4/17/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Budget and Press Conference Recap

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

During these very challenging times, a friend reminded me that even as we fight this pandemic we need to see the silver linings, and so I try to do that in my work and with my family.

One of those silver linings is that I have had the opportunity to see our IDHS team shine and grow in ways we didnt know were in us. Our diverse, talented, and experienced IDHS team has not only risen to, but leaped to, this occasion to be of service to Illinois.

We have tried to keep you abreast of key decisions. We have done a great deal to preserve our system and also to expand in different areas where needed. We have made increases to services for people who experience homelessness, who are victims of domestic violence, who need residential supports, or emergency child care.

I know that the budget pressures on the State are top of mind for all of us, including our community partners. The budget calendar and State revenue are being greatly impacted by COVID-19. IDHS, as always, is working with the Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) and the Governors Office in this regard.

To minimize the budget pressures and to maximize the capacity of State dollars, it is important for Illinois and its partners to tap into and leverage federal funding resources in every appropriate way. Illinois was quick to respond to the pressures experienced by our partner organizations, and fortunately, federal funding has become available since then.

Our States Child Care system responded quickly with technical assistance, webinars, and outreach to help providers access the federal Payment Protection Program, and we hope to learn from their efforts to bring federal dollars in other areas as well.

The footprint of our services has changed dramatically to meet the moment. We made the difficult decision to close lobby access in our local public benefit offices yesterday to promote the health and safety of our staff and customers. But we are still here to serve.

As you know, we are available at www.ABE.Illinois.gov, through the IDHS Help is Here toll-free line 1-833-2-FIND-HELP, and through urgent call teams for every local office.

IDHS public benefit caseloads are increasing in truly dramatic ways. There has been a 280% increase in new requests for Medicaid or SNAP, and an almost 1000% increase in individuals receiving one benefit who are seeking to add another mostly Medicaid recipients who now also need food assistance.

Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude and pride for our IDHS staff working in our 24/7 state-operated psychiatric hospitals and developmental centers. Like other first-responders in the healthcare system you work around-the-clock and are on the front lines of this pandemic. You are heroes and sheroes.

Also, please see the updates from yesterdays press conference below.

COVID-19 Updates from the Governors 04-16-2020 Press Conference

  • Testing Machines: Governor Pritzker announced that the State has been successfully collaborating with Thermo Fisher to identify and address the efficiency and reliability concerns in the companys testing machines. Their five machines are now up and running with reliable results which should increase daily testing capacity by the thousands, and Thermo Fisher has committed to prioritizing Illinois as its customer.
  • Testing Supplies: The Governor relayed that Illinois Institute of Technology, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, as well as outside vendors, have committed collectively to providing Illinois with enough viral transport medium (VTM) and swabs for testing, so that we can not only stock our own State labs, but support additional labs throughout the state.
  • Testing Sites: Governor Pritzker was also pleased to announce that the State is using its statewide network of federally-qualified health centers to launch new testing locations in communities across Illinois which will serve to broadly increase participation in testing to reflect our newfound capacities, especially in African-American communities, and other communities that face significant structural challenges in accessing health care.
  • Testing Shifts: The Governor reported that while lab technicians are in short supply, the State is working to get third shifts up and running at all of our State labs. Currently, Chicago is running two shifts every single day, Springfield is also running two shifts a day, and in Carbondale the lab is running 24/7 with three shifts.
  • Antibody Tests: IDPH Director Dr. Ezike noted that the State is working hard to evaluate the emerging tests for immunity, so that the very best of these tests will be offered here in our state. She also highlighted that the State is working with healthcare systems and universities, as well as ramping up our capacity at IDPH, to run the virologic tests.
  • Cumulative Totals: To date, IDPH is reporting a total of 25,733 cases, including 1,072 deaths, in 90 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.
  • Daily Statewide COVID-19 cases: 1,140 new cases reported and 125 additional deaths.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou