Happy Friday as we all look forward to the weekend! One more week of vacation for our elected officials out in Washington D.C. and then we will look forward to a lot of action within a short period for a number of issues to be resolved. One new item gaining steam is the need for a universal mask policy set by the government so that the responsibility is not always put on businesses to enforce a set of rules that widely vary. Several cases are starting to pop up by consumers denied entry/service for not following posted guidelines.
New Director at IDES
Governor Pritzker Thursday named a new director of the agency that manages unemployment claims after the department encountered serious problems dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The Illinois Department of Employment Security also started a new approach to helping thousands of unemployed workers who have been frustrated by problems with the state’s system for processing their benefits claims.
Pritzker named Kristin Richards, the current chief of staff to the Illinois Senate president, to serve as the director of IDES, the governor said in a release. For months, Pritzker has promised to fix the system, which has been beset with issues, even hiring an outside contractor to staff a new unemployment benefits call center. Unfortunately, people who have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic continue to report long wait times or constant busy signals when they call the toll-free hotline.
On Thursday, IDES officials said they had made a temporary change to the system. Now, anybody who calls the hotline must leave their information and wait to hear back from the unemployment agency.
Illinois Layoff Warnings
Plans for sweeping job cuts at local hotels led to the largest month of layoff warnings statewide since Illinois’ coronavirus-induced stay-home order began. Illinois companies disclosed plans in June to lay off or furlough 15,175 employees, according to the latest monthly WARN notice from the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
That number, which represents advance notice of mass job cuts or plant closures, was more than double the layoff warnings disclosed in the May report and tops the year-to-date monthly high of 12,133 that employers disclosed in March. Some of the numbers represent job cuts that were already implemented in recent months, but the data signals there could be more pain ahead for the local labor force.
State Unemployment Trends Mirror National Report
The state of Illinois saw slight decreases in the number of people filing first-time unemployment claims as well as the number of people receiving continuing benefits during the week that ended July 4. However, those gains were more than offset by increases in the number of people applying for and receiving benefits under another program designed for people who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that it processed 39,015 initial unemployment claims during the week, which was shortened by the Independence Day holiday weekend. That was down from 43,934 initial claims filed the previous week, a decline of 11%.
At the same time, however, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a sharp increase in first-time claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federally funded program for independent contractors and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. Initial filings under that program rose 31% to 42,785.
Phase 4 Reminders on Best Practices
As a quick refresher here during Phase 4, here are some topics to stay on top of:
❖ Twice per day wellness checks
- Screening questions
- Temperature checks (optional)
❖ Health and wellness training required for all returning employees
❖Those employees who can work from home should continue to do so
❖Creating a safe workplace
- Staggered shifts
- Social distancing
- Masks required
- Cleanliness and hand sanitizer
- Business travel
- Personal travel
- Employers can ask if an employee has traveled somewhere, especially if to area with rising cases
- Public transportation
- Protocol when an employee gets sick
Managing Furloughs and Layoffs
- Temporary period of time during which the employee does not perform work
- Employee continues on benefits (watch benefit plan rules)
- Employee does not accrue PTO
- Employee’s status is Active but not working
- Employee qualifies for unemployment benefits
- Complete separation of the employee
- Employee qualifies for COBRA or Continuation Coverage
- Employee receives payout of unused PTO
- Employee qualifies for unemployment benefits
Adjusting Wages & Salaries
❖ Changes can be made to hourly rates and to salaries
❖ Communicate the change in writing to the employee
❖ Effective Date
❖ Reason for the Change
❖ Amount of the Change
❖ End date of the change if applicable
❖ Reinforce that all other conditions of employment remain the same
❖ Ensure that exempt (salaried) employees do not drop below the $684/week
❖ Ensure that exempt (salaried) employees do not perform work if on furlough
❖ Be transparent about why changes are being made
❖ Avoid discriminatory treatment
Invite to Conversation with Dr. Fauci
Path Forward Special Edition: A Conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci
Hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
When: Friday, July 17, 2020 at 10:00 AM
What: A dialogue led by U.S. Chamber president Suzanne Clark on helping America prepare to restart the economy and get millions of people back to work.
Who: Next week’s special edition of Path Forward with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci will focus on protecting employees and customers from COVID-19, the barriers to a successful reopening of the economy, where employees can get access to testing and personal protective equipment, and much more.
Click here to register for the special edition Path Forward event with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
State of the Illinois Budget with Comptroller Mendoza
All are invited to join a live webcast with Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza. In a conversation moderated by Crain’s Politics and Government Reporter A.D. Quig, Comptroller Mendoza will discuss how the Illinois state budget is shaping up and exactly how big of a toll the coronavirus pandemic will take on Illinois.
Tue, Jul 14, 2020 12:00 PM
Featured Speaker: Susana A. Mendoza, Illinois State Comptroller
Moderator: A.D. Quig, Politics and Government Reporter, Crain’s Chicago Business
Register to participate here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6755841852348077068
Chamber Virtual Conference Registration
Another reminder about our next virtual conference for Monday, July 13. The topic is Supporting Employee Mental, Emotional and Social Health. Please join the Joliet Chamber and WorkLife Partnership for a free, interactive virtual conference to discuss:
- Resolving challenges that manifest into stress, anger, anxiety, depression and even trauma
- Confront issues that prevent employees from thriving, alleviate strain and empower employees to be more resilient
- As an employer, how can you play a part in rebuilding a stronger workplace
You can register here for the session next Monday beginning at 1:00 PM – http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-webinar-july-13-supporting-employee-mental-emotional-and-social-health-5923
Finally, if you’re feeling more mentally fuzzy or emotionally fragile than usual these days, blame this culprit: Covid brain.
That’s neuroscientist Hilke Plassmann’s name for the way the pandemic’s trauma and uncertainty is changing how our brains function. Plassmann, who coined the phrase on Tuesday in a blog post, explained that, if you are like most people, your brain’s prefrontal cortex–the center of analytical thought–is being swamped by ambiguous signals. Simultaneously, the brain is searching its memories for comparable experiences to guide its next steps and coming up empty.
The result: “a fragile, frazzled state that keeps our thoughts simultaneously on edge and unfocused.” In other words, Covid brain isn’t just sleep deprivation or stress. You are not alone, you are not imagining things, and taking a couple of extra naps won’t solve the problem.
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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