SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Officials from the Pritzker administration appeared before a Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning. However, most of the discussion centered on the response to COVID-19 in Illinois and how the state could reopen safely.
Gov. JB Pritzker’s Chief of Staff says Illinois will need 5 million adults vaccinated to move into Phase 5 of the reopening plan. Anne Caprara says that would be 50% of the state’s population over 16 years old. Currently, 40.6% of people over 16 are vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 72.4% of seniors over 65 have also received at least one shot.
The administration hopes Illinois can be in a place to move to Phase 5 at the beginning of the summer.
“I always hesitate to say definitively where we’re going to be because we’ve now ridden through rises and falls of COVID cases,” Caprara said. “It’s always difficult to give people hope that we’re going to move forward and then we see an increase of cases, and we have to move back.”
However, Caprara said this is the most hopeful she’s been over the last 14 months. She hopes Illinois can return to “some sense of normalcy” within the next few months.
Use of federal funds
Deputy Governor Dan Hynes told committee members the administration will use funding from the federal stimulus plans to pay down some of the state’s debts and the backlog of bills. He explained Illinois is still waiting for federal guidance for specific rules or restrictions on the use of that money.
Hynes said the administration wants to work with the General Assembly to create a framework to maximize use of the $7 billion. He noted Illinois must be tactical and strategic about using the funds.
“We just want to be mindful of the fact that these will be one-time dollars. So, whatever we do, those dollars will disappear in a couple of years,” Hynes added. “And if we build up spending in an artificial way, it’s going to make our problems worse and our challenges more difficult in out years.”
Illinois already marked other federal funds for school districts, higher education, childcare, and human services. The administration plans to work with lawmakers to use those dollars to address the pandemic and rebuild the Illinois economy.