Windhorst Weekly – May 4, 2020



The entire State of Illinois is suffering the negative impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak. Stay-at-home orders have shuttered businesses, closed schools and universities, and changed almost every aspect of life.

Since mid-March, Illinoisans have been instructed to stay-at-home unless venturing out to obtain necessary, or essential, services and supplies. As the month of April drew to a close, it became apparent that Governor Pritzker would be extending the stay-at-home order.

I have been very vocal in stating my belief that Illinois could open up in safe, thoughtful way following a ‘regional’ approach.

In order to get some relief for struggling businesses and citizens, I joined my fellow Southern Illinois legislators Dale Fowler, Paul Schimpf, Terri Bryant and Dave Severin, and the Southern Illinois Mayors Association (SIMA) in submitting a list of priorities to the Governor for his consideration.

The governor’s new Executive Order did in fact loosen some restrictions.

Some (not all) state parks and recreation areas are open, doctors and hospitals can resume non-COVID-19 and non-emergency medical procedures and screenings, and some retail establishments that had been deemed non-essential in the first orders can now offer online ordering, delivery, and curbside services. The governor also relaxed restrictions the day before the new order took effect that will allow for drive-in, or parking lot church services. Again, YOUR VOICE is being heard. That fact is reflected in these changes, but more must be done.

A one-size-fits-all approach to managing the COVID-19 crisis is not sound public policy. I believe we can ensure the safety of our citizens while helping some businesses that have been devastated by closures to rebuild.


I have been very vocal in urging the governor and the Speaker of the House to take action that would bring legislators back to Springfield to address several key issues.

As a member of the super-minority in the House, I am one of 44 Republican members. House Democrats, led by Speaker Madigan have 74 Democrat members. The Democrats that rule this state have been silent for weeks, content to let the governor manage the COVID-19 crisis without weighing in. This cannot go on!

We have three co-equal branches of government in Illinois. The State functions best when the legislature passes legislation and the governor either signs it or doesn’t. I disagree with the notion that the governor should do this alone.

Both the governor and the Speaker of the House can easily call the House back into session to take up a budget, to address ethics reforms, and to tackle a Fair Maps amendment.

Action on these items is critical to the future of our state. Other states have found creative, safe ways to get back to work for their people…Illinois can and must do the same as soon as possible!


Great news from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources
today as more state parks and recreational areas in Southern Illinois are now open. In my district this includes, Cache River State Natural Area, Cave-In-Rock State Park, Dixon Springs State Park, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Fort Massac State Park, Giant City State Park, Hamilton County SFWA, Horseshoe Lake – Alexander SFWA, Saline County SFWA, Tunnel Hill State Trail and Wayne Fitzgerrell SRA.


Some of the Governor’s orders and guidance from some state agencies have made very little sense. One such decision that was made, and then reversed, earlier this week was the cancelation of all graduation services for K-12 schools. Upon the decision, a tidal wave of negative reaction hit the ISBE from outraged parents, students, teachers and administrators. On Friday afternoon ISBE reversed its decision. Please continue to send your thoughts and comments to me however you can – YOUR VOICE IS BEING HEARD!

Read the statement from Illinois State Superintendent of Schools Carmen Ayala below:

Dear Colleagues:

We have received your feedback. ISBE is acting quickly to develop updated recommendations for graduation ceremonies in consultation with the Illinois Department of Public Health to align with the new disaster proclamation and updated stay-at-home order that the Governor enacted yesterday.

The safety and wellbeing of students, families, and educators must be the number one priority. However, we understand the milestone that graduation ceremonies represent in our lives and are developing guidelines that encourage creative alternatives to the traditional graduation ceremony.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership, dialogue, and patience as we navigate this uncharted territory together.


Dr. Carmen I. Ayala
State Superintendent of Education
Illinois State Board of Education


“Decisions around whether or not to host safe and socially distanced graduation ceremonies will remain at the discretion of local school boards and superintendents. Districts and schools may choose to postpone graduation ceremonies, although it is not known when large-scale in-person events will be able to be safely held. Alternatively, districts and schools can choose to honor graduating students in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of participants and complies with state and local social distancing orders and guidelines.

Understanding the milestone that graduation ceremonies represent in the lives of our students and families, the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health are providing the following guidance for public school districts, public and nonpublic schools to consider when navigating these concerns at the local level. READ THE ENTIRE LIST OF GUIDANCE AT THE LINK BELOW

Religious services may now resume with social distancing

The governor’s first stay-at-home order, which was issued in mid-March, asked Illinois places of religious worship to suspend their congregational services.  Compliance was high among Illinoisans of faith, despite the difficulty imposed by the order.  Now for May 2020, the modified terms of the current stay-at-home order will allow for the limited resumption of some religious services and gatherings.  Religious worship services must comply with social distancing requirements, with gatherings of no more than ten people.

