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Update from the Capitol: Getting Back to Business

Friday, October 23, 2020 - Posted 12:18:12 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett

Tom Bennett

Getting back to business

were-open.jpgSince the spring we have seen many Illinois businesses reopen, entirely or partially, from the shutdown, but many are still struggling. Sadly some have not been able to bounce back at all. For those that have re-opened, the Illinois Department of Labor is offering a free consultation service called Back to Business Illinois which connects small business owners with consultants to help guide them through the safe re-opening process.

The service is a free, one-hour teleconference program which will help employers to "address workplace safety and health issues related to the coronavirus and create a plan to ensure a safe, healthy and productive environment for employees and visitors."

To read more about Back to Business Illinois, please click here.

Making telehealth permanent

Telemedicine_1.pngEarly in the pandemic many doctors' offices and other medical facilities limited the numbers and types of visits they would allow. To pick up the slack many of these institutions adopted or expanded telehealth services. Telehealth services allow a patient to consult with their physician's office over the phone, describing their symptoms and obtaining medical advice without having to make an in-person visit to the office.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that back in April almost half of those Illinoisans who needed medical care used telehealth. Even when doctors' offices reopened for most patients over the summer, the number of persons using telehealth remained higher than before the pandemic. Illinois enacted legislation in the spring which would temporarily expand telehealth and now some are calling for that change to be made permanent. I expect this to be one of the issues we tackle in the fall session when it convenes next month.

Remember the need for fire safety

This fall has been unusually dry and windy - perfect conditions for quickly spreading a fire - so a group of state agencies are encouraging everyone to remember fire safety. The State Fire Marshal, Emergency Management Agency and the Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources have issued a reminder about the importance of fire safety.

According to the agencies, nine out of ten wildfires nationwide were caused by human activity and were preventable. If you are camping or holding a bonfire, have a supply of water or a fire extinguisher and shovel readily available before you build a fire. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure your fire is thoroughly extinguished.

You should also keep fire safety in mind when setting up your Halloween decorations. Make sure decorations are kept away from heat sources, especially candles, which are responsible for 36% of home structure fires. The State Fire Marshal warns that dried flowers and cornstalks are especially susceptible to catching fire.

Enjoy this season, but be safe!

Bennett_Discussion_10-23-20-01.pngCounty clerk to answer election questions

This year has seen a number of changes to the way elections will be conducted in Illinois. Join me this afternoon (Friday) at 5 p.m. for a Facebook Live conversation with Livingston County Clerk Kristy Masching.

We will talk about the changes to Illinois' election procedures, including mail-in ballots and the kinds of safety precautions you will see at polling places and early voting locations to prevent the spread of the virus. She will also have information about who to contact with questions between now and November 3.

More information about voting in your community

Ford County Clerk: (217) 379-9400

Iroquois County Clerk: (815) 432-6960

Livingston County Clerk: (815) 844-2006

Vermilion County Clerk: (217) 554-1900

Woodford County Clerk: (309) 467-2822

Illinois State Board of Elections: (217) 782-4141,

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,249,421,320 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.6 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.

More news from around the state

4942 new coronavirus cases in the latest update from the Department of Public Health

Coronavirus restrictions re-imposed in Kankakee and Will Counties

69 more die of coronavirus in Illinois on Wednesday - highest one-day total since mid-June

Illinois Restaurant Association announces $500 relief grants for eligible workers

Voter guidance from the Illinois Attorney General

IRS extends economic impact payment deadline to November 21 to help non-filers

IHSA to decide plan for winter sports on October 28

DNR sets health and safety procedures for deer hunting at state sites

DNR announces Illinois controlled pheasant hunting program changes for 2020-21 season

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: or my website at and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).