Dear friends,

This year’s spring session was unlike any other. Our work helped people in need, offered stability in a time of crisis and bought the state time to get to a better tomorrow – a tomorrow in which we hope medical science has found a way to fight back against this virus and in which Washington recognizes its unique ability to help state and local economies recover. 

Many questions remain unanswered and will in the days and months to come, but I am proud to say that the Senate took decisive action to pass a budget, provide relief for local governments and ensure Illinoisans can vote in November without compromising their safety.

You can read more about these measures below.

As we approach summer, I urge you to stay safe and reach out to my office at (708) 848-2002 or here with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

 

Senate President Don Harmon

Senate passes budget during abbreviated special session

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and focusing on preserving vital services, the Illinois Senate passed a budget that prioritizes public health and safety and vital services.

In order to protect people’s health, the budget provides additional funding to both state and local health departments. It also expands programs that help seniors and people with disabilities remain in their homes.

Responding to the economic harm caused by COVID-19, the budget provides additional funding to address the overwhelming number of new unemployment claims.

To provide struggling families and businesses with additional assistance, the budget directs federal CARES Act funds to help revitalize small businesses, provide mortgage and rent assistance, and create additional resources for immigrants struggling with COVID-19. These programs are structured to ensure that both Chicagoland and downstate communities benefit, and they set aside funds for underserved communities.

Also preserving and bolstering vital services, the budget holds the line on P-12 and higher education funding, public safety and more. It even provides additional funding to help fix problems at the state’s troubled Department of Children and Family Services, which has faced additional problems due to the pandemic.

 

Vote by mail expansion clears Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate approved an expanded vote-by-mail program that has garnered increased popularity across the state and country amid public health concerns over voting and elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Senate Bill 1863:

  • Any person who has voted in the past two years (2018 General Election, 2019 Consolidated Election or 2020 Primary Election) would receive an application for a ballot in their mailbox.
  • Any person who registered to vote after the 2020 Primary Election would receive an application.
  • General Election Day, November 3, 2020, would be a state holiday.

Read more here.

Category: E-Newsletters

Dear friends,

To continue our progress in containing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. JB Pritzker announced he will extend and modify the Stay at Home Order through the end of May.

This modification is an effort to give Illinoisans more flexibility while maintaining social distancing—under the new Stay at Home Order, you may be able to spend more time outside, reopen your business or even return to work. 

Here are some changes you can expect to see beginning May 1:

Face coverings will be required in public indoor spaces.

Beginning May 1, individuals over the age of 2 will be required to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces where they can’t maintain six feet of social distance, including grocery stores. The modified order will also include occupancy limits for essential businesses.

You’ll have more options for outdoor activities.

State parks will begin a phased reopening in May, and fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people will be permitted. A list of parks that will be open on May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website. Golf will also be permitted, as long as golfers respect strict safety guidelines and social distancing measures.

Some businesses will reopen.

The governor's order clarifies that greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries are essential businesses. So too are animal grooming services. Non-essential retail stores may reopen to fulfill curbside pickup and delivery orders. However, these businesses must follow social distancing guidelines and require customers and employees to wear face coverings.

If you return to work, you’ll be safer.

Manufacturers will be required to provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six feet of social distancing. The order will also require manufacturers to adopt new practices to protect customers and employees, including staggering shifts and operating only essential lines. 

The order will also include guidelines to help navigate other unexpected effects of the outbreak: Schools with dormitories will be given direction on allowing students to pick up belongings, and surgical centers and hospitals that meet strict safety criteria may be able to resume certain elective surgeries. Find more details on the modified Stay at Home Order here.

Staying home isn’t easy, but it’s the best tool we have to fight COVID-19. According to data from top academic institutions and researchers in Illinois, the Stay at Home Order has saved thousands of Illinoisans, if not more—without these restrictions in place, we may have seen up to 20 times as many deaths as we are currently experiencing.

But the fight isn’t over: The data also suggests the state would see a second wave of the virus if social distancing requirements were lifted now, which could claim tens of thousands more lives.

So for the health and safety of our friends, families, neighbors and front line workers, we must continue our efforts to contain the spread of this virus. We know many people are eager to return to their jobs, social lives and daily routines—we’re hoping that this modified order will help ease some of that restlessness. 

