CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday announced the state of Illinois is pushing back its income tax filing deadline by three months.
The move comes five days after the IRS also postponed the federal income tax filing deadline until July 15, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Refunds will continue to be distributed in a timely fashion," Pritzker announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Asked if he expects the delay in collecting income tax payments to force the state to push back any state spending programs, Pritzker said, "Nothing that is a vital service, a critical service for people across the state will be put off."
In fact, Pritzker said some vital state services have been enhanced because of the pandemic; such as resources for the homeless, and food delivery for families with children who normally rely on school for their meals.
Meantime, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 330 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including three more deaths. The state now has a total of 1,865 confirmed cases in 35 counties, and 19 coronavirus deaths.
"As difficult as it is to hear the news of more cases and deaths each day, I do believe sharing this information will keep us focused, and remind us of why we all need to continue doing the right things. Doing the right thing will eventually lead us to these numbers decreasing, and eventually ending this current pandemic," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Pritzker praised Illinois residents for doing their best to follow his "stay at home" order, which has now been in effect for four days.
"I know that there are people all across our state that are making real sacrifices by adhering to our 'stay at home' order," Pritzker said. "I know that, for those of you able to remain home, it feels like you've been there forever. I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of you. The sacrifices that you are making are saving lives, truly."
Of the state's 330 new coronavirus cases, two are correctional officers at Stateville Correctional Center, one is an inmate at Stateville, and one is a contractual worker at Sheridan Correctional Center. The Stateville officers are recovering at home, the Stateville inmate is isolated and recovering at the hospital, those who have been potentially exposed are being quarantined, and the facility is on a 14-day lockdown. As for Sheridan, public health officials determined staff and inmates there are at low to medium risk for potential exposure, but the facility has been placed on a 14-day lockdown.
In the wake of reports of some facilities receiving "expired" personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak, Ezike noted the state participates in the federal Shelf-Life Extension program, which tests stockpiled medical supplies if they have reached their labeled expiration date, to make sure they are still functional before they are distributed. She said similar steps were taken during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
"This is done as a routine, so if you have been given expired – what on the box maybe was expired – it has already undergone testing, and been approved to have its life extended," she said.
Ezike said there are no concerns about any of the PPE kits the state has received from the federal government.
Pandemic's Economic Impacts
In addition to the human toll of the virus outbreak, the COVID-19 crisis also continues to have a major financial impact across the state.
With tens of thousands of Illinoisans laid off or otherwise left jobless since the pandemic started, the state's unemployment system has been overwhelmed, despite efforts to boost capacity online. Pritzker acknowledged enough hasn't been done to make sure everyone who is out of a job in Illinois can file for unemployment benefits.
"This is an unprecedented number of people who are applying at the same time, and our DoIT – our Department of Information Technology – our state's CIO [chief information officer] have been on this every day. They're trying very hard to expand availability. They are expanding the availability, but it is true that we remain overloaded. People are going to have to be patient, at least for now," Pritzker said.
The governor suggested people who are receiving error messages when they try to file unemployment claims online should dry during "off-hours," when there is less demand on the system.
As for small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic, Pritzker said, by Friday, small businesses across the state will be eligible for a share of up to $90 million in emergency assistance from the state.
The aid includes $60 million in small business loans for all small businesses outside Chicago. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and less than $3 million in revenue in 2019 will be eligible for up to $50,000 in low-interest loans, with no payments due for six months.
For small businesses in the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot already has announced $100 million in targeted, low-interest loans for small businesses that have been impacted severely by the pandemic.
The state also is launching a $20 million small business stabilization program, to provide emergency grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses in the suburbs and downstate.
Finally, to help bars, restaurants, and small hotels, the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is offering up to $14 million in emergency grants to help those businesses support payroll and rent, as well as job training and technology needed for food delivery and curbside pickup.
Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association president Michael Jacobson said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the hotel industry has been worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession combined.
Jacobson said hotels that had been projecting occupancy rates of about 70% over the past month have seen those rates drop to the teens or single digits. He also said the industry already has seen tens of thousands of layoffs in recent days, and expects layoffs to reach more than 124,000 in the coming weeks.
"Small businesses that operate our hotels are hurting, and deciding every day whether or not to close their hotels altogether. Our employees are hurting, and hoping that they can just keep their jobs. That is why we commend the governor for announcing this new fund dedicated to providing grants to small hotel owners in an effort to retain as many staff as possible," he said.
Jacobson also said the hotel industry in Illinois has identified more than 20,000 hotel rooms across the state that will be offered as emergency housing for healthcare workers and first responders, as well as for hospital overflow.
Pritzker said he also has asked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer anyone with a mortgage "multi-month forbearance to reduce the strains of this period, and offer millions of Americans financial relief."
"They've offered this, not only to Illinoisans now, but to qualified mortgage holders nationwide," Pritzker said.
The governor said he's also asking credit bureaus not to punish anyone's credit ratings due to the economic instabilities of the pandemic.
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