Legislative News from Rep. Avery Bourne

I couldn’t write a newsletter to you without first acknowledging the heartbreak in our nation. It has been difficult to find the right words. Our nation is hurting. Please pray for the families who had their loved ones senselessly taken too soon. Pray for our law enforcement and their families. Pray for those who are peacefully protesting. Pray for the small business owners who for months have struggled and now see their livelihoods destroyed. Pray for hearts to change, that everyone will be seen as a child of God. And, pray for our leaders. We can all do better. There aren’t any easy answers, but the work of equality is something we must all recommit to every day. 

Central Illinois Stuck in Phase 3 in Pritzker Reopen Plan

Here in Central Illinois, we are now meeting the criteria for Phase 4, yet we are still being artificially held back by Governor Pritzker’s onerous “Restore Illinois” plan. The 39 counties that comprise his “Central” region continue to post positivity rates (currently 1.7%) well below the rest of the state by almost half! I will continue to push for a more localized approach, because the Governor’s plan continues to prevent full economic recovery in this part of the state. A regional plan should recognize the differences in the state – something the Governor’s plan does not do. I join many of my Central Illinois colleagues in urging change, because our part of the state should be open now!

Toolkits Available to Assist Businesses During Phase 3 of the Pritzker Reopen Plan

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has developed a free tool kit to help employers implement the Governor’s Restore Illinois Phase 3, Guidelines for Safely Reopening Businesses. The business toolkit includes signage, training checklists, and other resources to ensure activities are conducted in accordance with the latest public health recommendations. Ten main industry categories are included in Phase 3, each with their own set of guidelines and toolkits. Details can be found on the DCEO website. For direct support, contact DCEO Business Hotline Monday through Friday at 1-800-252-2923, or email at: ceo.support@illinois.gov.

Community Events

I had the pleasure of attending Taylorville FFA’s unique annual banquet on Friday in a new “drive in movie” format. I’m so proud of these students and have truly missed being able to visit with people at events and am looking forward to new and creative ways of connecting. If you have any events you would like me to attend, please let me know! 

Downstate Small Business Stabilization Grants Come Up Short in Central IL

We in Central Illinois were excited to learn that small business assistance would be available during the COVID-19 crisis through a Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO). At the time, Governor Pritzker touted the program as an important way to deliver critical support to small businesses forced to close due to his executive orders

The application process was tedious, as local governments had to apply to DCEO on behalf of businesses in their jurisdiction who had financial need because of COVID-related closures and limitations on business. Completed applications for each business were at least 80 pages long. Many small businesses were unable to apply for a grant because the amount of work required from their city or county was too much of a burden on small local governments. Still, others made their way through the onerous application process and hoped they would be beneficiaries of this $20 million state aid program.

While small businesses in downstate Illinois continue to struggle, last week I learned that just $1.3 million of the original $20 million has been awarded, and that only 65 businesses in the entire state will be receiving grants. Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) responded to the news by asking DECO to reconsider their grant program, and offer real, substantive small business support to those who applied for assistance. I stand with Deputy Leader Demmer, and urge DECO to review their process and deliver real aid the businesses that are desperate for help right now. Click here to read Leader Demmer’s call for real small business support.

Behind-the-Wheel Instruction can resume! 

Students may participate in behind-the-wheel instruction according to new guidelines released by the State Board of Education. This is a change I have been advocating for after hearing from many students and parents. There are safety guidelines that must be met like vehicles must be cleaned and sanitized between each use and only two students and one instructor may be in a vehicle at a time. If interested, please contact your school district to find out if they will be opening up the opportunity for summer driving instruction. 

State Board of Education Issues Guidelines for Permitted Summer School Activities in Phase 3

Late last week the IL State Board of Education (ISBE) announced the list of summer school-related activities that will be allowed in Phase 3, along with a list of rules. Decisions regarding whether to conduct allowable activities during Phase 3 will remain at the discretion of local school authorities, in consultation with local public health departments

Summer School: Schools and districts may conduct in-person summer school. Special populations, which may include students with IEPs, English Learners, and students who received incompletes during remote instruction, should receive priority consideration for services.

Summer Camps and Other Programs: Schools and districts may allow buildings to be used for summer camps and other programs sponsored by third parties. Playgrounds may not be used.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings: Districts may conduct IEP meetings for families who have been unable to engage in virtual IEP meetings. These meetings should still be held virtually, to the greatest extent possible.

Mediation and Due Process Hearings: Mediations and due process hearings may take place in person. However, it is recommended that mediation and due process hearings still be conducted virtually, if all parties agree to do so.

School Registration: Staff may provide in-person registration for students and families, when necessary. Schools and districts should also provide remote registration opportunities.

Special Education Evaluations: Districts may conduct evaluations that could not be completed virtually. Evaluations should still be held virtually, to the greatest extent possible.

