Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: September 21


JOBS
·        Illinois unemployment rate matches lowest on record.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced Thursday that the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in August and nonfarm payrolls decreased by -5,200 jobs over-the-month, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The July job gain was revised down slightly from its initial report to show no growth. (+0 jobs versus +3,700 jobs). 

Job growth moderated in the June to August period posting average monthly gains of +4,000 jobs over this three-month period, less than the prior 3-month average monthly gain of +8,300 jobs between May and July 2018.

“Illinois’ unemployment rate stood at 4.1% in August, matching the lowest rate on record,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Even with the over-the-month drop, nonfarm payrolls have surpassed the prior business cycle peak of September 2000. Jobs are still up more than 47,000 over the year, led by manufacturing.”

“The positive job growth over the last year indicates that efforts to improve the Illinois economy and actively recruit new investment are paying off,” said Illinois Department of Commerce Director Sean McCarthy. “Illinois is seeing the best employment environment since 1999, demonstrating that companies can see the potential to grow in our state.”

Over-the-year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +47,500 jobs with the largest gains in these industry sectors in August: Manufacturing (+11,300); Government (+10,500); and Financial Activities (+8,200). The industry sectors with over-the-year declines were: Information Services (-3,200) and Other Services (-600). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were up +0.8 percent over-the-year in sharp contrast to the nation’s +1.6 percent over-the-year gain in August. 

The state’s unemployment rate is +0.2 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for August 2018, which held at 3.9 percent. The Illinois unemployment rate is down -0.9 percentage points from a year ago when it was 5.0 percent. The Illinois jobless rate last stood at 4.1 percent in February 1999. The difference between the Illinois unemployment rate and the U.S. rate represents the smallest gap since December 2010.

CHICAGO
·        O’Hare International Airport ranked as “Most Connected” airport in Western Hemisphere.  Results from the Megahub Index, compiled by flight information database monitor OAG, were released this week.  The Index ranks the flight information posted by each airport and counts the number of steps necessary to get from each airport to destinations throughout the world.  The results strongly favor “hub-and-spoke” airports that serve as hubs for a wide variety of flights to many destinations.  

In terms of international flights, O’Hare scored #2 worldwide (second only to London’s Heathrow) and #1 in the Western Hemisphere in the September 2018 Megahub flight-information ranking index.  The index is used by many as a summary guide to gauge the attractiveness of a location, such as Illinois, as a focus for investment and personnel placement.    The 2018 Megahub Index scored O’Hare ahead of other major United States airports.  In addition to international flight honors, the U.S. subranking scored O’Hare first in U.S. connectivity, with the second, third, and fourth places going to Atlanta, Charlotte, and Dallas. 

NATIONAL GUARD
·        “Swiftwater” teams deployed to help floodwater victims in North Carolina.  At the direction of Gov. Bruce Rauner, specially-trained Illinois National Guard rescue teams have been deployed in the Southeast.  During the landfall of Hurricane Florence near Wilmington, North Carolina, regions of the Tarheel State endured rainfall totals as heavy as 25 inches.  Hurricane-related flooding has already required rescue workers to carry out many life-sustaining missions.  The disaster has cut off many people in the Carolinas from access to urgently required household supplies and medical care.  Many of these supplies and services can be provided on an emergency basis by helicopter-based teams.

“Swiftwater” squads are teams made up of personnel trained to carry out helicopter rescues, move essential relief supplies such as food and water, provide field emergency medical care, and provide emergency transportation for medical necessities and treatments.  A typical user of field emergency transport services will be a person who must undergo frequent kidney dialysis and who is cut off from his or her usual dialysis facility.  Thirteen personnel and their equipment have been dispatched in this stage of the post-Florence deployment.  The Illinois-based deployment is being coordinated by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).  The deployment began on Thursday, September 13.

OPIOID CRISIS
·        Illinois awarded $29 million to fight opioid crisis.  The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is receiving nearly $29 million in new federal funding to help the state fight the opioid crisis.

The federal grant was awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It brings to $61 million the total that the federal government has awarded to the state to fund important programs and initiatives meant to improve and expand access to treatment and recovery services for opioid use. 

“These federal dollars will allow the state to move forward on the goals and objectives laid out in the state’s opioid action plan and the work being done by the Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said. “The programs supported by this award represent a range of critical services that will prevent people from misusing opioids and help those with opioid use disorder to begin or continue their path to recovery.” 

“The initial federal funding gave IDHS and our other task force members the resources we needed to hit the ground running and implement many significant programs within our Opioid Action Plan,” said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who co-chairs the Governor’s opioid task force. “This year’s significant increase in funding will allow us to expand our efforts even more quickly and embolden those on the front lines of this battle to save even more lives.”