If I can answer any questions or provide assistance to you during this difficult time, please don’t hesitate to reach out by calling 708-848-2002.

Together, we can finish the job and put a stop to COVID-19.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home.

Sincerely,

 

Senate President Don Harmon

Category: E-Newsletters

Dear friend,

Friday afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year to contain the spread of COVID-19. Remote and e-learning will continue in place of in-person classes.

We know many Illinois families were hoping to return to their regular routines by the end of the school year. Students miss their friends and teachers, and parents are eager to watch their children graduate, go to prom and enjoy other milestones. 

But for the sake of everyone’s health and safety, it’s vital that we follow the guidance we’ve received from top health care and science experts around the world. That means continuing to stay home as much as possible.

We are taking the necessary steps to ensure our schools are prepared to handle remote learning: Illinois schools will receive $569 million in federal funding to help equip students with technology and internet access, support teachers in developing their remote instruction skills and continue providing meals to children and communities during closures. When schools reopen, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will release recommendations to address learning loss and students’ social-emotional needs.

To help you through this difficult time, here are a few resources you may find useful:

Learning from Home

 

At-home learning presents a unique set of challenges for both students and parents. ISBE has put together a list of free resources and tips to help teachers and parents support student learning while schools are closed. For advice on keeping students engaged in education, visit www.isbe.net/keeplearning.

Families of children with disabilities may need extra support during this time. The Illinois Autism Partnership and Easterseals have developed a School Closure Toolkit to support children with autism through school closures. Other special education resources, including activity ideas and home learning packets, are available on the Easterseals website.

Finding Child Care

 

With schools and many daycares closed, some essential employees are worried about finding care for their children while they are at work. Find contact information for available resources in your area by searching by your county or zip code here. Essential workers in health care, human services, government, and essential infrastructure may eligible to receive child care through Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program. Get more information and access application materials here.

Managing Mental Health

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many Illinoisans—being stuck at home can be harmful to anyone’s mental health, including children. If you or your child is feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed during this time, there are resources available to help.

Illinois has launched a free-of-charge emotional support text line, Call4Calm, for residents experiencing stress and mental health issues related to COVID-19. To speak with a mental health professional, text “TALK” (or “HABLAR” for Spanish-language services) to 552-020. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also offers support groups and other resources for individuals who may need help dealing with a mental health condition. Call 800-950-NAMI (6264) or visit www.nami.org to find what resources your local NAMI chapter is offering during the COVID-19 crisis.

Make no mistake: The next few weeks won’t be easy. But in order to protect our friends, loved ones, and neighbors from COVID-19, we must make sacrifices.

Our state is acting with the input of top medical experts, scientists, public health researchers, and epidemiologists—based on their advice, staying home is our most powerful tool to fight the spread of this virus. We have begun to flatten the curve, but we must maintain our course to keep the infection under control and prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

If you have questions about school closures or need other assistance, my staff is working remotely to support you during this time. Give us a call at 708-848-2002 or visit donharmon.org, and we’ll do our best to address your concerns.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay home.

Sincerely,

 

Senate President Don Harmon

Category: E-Newsletters

Dear friends,

In these uncertain times, we all have a lot of questions. As your lawmaker, one of my most important jobs is providing you with useful, accurate information. 

I wanted to take a moment to share information on recently expanded childcare programs and what’s available for rent and mortgage assistance. Finally, there’s also a reminder we are all dealing with a lot of stress and it can take its toll. There’s a number below and additional information should you need it.

Together, we will come out of this situation stronger than before. 

Child care assistance

Essential workers in Illinois are now eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program.

The expansion includes nurses and doctors, supporting staff in hospitals, grocery store clerks and food producers. Most expenses of emergency childcare centers and homes will be covered. Emergency childcare centers will receive additional reimbursement rates above their usual pay rate. 

Childcare centers interested in re-opening as emergency child centers are able to apply for a permit through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. To apply, click here.

Home childcare providers do not need a permit and can serve up to six children.

For more information on assistance available at the Department of Human Services visit: DHS.illinois.gov/helpishere and coronavirus.illinois.gov

Rent and debt resources

If you are experiencing problems with paying your rent or mortgage, or have other debt issues as a result of COVID-19, please continue reading, as this newsletter may be helpful to you and understanding your rights.