Child Find: Districts may conduct activities pertaining to the legal requirement that schools find all children who have disabilities and who may be entitled to special education services.

Early Childhood, Special Education, and English Learner Screenings: Schools and districts may conduct in-person early childhood, special education, and English Learner screenings.

Extended School Year: Districts may offer extended school year services, as appropriate, to students whose Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) require the service.

Staff Meetings and Professional Development: Districts may convene staff members for any appropriate training, planning, and professional development purposes.

Summer Meals Distribution: ISBE highly encourages school districts to evaluate the needs of their students and community as they transition into the different phases of opening the state and continue to provide meals through the summer to meet the needs of their communities. The required Summer Food Service trainings can be conducted virtually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended several key flexibilities through Aug. 31, 2020, to allow school districts to continue to provide non-congregate meals to meet the needs of their communities. Further, Public Act 096-0734 requires every public school in which at least 50 percent of the students were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and has a summer school program must provide a summer breakfast and/or lunch to the students in the summer school and children in that community. https://www.isbe.net/Documents/051520waiverextensions.pdf

Testing Centers: Schools may serve as testing sites for students.

Click here to learn more.

Small Business Development Center Receives $7.3 Million to Help Illinois Small Businesses

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has announced a new $7.3 million investment from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program – a statewide network focused solely on supporting Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs in starting, growing and maintaining their businesses. There is no cost to small business owners for SBDC services. In the wake of COVID-19, SBDCs have played a vital role in connecting businesses with support resources and assistance programs designed to help keep businesses afloat. New funding will bolster the SBDC network of 40 community-based teams to provide additional resources for education, training and professional business advising to small businesses that have experienced supply chain disruptions, staffing challenges, a decrease in gross receipts or customers, or a closure as a result of COVID-19.

Since the beginning of March, SBDCs have seen a 54% increase in businesses served through one-on-one sessions and trainings, relative to the same time frame last year. These efforts have helped approximately 182 unique businesses get access to an estimated $19 million in grants and loans from state and federal programs in recent weeks. These businesses employ a combined 34,000 workers throughout the state. Click here for more information and to see a list of statewide SBDC locations.

Summer Reading Program Underway in 95th District

My 2020 summer reading program is well underway, but it’s not too late to participate. This year’s theme is “Summer Reading Road Trip” and I hope all K-5 students from the 95th District will join!

Participation in my Summer Reading Road Trip is easy: K-5 students living in the 95th District should read any 8 books of their choice over the summer. Books of 150 pages or more count as two books.

There are two ways to submit a completed reading list:

  • Print this form, fill it out, and mail it to my office at: 106 E. Columbian Boulevard North, PO Box 38, Litchfield, IL  62056; or
  • Go to RepBourne.com, click on the Summer Reading Program link, and fill out the Google form

Completed forms are due no later than the end of the day on Friday, August 14. All K-5 participants will receive an official certificate of achievement from the Illinois House of Representatives and free ice cream. Click here to access the summer reading flyer, and don’t hesitate to contact my office at (217) 324-5200 if you have questions. Happy reading!

All Illinoisans Can Now Get Tested for COVID-19

The State of Illinois is opening its community-based testing sites for all Illinoisans to get tested, regardless of symptoms or other criteria. As we move through the state reopening plan, testing will be crucial to identifying new cases and taking immediate action to prevent additional spread. No appointment, doctor referral, or insurance is needed at state operated drive-thru sites, and testing is available at no cost to the individual.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is recommending anyone who has recently been part of a mass gathering, including rallies and protests over the past week, get tested for COVID-19. A list of public and private testing sites can be found at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/testing.

DMV Facilities and Emissions Testing Stations Reopen

Secretary of State DMV offices reopened last week, and through July 31 employees will ONLY provide services for new drivers, those with expired driver’s licenses or ID cards, and vehicle transactions. Currently, there are more than 700,000 expired driver’s licenses/ID cards and 1.9 million expired vehicle registrations. Keep in mind, there’s no need for everyone to flock to their nearest DMV right away, because expired licenses, ID cards and vehicle stickers will remain valid through October, 2020. For more information, click here.

Vehicle emissions testing also resumed June 1 at most Illinois Air Team testing locations. Again, vehicle registration expiration dates have been extended without penalty for at least 90 days. In order to manage traffic volume at stations and reduce motorist wait times, Illinois EPA is asking motorists to stagger their testing based on their registration expiration dates. Motorists with March or earlier registration expiration dates should test their vehicles in June. Motorists with other expiration dates will find a table of suggested testing dates on the Air Team webpage. To obtain additional information on precautions, testing, and answers to frequently asked questions, please go to the Air Team website or call the Air Team Call Center at 844-258-9071.