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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Coronavirus Blog 3/26/20: State Launches Nonprofit Response Fund

John Milhiser and Adam Ghrist
Eric Stock
U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois John Milhiser (pictured left with Assistant U.S. Attn. Adam Ghrist) said fraud schemes taking advantage of the pandemic are proliferating.

The coronavirus story is developing quickly in Illinois. Here are updates from WGLT's newsroom and our partners at Illinois Public Radio, NPR, and The Associated Press.<--break->

You can also see (or add to) our list of cancellations, closures, and rescheduled events. Find all of our coverage at WGLT.org/Coronavirus.

4:15 p.m. Thursday, March 26

As COVID-19 interferes with issuing agencies nationwide, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted an extention to the federal REAL ID deadline.

Now, current Illinois residents are given a grace period of one year, to Oct. 1, 2021. Illinois driver’s licenses and IDs will continue to be accepted at airports, military bases, and secure federal facilities.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White advises Illinoisans with valid licenses and ID cards to wait after facilities reopen in order to minimize the spread of the virus.

Driver services facilities will remain closed through April 7.

— Jolie Sherman | WGLT

3:35 p.m. Thursday, March 26

The first Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund (ICRF) was established with the help of several Illinois community foundations.

Run by The United Way of Illinois (IUWI), the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations (AICF), as well as the Office of the Governor, the emergency fund aims to raise donations and disperse the funds into nonprofit organizations around the state.

This effort will support those most impacted by the virus, helping vulnerable communities acquire food, supplies, interim housing, child support, and healthcare.

“This is an all hands-on deck moment. Illinois’ more than 35 community foundations and our stellar local United Way partners are proud to be a part of this important effort to ensure all corners of the state are helped by this response fund,” said AICF Manager Louise Stewart.

Already, founding donors have pooled together $23 million to the ICRF to provide immediate relief. The response fund will work with other response organizations to ensure resources are directed where they are needed the most.

— Jolie Sherman | WGLT

3:05 p.m. Thursday, March 26

The IDPH announced 673 new cases of coronavirus statewide, including seven deaths. These patients were men and women ages 50 and older.

Illinois cases now total 2,538, including 26 deaths, across 37 counties.

The age of those infected ranges from younger than one to 99, and about 87% of fatalities are among patients age 60 and older.

— Jolie Sherman | WGLT

2:35 p.m. Thursday, March 26

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, several Illinois business groups are providing support.

Partners Growmark, Country Financial, and Illinois Farm Bureau collectively donated $20,000 to Midwest Food Bank. Growmark gave an additional $40,000 to ensure the health and safety of families during this crisis. 

These grants support four truckloads of family food boxes, enough to feed large families for 4-5 days. It will also cover the costs of meal plans and programs, such as Tender Mercies & Hope Packs.

"We are heavily involved in Disaster Relief efforts as a result of the COVID-19 crisis," said Midwest Food Bank's Development Director Jada Hoerr. 

Midwest Food Bank works to provide disaster relief and allieviate hunger at no cost to recipients. 

— Jolie Sherman | WGLT

11:53 a.m. Thursday, March 26

The U.S. attorney for central Illinois has appointed a coronavirus fraud coordinator.

Among the many scams, John Milhiser noted taking place nationwide are robocalls making fake offers to sell respiratory masks with no intent to deliver, social media scams seeking donations or claiming to provide stimulus funds, sales of counterfeit test swabs – cures – immunity pills – and protective equipment, and fake offers of free test kits to get Medicare information used to submit false claims.

“It is a top priority to find these bad actors, stop them, prosecute them, and protect the citizens of Central Illinois,” said Milhiser.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Finlen is the new coronavirus fraud coordinator in Central Illinois.

Milhiser said his office will also prioritize the investigation and prosecution of those who try to hoard medical items and engage in price gouging. Milhiser said those actions inhibit the government, health care professionals, and the public from implementing critical life-saving measures and practices to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

– Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

11:50 a.m. Thursday, March 26

Organizers of a popular central Illinois music festival have rescheduled from late May to late August because of the pandemic.

The Summer Camp Music Festival will not happen May 22-24 at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, but instead take place August 21-23 at the park. Organizers said all of the top tier headliners have agreed to the date change and most of the rest of the lineup as well. There may be some changes announced later. Tickets for the May dates will be honored in August.

This is the 20th year for the festival.

– Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

6:53 p.m. Wednesday, March 25

State Farm is shutting down its offices nationwide amid the pandemic. The Bloomington-based company says most of its 58,000 workers had already transitioned to work from home, but State Farm is updating its response.

State Farm asked for patience from customers amid the rapidly changing coronavirus situation. State Farm said in a news release that its decisions try to balance health concerns with the obligation to serve customers.

The company said most agent offices are running virtually by phone or email and there are apps and web connections available as well.

– Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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