6/3/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Employee Bright Spot & Press Conference Recap

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Good afternoon:

Our Division of Family and Community Services (DFCS) has been in a unique place during the COVID-19 pandemic, as our offices serve individuals and families in crisis every day.

The need to halt the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve, as we know, meant more individuals and families needed to rely on the State's safety net programs. During the first week of April, the State saw a nearly tenfold increase in requests for SNAP benefits for those who had previously been receiving medical assistance only. There was a 278% increase in new applications -- in real numbers that is going from about 10,000 applications per week to nearly 40,000 new applications per week. Today's Bright Spot is Team DFCS.

Today's Bright Spot: The Division of Family and Community Services (DFCS)

Prior to this pandemic, DFCS was under corrective action plans from the federal government for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medical backlogs. Leslie Cully was chosen to be the Associate Director over the FCRCs (Family and Community Resource Centers). Leslie has been an amazing leader and has led IDHS' work to meet the requirements of our corrective action plans with grace and strength. The changes and efficiencies she put in place have made dealing with the pandemic a much smoother process. Her office also managed to create and support a remote work plan that has been extremely efficient.

Over the course of the past year, the DFCS team has introduced a statewide approach to providing equitable services. This plan has been instrumental in handling the devasting impact of COVID-19 and the resulting increase in need for IDHS services. Angie Imhoff, the Region 5 Administrator, piloted this new business process and has now taken the lead on monitoring the unprecedented increase in new applications statewide, assigning work, and ensuring benefits across the state are approved on a timely basis. In an average pre-COVID month, the FCRCs approved around 20,000 new SNAP applications each month. In April, the number grew to over 58,000, through Angie's leadership and an amazing team effort.

Handling the increased work volume and moving 94% of FCRC staff to remote work assignments was possible due to the capabilities of the Integrated Eligibility System (IES), the ABE online self-service portal, and the ABE Call Center. Jamie McCoy, the Associate Director over the Office of IES, has put in extraordinary hours, helping to make sure these systems held up - and they did. She worked through the technical needs of remote workers, working with DoIT to get laptops and cells phones configured and delivered, and coordinating and training additional ABE Call Center staff to handle the increased call volume. Jamie and Angie worked together on call routing and queue assignments, resulting in a significant reduction in call wait times and abandoned call rates.

As part of the U.S. Families First Coronavirus Response Act, all SNAP-eligible households became eligible for maximum SNAP benefits. Another provision allowed for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits for school-aged children who would have received free or reduced meals if school had been in session. Kasey Reagan worked night and day, 7 days a week, to implement these significant emergency programs. Through the efforts Kasey led, $302 million in additional food benefits have been issued to Illinois families struggling to make ends meet. Not one to rest on a job well done, Kasey is now leading Illinois' efforts to make online purchasing possible for SNAP households.

Fun Facts:

  • Leslie and her husband have three adult sons and are raising their 18-year-old grandson. Her best friend is her much-loved 14-year old Lab mix, Nash.
  • Angie is married with one son, a recent high school graduate who has chosen to serve his country and will be leaving soon for U.S. Air Force Basic Training. Angie likes to do craft work in her spare time.
  • Jamie is the mother of three children, two daughters and a son. One daughter is also experiencing an abrupt end to her senior year of high school and her son is missing his sports season. Jamie and her husband, along with their children, love to travel and enjoy cruises.
  • Kasey and her husband have two children, and two recently adopted puppies, Ozzie and Izzie.

Thank you to all DFCS staff who continue to, and have always, helped support Illinoisans in crisis.

Please also see the updates from Governor Pritzker from yesterday's press conference.

COVID-19 Updates for Tuesday, 06-02-2020

  • Public Testing Sites Reopening: IDPH announced that all State-run community-based testing sites will be open on Wednesday, June 3rd except for the one in Waukegan, which is in the process of moving to 102 West Water Street and will open on Thursday.
  • Cocktails to Go: Yesterday, Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 2682, which allows the sale of cocktails for pickup and delivery by bars and restaurants with liquor licenses. "Restaurants and bars are beloved businesses in so many of our communities and also some of the hardest hit from the COVD-19 pandemic," the Governor said. "This legislation will provide these businesses with a critical tool to bring in additional income until they can safely and fully reopen their doors once more."
  • Positivity Rate: The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate is currently 7%.
  • Daily Statewide COVID-19 cases: 1,614 new cases reported in Illinois and 113 additional deaths.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS