up for unprecedented nationwide revenue shortfalls.
“This is a public health crisis – but it is accompanied by massive economic disruption that’s unprecedented in modern history. Illinoisans are all too familiar with the pain the lack of a state budget can cause, so let me just say up front: we will not go without a state budget,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of the difficult decisions we’ve already made, but together with the state legislature we will make them and we will do so with an unswerving dedication to fairness. In the midst of a pandemic, I am more resolute than ever to protect those who are suffering physical and financial hardship from it.”
As the governor works to protect the health and safety of all Illinoisans he is taking several steps to shore up the state’s immediate fiscal health:
Earlier this month, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to take all possible steps to manage existing resources for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 by putting on hold all non-essential purchases and operational expenditures, freezing all travel that is not mission essential, and limiting all non-essential hiring. These actions are expected to save at least $25 million for the general funds in fiscal year 2020. This is in addition to earlier efforts to identify efficiencies for the fiscal year 2021 budget, slated to save the state $750 million over the next three years.
Working with our partners, the Comptroller and Treasurer have extended $400 million in investment borrowing agreements that were due to be repaid from the General Revenue Fund in March and April to July 2020. In coordination with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, the Comptroller has utilized interfund borrowing authority to transfer an additional $323 million in March and April to the general funds.
Additionally, the Governor, Comptroller and Treasurer will be moving forward with the issuance of up to $1.2 billion in short-term borrowing in May under Article 9, Section 9(d) of the Constitution and Section 1.1 of the Short-Term Borrowing Act (30 ILCS 340) for situations where revenue forecasts do not meet projections. About $1 billion of the decline in revenue for fiscal year 2020 is attributable to the extension of the April 15 deadline for filing 2019 income tax returns to July 15. This action will cover funds lost due to that extension.
As the costs of fighting COVID-19 continue to grow, the Governor has directed nearly $500 million in additional spending authority to IEMA through the emergency powers granted under the gubernatorial disaster proclamation. Much of this spending is concentrated on obtaining personal protective equipment for our frontline workers and ventilators to treat patients suffering from the most severe cases of COVID-19. An estimated $170 million has been expended to date. Federal funding is expected to cover most of the costs the state is incurring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a $2 trillion disaster aid stimulus package that is estimated to provide more than $9 billion to Illinois governments for a variety of programs from education, to aid for seniors and child nutrition to transit systems. It provides $150 billion in direct aid for COVID-19 related expenditures to the states, of which Illinois is expected to receive $4.9 billion – at least $2.7 billion to the state of Illinois directly and up to $2.2 billion to larger local governments.
The GOMB document is here.
This post will be updated with remarks from the governor and others. As always, please pardon all transcription errors.
…Adding… Press release…
In response to Gov. JB Pritzker’s revised state budget numbers, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon today issued a statement calling for continued cooperation among lawmakers and leaders as the state faces the daunting task of digging out from the social and economic effects of the ongoing global pandemic.
“We’ve proven in recent years that we can come together in times both good and bad to solve problems. We will need that spirit of cooperation more than ever before as we continue to face this outbreak and its economic fallout.
“What I told the governor is the Senate Democrats will do our part to help solve problems and stabilize our state.”
* The governor made an important point about the federal aid in the CARES Act…
But I want to be clear, these dollars can be used to cover only new expenditures related to coronavirus. Currently this funding cannot be used to make up for state government revenue shortfalls that have been a result of coronavirus. That leaves states to face this unprecedented financial hole on their own.
* On to questions for the governor. With those numbers, which sounds pretty scary, is it time to rethink the graduated income tax?…
It’s on the ballot for November. I think people will be making their own decision about it. I would argue, in a way that we may need it now more than ever. And of course this isn’t just about one year. It’s about fixing the structural deficit that exists for the state. We’re in a pandemic, we’re in an emergency, this crisis is causing a significant disruption to our fiscal year coming up. But we we have many years ahead and I think a fairer tax makes sense to me.
* There was a report today about a secret flight for PPE. Can you give us more information, and do you really have to make it secret because otherwise the feds might take the mass and gowns, that you’re trying to bring here to Illinois?…
Well, look, I’m responsible for making sure that we have the PPE and the ventilators that we need for the state. The federal government as we’ve talked about many times has not been a great partner in that. They’ve helped. They’ve helped, and I want to give credit for what we’ve gotten from the federal government, but it’s only really, in the end, a few days worth of items. And so we’ve had to search the entire globe to find what we need. Shipping is very difficult and so we’re doing what we need to do to make sure that we get, you know, the kind of PPE that we need. It is true that the federal government seems to be interrupting supplies that are being sent elsewhere in the nation and so I wanted to make sure that we receive what we ordered.
