CHICAGO (CBS) — With COVID-19 cases on the rise in the city and throughout the state, Chicago’s mayor once again urged people to take personal precautions and said the federal government has an obligation to help those businesses suffering because of the pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot had strong words for the federal government, saying it needs to provide money to places heavily impacted by the coronavirus closings.
“I’m just telling anybody in urging anybody within the sound of my voice: Stand up and demand a level of accountability from the House and the Senate. Put a bill on. Whether it’s this president or the next president, we desperately need help from the federal government to solve so many of these challenges, on behalf of our neighbors or friends or small businesses. We need this done,” Lightfoot said, who added that despite the uncertainty of the presidential election, the government should be helping sooner rather than later.
“We’re doing our part. But life would be better if we had a functioning federal government,” Lightfoot said. “Not just in Chicago, or Illinois, or even the Midwest, but all across this country who are hurting and suffering as a result of COVID-19 economic meltdown. So please, please, Congress, stand up and do your job.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said what is happening now in the city with case surges is far more dangerous than at the start of the pandemic.
“We have an outbreak that is worse than what we saw in our first peak with no signs of slowing down. As of today, our average number of new cases, just in Chicago, is 1,395 cases,” Arwady said. “To remind you, we want this number less than 200 cases per day.”
Arwady said that during the summer, cases were in the 200-400 range.
“Then just over the last month, this is what we’ve seen. Our cast positivity city wide is now 10.9%. That means more than one in 10 of the people being tested for COVID right now are coming back positive. That should be less than 5%,” she said.
The mayor made the plea as she announced a new multimillion dollar grant program people can apply for if their small business has been severely impacted by the pandemic.
“As mayor I’ve made a priority to do everything in my power to support our residents, our workers and our businesses, as we all continue to navigate these very uncharted waters. And it’s in that spirit that I am proud to join these fellows city leaders in announcing for new relief initiatives to support our neighborhood bars and restaurants,” Lightfoot said. “We’re rolling out a $10 million hospitality grant program to assist our city’s independent bars and restaurants that have had to shut down indoor service as a result of the state order.”
Opening for applications, the Chicago Hospitality Grant Program will reallocate CARES Act funding to supplement state and federal relief programs with grants of $10,000 to independent bars and restaurants throughout Chicago affected by recent closures of indoor service.
“As we navigate the second surge of COVID-19, I am committed to using every available resource to its maximum potential to protect our residents and support our businesses,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Our hospitality industry is at a crossroads and we each have a role to play in helping our bars and restaurants survive. The relief package will help, but we still need all residents to wear a mask, social distance, avoid gathering in large groups and wash their hands. When we all do our part to bring cases down, we not only save lives but also ensure that our businesses can reopen quickly and safely.”
The mayor said she will introduce legislation to City Council to temporarily cap the third-party company fees can charge restaurants for delivery services. Lightfoot called on Chicagoans to support local establishments through the Take Out Chicago contest. The City is also announcing the creation of a new ChiServes.com portal for hospitality workers impacted by COVID-19 to access workforce development support resources.
The Chicago Hospitality Grant Program, administered with the support of World Business Chicago and Accion Serving Illinois and Indiana, will provide businesses with grants of $10,000 each.
To be eligible, establishments must be a bar or restaurant, as defined by City and State code, with annual revenue of under $3 million, and must have experienced economic distress and loss due to COVID-19 on or after March 1, 2020 totaling at least 25% of annual net revenue.
Regional and/or national chain businesses with more than two total establishments are ineligible, as are adult entertainment facilities.
Funds must be used to cover things like payroll expenses, replenishment of inventory and/or mortgage, rent and utilities payments. Grants will be distributed via lottery to recipients throughout the city, with 60% of grants reserved for businesses in low and moderate-income Community Areas. Applications will open the week of November 16. Lightfoot said information on where to apply will be coming soon.
The city is also launching a contest geared towards encouraging people to order from local restaurants.
Called Take Out Chicago, the program is for residents that order takeout from ten unique bars and restaurants between November 5 and December 15 will be entered into a contest to win a VIP experience at one of Chicago’s premier cultural institutions. Chicagoans can learn more and submit their entry at Chicago.gov/takeout. Recipients will be selected via lottery to win VIP tours for themselves and three family members at a select Chicago destination, including the Art Institute, DuSable Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Soldier Field and other places. People participating should also post their orders with the #takeoutchicago hashtag.
The announcement comes as Chicago, the state of Illinois and the entire Midwest region continue to experience an alarming surge of COVID-19. Chicago is close to recording 1,400 new cases per day (based on a 7-day rolling average), the test positivity rate has risen above 10% and, overall, the city is now close to 110,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Chicago Department of Public Health is not adding or removing any states from its emergency travel order this week, after warning last week that Michigan could soon be added to the list.
The order requires people to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving from states and territories seeing high COVID-19 case counts, and the list currently includes 31 states and Puerto Rico:
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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