Legislative News from Rep. Avery Bourne

All of Illinois Moves to Phase 4 of Reopen Plan

On Friday, June 26, all of Illinois moved into Phase 4 of Governor Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan. While we will enjoy a few loosened restrictions, Phase 4 is still quite restrictive. For example, indoor seating at restaurants is limited to 25% of capacity, and bowling alleys and movie theaters are limited to 50% capacity or 50 patrons, whichever is lower. As is the case with many elements of the reopen plan, I find many elements of Phase 4 to be overly restrictive, lacking some elements of common sense, and a barrier toward economic recovery. I remain disappointed that Governor Pritzker refuses to allow for local control over some reopening decisions, and insists that all Illinois communities be treated the same. Our local differences should not be ignored! Click here to learn more about the rules included in Phase 4 of the Pritzker reopen plan.

ISBE and IDPH Announce Rules for Return to In-Person Learning

Parents and educators have been waiting for a long time to see the official guidance for how our schools will educate children in the fall. Last week the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced guidelines for Illinois schools to safely return to in-person Instruction. The plan includes the wearing of masks, limited class sizes, and heightened cleaning requirements. The rules have already sparked a spirited debate between those who feel the rules are too strict and those who feel they are appropriate or don’t go far enough. I have spoken with parents, teachers, superintendents and will continue these conversations so I can advocate for the best possible policies to do what is best for our kids. Again I am disappointed by the lack of input on these policies. I was appointed to a working group to give input on guidelines for schools reopening. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Governor’s office never convened the working group before putting out the guidelines. Click here to learn more.

Grants Available to Assist with Dairy Entrepreneurship

The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA) has announced a new grant program that will provide Midwestern dairy farmers and dairy-related businesses with financial and technical support. This initiative, a joint effort between the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), was designed to support and promote the diversification and addition of value-added products to the Midwest dairy industry. Grant applications are available on the DBIA website, and the grant application period is now open.

Goals of this program include:

  • Increasing on-farm diversification
  • Creating value-added dairy products such as specialty cheeses
  • Focusing on export opportunities for farm-scale and processor dairy products  

Funds totaling $220,000 will be disbursed and awarded with individual projects receiving up to $20,000. The deadline to complete and return applications is August 14th. Selected producers and business owners will be notified on September 4th. DBIA is also coordinating online webinars and compiling resources for dairy producers and processors. Click here to learn more. 

Applications Live for $85 Million in New Grants to Help Businesses and Communities Recover

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has posted applications for two new business and economic recovery programs. Both programs offer priority for small businesses whose operations were heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic, for those located in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs), as well as those in communities damaged by recent civil unrest. DIAs are low-income areas that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases. 

Illinois Facing Severe Blood Shortage

Throughout the current health crisis, one way Illinoisans have really helped out is through the donation of blood and platelets. Blood donation is safe, and centers are taking all necessary precautions in the wake of COVID-19. There is currently an urgent need for blood and platelets. I donated last week in Farmersville and I hope that you will consider donating too! You can find blood drives near you at https://www.redcrossblood.org/ and https://login.bloodcenter.org/donor/schedules/zip?_ga=2.78134932.1474745036.1593024293-954191336.1536337419

New Business Interruption Grants Program 

The first round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG) will provide $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. The BIG Program is available for up to 3,500 businesses and DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses mid-July. Applications for this grant will be accepted between Friday, June 26 and 5:00 PM on Tuesday, July 7.

Specifically, the program includes support for: 

  • Businesses in Disproportionate Impacted Areas (DIAs) – $20 million for businesses that are located in a subset of DIAs that have recently experienced significant property damage, providing 1,000 grants of $20,000 each 
  • Bars and Restaurants – $20 million for bars and restaurants unable to offer outside service, providing at least 1,000 grants of up to $20,000 each 
  • Barbershops and Salons – $10 million for barbershops and salons, providing 1,000 grants of $10,000 each 
  • Gyms and Fitness Centers – $10 million for gyms and fitness centers that have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19, providing 500 grants of $20,000 each

Rep. Bourne Serves as 4-H Project Judge

Although it was done a little differently this year, I recently had the privilege of judging some very tasty (looking) 4-H projects through the 4-H Virtual Fair. This is truly one of my favorite events to participate in each year because I know how hard these kids work and I know how valuable 4-H has been in my life. Congratulations to all of the 4-Hers in Macoupin and Montgomery County who submitted their projects for the show this year. I look forward to judging entries in person next year!

COVID-19 Utility Relief Available through ICC

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has approved a program that helps ensure eligible residential and small business utility customers can continue to receive life-saving electric, gas, water and sewer services once the moratorium on disconnections for non-payment and late payment fees expires. On Thursday, the ICC voted unanimously in favor of a stipulated agreement negotiated by Commission Staff, the Attorney General’s Office and other consumer advocate groups, and the state’s largest utilities, offering temporary, more flexible credit and collection procedures to customers financially hard hit by COVID-19. A separate agreement was also approved with smaller electricity, gas and water utilities that serve Illinois residents. Click here to learn more.

In addition, the state has increased funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) programs to help families impacted by the pandemic. Applicants for these programs will be served on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is exhausted. These programs provide assistance with food, rent, utilities, temporary shelter, medicine and other essential household services. To learn more about these assistance programs, click here.

 Don’t Forget that Taxes are Due on July 15

Just a reminder that the state individual income tax returns were delayed this year and are now due July 15, the same date set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for federal returns. 

The fastest, most secure way to receive a refund is to file a tax return electronically and request direct deposit into a checking or savings account. Taxpayers may file and pay their IL-1040 for free through MyTax Illinois. Taxpayers who have already filed a return can check their status by using the Where’s My Refund? link located at www.MyTax.Illinois.Gov. For the most up-to-date information, forms, schedules, and instructions for the 2019 tax year, please visit IDOR’s website at: tax.illinois.gov. IDOR offices are currently closed to the public; taxpayers needing assistance can contact the department by phone at 800-732-8866 or via email (addresses available at tax.illinois.gov).

Happy Independence Day! 

Finally, I hope you have a great holiday weekend celebrating our nation’s birthday! Although celebrations will most likely be a little different this year, please take time to reflect on the profound sacrifices that have been made for our nation and our freedoms!