Quick hits: Illinois news in brief for Thursday, April 2, 2020

Illinois unemployment claims increase to 178,133

In the last week, the number of Illinoisans filing for unemployment increased to 178,133.

That’s an increase of 64,000 more than the week before.

The funds Illinois has to cover unemployment claims are likely to run out.

Illinois had to take out a loan to pay back $2.4 billion from the federal government during the Great Recession. The state paid it off in 2017.

Federal, state officials warn of difficult weeks ahead

From the president to state and local officials, the warning is the next few weeks are going to be tough. Illinois officials reported 42 deaths in a single day, and that is expected to increase.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now projects that Illinois could see as many as 109 deaths a day by April 20 and trends down to zero deaths by early June.

Struggling small businesses look for help amid pandemic

Small businesses affected by the government-ordered shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic can start applying for a variety of loan programs.

Kevin Lust with the Small Business Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College recommends businesses apply where they can to get in line and then evaluate all the available options.

One federal program available this week is a near-zero percent interest loan that turns to a grant if the business uses most of it on payroll to keep workers on through the crisis.

Hospital bed occupancy rates falls slightly

The number of hospital beds in Illinois continues to increase, but the occupancy rate decreased slightly from 58 percent to 57 percent.

There was an increase of five more ICU beds to add to the state’s total, of which 68 percent are occupied. That’s up from 65.7 percent occupied Tuesday.

The latest numbers Wednesday for ventilators show the state has 29 more than reported Tuesday, and the occupancy dropped from 49.7 percent to 45 percent occupied.

Illinois Secretary of State urges people to use online services

Driver services facilities around the state that have been closed since March 21 are now closed through April 30.

That coincides with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s updated stay-at-home order.

Secretary of State Jesse White said the expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification cards, vehicle registration and other documents will be extended 30 days after facilities reopen.

He encouraged people to find out what services they offer online at CyberDriveIllinois.com.

Contest crowns Caterpillar mining truck ‘coolest thing’ made in Illinois

The coolest thing made in Illinois is the 797F Mining Truck manufactured by Caterpillar in Decatur.

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association announced the winner Wednesday.

Nearly 300,000 votes were cast in the bracket-style competition pitting more than 260 products against each other over eight weeks.

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