Many landlords are understanding, so I encourage you to contact your landlord first, if you haven’t already. However, here are some resources that could help, if you and your landlord can’t reach an agreement.

  • The state has put a moratorium on evictions (as well as utility disconnections) while Illinois’ Stay at Home Order is in place, which is currently set through April 30. However, you are still responsible for paying your rent and bills.
  • Debt collectors are not allowed to visit you in person during this time. They can still call, however.
  • Some local agencies are providing assistance to those who are struggling to pay rent. You are encouraged to contact your local homelessness prevention provider. They may be able to help bridge the gap if you need assistance to avoid homelessness or eviction.
  • To learn more about unemployment compensation, visit the Department of Employment Security’s website. It is experiencing heavier than usual traffic right now, so if it’s down when you try to visit, check back later.

 

Managing mental health

Many Illinoisans have spent weeks self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak, and some are now feeling more stress and worry due to the constant unknown and lack of social interaction.

The West Suburban Cook County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health offers specialized resources for individuals who may need assistance through a crisis line. The number for the line is available 24 hours, seven days a week and can be reached at 708-524-2582. The hotline can direct you to a comprehensive suicide hotline, suicide intervention and prevention, and over-the-phone counseling.

Harmon also encourages residents to take simple steps to care for themselves, such as:

    • Connecting with friends and family online,

    • Keeping regular work hours while at home,

    • Preparing healthy meals,

    • Exercising regularly, and

    • Staying up to date with accurate information.

 

As always, please reach out to my office with questions and concerns. My staff is working remotely, but we are still answering calls and emails—contact us by calling 708-848-2002 or by visiting www.donharmon.org.

Stay safe and healthy.


Sincerely, 

Senate President Don Harmon

Category: E-Newsletters

Dear friend,

The governor’s Stay at Home Order means that many of us are disconnected from our usual social circles. It’s important that we follow recommendations from state and federal health officials and stay home as much as possible.

However, there are many ways to feel more connected to your community while practicing social distancing—help out your neighbors safely by donating your dollars, time, or talent to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Here are some ways you can lend a (clean) hand:

Volunteer with Serve Illinois

Serve Illinois connects healthy volunteers with community service opportunities. During the COVID-19 outbreak, several civic and faith-based organizations, especially those organizations that focus on homelessness, meal delivery, and senior citizens, are in need of extra help. Find a statewide list of volunteer needs here.

 

Check on your family, friends, and neighbors


Seniors and immunocompromised individuals are at especially high risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. For many of them, simple errands—like going to the grocery store or the pharmacy—may put their lives in danger. Call, text, or video chat your friends and loved ones to ask how you can help. Even if they have everything they need, it could comfort them to hear a friendly voice.

Give blood


Social distancing measures have resulted in the cancellation of many blood drives in the state, but a blood shortage would only worsen the health care crisis we are facing right now. The American Red Cross is looking for healthy, eligible individuals to donate blood. Sign up to donate or volunteer here.
 

Assist your local food bank


With schools closed and many Illinoisans out of work, some households are running low on food. That’s why local food pantries are especially important right now. Whether you’re in need of assistance or you’d like to donate, use this online locator to find your nearest food bank.

Donate supplies to first responders


Health care workers across Illinois are in need of personal protective equipment, or PPE. If you or your business would like to donate unopened, factory-made masks, gowns, gloves, or other protective gear, contact Serve Illinois here. Note: The state is not accepting homemade supplies, but your local first responders might be able to use these items—contact them directly for more information.

 

Do what you can to help others in little ways, too.

  • Make sure everyone has access to basic necessities by buying only what you need—no need to hoard.
  • Order delivery from local restaurants or buy a gift card from your favorite boutique to keep small businesses afloat.
  • Complete the census online or by mail to ensure our communities receive the funding they need.
  • Stay home as much as possible to protect others from the spread of coronavirus.

During these challenging times, we must remember to stick together. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean complete isolation—there are safe ways to remain active in your community, even from home.

As always, please reach out to my office with questions and concerns. My staff is working remotely, but we are still answering calls and emails—contact us by calling (708) 848-2002 or visiting www.donharmon.org.
 

Stay safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

 

Senate President Don Harmon

Category: E-Newsletters

Contact Me

Email President Harmon

Springfield Office:
327 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(p) 217.782.8176

Oak Park Office:
6941 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(p) 708.848.2002
 

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