Message from the Secretary
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last week, our country commemorated the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and witnessed the inauguration of our 46th President. Only three weeks into this new year, we have been faced with dark images and acts of hatred as well as glimmers of light, hope, and possibilities for a brighter year. Dr. King's words and actions resonate with me, because even as he was a warrior for justice, he talks about love. For me, that is what his work represents - love. That is also what I think our work represents. We in the human services field are the hope for so many people in Illinois. It is a responsibility and privilege to have the power to help and to heal.
Much is said about how we are a polarized country and that our differences are vast and can't be bridged. I do see this and am troubled by it, but I don't believe that our differences can't be bridged. They can be, if we want and choose to do so. Each of us can do more to create a more diverse, inclusive, and loving world. Remembering and reaffirming and being inspired are not enough; we must challenge ourselves to live out the messages of Dr. King of love and the need to advance equity and racial justice.
Looking back over the unparalleled year we have navigated, we have so much to be proud of. We recognized and helped address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. We are acknowledging the pain and the harm inflicted on Black communities as a result of police violence. We are recognizing our need to do better and be better at seeing and respecting our shared humanity and dismantling a system that privileges some over others.
There is hope ahead of us as vaccines begin to make their way first through the front lines and to those most impacted by COVID-19. We commit to doing all that we can to assist our human services community in accessing the vaccine.
As always, thank you.
Grace B. Hou,
Federal Relief Funding
Public Law No. 116-260 was recently passed and includes $900 billion in COVID-19 relief. In addition to direct payments to individuals, there is funding to invest in education, transportation, agriculture, and small businesses. Please see below for the IDHS specifics included in Public Law No. 116-260.
Modifications to CARES Act and CRF
- Original deadline for CARES funding was extended to December 31, 2021 (1-year extension)
- Allows states more time to expend available CARES funds for COVID-19 eligible costs. IDHS will be working with GOMB to fully utilize current appropriations of CARES funds through the end of FY21, and possibly receiving additional CARES appropriations, as needed, and as funds remain.
COVID-19 Relief/Stimulus Act ($900 billion in new federal funding)
- Second round of economic impact payments to individuals - $600/person (based on income)
- Restoration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation - $300 supplement to all state and federal unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021
- Additional $284 billion made available for second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans
- Small businesses can receive a second round of PPP loans (if they meet the established criteria)
- Small businesses can receive a first round of PPP loans that are more flexible that previous round
- Child Care and Development Block Grant - $10 billion supplemental assistance for low-income families, some allowable uses include:
- Providing relief from co-payments
- Revenue loss payments to child care providers due to lower enrollment
- Increasing operating costs incurred in response to COVID-19
- Continue child care assistance to essential workers, without regard to income
- Additional funding for states (Illinois set to receive $350 million) - IDHS is working with GOMB and the Governor's Office on a plan to invest new federal funds
- $25 billion for rental assistance programming
- Estimated $463 million for Illinois
- Emergency Rental Assistance Program to target families impacted by COVID-19 to use assistance for past due rent, future rent payments, and utility and emergency bills
- Eviction Moratorium - extended through January 31, 2021 (Later extended through March 31, 2021 by Executive Order.)
- $4.25 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
- $1.65 billion for the Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment Block Grant
- $1.65 billion for the Mental Health Services Block Grant
- $600 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
- $240 million for emergency grants to States
- $50 million for suicide prevention programs
- $50 million for Project AWARE to support school-based mental health for children
- $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- IDHS does not have specifics on the increase funds for the State of Illinois to address Mental Health and Substance Abuse. We will be sharing information as it becomes available.
- 15% increase in monthly SNAP benefits extended through June 30, 2021
- $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance program
- P-EBT program updates
- Includes additional flexibilities for distribution of benefits
IDHS Vaccinations Have Started!
We are marking a new beginning. After a challenging year, we have entered a time of renewed hope. We are thrilled to report that vaccinations began with our staff, residents, and patients across our 24/7 facilities. As you know, at IDHS, we have been planning and taking the necessary steps to ensure that our staff, residents, patients, and community receives the vaccine in as timely a manner as possible and its heart-warming to know we have started to hit this milestone.
As our first group of staff, residents, and patients is vaccinated, we want to capture these moments with positivity, encouragement and smiles. We are accepting photos and short videos of our staff being vaccinated!
View a video from Dr. Hughes, IDHS Deputy Clinical Director of Inpatient Services, who pledges to get the vaccine and describes why it's important to him and our agency!
We will continue to diligently monitor developments, working closely with IDPH, the Governor's Office, and local health departments to keep our stakeholders informed. It is projected that vaccinations should become available to the general public in the spring and summer of 2021.
On a personal note, I plan to get the vaccine and do what I can to protect others and myself from COVID-19, and I hope you will do the same. I believe our colleagues and trusted physicians at IDPH and outside health experts have provided trustworthy guidance on the safety of these vaccines. An effective vaccine will help keep our patients and residents safe, our staff safe and help us to continue to provide our high-quality care across the State of Illinois.