More significant for larger places of religious worship was another feature of the May order, which specifically authorizes drive-in church services.  The members of the congregation, in their motor vehicles, will be able to congregate in fellowship.  The limited carve-out for some forms of religious worship followed the filing of a lawsuit against the previous stay-at-home order by the Beloved Church of Lena, in Stephenson County, Illinois, and the Thomas More Society. 

Unbanked residents get help with stimulus checks

May 1, 2020

Today, The Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (IDFPR) announced new options for unbanked Illinoisans seeking to cash their stimulus checks without incurring check cashing fees. The FDIC estimates that over 22% of Illinois households are under or unbanked. Many of these Illinois households will be receiving paper stimulus checks and will have few check cashing options that won’t incur fees. Working together with industry associations, advocacy groups, and individual banks, IDFPR is proud to announce a number of banking institutions that are able to work with non-customers on cashing their stimulus checks for free. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third and First Midwest, as well as others, are willing to provide non-customers in Illinoisans with check cashing options in order to ensure these funds go toward the food, housing, and necessities that people need during this difficult time, instead of being used on processing fees.

In order to ensure proper social distancing and that everyone has the proper identification to cash their federal stimulus check, individuals interested in these options should contact the banks listed above, or email IDFPR at to set up an appointment.

In addition, a working group of nonprofits including Ladder Up, the Economic Awareness Council, New America, Heartland Alliance, and Woodstock Institute have launched a website to help individuals access their economic impact payment and to help the unbanked as well. Consumers can visit to access clear information about how they can receive their payments.  For people who are interested in taking this opportunity to open up their own bank account, the website also outlines safe, affordable banking options available through the Bank On program.  This program certifies products as consumer-friendly financial service options that have no maintenance or inactivity fees, low minimum deposits, and no overdraft. For more information on the national Bank On initiative please visit

Illinois Humanities Emergency Relief Grants

April 29, 2020

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has received $75 million in supplemental funding to assist humanities and cultural institutions affected by the coronavirus as part of the CARES Act. As the state affiliate for the NEH, Illinois Humanities is awarding more than $600,000 in special general operating and program grants to humanities and cultural non-profits throughout the state.

Illinois Humanities is committed to ensuring access to free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois. COVID-19 has put an unprecedented strain on non-profit organizations in Illinois and on the people who make public humanities happen. With the support of funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the CARES Act, Illinois Humanities COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grants will provide $635,000 in general operating and program support to  humanities and cultural nonprofits throughout Illinois. The deadline for general operating support is May 15th and the deadline for program support is June 15th.

The main goals of the Illinois Humanities COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grants are to:

1) Provide emergency relief support for humanities-based organizations throughout the state who are impacted by COVID-19;

2) Help enable humanities-based organizations to innovate, adapt, and strengthen access to their programming;

3) Support humanities-based efforts to make community experiences during the pandemic visible and highlight resiliency throughout the state.

Grants for General Operating Support

Illinois Humanities will provide $475,000 in emergency relief general operating grants for humanities and cultural non-profit organizations with budgets up to $1.5M impacted by COVID-19. Two funding pools are available: one designated for organizations based within Cook County and one designated for organizations based outside Cook County. The deadline for general operating support applications is May 15th.


  • Non-profit humanities and cultural organizations based in Illinois with a demonstrated commitment to the public humanities.
  • Annual budgets of $1.5M or less.
  • 501c3 status or non-profits designated by the state.
  • The following types of organizations are ineligible for general operating support: public libraries; K-12 schools; universities, colleges, and academic departments; chapters of national organizations; organizations focused solely on the arts that do not have an explicit commitment to humanities programming; for-profit organizations; religious organizations; individuals; and recipients of the first round of Illinois Humanities COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grants.

Grants for Program Innovation and Adaptation

Illinois Humanities emergency relief program grants support the efforts of humanities-based organizations to innovate, adapt, and strengthen programming. Illinois Humanities will be awarding $100,000 in program innovation and adaptation grants. Examples of this type of support include (but are not limited to): efforts to digitize or archive content; moving programs to virtual platforms; community engagement; closed-captioning, translation, and other accessibility efforts for digital and virtual content; involving humanists to develop new content or public programs. The deadline for program innovation and adaptation support is June 15th. Applications will be available May 15.


  • Non-profit humanities and cultural organizations based in Illinois with a demonstrated commitment to the public humanities.
  • Annual budgets of $1.5M or less.
  • 501c3 status or non-profits designated by the state.
  • The following types of organizations are ineligible: K-12 schools; universities, colleges, and academic departments; chapters of national organizations; organizations focused solely on the arts that do not have an explicit commitment to humanities programming; for-profit organizations; religious organizations; individuals.

Community Resiliency Grants

Illinois Humanities will fund a collective project that mobilizes the humanities to make visible the experiences of Illinoisans during the pandemic in order to highlight community resiliency and solidarity throughout the state. Illinois Humanities will award grants totaling $60,000 for this initiative. Details will be announced on May 15th

If you have further questions, reach out to Mark Hallett, Program Manager, Grants, at

Getting tested for COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Anyone with COVID-19-like illness or symptoms can get a test, even without a doctor’s order.

