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Pritzker Calls For Session, Largest Number Of COVID-19 Cases, $25 Million For Infrastructure

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for the legislature to reconvene to discuss an economic recovery plan for the state.

Pritzker said his administration has supported residents and small businesses by banning evictions, delaying tax filing deadlines, and expanding unemployment eligibility, but he said more work needs to be done to get the economy going.

“The legislature must convene so that we can begin to put our financial and economic house back in order,” he said. “The General Assembly needs to pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and small towns.”

Pritzker outlined other ideas that he would like lawmakers to consider, such as more rent and mortgage assistance for families, and tax credits for small businesses. Also, the governor suggested creating a law that would distribute funds to small towns and cities to support first responders and basic services that could be in jeopardy because of coronavirus-related revenue losses. 

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The General Assembly hasn’t met at the Capitol since March, and Republican legislators have been calling for a meeting for weeks. In a press conference last week, they called on the governor to bring lawmakers to Springfield to address the budget, property tax reform and other issues.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has developed guidelines for the legislature to safely meet in Springfield.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan responded in an emailed statement, “Any plan to return to Springfield must prioritize health and safety.”

Pritzker said just how much a state aid package would be depends heavily on how much money Congress includes in its next relief plan to help states make up for lost sales and income tax revenue.

Pritzker Considers Withdrawing Aid To Locals That Defy Stay-At-Home Order                           

A handful of local governments in Illinois want to allow businesses to open sooner than what Pritzker’s plan calls for.

Pritzker said he would consider withdrawing federal and state aid to cities or counties that reopen before their region meets the medical benchmarks outlined in his plan. The governor said officials who want to open are putting residents in danger.

“The vast majority of those counties and individuals...those business owners are not talking to epidemiologists or scientists,” Pritzker said. “In fact, they’re not relying on science anyway whatsoever in making their decision.”

Pritzker said that there are a number of mechanisms he could use to enforce the stay-at-home order, but he’d rather everyone just follow directions.

The comments come after the governor of Pennsylvania made a similar threat to pull funding from counties in his state that defy the shutdown order.

Highest Number Of Cases

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported the highest one-day number of newly confirmed cases. On Tuesday, there were 4,014 new COVID-19 cases, including 144 additional deaths for a total of 83,021 cases, and 3,601 deaths.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, IDPH director, said the largest number of new cases stems from the largest number of tests that were performed. In the last 24 hours, the state performed over 29,000 tests.

Although the state witnessed a large amount of deaths and new cases, Ezike said she doesn’t know if the state has reached its peak.

“We want to know that this is the highest number of hospitalizations, and the highest number of cases, and the highest number of fatalities we will see,” said Ezike. “It would be a good thing to go down from here.”

Experts expected the first peak to occur in mid-May, but now it’s not expected to come until mid-June.

DCEO Is Giving Out $25 Million For Infrastructure

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is giving out $25 million dollars in infrastructure money to make sure cities and counties can complete some building improvements this summer.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the money will be used for projects that are ready to begin work.

“This will keep key infrastructure projects in the pipelines, and will support the return of skilled labor to job sites for the busy summer season,” said Pritzker.

The funds can be used to expand water and sewer systems, or to upgrade schools and other buildings.

The grants are a part of Rebuild Illinois - a $45 billion dollar infrastructure plan approved last year, which also raised the gas tax and expanded gambling.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.