Quick hits: Illinois news in brief for Thursday, April 23, 2020

102,000 people in Illinois file for unemployment benefits

More than 102,000 people in Illinois filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s down from last week’s filing of a 141,000.

In the past few weeks, more than 570,000 Illinoisans have filed for benefits. Nationally, 4.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims just last week.

Pritzker again rejects notion of Illinois filing for bankruptcy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker dismisses the idea of allowing states to declare bankruptcy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested states with high pension debt be allowed the option. Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is nearly $140 billion.

Illinois Senate Democrats have requested $41 billion from the feds with billions for state and local pensions.

Hospital occupancy rates continue to fluctuate

The state’s hospital capacity levels are mixed. Intensive Care Unit beds were 71 percent occupied statewide. That’s up from Monday’s rate of 69 percent.

Of the total number ventilators, 41 percent were occupied. That’s down from 42 percent reported Monday.

Of nearly 31,300 total beds, state officials say there are 4,665 COVID and possible COVID cases occupying a bed.

Republicans seeks information on people released early from prison

A group of Republican Illinois state Senators is demanding a list of all prison inmates released before completing their sentence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group said reports that Gov. J.B. Pritzker released violent felons are troubling.

The group filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Corrections for lists, case numbers and other information for this calendar year.

Business group sues over workers’ compensation policy change

A group of Illinois businesses is challenging a workers’ compensation policy the governor wanted to be changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency rules presume employers are responsible if certain employees get COVID-19. The workers don’t have to prove they got the disease on the job.

The business group said the state exceeded its rulemaking authority and such law changes must come from the state legislature. Pritzker didn’t comment saying there’s pending litigation.

School districts can stop teachers from deferring maternity leave, Illinois Supreme Court rules

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that teachers can’t defer maternity leave through summer break if the birth occurs at the end of the school year.

The court’s decision upheld lower court rulings in favor of the Wood Dale School District. In 2016, a teacher who had a child at the end of the school year and tried to take paid maternity leave when the fall semester resumed. The school district denied the request and the teacher sued with help from the union.

The union says it will now seek to change state law to allow the practice.

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