SPRINGFIELD — Support within the ranks of Illinois House Democrats to reelect Rep. Michael Madigan to another term as speaker eroded further Thursday, Nov. 19, after federal prosecutors in Chicago issued four more indictments Wednesday night linking him to a bribery scheme involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison.
Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, became the latest Democrat to defect on Thursday when he announced on Twitter that he would not support Madigan for another term. Democratic Reps. Jonathan Carroll, of Northbrook, and Sam Yingling, of Grayslake, also issued a statement Thursday saying they would not support Madigan for another term.
The three new defectors make 15 Democrats who have said publicly they would not vote for Madigan, who has been speaker for all but two years since 1983. If all stick to their positions, that would put Madigan shy of the needed 60 vote threshold to retain the position when lawmakers vote on the matter in January.
Those defections came the day after indictments were released late Wednesday against Michael McClain, a former ComEd lobbyist and close Madigan confidant, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive John Hooker, and Jay Doherty, a lobbyist who worked on contract for ComEd. The indictments charged each with bribery and conspiracy in a yearslong scheme to award no-work jobs, internships and contracts to Madigan associates in order to win his favor for legislation benefitting the company.
Madigan himself has not been charged, and Thursday morning he issued another statement steadfastly denying that he engaged in any wrongdoing.
“To the extent that anyone at ComEd or (its parent company) Exelon believed they could influence my conduct as a legislator by hiring someone I may have recommended, who worked for me, or who did political work for me, they were fundamentally mistaken,” he said. “If they even harbored the thought that they could bribe or influence me, they would have failed miserably. I take offense at any notion otherwise.”
The latest charges spell out in greater detail the scheme that was first disclosed in a deferred prosecution agreement that ComEd officials entered in July. Specifically, the new charges cite internal company emails in which the defendants refer to Madigan as “our Friend” or “a Friend of ours.”
* * *
PRITZKER PRESSURES MADIGAN: Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday, Nov. 19, put his own pressure on House Speaker Michael Madigan, saying the Democratic leader needs to answer questions from the press and the public or else resign.
The governor’s comments during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago came one day after federal prosecutors in Chicago handed down indictments against four former Commonwealth Edison officials, charging them with bribery and conspiracy in a scheme to win Madigan’s favor for legislation benefitting the company.
“If Speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious ethical cloud hanging over his head, then he has to, at the very least, be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their satisfaction,” Pritzker said. “Written statements and dodged investigatory hearings are not going to cut it. If the speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign as speaker.”
Madigan has served as House speaker for all but two years since 1983 and is currently the longest-serving state legislative speaker in U.S. history. He is also expected to seek another term as speaker when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, but his support within the ranks of House Democrats has been eroding since he was first implicated in the bribery scheme in July, when company officials entered a deferred prosecution agreement that included paying a $200 million fine.
As of Thursday afternoon, according to several media reports, he appeared to be short of the 60 votes needed to secure another term as speaker. At the same time, though, no other Democrat appeared to be close to a winning margin either. Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, is the only other announced candidate for the job, but she has attracted little vocal support from other Democrats so far.
Pritzker would not offer any comment about who he thinks should be the next speaker and he said he had not spoken to Democratic lawmakers since the indictments were released Wednesday night.
* * *
INVESTIGATING COMMITTEE: In late August, after the deferred prosecution agreement regarding Commonwealth Edison was released, Republicans in the Illinois House petitioned to form a Special Investigative Committee to determine whether there was evidence to commence disciplinary proceedings against House Speaker Michael Madigan.
That committee has met only twice, most recently on Sept. 29, but on Thursday House Republicans held a news conference to insist that the panel meet soon so it can consider evidence presented in the latest indictment.
“It’s time for Mike Madigan to appear before the Special Investigating Committee to offer a defense,” said Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, a member of the committee, on Thursday, Nov. 19. “And since he’s indicated he won’t come willingly, it’s time for the committee to meet and vote and issue a subpoena.”
But the committee chairman, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a separate statement that he will not be rushed into calling another meeting.
“The federal prosecutor’s indictments against former ComEd associates elaborate on the company’s pattern of behavior as was previously detailed in the deferred prosecution agreement,” Welch said. “They do not, however, give members of this committee carte blanche to substitute partisan grandstanding for deliberate consideration.”
* * *
TIER 3 MITIGATIONS: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday, Nov. 17, the entire state would enter Tier 3 of his mitigation plan starting Friday as he noted the best way for Illinoisans to avoid another stay-at-home order was by staying home.
“Tier 3 boils down to this: if you don’t need to do it, don’t,” Gov. JB Pritzker said of leaving the home as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to soar.
Pritzker, at his daily briefing, said the Tier 3 mitigations stop short of a stay-at-home order, although staying home was the best option for limiting the virus’ spread. More businesses are allowed to remain open than when he issued a stay-at-home order in March because more is known about the virus, he said.
The Tier 3 mitigations also call for limiting home gatherings to household members and banning gatherings at meeting rooms, banquet centers, private party rooms, private clubs and country clubs. Funerals are limited to 10 family members of the deceased person.
“To be very clear, we are relying on you here,” Pritzker said. “Nobody will go door-to-door to check on you. But we’re asking people to hold themselves and each other accountable.”
The mitigations are needed, according to the governor and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, because hospitalizations are hitting a point of exponential growth, meaning the rate of increase is growing faster. Mitigations will be in place until numbers start to decrease significantly, the governor said.
Health and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity as long as all patrons wear a face covering and reservations will be required. Indoor classes will not be allowed and locker rooms will be required to close starting Friday, according to mitigations announced Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The guidance also calls for a “pause” of all indoor group sporting and recreational activities including youth and adult recreational sports while Tier 3 mitigations are in place. This includes park districts and travel leagues.
Outdoor sports and recreation are allowed but participant groups and practices outdoors will be limited to 10 people or less and social distancing is required along with face coverings.
Non-essential retail facilities will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity, while pharmacies and grocery stores may operate at 50 percent capacity.
Personal care services must operate at the lesser of 25 clients or 25 percent of capacity but can remain open as long as everyone wears a face covering throughout the appointment.
Indoor service will continue to be banned at bars and restaurants, which will no longer be allowed to operate gaming terminals. The businesses must close by 11 p.m. and table sizes cannot exceed six people.
The tier also closes indoor recreation centers such as theaters, performing arts centers and indoor museums and amusement centers. Outdoor activities are allowed at 25 percent of capacity or less, with outdoor group activities limited to 10 people or less, with face coverings and reservations required.
Manufacturing facilities may remain open with several safety and risk guidelines and contact tracing procedures in place.
* * *
11,000 DEAD, 6,000 HOSPITALIZED: The state reported its second-highest one-day COVID-19 count Thursday with 14,612, but it also reported its second-highest daily testing output with 113,447 results reported over the previous 24 hours.
The 168 COVID-19 related deaths reported Thursday made for the third-highest one-day total since the pandemic began. That brought the total death toll to 11,178 among 621,383 confirmed cases out of 9.4 million test results reported.
Dr. Kamaljit Singh, an infectious disease specialist at NorthShore Medical Group, called the COVID-19 pandemic a “21st century mass casualty event” and said the hospital system is “close to a breaking point.”
That came as hospitalizations for the virus surpassed 6,000 for the first time since the pandemic began with 6,037 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds at the end of Wednesday. That marks 25 straight days of increasing hospitalizations, while 29 percent of hospital beds remained open statewide.
Intensive care bed and ventilator usage for the virus each blew past second-wave highs as well, with 1,192 and 587 in use, respectively. Approximately 30 percent of ICU beds and 71 percent of ventilators remained unused at the end of Wednesday.
“It reminds me of growing up during the Vietnam War. I could never wrap my brain around the numbers of soldiers’ lives lost but the pictures were terribly compelling. Unfortunately, I can't show you pictures of the suffering of our patients, but hopefully you can tell from the tone of my voice that this is a real human tragedy,” Singh said.
He said the capacity restrictions and limits to indoor gatherings seen in the Tier 3 mitigations that will take effect Friday are needed to limit the virus’ spread, but people also need to voluntarily stop attending large gatherings.
The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate increased slightly from the day prior to 12 percent, remaining more than a point below its Nov. 13 high of 13.2 percent. The one-day positivity rate Thursday was 12.9 percent, which was the fifth highest single-day number of the second wave.
Eight of the state’s 11 COVID-19 mitigation regions saw the same or lower positivity rates from the day before as of Monday, as that data lags three days behind the current day.
While Gov. JB Pritzker said he was optimistic about leveling positivity rates, he added, “it's too early at this point to determine if this stabilizing of the average is a meaningful trend or an anomaly.”
He said it is still important to maintain social distance, wear face coverings, wash hands and avoid large gatherings. That’s also true for the Thanksgiving holiday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at the briefing.
On Oct. 26, the state warned that the death toll could reach 11,000 by the end of the year – a number that was hit less than one month later. On Wednesday, the state said models project between 17,000 and 45,000 additional deaths in Illinois between now and March 1 without increased mitigations.
The virus is behind only heart disease and cancer as leading causes of death in the state, and the death rate is twice as high in rural areas than it is in metropolitan areas, according to the governor’s office.
RESTAURANTS ORDERED CLOSED: Four restaurants in Sangamon County that continued to offer indoor dining in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation plan were ordered to shut down temporarily Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The order from a Sangamon County judge states that the four restaurants — Charlie Parker’s Diner, D&J Cafe, Sweet Basil Cafe, and Fox Run Restaurant and Lounge — “are prohibited from selling food items,” effective immediately.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health issued citations and $500 fines last week to the restaurants for violating the indoor dining ban that went into effect on Friday, Nov. 13.
The entire state came under stricter COVID-19 restrictions earlier this month after all 11 of the state’s mitigation regions experienced positivity rates greater than 8 percent for three consecutive days. Those restrictions included a ban on indoor dining and bar service, as well as limits on in-person capacity and six-feet social distancing requirements.
Local officials in Springfield and Sangamon County initially proposed a “phased” plan to allow indoor dining and bar service to continue but changed course after legislative leaders announced they would cancel the fall session that would have brought members of the Illinois General Assembly to town and cases continued to rise.
After issuing the fines and citations, the Sangamon County health department suspended the restaurants’ food services licenses, but they continued to operate without licenses.
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Daniel Wright, who represents the health department, filed a complaint in Sangamon County court against the restaurants. Wright’s complaint asked the court to find that the restaurants violated the county code requiring food licenses, and to issue a temporary restraining order to keep them from operating.
On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Raylene Grischow granted a temporary restraining order against the four restaurants, pending the next court hearing on Dec. 3.
Thomas DeVore — who represents Charlie Parker’s, Fox Run and Sweet Basil Café — said he and his clients are still determining their next steps.
Wright declined to comment on Grischow’s decision.
JUDGE: PRITZKER ACTED LAWFULLY: A Sangamon County judge on Monday, Nov. 16, ruled the governor’s administration has power under state law and the state constitution to issue executive orders that mandate public health measures at schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision issued by Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow, after a roughly two hour hearing, relates to two lawsuits — Mainer v. Illinois Department of Public Health and Pritzker v. Board of Education of Hutsonville — that arose from Pritzker’s executive orders regarding schools issued in June.
The governor’s executive orders apply to all public and nonpublic schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and they allow schools to reopen as long as they follow IDPH public health requirements, which include capping the number of people in gatherings and requiring face coverings and temperature screenings.