While we continue learning more about vaccine developments and planning, we want to remind everyone to continue to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. Finally, thank you for your ongoing dedication and support during these unparalleled times. Be well and take good care.
Grace B. Hou
In the Spotlight
Alvin Schexnider, Operations Program Manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Operations
Alvin was interviewed by our team. Check out his answers below!
What inspired you to work for the State of Illinois?
Both of my parents worked for the State of Virginia, in education, so I learned as a young child how important it is to have people within an institution provide good citizen/customer-centric services to a state's residents.
What inspired you to work for the State of Illinois?
Both of my parents worked for the State of Virginia, in education, so I learned from a young child how important it is to have people within an institution provide good citizen/customer-centric services to a state's residents.
As I've progressed in my career, working in various operations roles have instilled in me the values of operational excellence, service innovation, and equity. Thus, it seemed like a great opportunity to work in an institution like IDHS where I could support our staff so that they can continue to provide that customer-centric service to Illinois' residents.
What's something you want to do in the next year that you've never done before?
Eating on a flexitarian diet (mostly vegan, occasional meat). I'm now on my third week-wish me luck!
What's the greatest advice you've ever received?
I didn't receive it in person, but rather from the book Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson: "Proximity will show you things that you won't see if you don't put yourself there".
What's your favorite quote from a TV show, movie or musical?
From HBO's Watchmen (2019). One of the main characters says to the lead character Angela Abar (played by Regina King): "You can't heal under a mask, Angela". This show, at a general level, is about superheroes in a somewhat more real-world context and the implications of their existence to both people and systemic issues of racism. But also, for those who have watched the series, that exchange is probably the most salient in the series for reasons that become poignantly clear later in the show. Would highly recommend the show, even if you don't like superhero movies, because it's infinitely way more than that, plus Regina King won an Emmy for that role.:) (Don't worry, I haven't spoiled anything about the show).
What message would you like to share with our stakeholders?
There are many of us who work behind the scenes at IDHS to ensure that the internal services to staff and programs work well, so that our customer-facing staff can best provide services to you. And though we may not see each other in person, know that we are here to help ensure that the services you receive continue to meet your needs, in our ever-evolving world.
Bright Spot: IDHS HR Team
In January, our IDHS HR team rolled out a new Enterprise Resource Planning System - Human Capital Management (ERP HCM). We are thrilled to thank our Human Resources (HR) team for their contribution to this initiative and for their ongoing work to ensure that this new system will be a success at IDHS, and to highlight their efforts during the pandemic in this month's Bright Spot.
With approximately 13,200 employees at IDHS, we are supported by a dynamic team of HR professionals. Together, we have 102 central HR staff, 22 facility liaisons, and 32 FMLA coordinators. As HR is charged with onboarding new employees and supporting employee benefits, COVID brought unique challenges that encouraged the modernization of old systems and processes that required in-person tasks. In addition to switching to working remotely, the HR team was also forced to figure out how to interview new employees, recruit new talent, and provide effective training - all during a hiring freeze on non-essential personnel that has been ongoing since March 2020.
However, through the hiring freeze and pandemic challenges, IDHS was able to increase our teams in areas that needed talent to maximize our agency impact. Their work allowed us to ensure that facilities and offices had the staff they needed so that Illinois families were receiving food and medical care. Through their tenacity, in the last six months, we hosted 73 recruitment presentations, conducted more than 1,575 interviews, and made 586 hires. More than 5,840 employees participated in Webinar/ CBLs, and 66,250 COVID CBLs were completed. The team worked tireless on evenings and weekends to make this process a success, working to reprogram computer systems to ensure that every employee continued to receive paychecks.
We owe a thank you to all of the HR team that kept us moving forward as an agency, and a specific thank you to the the groups led by Brad Stutz (Payroll), Angela Mizeur (BRS), Jayne Bethard (Classifications), Michelle Julian (CRHU), Deanna Bandy, Missy Bringle, Johgina Densmore, and Quinetta Grant (Training). Finally, another special thank you to the HR Liaisons at the facilities and divisions who went above and beyond in implementing new COVID policies.
Work for IDHS in 2021!
IDHS is hiring! Please visit the Illinois state jobs' website for all of the IDHS positions that are currently available.
Please also see the list below for additional positions we have open.
- Psychiatric Medical Director - Chicago
- Medical Administrator II - Alton
- Medical Administrator II - Park Forest (Part-time)
- Rehabilitation Counselor Trainee - Downers Grove
- Office Associate - Waukegan
- Activity Therapist - Kankakee
- Rehabilitation/Mobility Instructor Trainee - Kankakee
- Registered Nurse - Dixon
- Social Services Career Trainee - Statewide
- Mental Health Tech Trainee - Waukegan, Dixon, Dwight
- Maintenance Equipment Officer - Jacksonville
- Social Worker I, II, & III (Bilingual Spanish & English) - Hines, Elgin
- Social Worker II - Chester
- Dietitian - Anna
- Public Aid Eligibility Assistant - Kankakee
If you or someone you know is interested in one of these positions, please email your resume to DHS.Recruitment@Illinois.gov.