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Gov. Pritzker announces new measures to help combat COVID-19 outbreak

CHICAGO (WREX) — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has announced a series of new measures to help those impacted by COVID-19.

Gov. Pritzker announced sales tax deferral for bars and restaurants, SBA loan eligibility, new grocery hours for seniors and expanded health care services amid COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our social distancing efforts are the most important thing we can do to protect our seniors and support our health care workers,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The fight against COVID-19 is a scientific one: it requires the best that medicine, innovation and statistics have to offer. But as we do all that we can to find a cure, find treatments, and support our medical infrastructure, we can’t forget the exceptional human costs of these mitigating measures. We must do all that we can to address them.”

SALES TAX DEFERRAL FOR BARS AND RESTAURANTS

To help alleviate some of the unprecedented challenges facing bars and restaurants due to COVID-19, Gov. Pritzker has directed the Department of Revenue to defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants — accounting for nearly 80% of all such entities statewide.

Under the directive, eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May made late. The Department of Revenue estimates this will give relief to nearly 80% of bars and restaurants in Illinois.

Penalties and interest will be automatically waived; however, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax return even if they are unable to make a payment. Any taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin available at tax.illinois.gov.

SBA APPROVES BUSINESS LOANS IN ILLINOIS

Two days after submitting documentation demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on more than 3,000 businesses across the state, Gov. Pritzker announced the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov

NEW GROCERY STORE HOURS FOR OLDER RESIDENTS

After convening the largest grocers and food manufacturers in the state with the help of Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Gov. Pritzker announced today that a growing coalition of grocery stores statewide will set aside one or more hours of operation for older residents to shop, before stores open to the general public.

Among the grocers with new hours for elderly shoppers are Whole Foods and Shop & Save in the Chicagoland area and Hy-Vee and Valli Produce throughout Illinois.

EXPANDING HEALTH CARE SERVICES

Through emergency rules and an executive order, the Pritzker administration has significantly relaxed rules around telemedicine for both Medicaid and private insurers, allowing more providers to get reimbursed for these services that allow patients more flexibility and safety. For plans regulated by the Department of Insurance, the executive order calls for providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits and prohibits private health insurers from imposing any cost-sharing for in-network providers. For Medicaid, the emergency rules also require providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has filed an 1135 waiver with the federal government to remove administrative barriers for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Pritzker administration is seeking to increase access to telehealth and the number of health care providers that can screen patients, allow 90-day prescription supplies without prior authorization and early refills, as well as several other items that will increase flexibility and provide additional resources.

The Department of Human Services has also filed a federal waiver to ease eligibility requirements for food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, which cover 1.8 million Illinoisans and 174,000 pregnant women and parents of young children respectively.

ESSENTIAL SERVICES WILL REMAIN

As rumors continue to swirl, Gov. Pritzker assures Illinoisans that essential services will always remain open, including but not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. As new information becomes available, the Pritzker administration will continue to communicate with the public and media in a timely and transparent manner.

Andrew Carrigan

Andy Carrigan is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team as a photographer in 2016 after graduating from Northern Illinois University. He also been a producer and Assignment Editor at the station.

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