Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in Illinois

In just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of our nation and tragically claimed more than 125,000 American lives, including 7,000 Illinois residents.

As case counts keep rising, so do the stakes for the public health, economic, and fiscal policy decisions that will confront policymakers at every level of government in the weeks and months ahead.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute has been crunching the numbers, and here’s what we’ve found:

Protecting Lives and Livelihoods: While paid sick leave reduces workplace infections by nearly 40%, recent ILEPI research found enacting a statewide law would reduce these risks for as many as 1.5 million workers and boost incomes by $1,000 per year. We also found that full implementation of Illinois’ “Work-Share” Program could save as many as 125,000 jobs by encouraging employers to reduce work hours as an alternative to layoffs and help the state access over $1 billion in federal relief.

An Infrastructure Pandemic: COVID-19-related travel and transportation revenue disruptions could cost Illinois infrastructure projects $560 million in 2020 alone. As the Chicago Tribune reported, this could delay projects associated with Illinois’ historic $45 billion 2019 capital infrastructure program, Rebuild Illinois, which was designed to address decades of maintenance backlogs and safety issues. These investments will tbecome even more important as state lawmakers seek ways to put people back to work and support economic recovery.

Structural Inequities Exposed by Pandemic: Together with our colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we found that “essential” and “face-to-face” workers who were most at risk of COVID-19 and most affected by the state’s efforts to contain the pandemic also earn lower wages, face more job volatility, and are more likely to be people of color than “remote workers.”  As the Chicago Tribune reported, these realities underlie a range of important policy considerations for state lawmakers as they undertake the important work of economic recovery.

Preparing our Health System: Long before COVID-19 hit, ILEPI had sounded alarms about the critical nursing shortage facing Illinois hospitals. Our newest research shows that unionized hospitals not only have lower nurse vacancy and turnover rates critical to good patient care outcomes, but also have more infection prevention and control staff and are able to devote more time to caring for individual patients– both critical metrics in a pandemic.

We hope that you and your families are staying safe during this incredibly challenging time. Please know that we remain committed to providing both lawmakers and the public with the real-time data and analysis that’s needed to ensure Illinois can emerge from this crisis stronger than we were before.

Together, we will.

P.S. As our state faces critical policy decisions in the months ahead, your support for our work has never been more important. If you can, please click here to chip in and support ILEPI today!