Today marks the beginning of the first full week in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan. Here is the link for the updated guidelines: https://dceocovid19resources.com/restore-illinois/restore-illinois-phase-4/ . Today’s update is going to focus on some recent reports from our state and the nation.
Pending Home Sales Surged in May
Pending home sales spiked a stunning 44.3% in May compared with April, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is the largest one-month jump in the history of the survey, which dates back to 2001. It easily beat expectations of a 15% gain. Sales were only 5.1% lower compared with May 2019.
Will County Health Department Survey on Coronavirus
The Will County Health Department is asking residents of the county to participate in a survey about avoiding the virus. This is an anonymous survey and should only take a minute or two. The interest is around protection of each other and what steps are being taken to prevent infection. Here is the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CWLP7TZ
Contract Tracing Funds
Back in April, public health officials estimated it would take at least 100,000 contact tracers to properly follow-up with COVID patients. However, CDC Director Robert Redfield reported last week that fewer than 30,000 have actually been hired. These jobs would entail interviews of those infected, identify who they encountered, and review self-quarantine procedures.
Congress had approved $8 billion weeks ago to go towards pumping this program up, but it does not seem as if the funds have been quickly distributed. Further delay will hamper the efforts of those states getting hit hard with recent spikes. We reported in the past that officials are still putting together their tracing programs months after stay-at-home orders were lifted and training new hires as spikes threaten to overwhelm local health systems. Even those states that have hired hundreds or thousands of people have struggled to find new infections quickly and elicit useful information.
Paid Time Off Requests Are Coming, Are You Ready?
Now that we are six months through the year, employers are being urged to brace themselves for requests of paid time off. Usually by this time of year, workers have made a dent in their allotted time for the year. Given the circumstances, many have missed spring breaks and early summer vacations. As some states relax guidelines and others see a leveling off of cases, the prediction is that an explosion of requests is due in any day.
Illinois Bill Backlog Drops
For years we all know that Illinois has been carrying a sizeable backlog of unpaid bills. According to the Office of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, the total amount has dipped to its lowest in five years. At the end of May, the backlog stood at $7 billion and as of June 12 that amount had dropped to $4.8 billion. It was as high as $8 billion recently in April. Much of this pay down comes from a short-term Fed loan of $1.2 billion as we had talked about before Illinois being the first state to tap into the Federal Reserve aid for state government. Illinois officials have said that if Congress does not approve additional aid, they may need to borrow almost $5 billion more from the Fed facility in the upcoming fiscal year to help close a more than $6 billion deficit.
Fight over COVID-19 Workplace Rules
The battle over workplace safety rules during the coronavirus is spreading to more states. Virginia last week took a major step toward creating its own set of safety rules for workplaces amid frustration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declining to impose a nationwide COVID-19 standard. The Virginia Safety and Health Code Board voted to move forward with emergency temporary standards. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) also provided comment and stressed its support for mandatory workplace rules. “Voluntary guidelines and recommendations focusing on COVID-19 will not protect workers sufficiently, as evidenced by the fact that many employers currently are not taking the appropriate and necessary steps to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure,” AFSCME wrote to the Virginia board. “This failure of voluntary guidelines has had and will continue to have tragic consequences, as is readily apparent in the number of confirmed cases and deaths among essential workers,” the group added.
OSHA has received 5,632 complaints pertaining to COVID-19, closed 4,417 of them, and investigated all of them as of Tuesday, according to the Labor Department. Only one coronavirus-related inspection has resulted in a citation from OSHA. OSHA, a division of the Labor Department, can authorize an emergency standard if it determines workers are in grave danger. That standard can only be challenged in a U.S. court of appeals. OSHA guidance, meanwhile, allows for flexibility and lets the administration officials change it as they see fit. The agency argues it’s been protecting workers by providing guidance to employers on best practices for handling COVID-19.
Finally, we hope that if you were interested that you were able to join the DCEO webinar today that reviewed not only Phase 4 guidelines, but also the new Business Interruption Grant from the state. For more information on the BIG program if you have missed it, click here: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Pages/C19DisadvantagedBusGrants.aspx . This program is open for applications through July 7 and is a lottery system rather than first come, first serve.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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