Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

As the United States continues to address the coronavirus pandemic, I’m focused on ensuring the federal government is doing everything it can to support the health and safety of Illinoisans.  Addressing the spread of the virus will take a whole-of-government approach and coordination with the State of Illinois as preventive measures are implemented.  We also must support working families during this difficult time and provide health care professionals and scientists with every resource they need for treatments and research into COVID-19.

- U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

 

COVID-19 Vaccines:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated the safety and efficacy of vaccines to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) for two COVID-19 vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna. Vaccines are what the medical experts, including from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have concluded will help us get out of the pandemic quickly. 

Due to limited initial supply of vaccines, the federal and state government have identified a tiered prioritization schedule to fairly and quickly roll out the vaccine.  To learn about when you are eligible and where to access COVID-19 vaccinations, more information is available here: https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/

SUMMARY OF FEDERAL FUNDING BILLS

The first bipartisan coronavirus emergency response supplemental funding bill provided $7.8 billion to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, including funding for patient monitoring, lab testing, acquisition of test kits and protective equipment, and research into vaccines and therapeutics. A fact sheet on the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act is available here.

The second bipartisan coronavirus emergency response supplemental funding bill provided $100 billion to help protect families’ economic security, food security, and health security. A fact sheet on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is available here.

The third bipartisan coronavirus emergency response supplemental funding bill provided nearly $2.2 trillion to help working families, small businesses, and communities during the coronavirus outbreak. A fact sheet on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is available here.

  • A section-by-section of the package is available here.
  • A question and answer document is available here.

The fourth bipartisan coronavirus emergency response supplemental funding bill provided a total of $484 billion, primarily focused on helping small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.  The bill also provides funding for hospitals and health care providers and for testing capabilities. A fact sheet on the Paycheck Protection Program & Health Care Enhancement Act is available here.

 

Small Business

The CARES Act created several programs to help support small businesses:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable loans to eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations.  A second round of PPP loans is available to eligible small businesses and nonprofits that meet certain size and revenue loss requirements.  Updated, detailed information on eligibility, loan terms, forgiveness, and how to apply will be available here.
  • A fully-refundable payroll tax credit for employers covering up to70% of employee wages and certain health benefits paid to employees. Additional information is available here.

A section-by-section summary of the small business provisions in the CARES Act is available here A section-by-section summary of the small business provisions in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Act is available here.

State and Local Grant Funding (Coronavirus Relief Fund)

The CARES Act includes $150 billion in direct federal grant funding to states, local governments, and tribes to help fund expenditures incurred in responding to the coronavirus outbreak as well as to offset the cost of other essential government services not budgeted for in the wake of the economic downturn.  The funds apply to expenditures incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021.

The U.S. Treasury distributed these funds to states based on population. Illinois received $4.9 billion from this fund. CARES required 45 percent ofeach state’s funds to be sent directly to units of local government that serve populations of at least 500,000. In Illinois that means the City of Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, and Will County received their funding directly.  All other municipalities in Illinois can access this funding through the state. 

Illinois has set aside $250 million of these federal funds for Illinois localities through the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) Support Program.  Additional information on how to access Local CURE funding is available here.

Additional guidance from Treasury for state and local governments is available here

The CARES Act provided an additional $45 billion in disaster relief funding to support COVID-19 response.  Illinois’ Major Disaster Declaration enables local governments and certain private non-profit organizations to apply for Public Assistance for eligible response activities through FEMA.  Applicants must apply through the State.   More information can be found here.

 

Helping Working Families

The bipartisan bills include several provisions to help families deal with the impact of the outbreak:

  • Provides an additional $300 in benefits per worker, per week through March 14, 2021, and expands unemployment benefits to workers who normally do not qualify.  Information about how to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can be found here.
  • Provides refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave through the end of March 2021.  Additional information is available here.  
  • Authorizes a second round of direct cash payments to most individuals and families of up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples),including payments for mixed-status households. Additional information can be found here.

 

Hospital & Health Providers Funding

The CARES Act and the Payment Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act included several provisions to provide relief and support for the heroic efforts of our nation’s frontline health care workers.

 

Provider Relief Fund.  The Acts created a fund at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute $178 billion in direct, emergency funding to medical facilities and providers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, to account for increased expenditures and lost revenues. 

  • HHS has already allocated more than $150 billion for facilitiesand providers across the United States, through several distribution rounds (each based upon different methodologies and targeted on different hospitals or types of health providers).  HHS will continue to allocate the remaining funds to address ongoing challenges posed by a range of health providers.
  • Additional information is available here.

 

Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.  This expanded program provides up-front, lump sum Medicare payments to medical facilities and providers for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has distributed more than $100 billion to facilities and providers across the United States, including more than $4 billion to Illinois.
  • Medical facilities and providers may request up to 125 percent of their Medicare payment amounts for a six-month period, which must be repaid, including by crediting future Medicare claims.  The program has paused additional advanced payments as CMS assesses the ongoing impact. 
  • Additional information is available here.

 

Education Stablization Fund

The CARES Act includes $30.8 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) to assist elementary and secondary as well as higher education meet the additional burdens associated with coronavirus.  More information will be available from ED on applying for these funds in the coming days.  The funds will be allocated among the three components.

  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund ($3 billion nationally).  Funding will be awarded to local educational agencies deemed to be most significantly impacted by coronavirus at the discretion of the State. 
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund ($13.5 billion nationally).  Provides formula grants to state educational agencies for distribution to local educational agencies.  The Illinois State Board of Education has provided information about this funding here and preliminary estimates by district here
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund ($14.25 billion nationally).  Provides formula grants to institutions of higher education.    
  • The year-end relief bill provides $82 billion nationwide for education, including $4.05 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Fund, $54 billion for K-12 educaiton, and $20 bilion for higher education. 
  • The bill provides $10 billion in much needed support to the child care sector and $250 million for Head Start programs.

 

Federal Student Loan Relief

The CARES Act suspends federal Direct student loan monthly payments—interest free—for six months until September 30, 2020. More information and FAQs can be found here

 

FEDERAL RESOURCES

CDC Resources - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

 

ILLINOIS RESOURCES

Coronavirus.illinois.gov 

Illinois COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-889-3931

  

TRAVEL

As of March 31, 2020, the Department of State advised all U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  

At present the Department of State is making every effort to assist U.S. citizens overseas who wish to return to the United States. If you wish to return to the United States, you should make arrangements to do so now. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens should arrange for immediate return to the United States by commercial carrier, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

If you have a COVID-19 virus related emergency overseas, please contact the nearest  U.S. embassy or consulate or call our assistance call center:

For more information, please visit the State Department's COVID-19 Traveler Information website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html

SmartTraveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Any U.S. citizens who do travel overseas should enroll in the Department of State’s SmartTraveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Enrollment in STEP enables the American Citizen Services unit in the U.S. Embassy in each country to reach out directly to a U.S. citizen in need of assistance.  STEP also allows U.S. citizens to receive Alerts to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc.

Additional information for travelers: