ACT Now would like to acknowledge the challenges that our youth, families, colleagues, communities, and network partners are facing as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. We will continue to support you all by sharing up-to-date resources and materials relating to COVID-19 from reputable federal and state agencies, through this webpage, our newsletter and E-alerts, as well as our social media platforms.

The information on this webpage is categorized in the following manner:

To review our resources relating to the topics below, click the links!

COVID-19 Overview

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a strain of the human coronavirus, first identified in December 2019, that has spread throughout the globe in the last few months.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has created an in-depth website to increase awareness of COVID-19, publish best practices and symptoms of COVID-19, share updates on the status of the pandemic within the United States, and resources for individuals, families, employers, etc. To access its 1-page Fact Sheet, click here.

Federal Policy Updates

New Tool for Understanding COVID-19 Community Levels

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has released a new tool for individuals to learn more about the COVID-19 rates in their community and county. There are also links to updated recommendations for each level (low, medium, and high risk).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s New Quarantine Recommendation for Schools

On January 6, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced its recommendation to reduce the number of days for isolation and quarantine for school personnel and students to five days. Both the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) have adopted this guidance as it applies to school settings. To read more about this isolation period and what it means for schools, click here.

NPR Article: On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was in the process of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old. Yesterday, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for this age group. To read the full article, click here.

President Joseph Biden Issues Vaccination Mandate

On September 8, 2021, President Joseph Biden announced new COVID-19 vaccination mandates to encourage Americans to receive the vaccines available. Key points of these new mandates include: 

  • Requiring all employers with more than 100 employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly
  • Requiring vaccinations for all federal workers and contractors that work with the Federal Government
  • Requiring vaccinations for all health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid hospitals and other health care settings
  • Requiring employers to provide paid time off for vaccinations
  • Requiring all Head Start program staff, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-Operated Schools to be vaccinated

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Approves the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccination

On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 years and older. For children between 12 and 15 years old and immunocompromised individuals who need a third dose, the vaccine will continue to be available under emergency use authorization.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated its guidance for providers facilitating youth development and summer learning programs amidst the pandemic. To review the document along with a variety of resources for planning for summer 2021 operations, click here.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: On March 19, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it has updated its operational strategy guide for K-12 schools in order to reflect new evidence on physical distancing within classrooms. The CDC stated that:

  • With universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. 
  • In elementary schools, CDC recommends all students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal — regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.
  • In middle and high schools, CDC also recommends students should be at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal and in communities where transmission is low, moderate, or substantial. 
  • Middle school students and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible.

To read this updated guidance, click here.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: On January 27, 2021, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials clarified that they consider Out-of-School Time (OST) program providers as essential workers along with teachers and child care workers with regard to vaccine priority. This means that OST providers would be considered to be in group 1B of states’ vaccine rollout plans. However, each state must include OST workers in their COVID-19 vaccine plans in order for program providers to be eligible to receive the vaccine. The CDC has designed a COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers to help employers build confidence in this important new vaccine. The toolkit will help employers across various industries educate their workforce about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns. To access the toolkit, click here. Partners are encouraged to adapt the key messages to the language, tone, and format that will resonate with the organizations and programs they serve. Programs may place their logo on materials that have a place for your logo, but please retain the CDC URL (

U.S Congress: On December 20, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an FY 2021 Omnibus Spending bill and COVID-19 Relief package. It was subsequently sent over to the U.S. Senate, which passed the $1.4 trillion bill and the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package just before midnight on December 21, 2020. The measure also included a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) and granted President Trump seven days to sign the bill into law. The passed COVID-19 relief also differs slightly from the proposed bipartisan legislation from the previous week. 

FY 2021 Spending Bill Overview: Congress drafted the FY 2021 omnibus spending bill in order to provide funding for federal programs including education, health, and human services, and more through the end of the current fiscal year, September 30, 2021This final bill language provides funding for local afterschool and summer learning programs, as well as child care providers and community-based organizations, and for combatting the digital divide. Specific funding levels for programs include:

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers:$1.26 billion, about $10 million above the 2020 enacted level.
  • Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies: $16.536 billion, an increase of $227 million above the 2020 enacted level. 
  • Title IV Full Service Community Schools: $30 million, an increase of $5 million, to provide comprehensive services and expand evidence-based models that meet the holistic needs of children, families, and communities.
  • Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants:$1.22 billion. These funds are for school districts, established under ESSA, in order to support afterschool activities including STEM programming. 
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School: $55 million, an increase of $2 million above the 2020 enacted level.
  • TRIO and GEAR UP: $1.097 billion for Federal TRIO programs, an increase of $7 million above the 2020 enacted level. Additionally, $368 million for GEAR UP, an increase of $3 million above the 2020 enacted level.
  • Federal Work-Study: $1.190 billion which can be used to support college students working in community-based afterschool programs.
  • Education, Innovation, and Research:$194 million in total, of which $67 million are dedicated to STEM education. Also includes $67 million within this program for grants for evidence-based, field-initiated innovations that address student social and emotional learning needs (SEL).
  • Career, Technical Education (CTE): $1.334 billion, an increase of $52 million for the Perkins V CTE program. 
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG):$5.911 billion, an increase of $85 million.
  • Community Services Block Grant:$745 million, an increase of $5 million. 
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS):$1.121 billion, an increase of $16 million above the 2020 enacted level. CNCS supports AmeriCorps and VISTA that are key assets for hundreds of afterschool programs.
  • Youth Mentoring:$100 million to support mentoring programs including those provided through afterschool programs.
  • CDC School Health:$15.4 million for activities that include comprehensive school health grants to states and Out-of-School Time program providers.
  • Career Pathways for Youth Grants:$10 million for grants to support national out-of-school-time organizations that serve youth and place an emphasis on workforce readiness programming.
  • Mental health resources for children and youth including $107 million for Project AWARE, an increase of $5 million.

