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State lawmakers discussing new financial outlook following COVID-19’s economic hit


SPRINGFIELD - Illinois state lawmakers aren't sure when they'll be back in Springfield, but some are expressing concern about the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

Leaders from both chambers are hosting conference calls and other remote meetings to restructure the state's financial outlook. Illinois isn't alone in the financial battle against COVID-19, as every state in the country has thousands of people unemployed.

This makes it difficult for experts to forecast the full impact it will have on the economy.

Nearly 134,000 Illinoisans have filed unemployment claims so far this month. That number is expected to grow even more once data is added to include individuals applying this week.

Residents will receive some relief from the federal coronavirus emergency package awaiting a vote in the House. Back at home, Illinois lawmakers are now tasked with revising and passing the FY21 budget as well as separate financial assistance plans. Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) says it is critical for lawmakers to provide relief for residents struggling to pay their rent or mortgage.

"There's no amount of government that can replace an economy that's churning along," Barickman said. "So while we need to play our part, the best thing we can do is get people back to work as soon as possible."

Only part of the equation

Barickman says lawmakers are already discussing the difficult questions surrounding plans to recover from the pandemic. "How do we assemble that and how do we pay for those things? How do we give some certainty and assurances to the public, first of all, that this pandemic is going to conclude and get over and we're going to get back on with life," added Barickman.

The Assistant Senate Minority Leader says lawmakers and members of Gov. JB Pritzker's budget team will need to determine revenue lost to the economic crisis. But Barickman believes that's only part of the equation. He says they must factor in state health care spending for the growing number of people with the virus.

Earlier this week, Pritzker mentioned that projections in his February budget proposal won't be useful anymore. The Governor plans to work with lawmakers when they return to the Capitol to craft a new budget before the May 31 deadline.

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Mike Miletich

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