* Iowa released the names of the senior health care facilities and the nursing homes with Coronavirus infections, why not Illinois?…
Dr. Ezike: Releasing information regarding outbreaks that happen in facilities is not something that’s new to us. IDPH regularly does put that information out. I will take that back to the team if we haven’t been updating our lists.
* Also right now family members with loved ones in nursing homes can only find out if a positive case or death. If the nursing home voluntarily releases this info. What would you say to those families who are worried and they’re wondering if their loved one is at risk?…
Dr. Ezike: Again, remember that this is an unprecedented time. And traditionally we know that we’ve had, potentially some shortages in staff in the nursing homes particularly among the staff who are sick themselves. So I think in the midst of trying to check every member of everybody living in the nursing home to make sure that they’re not sick, to make sure that they’re separating people who’ve been exposed from people who are sick from people who haven’t been exposed to doing the pre shift assessments for all of the employees. I think everyone has been tasked with additional duties.
So I think it’s absolutely the intention in every nursing home to contact families when they have a loved one that’s sick and to give updates. I’m going to speak for the nursing homes when I say I probably think it’s just backlog and not that they don’t want to, but trying to manage all the tasks in addition to caring for the loved ones that they’ve been tasked with might you remind them that, that’s it, this is information that folks are just surely, surely.
* Several state senators are urging the lifting of the stringent social distancing when the Illinois Hospital Association says that the ICU bed capacity is sufficient. Is that a factor, will you consider that?…
Again, I’ve said day in and day out that we’re going to rely upon the epidemiologists and the scientists to tell us what social distancing measures, what stay at home measures we need to keep in place in order to keep the population from having a spike of COVID-19 infections that might number one consideration, my number one consideration is the life, safety and health of the people of our state. And of course I am just as eager as all of those states senators and with the President of the United States and everybody else to get everybody back to work. But we’ve got to do it in a fashion that really works for everybody so that we keep customers safe that we keep workers safe.
And so I’m going to repeat something I’ve said almost every day. We need widespread testing, and we’re all working on that no state has widespread testing yet, but we are all working on expanding testing. We need a comprehensive contact tracing effort, which Massachusetts has begun to stand up and that’s something that I’ve been in direct contact with not only the governor of Massachusetts about but also with the people who are actually putting that program together I happen to know for many years, an organization called Partners in Health. And so we’re looking at putting that together for the state of Illinois so we’ll have both of those in the works. We’ve already talked a lot about testing. So you’ve seen that we’re in the works buying machines and the VTM and everything it’s necessary to make sure that our testing increases, the contact tracing and then something that is really dependent upon the researchers and the doctors and we’re cheering them on in every way that we can, but it’s really up to them and that’s the testing that’s going on right now over certain kinds of treatments that can be given effectively they have these what they call them double blind experiments. And they’re some of which is going on in Chicago hospitals I might add, but it’s going on all over the world on things like grim death severe and hydrochloric wind and everything else. Once we have something established that will keep fewer people from going to the hospital, and therefore fewer people going into ICU beds and fewer people getting ventilators, then I think those three things working together, testing tracing and treatment, those together with widely available PPE will help us to begin to reopen commerce across the state.
Lots of words.
* In New York, the death toll sharply increased when they decided to count the victims who never tested positive likely died from it. Are you considering doing the same thing here? And is it possible the state’s death toll is considerably higher?…
Dr. Ezike: As the governor correctly stated, the denominator in terms of the total number of people who have cases is grossly underestimated. We know that because we had limited supply of the testing materials and so then we’re trying to find our highest risk people in terms of in terms of doing the testing in the first place. But on the death number. I think that one is probably closer to accurate because once you’re in the hospital that’s definitely a population that would get tested like that was one of our prioritized groups, people who are very sick who are in the hospital who are ICU who have pneumonia, so more likely the death numbers are close to actual. Of course it could have been missed if there was no suspicion of at all. But in terms of the numbers that are grossly underestimated it would be the total number of cases for the state.
So, the CDC did recently put out the new guidance that we should have a separate column for laboratory confirmed cases and then this second column for probable cases. And so, again, most of those probable cases are the people that physicians and public health departments said yes we’re the household contact of so and so and this person was laboratory confirmed. Yeah, you probably have it so we know that those people exist and so it’s just a matter of. Do we want to increase those numbers but even that will probably be a gross underestimation if we just put those probables we’ve had a couple doctors
* Okay folks who say they have been tested, they’re essential workers, this especially at Roseland hospital, and they’re still waiting for the results. They did self imposed a quarantine but now they have to get back to work their employer saying get back to work. What should they do?…
Dr. Ezike: So I actually have been in contact I think with the VP of Roseland as recently as today. And so, I am working with my team to make sure that all specimens are sent directly to IDPH lab because again the rapid turnover of the results is essential. And so when people send it out to some of these other locations where there’s an exorbitant amount of time decisions can’t be made so we’re working on that, as we speak to make sure that we get timely results.
