As of Thursday, March 19, there have been 422 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois.
With confirmed cases of COVID-19 rising daily, the numbers are also rising for those being laid off from their jobs. According to the Department of Labor, 281,000 new claims for unemployment were made as of March 14th, marking one of the largest rises in claims in US history.
The government responded to the financial impacts of COVID-19 with a couple different relief packages. The first was an $8 billion emergency spending package, which boosted funding for the testing of the virus and lowered costs for medical treatments. The second was the Families First Corona Response Act, which responded to the growing economic crisis by providing provisions for paid sick leave, free testing, and expanding unemployment benefits. Congress members are scrambling to put together the third phase: a trillion-dollar stimulus that would include big and small corporate loans, large corporate tax cuts, and checks that could be as large as $1,200 for each individual who makes under $99,000 per year. Despite these important governmental measures, there are many workers who will still continue to be left out entirely due to certain state laws that don’t cover part-time, temporary, or gig workers.
In Illinois, there are plenty of workers who are being impacted by COVID-19 without the financial backing they need to survive. Bars and restaurants are closed across Illinois until March 30th. Schools are closed until April 20th without adequate childcare provisions for parents who still are required to work. After services are cut off, domestic workers cannot receive the benefits they need to survive. Many of the regulations for businesses tend to be directed at larger companies – when businesses have fewer than 20 people the regulations don’t apply. The inequitable ways our government continues to fail our most vulnerable populations is being highlighted during this pandemic.
The pandemic is an environmental justice issue because it emphasizes the widening wealth gap in the US and how those of lower socioeconomic status are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. People in communities where there are high rates of pollutants already experience respiratory difficulties, which lowers their immune systems. Temp workers throughout Illinois are working around the clock in factories to assemble, package, and ship essential items such as hand sanitizer and antiviral soap, all while standing shoulder to shoulder and without paid sick leave. Migrant workers are forced to continue fieldwork because grocery stores need to be stocked. Grocery store clerks are working overtime as frontline workers without receiving a living wage and necessary benefits. Because the effects of COVID-19 are inequitable, the solutions that we pursue must be sustainable and strategically designed to include our most vulnerable populations.
There have been many organizations who are doing the work to rise up as first responders to alleviate the disproportional burden those neglected by the government have to carry. Brave Space Alliance (BSA) is a Black-led, trans-led organization on the South Side of Chicago that has been working to provide resources to folks experiencing homelessness. BSA has been taking donations in order to provide a food pantry for folks who can no longer afford the cost of groceries. Pilsen Alliance has provided a list of resources for vulnerable populations. Multiple organizations have provided grant opportunities for artists who are struggling to make ends meet during this time. Organizations like the Chicago Community Bond Fund are asking the public to call in and demand decarceration in the name of public health. We are grateful to everyone doing what they can to find nimble and creative ways to provide for their constituents in this time of crisis.
Faith in Place Action Fund is also taking action by signing on to three petitions. The first demands that a nationwide utility mortarium on bills and late fees be enacted immediately while also looking at systemic utility issues that have existed long before COVID-19. The second calls for employers of temp workers to provide safety measures and benefits during COVID-19. A final petition supports holding open active comment periods for all executive branch and independent agencies.
Our partner organization, Faith in Place, is also taking action by reaching out to Green Teams across the state in order to provide virtual support and find creative ways to meet new needs we all currently face. On the Faith in Place website, there is a COVID-19 response resource page for individuals and Houses of Worship.
To stay connected to all the ways Faith in Place Action Fund is taking action in response COVID-19, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We will be sharing action items and legislative updates as the crisis continues to unfold.
The Faith in Place Action team is praying for you and your family to remain safe. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or recommendations during this time.
If you want to take further action against how COVID-19 has been disproportionately impacting vulnerable communities, sign onto our petition to Gov. Pritzker here.