Latest coronavirus news for April 13, 2020: Live updates

The latest

Six ways the coronavirus pandemic will hit Chicago’s economy hard

1. Spending local gets harder

Even before the crisis, times weren’t good on the local commercial street. Start with outmoded space, lack of parking and a poor mix of stores, add in digital shopping and compound that with a hard recession and you’ve got a surfeit of “for rent” signs and landlords with little incentive to maintain things. Sam Toia, CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, worries that 25% of his members in Chicago will never re-open. Maybe cheap rents and cash on hand will bring out successors.

2. Don’t believe the construction cranes

In the office market, job cuts mean lower demand for space. Ross Moore, economist at the real estate firm Cresa, wrote, “Accounting for new construction, the U.S. office vacancy rate could therefore easily double in the next 12 to 24 months to nearly 20%.”

3. New respect for the suburbs

Chicago has ridden a wave of urbanization led by young people drawn to other young people. The West Loop can look like a post-graduate campus town. But something about a plague makes living cheek by jowl less attractive. Then those folks go to work in techie open-plan offices that cram people together and give them a coffee lounge to keep them happy. Some may decide that living with backyards like their parents did isn’t so bad.

Read the full story from the Sun-Times’ David Roeder.


6:34 a.m. Pritzker sounds alarm: Trump administration trying to limit gig worker jobless benefits

The Pritzker administration sounded the alarm Sunday over attempts by President Donald Trump’s Labor Department to narrow the ability of self-employed workers to qualify for new COVID-19 jobless benefits, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

A package of unprecedented, enhanced and extended unemployment benefits in the emergency $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law March 27.

Allowing self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers — such as Uber and Lyft drivers — the ability to collect unemployment on a temporary basis is a key new program created in the CARES Act.

Illinoisans already receiving unemployment payments should have received another $600 last week, with the federal government providing the emergency extra cash under the CARES Act.

The extra benefits are intended to quickly send money to workers who lost their jobs or were furloughed or whose income sources dried up because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the meltdown of the economy.

Read the full column from Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet here.

New Cases

Analysis & Commentary

6:01 a.m. Airlines safe, but Trump would let post office die

You can’t vote by mail if there’s no mail.

One of the many disasters that will ensue if the government actually lets the United States Postal Service go belly up, which it might do as early as September.

A disaster to democracy, small “d” — the mail knits this country together in a fundamental way, like the interstate highway system — and I suppose to large “d” Democrats, too. That’s because their frequent majority — which is supposed to be the deciding factor in elections, remember — is constantly being undercut by Republican voter suppression.

The GOP casts this anti-democratic (and yes, anti-Democratic) action as a campaign to suppress voter fraud, which is rich, like the guy breaking into your house and stealing your TV declaring it part of an anti-burglary campaign.

At least we haven’t gone back to literacy tests and poll taxes. Yet.

The USPS going bust would also be a disaster to already cratering employment. Unemployment shot up due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a record-shattering 16 million unemployment claims in three weeks. If the USPS goes, another 600,000 jobs — good jobs with benefits — go with it.

The $2 trillion bailout package approved by both houses of Congress would have been the perfect time to help out letter carriers, since the volume of mail is down some 50 percent due to COVID-19.

The package manages to rescue the airline industry; you’d think the mail would be a no-brainer. But even no-brainers are hard when you haven’t got a brain. Or, rather, when the rude ganglional clump that controls your actions only lights up when the topic is you.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.

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