COVID-19 Relief Bill Overview: Congress has allocated a total of $81.88 billion in education funds to be distributed in a similar manner as the CARES Act including:

  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund: $54.3 billion (up from $13.5 billion in the CARES Act)
  • Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund(GEER): $54.3 billion, an increase of $3 billion from the CARES Act, and now includes funds set-aside for private school emergency relief in the amount of $2.5 billion. 
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund: $22.7 billion (up from $14.25 billion in the CARES Act)
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund allowable uses of funds include planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs. New allowable uses include addressing learning loss among students and funds can be used to administer high-quality assessments; implement evidence-based activities; provide information and assistance to parents and families; tracking student attendance, and improving student engagement in distance education.
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): $284 billion and extends PPP through March 31, 2021.
  • Direct Financial Assistance: $166 billion in direct financial assistance to individuals nationwide. People making up to $75,000 a year will receive a payment of $600. The deal also makes the stimulus checks more accessible to immigrant families.
  • Child Care and Developmental Block Grant (CCDGB) program: $10 billion in emergency funds for child care providers. These grants are designed to provide immediate relief to child care providers who and are currently in operation or have been temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The legislation also includes $250 million for Head Start providers.
  • Broadband access: $7 billion, of which $3.2 billion will be set aside for emergency funds to support low-income families access broadband. There is also a new $1 billion fund for tribes.
  • The COVID-19 Relief package also allows for the following:

    • States and localities will now have until December 31, 2021, to expend funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act). State and local governments have used these funds for school-age child care in some instances.
    • Provides increased funding for school and child care meal programs.

    To read the full Afterschool Alliance brief, click here. To read the full COVID-19 bill click here.

Afterschool Alliance: On December 21, 2020, Congress was still working out the details of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, which is attached to an omnibus spending bill that will fund government agencies through fiscal year 2021. Congress must now vote to pass this legislation. Education funds are to be distributed in the same manner as the CARES Act, including:

  • $54 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (an increase from the $13.5 billion in the CARES Act)
  • $7.5 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund (an increase from $3 billion in the CARES Act), including $2.5 billion for private schools
  • $20 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund(an increase from $14.25 billion in the CARES Act)
  • The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund allowable uses of funds are modified from those in the CARES Act, and include afterschool. Funds can be used to meet the SEL needs of youth and educators, for providing mental health services and trauma-informed supports, supporting access to school-age child care, and services provided by afterschool programs and community learning centers. This new language may help link education funds to community learning centers and hubs, as well as programs operating during virtual school days.
  • Flexibility from the bipartisan 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act (S. 4868) is included in the new package.
  • Second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds with an additional $300 billion provided to the Small Business Administration. 
  • For Child Care, the bill appropriates $10 billion for a new Child Care Stabilization Fund grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants for child care providers, including school-age providers. Grants would be available to child care providers that are currently open or temporarily closed due to COVID-19, regardless of whether they had previously received funding through the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. Also, Providers could use stabilization grants for a variety of purposes.
  • $3 billion for an Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to
    • provide E-rate support for educational and distance learning providers. The funds can be used for hotspots, devices, and other connected devices.
    • $6.25 billion for State Broadband Deployment and Connectivity grants to expand affordable access to broadband.
    • $200 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to purchase and distribute Internet-connected devices to libraries in low-income and rural areas.
    • Provides increased funding for school and child care meal programs.

    To read the full Afterschool Alliance brief, click here.

    Note: A second bill has been separated from the main COVID-19 relief bill due to more controversial liability protection language and a contentious $160 billion for state and local governments. This second bill may also include an extension of the December 30, 2020, deadline for states and counties to spend Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF). Unfortunately, the bill is not likely to pass before the incoming administration is sworn in. 

The U.S. House of Representatives and The U.S. Senate: On December 20, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate proposed a one-day funding measure, to extend current funding for federal agencies and programs through Monday, December 21, 2020. This action allowed Congress to continue to develop and vote on a COVID-19 relief package and subsequent omnibus spending bill. President Trump signed this legislation. To read more, click here.

