Originally published in Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2020.

Residents seeking COVID-19 tests have a new free option from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Appointments must be made online, and the tests are given indoors at the Bernard Horwich JCC, 3003 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago, which is close to Lincolnwood and Skokie. The site has a free parking lot.

On a recent Wednesday in the 11 a.m. time slot, only about seven people arrived for the tests, though the room can hold many more. Most people were in and out within 30 minutes. Chairs are set up in a socially-distanced fashion, and test-takers check in at a desk, then wait to be called to the testing area, where a medical worker inserts a swab part way into their nostrils in a PCR test.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam, a Democrat from the 8th district, said his office worked with others to set up three previous testing sites before this one. At an outdoor, drive-up testing site in Lincolnwood in November, wait times grew to more than two hours, and one day of testing had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Chicago Tribune, December 8, 2020.

Several Illinois state senators are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to introduce a new moratorium on utility disconnections, as Illinois enters the often sub-zero winter months and the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impact continue.

The group of seven state lawmakers, who represent north and northwest suburbs, sent a letter dated Nov. 30 to Pritker acknowledging the current voluntary stay on shutoffs that some utility companies are adhering to, but they want the governor to make it less discretionary.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis – with small business owners and employees especially hard hit by layoffs and loss of income. During this pandemic and its associated economic downturn, no one should have to face the threat of a winter without heat or lights. That only increases the risk of illness, injury, and fires,” read a portion of the letter signed by state senators Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, Laura Fine, D-Glenview, Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, Robert Peters, D-Chicago, Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, Julie A. Morrison, D-Deerfield, and Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove.

“We appreciate that the governor has continued his moratorium on evictions, but in Illinois, a home without heat is not a safe home in the winter,” Fine said in a news release announcing the senators’ request to the governor.

The elected leaders said in the letter that Illinois needs to ensure that everyone continues to have a safe place to live until the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, crisis has passed.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Journal & Topics, December 4, 2020. 

Niles Chamber of Commerce officials will host a legislative roundtable with federal, state, county, and local leaders next week bringing together local political representatives and businesses struggling with COVID-19 related shutdowns and restrictions.

The event, scheduled via Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, will feature U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) and Brad Schneider (D-10th), State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-8th), Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-9th) and Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo. 

Niles Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alicia Bermes said, after short introductions, the meeting would be broken up into virtual breakout rooms, with each elected official rotating through for between 15 and 20 minutes each.

Depending on turnout, Bermes said breakout rooms could be divided by industry, allowing more industry-specific one-on-one time for questions and answers with elected leaders.

Illinois is in what is called Tier 3 of COVID-19 mitigation measures restricting the size of gatherings and restricting restaurants to outdoor dining only, which may be in tents. Those restrictions have hampered or even closed some businesses. Last weekend, Omega Restaurant on Golf Road in Niles temporarily shut down for three months because of restrictions and the pandemic.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Daily Herald, December 2, 2020. 

Several state senators are calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to introduce a new moratorium on utility disconnections, as Illinois enters the dangerously cold part of the winter and the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impact continue.

"We appreciate that the governor has continued his moratorium on evictions, but in Illinois, a home without heat is not a safe home in the winter," said state Sen. Laura Fine, a Glenview Democrat. "We need to ensure that everyone continues to have a safe place to live until this crisis has passed."

Fine, along with her Democrat colleagues state Senators Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Adriane Johnson of Buffalo Grove, Julie Morrison of Lake Forest, and Robert Peters, Celina Villanueva, and Ram Villivalam, all of Chicago, sent the governor a letter urging him to institute a new moratorium on utility shut-offs, effective until the crisis or winter ends.

"Due to the deadly nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we advocate for a much-needed stimulus package from the federal government, we need to take every action possible as a state to ensure the safety and health of our residents, including the avoidance of any utility disconnections," Villivalam said. "This will be among the most difficult holiday seasons that our families and our children will experience. Let us take one large burden and uncertainty off the table for our constituents."

Though the senators acknowledged that many utility companies have already voluntarily increased protections against shut-offs this winter, they believe that the rule needs to include all utility companies, and that this is too big of an issue to rely on voluntary compliance.

"We're seeing people struggling, especially in Black and Brown communities, and especially employees of restaurants, bars, and other service industries," Villanueva said. "While we appreciate that some companies have already stepped forward to offer more protections, we need to ensure that no Illinois family has to worry about losing access electricity or gas this winter."

 

Category: In The News

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