In explaining her decision, Grischow cited her Aug. 18 order in Pritzker v. Board of Education of Hutsonville when she issued a temporary restraining order requiring the schools to follow the state’s public health guidelines set forth in Pritzker’s executive orders.
“This court’s opinion that was issued on August 18 has not changed,” Grischow said in court Monday. “The court is still of the opinion that the governor has the authority to issue executive orders, successive executive orders, along with guidance to the agency to help promulgate those executive orders.”
Her decision, issued verbally from the bench, finds that the governor’s executive orders regarding schools were issued lawfully, and the state agencies lawfully issued the guidance contained in those orders.
The parents in both lawsuits argued that the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education cannot impose mandatory health guidance in schools without the approval of the Illinois General Assembly. Thier lawyer said they plan to appeal.
* * *
SHUTDOWN LAWSUITS CONSILODATED: The Illinois Supreme Court agreed to combine 10 lawsuits challenging indoor dining bans across the state with existing cases in Sangamon County that raise the same legal questions.
The Supreme Court’s order brings a total of 19 cases involving legal challenges to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 related restrictions that are now consolidated in Sangamon County Court before Judge Raylene Grischow.
The 10 cases added to Grischow’s group of pending cases were all brought by businesses operating as restaurants with indoor dining service, and all the cases are against Pritzker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and IDPH.
The order filed on Tuesday is in response to a request from lawyers with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which represents the governor and state agencies.
The AG’s lawyers note that all of the cases raise the same question about the governor’s authority to issue multiple, successive disaster proclamations under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.
Grischow has already ruled in favor of Pritzker’s authority to issue multiple 30-day disaster proclamations in two cases that challenged the governor’s executive orders mandating certain public health measures in K-12 schools.
On Tuesday, in a separate matter, Grischow granted a temporary restraining order against four Sangamon County restaurants that continued to offer indoor dining after the county health department suspended their food service licenses.
The temporary restraining order remains in effect, pending a hearing before Grischow on Dec. 3.
The cases consolidated before Grischow are scheduled for oral arguments in Sangamon County on Dec. 21.
The request from the AG’s lawyers also asked the Illinois Supreme Court to consolidate all future cases filed that involve this legal question to the group of cases in Sangamon County but the Supreme Court did not grant that part of the request.
* * *
MIDWEST GOVERNORS: A bipartisan group of governors from seven Midwestern states, including Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, issued a joint plea Tuesday, Nov. 17, for residents of their states to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 over the upcoming holiday weekend, even if that means avoiding travel and family get-togethers.
“This Thanksgiving is going to look different than others have before, and it’s because it has to,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a virtual joint news conference. “I know that instead of hosting a big, in-person Thanksgiving like I usually do, I’m going to be setting up a Zoom call with my family members.”
Whitmer was joined by Pritzker, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, all Democrats, in the news conference. Earlier, however, those governors were joined by Republican Govs. Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Mike DeWine of Ohio in releasing a joint video on social media calling on residents throughout the region to take extra precautions this year.
All of those states, as well as others in the region, have see some of the most rapid growth rates in the nation for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. And the news conference came on the same day Pritzker announced that, beginning Friday, all of Illinois will be placed under Tier 3 mitigations, which include the closing of certain nonessential businesses and strict capacity limits in retail stores, fitness centers and some other establishments.
“As of our most current data, Illinois today is averaging more than 5,200 patients (per day) fighting COVID-19 in our hospitals – 400 more individuals than at our spring high,” Pritzker said. “And this isn’t just in Chicago or our other cities in Illinois. It’s happening in our suburbs and our rural areas.”
* * *
NEW LEAF INITIATIVE: A new state-funded initiative called New Leaf Illinois aims to connect Illinoisans who want to remove marijuana arrests or convictions from their records with 20 nonprofit organizations that provide free legal representation and information on expungements.
New Leaf Illinois was launched Thursday by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, an organization created by a 1999 state law to distribute funding appropriated by the government to support nonprofit legal aid programs and initiatives. IEJF administers state appropriations to three programs – a broad legal aid grant program, a legal aid service for veterans, and, most recently, a marijuana offense expungement program.