As testing capacity expands, testing is now available for people who:

Have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath and fever) OR have a risk factor, such as

  • Contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19
  • A compromised immune system or a serious chronic medical condition

 Testing is also available for those with or without symptoms who:

  • Work in a health care facility
  • Work in correctional facilities, such as jails or prisons
  • Serve as first responders, such as paramedics, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers or firefighters
  • Support critical infrastructure, such as workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities, factories, childcare and sanitation

Who pays for COVID-19 testing?

Under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act, all comprehensive health insurance plans must pick up 100% of the cost of coronavirus testing, as well as any visit to the emergency room, doctor’s office or urgent care center that may have led to that testing. That includes any COVID-19 test deemed appropriate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Comprehensive health plans are individual, employer-sponsored or exchange plans that meet the coverage requirements spelled out in the Affordable Care Act. If you’re insured by a short-term plan or another plan that isn’t ACA-compliant, your insurer may not cover the costs associated with your test.

Insurers must also cover antibody testing for COVID-19 patients under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. By measuring blood for immune proteins, antibody testing may indicate that someone has had a coronavirus infection and may be protected from future infections. 

Medicaid will cover the full cost of COVID-19 testing for the uninsured, as directed by the CARES Act.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a test to see if you have coronavirus (officially called 2019-novel coronavirus or COVID-19). This test is covered when your doctor or other health care provider orders it.

List of testing sites in Illinois

Health Insurance Coverage FAQs

Association of Health Insurance Providers FAQs

More transparency, communications from IDOC and Governor needed on unilateral policy changes.

Illinois House Republicans are asking for more transparency and open communications from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Pritzker administration on policy changes and communications regarding prison furloughs or inmates released early during the coronavirus pandemic.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, whose district includes correctional centers in Taylorville and Hillsboro, said inmates released into her district include high-level drug and meth dealers.

“As a co-equal branch of government, we should not have had to learn through news reports that these inmates had been released into the general population,” said Rep. Bourne. “Governor Pritzker, his staff, and Acting Director Jeffreys have ignored our repeated requests for information. None of them has been forthcoming with facts or the rationale behind to their decision-making, and today we renew our request. Additionally, we want to know why the Governor is being so secretive about these furloughs.”

On April 9, 2020, 22 House Republican members sent a letter to IDOC Director Jeffreys laying out their questions and concerns. So far, they have not received a response. In fact, several letters from various members of the House Republican caucus have been sent to the administration and the Department on different subject matters relating to IDOC. To date, no answers have been provided to the lawmakers by either the Governor or IDOC.

State Rep. Terri Bryant says she has asked the governor and the IDOC about the release of undocumented immigrants without notifying local law enforcement officials, why a correctional facility lockdown was not implemented sooner to stop the spread of COVID-19, and what criteria was used to determine the release of more than 1300 Department of Corrections offenders.

“The people of Illinois have the right to understand the rationale being used by the Pritzker administration in making critical decisions regarding the operations at the IDOC,” Bryant said. “Far from seeking our advice, the Governor has simply ignored requests from members of the General Assembly for more information. As a co-equal branch of government, we have a right and a duty to demand transparency from the governor.”

In the April 9 letter to Jeffreys, House Republicans sought information about the parameters used to decide which inmates qualified for furloughs or early release, the type of oversight that is in place to monitor furloughed inmates, and if victims and communities were notified ahead of time prior to each prisoner’s release. They also asked for a complete list of furloughed offenders and any inmates released early due to coronavirus, and the crimes for which they were serving time.

State Rep. Tom Bennett, whose legislative district includes the Pontiac Correctional Center and is home to several employees of the Danville Correctional Center, also expressed disappointment in the lack of information that has been shared about the early release of hundreds of offenders.

“While the Governor may have executive powers to make unilateral decisions during this time, his administration should be more transparent and forthcoming when they are making decisions that affect the safety of the people and communities of the State of Illinois,” Rep Bennett said.

State Rep. John Cabello, who has worked for more than 20 years as a police officer and detective, suggested the Governor is using the Coronavirus pandemic to further his cause of releasing criminals, many of whom were given multiple chances and received sentences as repeat offenders.

“I will hold Governor Pritzker personally responsible if any of the murderers or other violent felons he has released hurt another person,” said Rep. Cabello. “If they do, I will make it my mission in life to make sure the victims, their families, and the public know that offender was back on the streets and able to victimize them because of Governor JB Pritzker’s actions.”

Stay Connected!

Throughout the rest of this crisis, my office will be offering remote constituent service. You can contact my office staff by emailing Please stay safe and heed the warnings from elected officials. Together, we will get through this crisis and emerge stronger than ever. God bless you and your family and may God bless the United States of America and the State of Illinois.