Gov. Pritzker: I think this is an important part of the answer as well. There was an article actually this morning about how the commercial labs, actually are reporting 30% fewer results than they were before they’ve had their own issues with processing. And I’ve talked about this before how it takes seven to 12 days to get a result from one of the commercial labs. It’s the reason, partly that we’ve started to build up, not just started we’ve been doing it for some time now building up our resources within the state.
* Freelancers are wondering, are they covered by unemployment if you’re a freelancer?…
If you’re an independent contractor 1099 if you qualify as that which is often what a freelancer is, then you would qualify for this new program that the federal government, set up to provide unemployment insurance.
* Parents of course still are wondering about school, and then now they’re looking ahead to the summer, summer camp, do you envision children going to summer camp programs this summer?…
Again, we’re going to make some decisions coming up about what to do about our stay at home order, you know how we will you know make adjustments, or what needs to remain in place we still haven’t decided about whether you know about what to do about schools you know we have an April 30 date. Now, and typically schools, you know, might end in the first or second week of June. And so decisions, you know, need to be made, soon to make you know parents aware and kids aware of what that next month or month and a half might look like. And I think that will begin to give us some indication about the summer. But again, I’m, you know we’re speculating remember everything about this is new. And so it’s very difficult to make projections months in advance of something. But, you know, as a parent as of children who have it, who have in the past gone to camp. I know all the planning is occurring now. And so we’ll try to give some indication if we can, but it’s hard to do I must say is this far in advance.
* Do you think in the next two weeks, the next 10 days?
I’m not, certainly in the next two weeks we’ll be, you know, deciding what to do about the April 30, stay at home. The end of the stay at home order that’s currently in place, but I’m not sure that in the next 10 days or two weeks that we’ll be able to give an answer about summer camp.
* I’m sure you saw and heard the group of protesters circling the block down stairs honking and saying, lift the ban that’s going to be a sign of how rambunctious people are going to get the longer this drags on. [The protesters were actually demanding that Pritzker lift the ban on rent control ordinances.]…
The moratorium on rent control in the state is a state law. It can only be lifted by the state legislature in a vote by the state legislature. [He went on, but you get the gist.]
* Your counterpart in New York is now looking at having people wear masks. We’ve seen a couple of local municipalities, Mayor Lightfoot said she didn’t think today that that was needed. Are you giving any consideration to requiring people to wear masks in public and if so, where would that apply?…
I am. First of all I have given a lot of consideration and I have spoken about that here and indeed recommended to people that they wear masks when they’re out in public or them, especially when they go to anywhere where they’re going to be with you know any other group of people, you know, a grocery store pharmacy gas station or anywhere else, where they know they’re going to be with others.
So, and that doesn’t by the way that doesn’t mitigate the idea that you seem to maintain your social distance you know to having the mask on, is an additional protection. And let me be clear wearing a mask is protecting everybody else. So you’re doing everybody else, a favor or you know you’re doing the right thing for everybody else in your presence by wearing one.
So should we require it is really the question, you’re suggesting and I’ve had this conversation with one of the state reps on the other side of the aisle has been very collaborative and had good ideas. And I think it’s something that, when I look at the mitigation measures that we should be contemplating and making adjustments to, that is one that I think might be seriously important for us to consider in the period going forward.
…Adding… Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) confirmed that the unnamed GOP legislator was himself. Batinick advocated for an executive order requiring masks in public in a post on this website yesterday.
* Asked about dairy farmers dumping milk…
I hope that the federal government is able to step in with either price supports or some kind of farm bill to support farmers in this endeavor.
And I would love to get some of those goods to support the, particularly the kids who are on free or reduced lunch who are would otherwise be in school, getting it but it can’t and so the school districts are distributing it. So I would say to any farmer that has the ability to deliver some of that for us I’ve talked to many of the food manufacturers across the country about donating and many of them have donated goods for us by the school districts in Illinois for low income families and so I would encourage them to contact us we’d be happy to put them in touch with school districts.
* Last night President Trump discussed at length the idea of state border checks. Has this been a part of your discussions with Midwest governors and how practical is it? How would it be conducted?…
* What must the state do to ramp up broad contact tracing? Will this require hiring people? How will they be trained? How much will this cost? Is this underway?…
You can take a look at the articles that have been written about the Massachusetts collaborative, that’ll give you a sense of what this looks like. But yes, it involves hiring people that involves good old fashioned shoe leather. That is to say that people are not going to be knocking on doors, but they’ll be using an app, which will populate with someone’s spoken contacts it’s not this is not an Apple, Google app. This is one in which someone who has COVID-19 reveals who their contacts are to someone over the phone. And then that is all populated an app. And through that app, individuals who are part of the collaborative would have the ability to call the contacts that have been registered to let them know that this person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that they should self isolate.
