It’s hard right now. Central Illinois residents have removed themselves from many of their friends and familiar activities to prevent the spread of the virus. Yet cases are climbing again in McLean County as central Illinois moved from phase 3 to phase 4 of the state's Restore Illinois reopening plan.
Speaking on WGLT’s Sound Ideas, Mayor Chris Koos of Normal says his COVID Task Force composed of people from a broad range of community sectors is concerned safe habits are fraying.
“There’s a lot of talk about COVID fatigue. People are getting tired of living the way they are living now. But all indications are we’re going to have to keep doing it through the fall,” said Koos.
Koos acknowledged that is not easy. He said the task force is considering sending stronger and more frequent signals to the public.
“We have to have a stronger message to the community about how important it is to remain socially distanced, wear masks, and wash their hands. We have to do things with discipline to keep this virus tamped down,” said Koos.
Koos said he’s pleased town finances have done better than originally estimated. The town Finance Department briefing for the council Monday night indicated a $4 million pandemic hit instead of a revenue reduction in the $10 million range.
Koos said there is some evidence people are trying to buy locally to offset the pandemic related loss of business. Koos said he was not sure that has offset an overall drop in retail or evidence from Commerce Bank that the disruption has accelerated a trend toward online purchasing.
Koos said leasing agencies he has talked with indicate apartment contracts are down a little bit, but not drastically.
He said the town does not have a lot of funding to directly help businesses. He calls that frustrating.
“Federal dollars are being administered by the state to the cities to help with COVID issues. We’ll have a surplus of those dollars because we’re not allowed to use them to help businesses. Whereas the state is allowing Chicago, Cook County, and the Collar Counties to do that, currently DCEO guidelines are not letting downstate communities do that,” said Koos.
He said the Illinois Municipal League is lobbying on that point.
Koos said if the state were more flexible, the town might be able to use some of the money to help businesses with such things as rent subsidies and other issues.
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