As part of the 2019 Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act – the law that legalized marijuana for recreational use – arrests and convictions for certain marijuana offenses are eligible for expungement. Arrests and minor offenses are eligible for automatic expungement, while some convictions require a petition be filed in court.
The 2019 law also set aside a portion of the tax revenue generated from the legal sale of marijuana that must be put toward the expungement process. Through the IEJF, a portion of these funds are given as grants to New Leaf organizations to provide legal services.
Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales has also been earmarked for other services, like the R3 community investment program.
According to Leslie Corbett, IEJF executive director, the organization received a $1.6 million appropriation to create the New Leaf initiative, with $1.46 million being distributed as grants to the 20 member organizations and the remainder being used to administer the program.
IEJF estimates there are approximately 700,000 Illinoisans eligible for marijuana offense expungement, either through the automatic process or the court filing route. Automatic expungement means the beneficiary doesn’t have to personally ask for expungement, but the process itself must still be carried out manually by the Illinois State Police and criminal justice officials on a case-by-case basis.
* * *
MASSIVE BUDGET DEFECITS: A new report from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget shows that without significant new revenue, spending cuts or a combination of both, the state will face a budget deficit of $3.9 billion in the current fiscal year and continuing deficits of $4 billion or more in each of the next five fiscal years.
It also projects that the state’s backlog of unpaid bills could grow to as much as $33 billion by fiscal year 2026, up from the current backlog total of about $7.8 billion, if lawmakers do not make structural changes.
The report does not actually predict that those deficits will occur. Instead, it is intended to show what would happen under the state’s current revenue structure and spending obligations.
The report, which was released late Friday, Nov. 13, attributes much of the current fiscal year’s deficit to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in dramatic revenue losses for state and local governments throughout the country.
But it also notes that voters’ rejection of Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax means the state will have fewer tools at its disposal to address its ongoing “structural” budget deficits.
Revenue officials had estimated that passage of the amendment would have brought in an additional $1.2 billion during the last six months of the current fiscal year, and roughly $3.2 billion per year after that.
Earlier this year, Pritzker advised state agency directors to prepare for a 5 percent budget reduction this year, and to make plans for a potential 10 percent cut in fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1. But the report says even that would not be enough to close the gap between anticipated revenues and expenditures, and that Pritzker is unwilling to make deeper cuts, which means he will have to seek legislative approval for some form of tax increases.
According to the report, one of the options being considered is some form of tax increase or elimination of corporate and business tax “loopholes.”
“There’s a lot on the table. We’ve got to look at cuts first, and we’re all looking at that” Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago Monday. “I think those cuts will be somewhat painful, and then we’ll consider all the other options about what we need to do in order to get to balance for FY21 and moving forward.”
Another short-term option is to borrow from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, which lawmakers authorized during their special session in May, but the GOMB report notes that would only add to the state’s debt obligations, and the projected budget deficits in future years.
* * *
HOSPITALS ARE SAFE: A pair of hospital administrators called for statewide participation to slow virus spread on Monday, Nov. 16, but also encouraged Illinoisans not to be afraid of visiting the hospital should serious illness arise from COVID-19 or other medical conditions.
Dr. Michael Kulisz, an emergency medical specialist and chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine, said two hospitals he’s affiliated with in Region 1 of the state’s mitigation plan in northwest Illinois have more than doubled the peaks of the spring.
“It's important for the community to understand that each of the hospitals is a safe place to come to,” he said. “I know early in the pandemic, some patients opted to stay home because of the fear that it wasn't safe at the hospital, but the hospitals have put a lot of things in place, including (personal protective equipment), hand washing stations, and visitor policies that does make it safe for patients to come.”
Still, he said, as the positivity rate in Region 1 hovers around 20 percent, community members should avoid exposure to COVID-19 by staying in when possible, keeping distance from others, masking and washing hands.
