Legislative News fro Rep. Grant Wehrli

Wehrli Legislative Office Reopens for Scheduled Appointments

As you know, for the last few months we’ve been working remotely. I’m happy to announce that my office is now open for scheduled appointments. To make an appointment please email me at Wehrli@ilhousegop.org or call the office at (630)696-4160. I also offer online meetings through the Zoom service. One-on-one or small group Zoom meetings can also be scheduled by contacting my office.

My staff and I are working on a summer and fall events calendar that fits within the guidelines of the state’s reopen plan. We’re working on a Child ID event for August 20, and as those plans come together I will share details. Plans for town hall meetings, mobile office hours and other events are also being discussed.

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 and a barrier toward economic recovery. Click here to learn more about the rules included in Phase 4 of the Pritzker reopen plan.

Ethics Reform Still Desperately Needed

Corruption severely undermines trust in Illinois government. I’m working hard to bring transparency and a higher standard of ethics to Springfield, and as you can imagine, my activism and legislation has been met with strong resistance from those in charge. This legislative session year, serious ethics reform was swept under the rug yet again. As majority party lawmakers continue to look the other way and allow bad behavior to continue, there are indications that more arrests and indictments may be coming.

The image above is a screenshot from a June 16 status hearing in Federal court about the criminal complaint against former State Representative Luis Arroyo: “The parties anticipate that additional, related charges will be brought in the near future.” 

The following day WBEZ published this investigative report, which revealed that ComEd has quadrupled the amount of money it has paid to a well-known law firm that is representing the company during a federal investigation into ComEd’s lobbying practices. ComEd has been accused of hiring of several politically-connected people in exchange for favorable votes in Springfield. Documents reveal that the energy giant paid Jenner & Block nearly $2.4 million in 2019. That’s more than was paid to the firm in the previous four years combined. Stay tuned as both of these issues continue to develop.

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. Click here to learn more.

BP Offering Fuel Discount for First Responders

BP has launched a new fuel discount offer for first responders, including doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, by offering them 15 cents off per gallon on every fill up at BP and Amoco for the 60-day time period that began on June 15. Program sign up is available through bp.com/localheroes. This new offer builds on the more than $8 million in fuel discounts issued to over 650,000 responders and medical workers since April 2020 along with BP’s donation of 3 million gallons of jet fuel to ensure PPE and other essential goods are delivered to U.S. communities. For more information, click here.

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.

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

Rebuild Distressed Communities Program

The Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC) program will provide $25 million to support Illinois businesses that have sustained property damage as a result of civil unrest. Through this program, a grant administrator will reimburse the costs to repair structural damages that have already been performed, including repairs to storefronts and entrances, improving electrical systems, and restoring exterior work. For work yet to be completed, the administrator will partner with local contractors and pay for them to perform the work. Projects that were denied coverage by an insurance company are eligible, but must include documentation proving denial or lack of coverage. For additional information about this program or how to apply, please click here, or contact the Governor’s Office of Grants Management at CEO.OGMgrants@illinois.gov.

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 state individual income tax returns and payments are due July 15, the same date set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for federal returns. Taxpayers who have yet to file their 2019 state individual income tax returns must act by July 15 to avoid penalties and interest.
 
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).