Last week I was pleased to join my colleagues State Rep. Terri Bryant and State Rep. Patrick Windhorst for a “Virtual Town Hall” meeting. What an experience! I was so pleased to be able to reconnect ‘face to face’ or ‘device to device’ with many constituents that I have not been able to meet at various events throughout the duration of this ‘stay-at-home’ order.
I have been able to make it out to a few places to help out and meet with hard working volunteers. Here are some quick photos from my visit to Benton Elementary School today to help pack lunches!
MARION – Three Southern Illinois Republican State Representatives are calling for Governor JB Pritzker to take immediate action to remedy issues plaguing the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Web site and telephone hotline failures have caused thousands of Illinoisans to be unable to file for unemployment benefits.
“My offices have been overwhelmed with phone calls from constituents that are not able to file online or to even speak with someone on the phone,” Bryant said. “I have been supportive of the governor’s stay at home orders and guidelines for social distancing. I still am. But, re-assigning staff and seeking private sector technical assistance would certainly go a long way to ease the backlog and get unemployed people the benefits they need.”
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) says his office is receiving similar complaints.
“Governor Pritzker said IDES will not be able to process unemployment claims for self-employed workers until the middle of May,” Windhorst said. I call on the governor to redeploy state workers and seek help from the private sector and the federal government to help reduce the delays applicants are experiencing.”
State Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) encouraged the governor to act on good advice when he gets it from legislators or outside sources.
“We’ve seen the governor make a lot of decisions that have impacted every single Illinoisan. Now we are asking him to make decisions to help those people that have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus emergency,” Severin said. “Where other states have used the federal government’s IT resources, Illinois has not. Where other states have relied on the private sector’s technical expertise, Illinois up until now has not. The question is, why? The governor can take further actions to fix the backlog at IDES. Unemployed people in Illinois have bills that are due and families to feed. The time to fix the problems at IDES is now.”
Illinoisans are reminded that because all IDES offices are currently closed, applying for benefits is only available online and over the phone. Interested persons can find all available information on how and when to file for unemployment by visiting https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/default.aspx or by calling:
- MyTax Illinois/Employer Hotline questions: (800) 247-4984
- Illinois Job Link questions: (877) 342-7533
- Unemployment Insurance Claim questions: (800) 244-5631
WI-FI Hotspot Map helps Students during Pandemic
April 17, 2020
Illinois state agencies released a wi-fi hotspot map today to help students across the state who lack internet access in their homes. The effort was spearheaded by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) along with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), the Office of the Secretary of State Illinois State Library, and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).
“The Illinois Board of Higher Education embarked on a collaborative project to identify public locations across the state where students could tap into free internet access,” said IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro. “It’s key to helping our state’s students to ‘attend’ class, use video and conference calling, conducting research, emailing assignments, and more.”
Thousands of Illinois students are participating in e-learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 15th, the wi-fi map has 200 hotspots students can use to complete coursework. Students and their parents or guardians should continue to practice social distancing by remaining in their cars while utilizing the hotspots. If a student or caretaker is sick or experiencing symptoms, they should remain at home.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the life of every Illinois student but not equally,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The transition to remote learning has accelerated our efforts to close the digital divide among Illinois students and families. This map is one way to level the playing field in the short-term and to increase access to the tools students and educators need to engage more deeply in remote education.”
Wi-fi hotspots are available at multiple locations around the state including local colleges and libraries. To find a hotspot near you, click here.
Your Questions Answered:
As I mentioned before, last week’s virtual town hall meeting shined a light on a couple of important issues. Some of the questions we received were in regard to the most recent decisions that have been announced by the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity that temporarily derailed the in-store sales of plant and flower seeds and mature plants. We also were alerted to concerns that Southern Illinois hotels were being designated and taken over by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency or FEMA.
Your Questions Answered: Illinois DCEO and the Latest Available Garden Center Information
Last Thursday DCEO revised their original position on greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries. Below is text that comes directly from DCEO’s Essential Business Frequently Asked Questions:
What about greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries?
Our original guidance provided that “stores that sell supplies that assist with either (a) agriculture; or (b) products for landscaping can continue to sell those products to the public, provided adequate social distancing is complied with.” This guidance remains valid.
We recently expanded our guidance so that all garden stores, garden centers, and nurseries (even those that did not fall within our original guidance above) are allowed to sell products for delivery or pickup. That expanded guidance states: “Garden stores and greenhouses can remain open for purposes of maintaining inventory, and to fulfill online and phone orders for pick-up or delivery only.” This guidance applies to both standalone stores as well as garden centers that are part of a larger store (such as a garden center that is part of a hardware store or big box stores such as Lowes or Home Depot).
