CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday that the state will be borrowing $2 billion from the federal government to mitigate the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic – less than half of the $5 billion that was offered.
At his daily coronavirus briefing, the governor broke down the deleterious financial effects of the pandemic – which break down into two categories. The first is the need to provide protections to the public in the form of goods such as personal protective equipment distribution to first responders and ventilators, as well as supports for small businesses and rental assistance programs.
For that, Pritzker said, the federal government set up the CARES Act for partial reimbursements to state and local governments.
But the federal government has not provided any reimbursements for the massive loss of tax revenue that state and local governments have experienced. Those funds support normal state expenditures such as schools, social services, and health care, Pritzker said.
Tax revenues have been dragged down by job losses, fewer purchases of goods, and a complete shutdown of the travel and tourism industry, Pritzker said.
Pritzker said he has spoken to governors of both parties, as well as members of the U.S. House and Senate, to advocate for direct federal aid to make up for state and local governments’ tax revenue losses. He said President-elect Joe Biden and the House have pledged to provide state and local stimulus funding to help remedy the short-term deficits that COVID-19 has created, and a bipartisan group of Senators is onboard.
He also said the potential delivery of coronavirus vaccines in the future could help the state’s finances recover.
Still, the State of Illinois is in a position where it will have to borrow to deal with lost revenues for the time being. While the federal government had offered up to $5 billion, Pritzker said he was very reluctant to saddle the state with that much debt.
Thus, he said, the state has agreed to borrow $2 billion.
“Our collective intention is to repay this line of credit as early as possible, after either the awarding of stimulus by Congress or sufficient recovery of state revenues,” Pritzker said.
The governor also emphasized that the borrowing plan is not a solution for long-term fiscal health of state.
On this day before Thanksgiving, Pritzker also reiterated the recommendation that people cancel large gatherings.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 11,378 new confirmed or probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, as well as 155 additional deaths.
Illinois is averaging 11,242 new cases per day over the past week, down from an average of 11,847 daily cases the previous week, but more than five times higher than the 2,052 cases per day during the first seven days of October.
Pritzker noted as of Wednesday, the state has tested a total of 10 million specimens, of which 1 million were tested in just the past 10 days. The average is now 106,000 per day.
But simple limits of labs during a time of immense demand around the country have started to catch up in Illinois, and that has meant longer lines and longer turnaround times – even at state-run labs, Pritzker said.
Thus, he noted that anyone who has symptoms or has been around someone who tested positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days. This applies even after a negative test, a test will not register as positive right after an exposure.
For Thanksgiving, Pritzker said once again that people should stay home and remain with their immediate household members.
However, he said, “If you are hell-bent on gathering with others outside your own home, please do it with just a few people, and importantly, this is not the year to have everybody over at Grandma’s house.”
State Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reiterated the same points, saying the state does not want to see Thanksgiving dinners turn into super-spreader events
“Please be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem, and let’s decrease the spread of this virus,” Ezike said.
Pritzker also expressed disappointment in McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Keneally, who said he will not be enforcing the governor’s indoor dining ban.
“Surprising that a state’s attorney doesn’t want to follow the law. These are the laws of the State of Illinois, and other jurisdictions are following the law and prosecuting these fines – and that’s what they are, fines – for businesses that are failing to follow mitigations or that are opening their doors if they are bars, and spreading the virus willy-nilly at a time when we’re really undergoing a terrible second wave of virus,” Pritzker said.
In published reports, Keneally said neither the governor’s executive orders themselves nor the Illinois Emergency Management Act give prosecutors authority to enforce those orders, and he also questioned Pritzker’s own authority to wield emergency powers in the first place.
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