These funds will support the expansion of treatment and recovery interventions across the state, including medication-assisted treatment services for individuals with opioid use disorders who are incarcerated in county jails and hospital resources to link patients experiencing opioid overdoses with treatment programs in their communities. Housing for people in recovery from opioid use disorder and support services for patients at federally qualified health care centers also will receive grant funding. The award will strengthen and enhance the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, the state’s tracking system that helps to prevent the misuse of prescription opioids.

This grant also will expand opioid overdose protocols training for first responders and widen availability of the overdose reversal medication naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan. In state fiscal year 2018 alone, IDHS supported the purchase of more than 18,000 naloxone kits for first responders and bystanders. This award will help IDHS purchase additional naloxone kits.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded the Illinois Department of Public Health almost $3.7 million as part of a Cooperative Agreement for Emergency Response: Public Health Crisis Response grant to combat the opioid epidemic.

The funding will enhance the state’s capacity to rapidly respond to the opioid overdose crisis through improved data collection and prevention efforts. The grant will allow Illinois to increase its capacity to identify and report timely, comprehensive syndromic surveillance data on fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses.

If you or someone you know is experiencing opioid use disorder, call the state’s Helpline for Opioids and other Substances at 1-833-2FINDHELP or visit HelplineIL.org.

SUBURBS
·        Data rating firm Niche ranks U.S. suburbs for quality of life.  The Niche ranking listed “America’s 50 best suburbs,” ranked for quality-of-life statistics that included median home value, household income, crime and safety.  Of the top 50 municipal places to live, nine – almost one-fifth of the nationwide total – were located in Illinois.  The highest-ranking Illinois suburb was Clarendon Hills, ranked #3 nationwide.  Suburbs honored included four Illinois municipalities with populations above 40,000: Buffalo Grove (ranked #5 nationwide), Naperville (ranked #13), Oak Park (ranked #24), and Evanston (ranked #49). 

TAXES
·        Illinois Supreme Court upholds property tax break for nonprofit hospitals.  Under a state law passed in 2012, a not-for-profit hospital must monitor and report on the free and discounted health care that it provides to its community.  Many not-for-profit Illinois hospitals choose to provide significant amounts of discounted and charity care to their communities in lieu of what would be substantially burdensome taxes on real property.     

A lawsuit against the law claimed that real properties granted the tax exemption must be used “exclusively” for charitable purposes.  The lawsuit reached the Illinois Supreme Court this year, but the justices of the state high court decided unanimously against this claim and argument.  The 7-0 vote by the justices upheld the constitutionality of the law passed by the General Assembly.

When this question was discussed in the General Assembly in 2012, lawmakers were reluctant to say that a hospital should use its premises “exclusively” for charitable purposes.  Even if an entire Illinois hospital is operated on a not-for-profit basis, a typical modern hospital will share its space with one or more clinics of medical practitioners that are operated for profit; furthermore, the hospital will have extensive on-site contractual ties with for-profit service providers.  The hospital will have, within its walls, a cafeteria that is operated for profit, infrastructure services such as cleaning firms that are operated for profit, etc.  The General Assembly decided that it was not practical to impose a rigid, literal mandate of charitable non-profitability upon the entire premise of a modern Illinois hospital, and the Supreme Court’s decision expressed the judgment this week that the General Assembly had acted in good faith when they passed the current law.  The decision in the case of “Oswald v. Hamer”, upholding the 2012 law, was a reflection of this judgment.   The decision was handed down on Thursday, September 20.

ILLINOIS 200 – BICENTENNIAL
·        Online poll selects Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi as top Illinois scientist.  The Physics Prize winner and his family were refugees from Mussolini’s Italy.  Arriving at the University of Chicago, Fermi developed a team of experts in the then-newly-discovered phenomenon of atomic radioactivity.  On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was attacked and forced to enter World War II.

Fermi’s equations told him that if a large enough quantity of uranium was piled up, with nuggets of metal spaced close to each other (but not touching) in an arrangement he called a “pile,” the atoms of uranium would bombard each other with neutrons and the pile would become more and more radioactive.  The pile was constructed with an anti-neutron wedge, called a “damper,” that could be shoved back into the pile to keep things from getting out of hand.    

Under wartime conditions the 1942 sports events at the University of Chicago were truncated, and a uranium “pile” was built underneath the bleachers of the college football stadium.  Enough uranium was added to the assembly that, on December 2, 1942, the pile “went critical” and became more and more radioactive, its activity closely following the predictions previously made by Fermi and his team.  The damper was hastily reinserted, the mass cooled down, and the uranium was disassembled for further U.S. work elsewhere.  The first atomic bomb was tested on July 16, 1945, with Fermi credited as a major discoverer of the physics that made the bomb possible.  The physicist died of cancer in 1954.        

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