Your Questions Answered: Southern Illinois Hotels and COVID-19
After reading multiple social media posts and hearing directly from several constituents regarding the use of hotels in the area for COVID driven needs, I was able to speak directly to a representative of IEMA to ask what was going on. The following information was made available to me on this subject. The following is from my notes taken during the conversation:
There are 3 hotel locations in the State to be used as an alternative site for those affected by COVID issues. Those locations are Mt. Vernon, Springfield, and Schaumburg. At this time there is no plan for additional locations. The locations are simply being prepared in the event they are needed. Each location is to house only those from the region in which it is located. There is no plan at this time to move anyone from other parts of the state to the southern Illinois region.
The criteria being used to determine who will be housed at each location are as follows:
1) Medical professionals who may feel uncomfortable going to their individual homes due to fear of exposing loved ones to COVID.
2) COVID affected, but no need for hospitalization. Also a type of step down. The person may have been previously hospitalized, no longer requires hospitalization, but should not yet return home.
3) Persons living as part of the homeless population who are vulnerable to COVID and have nowhere to self-quarantine.
At this time there is no one being housed at the Mt. Vernon location. All placements will go through the local Health Dept. for approval.
Workplace Safety and Workplace Rights:
The Attorney General’s Workplace Rights Bureau, and the Department of Labor (IDOL) are both investigating employee complaints pertaining to the lack of implementation of safe and sanitary practices in the workplace. It is in our best interest and of the general public that manufacturers take the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 especially in the ranks of those deemed essential workers that are the engine of our state.
Please refer to the table below to determine the appropriate entity to submit an employee’s complaint. (For a detailed outline see attached a file issued by IDOL):
Reporting a Public Employer
(i.e. state and local government)
Reporting a Private Sector Employer
Submit a complaint with the Illinois OSHA at: https://www2.illinois.gov/idol/Laws-Rules/safety/Pages/Hazards.aspx.
Option A: Submit a complaint with the Federal OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or online: www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html.
To view the Federal OSHA guidelines for enforcement, click here.
Option B: Submit a complaint with the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights Bureau at (844) 740-5076 or submit a complaint online.
The complaint will then be categorized as one of the following and follow its course.
Low Risk – Social Distancing, CDC Guidelines, Sanitary Work Environment: failure to maintain less than 50 or more people in an area, failure to maintain a 6 feet distance between workers on a line, or failure to exercise cleaning standards;
High Risk – Failure to maintain a safe work environment: such as lack of personal protective equipment.
Throughout this crisis, a mountain of information has been dropped on the people of Illinois, and indeed into the laps of your legislators and their staff. We have done our best to keep you up to date on the latest breaking news from the Governor to every state agency. To aid in that effort, the Hosue Republicans have put together a useful website with links and articles you where you can read all the latest news.
The State of Illinois also maintains a highly informative website that provides information on all things “coronavirus”.
STATE REP. DAVE SEVERIN ANNOUNCES ‘BACKPACKS FOR BUDDIES’ DRIVE TO AID CHILDREN IN EMERGENCY FOSTER CARE
Marion….State Representative Dave Severin has announced an extension to his “Backpacks for Buddies” drive to collect ‘go’ bags for children facing emergency family situations and being placed in foster care.
Severin says that far too often, children removed from their homes are forced to place their personal toiletry items, clothing, blankets, toys, and other personal comfort items into black trash bags.
“We have had great success helping to raise awareness on an issue that has already helped make the lives of young children and adolescents placed in emergency foster care a little easier,” Severin said. “When children are faced with the unfortunate situation of being displaced from their home and placed into foster care, many do not have necessary care items to make it through the night or the next day. Our efforts have resulted in Southern Illinois coming together to help in a BIG way. We’ve received hundreds of backpacks already and we’re once again asking for donations to keep the drive going. This is a tough time for everyone, but for children facing emergency situations, this can be a dangerous and lonely time. Let’s do all we can to help!”
Severin says he is still collecting Backpacks for Buddies at his district office in Marion located at 600 Halfway Road. The backpacks will be distributed to DCFS and Southern Illinois child protection agency partners as they are received throughout the rest of 2019.
Although any toiletry or hygiene product donations will be accepted, Rep. Severin is seeking the following items as part of the “Backpacks for Buddies” drive.
- A new backpack (can be themed for boys or girls, or gender neutral for adolescent foster children)
- The backpacks can be filled with all or some of the following items: Toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, body wash or bar soap, and feminine hygiene products for adolescent females.
For more information, please visit RepSeverin.com/BackPacksforBuddies or call 618-440-5090.
Throughout the rest of this crisis, my office will only be offering remote constituent service. You can contact my office staff by calling 618-440-5090 or email me at Severin@ILHouseGOP.org. Please stay safe and heed the warnings from elected officials.