CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) didn’t mince words yesterday when he sent a letter to Governor JB Pritzker calling on him to adapt his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to downstate needs.
“…I am asking that you stop threatening us, realize that we are all in this together, that people desperately want to find creative ways to move forward together safely and that you should begin working with us to do just that,” Rose said in the two-page document.
Central to the legislator’s point was the collection of nearly 60 pages of letters from business and municipal leaders who addressed their own statements to the governor, advocating for small businesses and other organizations in their communities to “make their own decisions” regarding when — and how best — to reopen their doors.
In an interview Friday, Rose emphasized that his letter to Pritzker originated in a request he made to multiple leaders in the 51st district around a month ago.
“I invited them all to send me a letter that I would take to the governor about their views — not my views, their views,” he said. “This ended up taking on a life of its own over the past three weeks. We ended up getting 59 pages of letters and comments — everything from state’s attorneys to county boards to mayors and I’d say 95 percent of them say, ‘Look, Governor, work with us.'”
From Vermilion County, board chairman Larry Baughn said a plan from the state to offer small businesses loans at 0% interest wouldn’t feed the needs of such owners in his county.
“Many of our business owners in Vermilion County that I have talked to say they don’t need loans because they would probably not be able to pay them back at this point,” he wrote. “They just need to get their doors open. …I will be introducing a resolution to the Vermilion County Board to show our support for our local communities. When they hurt, we hurt and this cannot be ignored.”
Similarly, board members in Edgar County pointed to the fact that Paris contains a number of businesses deemed “essential” that have remained in operation since the first iteration of Stay-At-Home orders was issued in March and that — despite the open businesses — the county’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remains at zero.
“Recognizing that our essential businesses have been able to function safely over the past several weeks, coupled with the growing capabilities to test, leads our local leaders to believe it is time to let our other businesses, most of them family-owned and operated, to responsibly reopen,” county board members and Paris city leaders wrote.
Rose cautioned the governor about the potential consequences of not adapting the state’s reopening plan to work in lockstep with regional leaders — including a potential spread of COVID-19 enabled via businesses going underground.
“…it defies basic logic and human nature to pretend that a single mom or dad, a husband or wife who hasn’t been allowed to put food on the table for their kids for over two months and is locked out of the unemployment system, isnt’ going to take matters into their own hands by working under ground to earn the money they need to feed their family,” he wrote. “…Indeed, failure to account for basic human nature is pushing this situation into an ever more dangerous direction all over downstate Illinois.
“Many sheriffs, state’s attorneys, county and city governments have already said they will not enforce your orders. And, as if that does not worry you enough, these are just the folks who are openly saying it. Thousands more are quietly moving their businesses underground — creating a fertile breeding ground for the transmission of the virus.”
And while some local leaders framed the divide between them and the governor as emblematic of a divide occurring in national politics, Decatur Mayor Julie Wolfe — a Democrat who Macon County board member Kevin Greenfield wrote “always sticks up for (Pritzker) and definitely respects where you are coming from as well as myself” — also called on the governor to ease restrictions.
“…I would really like additional flexibility in the Governor’s plan,” Wolfe wrote. “I’m really proud of the creativity many of our businesses have shown and would like to give them the opportunity to move through this process faster.”
Essentially, Rose said, many downstate, regional leaders are “basically saying the same thing: that they want to be heard and want you to work with them.”
“People are beyond frustrated; I know you are too. Time to work together,” he wrote.