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Ask The Newsroom: CARES Act, Housing And Recreation In The Era Of COVID-19

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The Illinois Newsroom team is answering questions from listeners to navigate this unprecedented time. Have a question you want answered? Ask here.

In today’s edition of “Ask the Newsroom,” we’ve answered questions on everything from the pause on evictions to DMVs remaining closed below!

CARES Act

Q: Will the state allow employees to take out additional loans of their own money from the deferred comp retirement fund and hold off paying the first loan as per the CARES Act?

The $2 trillion CARES Act was divided into seven parts: education, individuals, public health, state and local government, big corporations, small businesses and a safety net. 

The roughly $560 billion given in individual loans was divided into subcategories, extra unemployment payments, gig workers and freelancers, tax returns and insurance coverage. 

While there is no mention of a deferred comp retirement fund, NPR provides this thorough breakdown of various sections of the CARES Act.

Housing

Q: When will evictions be allowed?

On March 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order that included a provision barring law enforcement officers from conducting evictions from any residential property in Illinois.

On April 23, Pritzker issued a subsequent executive order expanding the existing moratorium to also bar the filing of eviction cases solely for nonpayment. Eviction cases can still be filed if the tenant poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants, an immediate and severe risk to property, or a violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation. These restrictions will remain in place for the duration of the state’s disaster proclamation. It’s currently unclear how long the proclamation will last. 

On April 29, some mortgage lenders and groups representing landlords signed a non-binding Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge to waive late fees, create written plans for tenants and owners to make past due payments over time and/or take other actions that will allow people to maintain their housing. Any relief granted will be on a case-by-case basis for those who demonstrate a significant financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding foreclosures, the current restrictions on filing and pursuing these cases are temporary and based on federal law. They primarily protect homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued guidance for banks and credit unions encouraging them to help homeowners that also includes details on the federal protections.

No federal, state or local government actions have relieved people of their obligations to pay their rent or mortgage. 

Food Safety

Q: What are the requirements for restaurant workers and the use of masks and gloves? And what is the possibility of my pizza being a vessel for the virus, if it was already cooked and exposed after it is cooked?

Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde previously told Illinois Newsroom that public health requirements for food preparation include the use of gloves during food preparation but not for delivery.

With the new requirement this month that people wear cloth masks or face coverings in all public places, restaurant workers should be wearing masks, Pryde says. 

Employers are expected to provide masks for employees. 

In Champaign County, CU Public Health is working to collect and distribute masks for everyone working in public-facing jobs, including restaurant or grocery store workers.

Regarding whether the coronavirus can survive in food, the CDC states on their website that while it is possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly eyes, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

The FDA offers similar information and guidance on their website.

Travel

Q: My wife and I have a grandmother who is passing away soon from cancer but who lives in Colorado. Would it be legal for us to travel there in order for us to help the family?

“There’s nothing that stops a person from going to Colorado to be with a family member,” Gov. Pritzker said in response to this question at his daily news briefing. “It’s really a matter of whether you can do it safely.”

Whether someone is driving or flying, Pritzker says he encourages people to wear face coverings and consider how to travel in the safest way possible.

The CDC offers guidance on their website for how someone can stay safe if they must travel.

Golfing and Camping

Q: Explain why you can only have 2 golfers?

The extended stay-at-home order that took effect May 1st allowed golf courses to re-open with social distancing guidelines from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)—including only allowing golfers to play in groups of two.

According to Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, gatherings of 10 people will only be allowed once the state reaches Phase 3. The state is currently in Phase 2 until the rate of COVID-19 infection is in decline.

In a statement, the DCEO said that “the golf guidance requires that people play in groups of two – with no exceptions to this rule. [This was] designed to ensure that residents are able to practice safe social distancing while outside participating in recreational activities and through the duration of the health order.”

Q: Can private campground lease holders access their campgrounds?

Both public and private campgrounds and RV parks are considered nonessential and currently closed under the extended stay-at-home order—unless they are someone’s permanent residence. Some state parks are allowed to re-open under the new order for fishing and hiking in groups of two or less, but campgrounds, visitor centers, beaches and concessions in those state parks must remain closed.

Private campgrounds can remain open only for minimum business requirements, such as landscaping, repairs or remodeling. Gathering at campgrounds and sharing facilities “poses a risk of transmission and is inconsistent with ‘staying at home,’” according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Q: Are any Champaign County campgrounds open?

Both public and private campgrounds, as well as RV parks, are considered nonessential and currently closed under Illinois’ extended stay-at-home order—unless they are someone’s permanent residence.

Campgrounds can only be open for minimum business requirements, such as landscaping, repairs or remodeling, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)/Illinois Secretary of State Facilities

Q: Is there any word if DMV locations will open to allow us with commercial licenses to handle business?

Currently, all Illinois Secretary of State offices and Driver Facilities are closed to the public. However, expiration dates are being extended for drivers’ licenses, ID cards, vehicle registration, and other documents and transactions. Expiration dates will be extended through the Governor’s disaster proclamation and for 90 days after. The office has not announced a reopening date, but it will likely be dictated by the Governor’s stay-at-home orders.

Those with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) can schedule appointments at one of three locations: West Chicago, Springfield-Dirksen, or Marion. CDL Skills/Road Tests can’t be done online, and therefore CDL holders will need to call to schedule an in-person appointment at one of the three aforementioned facilities. The number to call is (217) 785-3013.

Additionally, the deadline to obtain a REAL ID has been pushed to October 1, 2021.

For more information, please see the Secretary of State COVID-19 FAQ page.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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