Week-in-Review: June 22-26

Illinois entered into Phase 4 of reopening plan

Effective June 26, Illinois moved into Phase 4 of Governor Prtizker’s Restore Illinois reopening plan.   

In Phase 4, a number of industries will be allowed to expand or resume full operations under approved safety guidance.

Business changes include:

  • All manufacturing open with IDPH approved safety guidance
  • All employees return to work with IDPH approved safety guidance; Employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees
  • Bars and restaurants will open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
  • All barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
  • Cinema and theaters open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
  • Retail stores will open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance

Additionally, gathering sizes will be increased from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people. Meanwhile, all health care providers, Pre K-12 schools, higher education, all summer programs, and child care will be allowed to open under IDPH approved safety guidance.

Illinois has been in Phase 3 of the reopening plan since May 29. Senate Republicans made repeated calls upon the Governor to revise his reopening plan to adopt a 14-day timeline between phases rather than the arbitrary 28-day timeline originally in place. However, calls from Senate Republican lawmakers went unheard.  

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Utility Scam Warning

Ameren Illinois is warning customers to be on alert for utility scams who are on the rise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, Ameren Illinois announced an increase of scam attempts where scammers have attempted to exploit the current health crisis to steal money and personal information from Ameren Illinois customers.

In an effort to protect their customers, Ameren Illinois recommended using the following tips:     

  • Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who calls, sends an email or comes to your home requesting this information.
  • Don't trust anyone asking for immediate payment. Ameren Illinois will never call or e-mail and demand immediate payment. If you suspect that someone is impersonating an Ameren Illinois employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Illinois at 1.800.755.5000.
  • Sign up to manage your account online at AmerenIllinois.com where you can immediately check the status of your account.
  • Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shut-off. In addition, never download an app to make immediate payment. Legitimate utility companies don't specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill. Ameren customers can make payments online, by phone, electronic check, mail or at in-person payment locations.

Ameren Illinois has also provided signs to be aware of with potential scam activity:

  • Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell you that your utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment isn't made. Typically, the scammer will tell you that a disconnection will occur within an hour.
  • Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct you to purchase a prepaid card. The scammer will ask you to return a call for immediate bill payment. When you return the scammer’s call, the scammer asks you for the number on the prepaid card. This allows the scammer to gain instant access to the card’s funds. In addition, scammers may ask you to download an app to make immediate payment, which you should avoid.
  • Fake case number and/or fake truck identification number: Scammers are known to record a voice message and use it to trick customers into thinking they've called the utility company. The scammer gives a fake case number and/or fake identification number of a company truck that is in the vicinity of the customer's home.
  • Equipment or repair bogus fee: Scammers may call demanding a separate payment to replace or install a utility-related device or meter.
  • Overpayment trick: When scammers call claiming that you've overpaid your utility bill and need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund.
  • Power restoration rip-off: Scammers may call offering to restore power quickly or in a preferential order for immediate payment
     

Visit Ameren.com/stop-scams for more information.

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Business Interruption Grants (BIG)

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is providing $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. The Business Interruption Grant Program is available for up to 3,500 businesses that experienced a limited ability to operate due to COVID-19 related closures. DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses in early July. 

In the first wave of grants, priority will be given to small businesses that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic and are located in DIAs.

Specifically, the program includes support for:

  • Businesses in 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 1,000 grants of up to $20,000
  • 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

Eligibility: 

  • In operation for at least 3 months prior to March 2020.
  • Demonstrates by eligible costs or losses in excess of the grant amount and may continue to face depressed revenues or closure.
  • DIA's are zip codes that exceed a set threshold for COVID cases per capita among residents, and also surpass a threshold for poverty rate among the whole population, among children, or among seniors.

More Information

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Online license plate sticker renewal notices

The Illinois Secretary of State is encouraging residents to sign up to receive license plate sticker renewal notices by e-mail. Drivers who receive e-mail renewal reminders can renew their sticker online, rather than waiting in line at Driver Services Facilities.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, drivers will need their vehicle registration card or past renewal notice containing their Registration ID and PIN numbers to register.

If vehicle owners do not have a renewal notice or a current registration card, they should call the Public Inquiry Division at 800-252-8980. After obtaining their Registration ID and PIN numbers, they can visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com and go to the “License Plate Renewal Email Notices” under Online Services.

Currently, more than 2.8 million motorists have signed up to receive reminder notices by email. Click here to sign up to receive an e-mail renewal reminder.

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2020 Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame

The Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) is accepting nominations for the 2020 Class of the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

The 2020 Class of Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who demonstrate service in and commitment to improving conservation efforts and outdoor recreation opportunities in Illinois. The Illinois Conservation Foundation has been honoring inductees into the Outdoor Hall of Fame since 2002.  

To nominate an individual for the Outdoor Hall of Fame, click here. The deadline for 2020 nominations is July 8, 2020. For more information, contact the Illinois Conservation Foundation at One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702- 1271, via phone at phone 217-785-2003, or online at www.ilconservation.org