* The upward curve of new cases has slowed, but it hasn’t yet gone down. What are the scientists telling you about finally putting the state on a downward trend?…
It’s an excellent question and we’re we’re looking at a variety of models you know we’re going to talk a little more about this in the next few days but you know the answer is that it’s, as you pointed out, it’s climbing it’s climbing at a lower rate than it had been before. And that’s a very good thing.
What the other side of the curve looks like I think looks very different than what the IHME curve looks like. If you have gone online to look at that curve, not just for Illinois but for all the rest, it seems like their curve sort of peaks and then precipitously drops.
And I personally, and others that I talked to, don’t think that’s how it’s gonna work. You’re working your way up to a peak unfortunately and then as you come to the other side it’s going to be a gradual downward slope, not an immediate drop. And so that is another reason why this testing, tracing treatment is so important and why we can’t do what I think President Trump has described which is sort of a massive opening of a variety of states.
* A leader of a local incident management team in Springfield has said the return to normal would probably be done by on a county by county process rather than statewide. What’s the veracity of that?…
We left in the hands of counties and cities, a lot of decisions. The decisions for example about their own city parks or county parks, whether to open those we’ve closed state parks. You heard that the mayor of Chicago close the lake front. There are a variety of places that have made other decisions about things that are not in the executive orders, but things that are in the executive orders are state law or, or I should say they’re mandated by executive order they’re not state law. And so they really can only be removed by the states.
* A local pastor recently complained that he’d been told he couldn’t have a drive through Easter service. He pointed out that marijuana dispensaries are still open, recreational pot isn’t legal in most states. With that in mind, why are recreational pot sales allowed? What do you say to the pastor and business owners who have been forced to close?…
I’m not sure how those are related, but I would say that the advice around drive up and pick up, and that’s what’s happening in dispensaries, has been that it’s very brief contact. And it’s somewhat socially distanced. And so the handoff of, you know, just as it is with a drive up and pick up food is relatively brief.
The problem with a religious service, and I am sympathetic with this because I too would like to worship in the way that we normally do, or even in a drive up circumstance, has been that that’s not a quick endeavor. And the result is that people end up parking very close to each other, opening their windows, sitting in pews very near to each other. And so it turns out that that is one way to spread COVID-19 and we want to avoid that.
* Sen. Shrimpf and others wrote a letter to you requesting a uniform policy that empowers local health departments to make decisions concerning business closures and openings in their respective counties. What is your response to that proposal?…
We will from the state Executive Order perspective, we’re looking at all of our state executive orders and thinking of the health and safety of everybody in the state, no matter where they live. And I of course understand the difference between living in a rural community and living in an urban community, and no I really do understand that, you know, that there are differences.
The problem is that a restaurant in a rural community has the same ability to spread COVID-19 as a restaurant in an urban community. So, it’s really you know it’s a challenge to identify the things that are that much different.
Having said that, we have tried to make adjustments. You’ve seen for example that essential businesses includes virtually everything that’s agriculture related, which is entirely almost entirely in rural communities. So we are thinking about how to make differences between urban and rural communities, recognize those differences and let as many people work as possible without endangering people’s lives
* Do you have any thoughts on the municipal requests to the Attorney General Raoul to issue an advisory opinion allowing local governments to delay the fulfillment of FOIA requests, until the stay at home order’s lifted?…
I don’t really have an opinion about that. We are working hard to try to fulfill FOIA requests, it is hard, I have to admit, with limited staff with our legal staff, you know, constantly working on. I mean I can’t tell you how hard those folks are working. And those are the folks who review all the FOIA requests and try to fulfill them so as I said a few weeks ago I hope that people will continue to have some patience with us about our delivery of FOIA responses to FOIA requests. But I don’t have an opinion about their request to the Attorney General.
* That was the last question, but then the governor had one more thing to say…
Can I just say one thing before I conclude? Standing behind me is General Rich Neely of our National Guard. You’ve seen him occasionally with me here.
And he’s with us today in part because the National Guard has done such a tremendous job of standing up and taking over in some cases for federal government drive thru facilities. But it is the National Guard that has done not only that, but also when we needed to put in additional capability at one of our prisons. It was the National Guard that came in with medical personnel, tents so that we could treat and separate people within the prison. And the National Guardsmen have just been outstanding. And you should be so proud. It’s the best National Guard in the entire nation, Illinois National Guard. We have the best Adjutant General in the entire nation, and I just, I want to recognize the amazing work that they do. Thank you.