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Coronavirus In Chicago: State Needs To Act Now To Give Rent Relief, Help For Small Businesses, Pritzker Says

"There's so many people who are struggling right now to pay their rent," said Gov. JB Pritzker. "We want to make sure people can pay their rent, and we want to provide the assistance to do that."

A mask is draped over one of the lion statues outside of the Art Institute of Chicago on April 30, 2020. Starting May 1, Illinois residents are required to wear face masks in public when social distancing is not an option.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Coronavirus’s damage to the state’s economy has been “devastating,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.

With the curve now flattening and the state making cautious moves to reopen, it’s time for lawmakers to get back to work to help families and businesses struggling due to the crisis, Pritzker said during a Tuesday press conference.

That means the General Assembly needs to meet and look at how it can provide things like rent and mortgage relief, the governor said. He called on the General Assembly to meet before the end of May so it can work on “very necessary things, like our budget.”

“We must do more,” Pritzker said. “The Legislature must convene so we can begin to put our financial and economic house back in order, even as we battle this terrible virus. The General Assembly needs to pass a comprehensive plan to support families, small businesses and small towns.”

The General Assembly hasn’t met during the crisis. Pritzker’s governed and made emergency moves through executive orders like the stay at home order.

The Legislature faces unique challenges in trying to meet: It has 177 members, and they need staff and security to meet — but such a crowd makes social distancing difficult. And while other governments, including Chicago’s City Council, have simply met online to sidestep those issues, the General Assembly is legally prohibited from doing so.

But the Legislature needs to find a way to convene and act to create financial aid packages, Pritzker said.

“We need to make sure we are supporting the people who make our economy go,” Pritzker said. “… We need rent and mortgage assistance for small businesses, too. We ought to provide grants and loans for businesses starting and restarting and tax credits for small business job recovery.”

The state has made various moves to help people financially during the crisis: evictions are banned for now and the state has pressured utility companies to avoid shutoffs, and there have been grants for small businesses.

A new $25 million grant program was announced Tuesday, with the money meant to help towns “jumpstart” infrastructure projects they might otherwise have had to cancel due to revenue loss from the pandemic, Pritzker said.

Chicago’s tried to help residents with limited funds. A city program offered $1,000 in rent relief to 2,000 Chicagoans. And in late April, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said banks and landlords have a “moral imperative” to keep people in their homes. To that end, the city created a pledge for landlords and banks, asking them to help struggling tenants.

But more is needed — especially when it comes to rent and mortgage relief, Pritzker said.

“… I’m calling on the Legislature … to increase the amount we’re providing for those relief programs, particularly for rent relief,” Pritzker said. “There’s so many people who are struggling right now to pay their rent. … We want to make sure people can pay their rent, and we want to provide the assistance to do that.”

Illinois’ budget has already been stretched thin by the pandemic. The state’s gotten federal funding to help it fight coronavirus and protect residents, but Pritzker said the state also needs help making up for all the revenue lost due to the crisis.

In the current fiscal year that ends June 30, Illinois is facing a $2.7 billion shortfall. And it gets worse next year, when state budget experts forecast a $6.2 billion budget gap. That could balloon to $7.4 billion if a graduated income tax that’s on the ballot for November isn’t approved, Pritzker previously said.

Pritzker’s called on the federal government to pass another CARES Act package that would provide more aid to small towns and would give people rent and mortgage relief.

Lightfoot has no scheduled press conferences. Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 83,021 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Tuesday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 3,601 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 32,595 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,435 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Street Vendors: Street vendors are seeing sales plummet — but they have few, if any, options for emergency relief. Volunteers are raising money to help families, many of them undocumented, who are struggling.

Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

Armory: The Broadway Armory has become an emergency homeless shelter as city officials try to alleviate crowding at existing facilities and protect people who are homeless from coronavirus.

Therapy: The Center on Halsted is launching virtual therapy groups to support LGBTQ people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Baseball: Lightfoot said she’d “consider” a plan from Major League Baseball to play games this summer — but only if it can be done safely.

Gig Workers: About 50,000 1099 and gig workers filed for unemployment in the first day they were able to do so in Illinois.

 Church Services: Belmont Cragin church held services illegally and most of the attendees were from outside the neighborhood. The area is struggling as it battles thousands of coronavirus cases.

Now, residents are planning to protest the church.

• Lightfoot: The mayor said she was “not going to apologize for caring about Black Chicago” after some criticized her for telling a group of Black youths to go home.

• Reopening: Chicago is not on track to enter the next phase of the state’s reopening plan by May 29, Pritzker said.

• Peak: The state’s expected coronavirus peak has been pushed back into mid-June.

• Remdesivir: Illinois received its first shipment of remdesivir, the antiviral drug that has shown success in helping people recover from coronavirus.

• Testing Sites: The city is opening six more testing sites on the South and West sides.

• Blue Angels: The famed U.S. Navy Blue Angels will fly over Chicago on Tuesday.

• Glassblowing: A West Side ceramics and glassblowing studio is launching a free weeklong virtual art experience for neighbors struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

• Unemployment: 1099 and gig workers can now file claims for unemployment.

• Latino Communities: Faced with a surge of coronavirus cases in Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods, the city is scrambling to increase testing and treatment on the city’s South and West sides.

 Pro Sports: Chicago sports teams likely won’t be able to have fans at games for months, Pritzker said.

• Keep Isolating: It’s not safe to start expanding your “quarantine circle,” doctors said.

 “Still At War:” Though the weather is getting nicer, people must continue to stay at home so Illinois can win its war against COVID-19, Ezike said.

• Restaurants: The city’s eateries are urging customers to skip GrubHub and similar services and order directly from them so they can make it through the crisis.

• Help for Artists: The statewide Artist Relief Fund is again taking applications.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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