During the pandemic, Illinois had to borrow nearly $5 billion from the federal government to pay the large number of unemployment claims resulting from the shutdowns. Many states that got similar loans used money from the US Federal Bailout Act (ARPA) to pay off their debts. Illinois, however, spent that money on other projects, paying off only part of the debt. The budget passed last spring left $1.8 billion unpaid and started collecting interest.
Recently, the state made another partial payment on this debt, but there is still more than $1 billion in arrears. Many Illinoisans who lost their jobs in 2020 were able to return to work, which means their employers are now paying unemployment taxes on their payroll. Last week, the state transferred $450 million in unemployment tax revenue to pay off another portion of the debt Illinois owes Uncle Sam.
Unfortunately, even with this payment, we still owe $1.35 billion, and this debt continues to accrue interest that the state will also have to pay. This is just another example of the consequences of short-sighted budgeting and spending decisions in Springfield.
Doctors remind Illinois to get flu shots this fall
Every year around this time, we hear the reminders to get your flu shot before the typical flu season that runs throughout the fall and winter. This year, doctors are to be particularly vocal on flu shots due to several different factors.
Flu rates have dropped significantly over the past two years as people stayed home and avoided contact with others. There are fears there will be a rebound this year as people interact more and resistance may be lower after a few slow flu seasons. Flu season in Australia, where the flu tends to hit before it reaches the United States, would also be particularly severe this year.
Certain groups are at higher risk for flu complications, such as the elderly and infants, as well as pregnant women, children, and people with underlying health conditions. Contact your doctor or local health department for information about flu vaccine availability in your community.
Mortgage rates and other interest rates rise in response to inflation
The latest Consumer Price Index numbers show item prices in parts of Illinois have risen by an average of 8.8% in the last 12 months. Some prices, like many groceries, have increased by double digits during this period.
In response to levels of inflation not seen in nearly 40 years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which also drove up mortgage rates. The median rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now around 7%. These higher mortgage rates tend to hit first-time home buyers the hardest, and these rising rates are making it much harder for middle-class Illinois households to buy a home.
Real estate sales in Illinois are down 8% since the peak in June, just when interest rates started to rise. With rates continuing to rise, this trend should continue. Unfortunately, most Illinois haven’t received the kind of wage increases that would be needed to keep up with those inflation levels.
Tribute to a Fallen Hero
On Saturday, October 1, Private First Class John L. Ferguson of the US Army Air Corps was laid to rest in Gridley Cemetery with full military honors and a procession fit for a hero who gave his last full measure of devotion to his country. He died as a prisoner of war on December 10, 1942 in the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines.
In March 2018, his remains were identified and now, after 80 years, he is finally home.
On behalf of State Representative Dan Brady and myself, I presented to the family House Resolution 951 and a flag flying above our state and national capitols in honor of PFC Ferguson. God bless his family and God bless America.
How much do we owe?
As of this writing, the State of Illinois must $2,204,063,243 in unpaid invoices to government suppliers. A year ago, the backlog stood at $4.3 billion. This figure represents the amount of invoices submitted to the comptroller’s office and still awaiting payment. It does not include liabilities that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated at over $137 billion.
Did you know?
Abraham Lincoln, 21, was taking a supply flatboat to New Orleans when he got stuck on rocks on the Sangamon River. Unloading his cargo near a small village, he found that the town had no general store. Changing his plans, he decides to settle down and sell his wares there instead of New Orleans. It was from this little village; called New Salem; that Lincoln entered politics and won his first election, a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. The rest is history.
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