Ruth Colby, president and CEO of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, echoed Kulisz, noting that several hospital workers and nurses have had to quarantine because of virus exposure in the community.
“My message is that every time someone in the community does not wear a mask or observe the other safety precautions you've outlined, that creates the potential for a health care worker to contract COVID, and we're urging everyone in the community to please, please help us stem the growth of this disease, especially over the holidays,” she said.
* * *
VACCINE NEWS: Gov. JB Pritzker noted Monday, Nov. 16, there was “wonderful news on the vaccine front” Monday, Nov. 16, as pharmaceutical company Moderna announced it had a vaccine with an early success rate nearing 95 percent. But he noted that candidate and a vaccine from Pfizer still must pass future phases relevant to their safety and efficacy before they are used. And even then, it could be well into 2021 before a vaccine becomes widely available.
“We have real hope for possible widespread distribution by early spring,” Pritzker said. “Still, that's months away. So we have to let that inspire us not to give up, and to take more precautions for ourselves and for our health care workers. Let's do all that we can to save lives now, so that more Illinoisans, more Americans will be here when the vaccine is here.”
* * *
EVICTIONS, DRIVERS LICENSES: As the state once again reported a one-day high for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. JB Pritzker announced he would extend a temporary ban on evictions and Secretary of State Jesse White announced he would be closing driver services facilities.
At his COVID-19 briefing in Chicago Friday, Pritzker said this iteration of the eviction ban will aim at excluding “tenants who may have been taking advantage of the eviction moratorium but who are in fact able to make their monthly rent payments.”
He said the new eviction moratorium will apply only to renters who have earned no more than $99,000 in annual income or $198,000 as joint filers for this calendar year.
The governor said renters will be required to submit a declaration form to their landlord certifying that they are unable to pay their rent due to the substantial loss of income or an increase in out-of-pocket expenses stemming from the pandemic.
“This new order also clarifies that enforcement of pre-pandemic eviction orders can indeed move forward if there are serious health or safety concerns,” he said.
The rising COVID-19 spread led the secretary of state’s office to once again shut down Drivers Services Facilities, at least from Nov. 17 to Dec. 7, as the state has encouraged all Illinoisans to stay at home except for essential doctor visits, grocery trips, COVID-19 tests or work or schooling for the next three weeks.
White’s office encouraged all to use the secretary of state online services and announced that expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards will be extended until June 1, 2021. The extension includes those who have February, March, April and May 2021 expiration dates, as expired driver’s licenses and ID cards will remain valid until June 1, 2021.
In a news release, White said 19 Commercial Driver License facilities will remain open for driving tests scheduled by appointment by calling 217-785-3013. Seven Drivers Services Facilities will be offering drive-thru services for license plate sticker transactions only, with more information at cyberdriveillinois.com.
* * *
UNEMPLOYMENT UPDATE: The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported 46,800 first-time unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 14. That’s a decrease of 20,358 from the week prior. Nationally, there were 742,000 first-time claims for the week, an increase of 31,000 from the previous week.
IDES reported the state’s unemployment rate fell 3.6 percentage points to 6.8 percent for the month of October, prior to increased mitigations taking effect. The September unemployment rate was revised upward from the preliminary report, from 10.2 percent to 10.4 percent, according to IDES’ release of data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The state’s unemployment rate was 0.1 percentage point lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.9 percent for October. The national rate decreased 1 percentage point from the previous month.
Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday that although state workers prepare to work from home amid Tier 3 mitigations, it shouldn’t affect staff at IDES, who “continue to whittle down any backlog” in unemployment claims.
“We're trying to have similar rules for state government as we have for offices, for example, in our mitigation plans,” he said. “There obviously are certain circumstances where you can't ask people to do that because we have a duty to serve people in our state. So, we don't expect that there will be any ramping down of people who are serving those who are seeking unemployment benefits.”