U.S. Department of Education: On September 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will be issuing a nationwide waiver which will provide 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grantees with the ability to facilitate programming and provide support services during the school day. This decision will allow State Education Agencies (SEAs), such as the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), to waive the definition of Community Learning Center(s) as being entities only allowed to provide services during “non-school hours or periods when school is not in session (such as before and after school)” during school year 2020- 2021. While the notice allows for a 60 day comment period, the U.S. Department of Education is permitted to offer and approve waivers during the comment period. To read more, click here. To review the waiver request, click here.

U.S House of Representatives: On September 4, 2020, U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) along with Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Dwight Evans (D-PA), and Don Young (R-AK), proposed the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 in the House. This bill provides flexibility for grantees to facilitate either in-person or remote programming during traditional school hours when school is occurring not physically in-person, but rather virtually or in a hybrid setting. The legislation only applies to the 2020-2021 school year. To read more about the proposed bill, click here.

U.S. House of Representatives: On July 29, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills relating to child care. The first, the Child Care is Essential Act, would provide $50 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). To read more about the bill, click here. The second, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, would increase mandatory CCDBG funding and expand child care tax incentives and deductions. To read more about this bill, click here. Both bills passed with bipartisan support and the legislation would apply to school-age care as well.

U.S. Senate: On July 27, 2020, U.S. Senate Republican leadership introduced its next COVID-19 relief bill. The Help End Abusive Living Situations Act (HEALS Act) is a package of bills that are now subject to bipartisan negotiations. The proposed relief bill has a total $1 trillion in funding and allocates dollars for education and child care in the following ways:

Augmenting the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund (ESF): $105 billion

    • $70 billion for public and private elementary and secondary schools, split 33%-67% based on district reopening
      plans. Afterschool is an allowable use of these Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund dollars.
    • $29 billion for institutions of higher education
    • $5 billion for governors to support K–12, higher education, and other education entities

Child Care Relief (which can be accessed by afterschool programs):

It is expected that a final package will move in the next several weeks before the U.S. House and U.S. Senate adjourn for August recess. To read more about the bill, click here.

Afterschool Alliance and Bipartisan Policy Center: Last week, the Afterschool Alliance, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and other community-based organizations (CBOs) wrote to Congress advocating for the inclusion of at least $6.2 billion in support of 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the Senate’s COVID-19 relief bill (HEALS Act). This aid would allow state education agencies to fund partnerships between local educational agencies and CBOs in order to provide safe out-of-school programming and expanded learning opportunities for students during hours they would otherwise be physically in a school classroom. It would also help support low-income and working families with child care. To read more about the Ask, click here.

U.S. District Court: On July 29, 2020, a U.S. District Court Judge from the Southern District of New York issued a temporary injunction that blocks the implementation and enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Public Charge rule nationwide for the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis. To read the full civil suit, click here. The Judge also issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prohibits the enforcement of the U.S. Department of State’s Public Charge rule and Health Insurance Proclamation, beyond the national emergency created by the pandemic. To review this ruling, click here.

H.R. 266: The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act is also known as the CARES Act 2.0 and COVID Response ACT 3.5 and aims to replenish the loan program to help citizens, small businesses, nonprofits and healthcare institutions that qualify for the aid:

    • Immediate $321 billion in for the PPP fund, the small business rescue fund that ran out of dollars during the third week of April 2020. Additional policies were included to tighten the parameter of the relief
    • $60 billion in economic disaster loans for small businesses
    • $75 billion in emergency relief for hospitals
    • $25 billion to develop and provide more coronavirus testing

To read the full piece of legislation, click here. To read a breakdown of the aid package, click here.

Note: There is also a fifth COVID Relief package in the works. ACT Now and its partner networks across the nation is asking for support for 21st CCLCs and afterschool programming.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses, including nonprofits, keep their workers employed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. There are two programs that small businesses may apply for through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Under the CARES Act, nonprofits and small businesses with fewer than 500 employees will be eligible for PPP loans to meet payroll and other qualifying costs. The total loan fund is expected to be $349 billion, and loans will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Recipients do not have to certify that they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.
      • Much of the loan is forgivable if you keep staff on payroll during the loan period (currently March 1st through June 30th). This makes a portion of the PPP loan into a GOS grant.
      • The loan amount is 2.5 times the organization’s average monthly payroll, with pay capped at $100,000 per employee.
      • Up to 8 weeks of average payroll and other costs will be forgiven if the business retains its employees and their salary levels through June 30.

As of April 3, 2020, the application is open. Please check the SBA website for more information. To read a quick synopsis of the PPP program, click here.

    • Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program (IEDL): This program offers up to $2 million in assistance and is already available on a first-come, first-served basis to nonprofits to help overcome temporary loss in revenue caused by COVID-19. These loans are similar to other disaster relief loans and do not include loan forgiveness.
      • The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75%, with repayment terms of up to 30 years. Funds may be used to pay fixed debt, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid due to the impact of restrictions.

The application is straightforward. To complete it online, click here.

NOTE: Organizations cannot receive funding from both programs unless the loan applications are for different purposes (i.e. personnel and rent costs for PPP and other operating expenses for EIDL)

To read a detailed 3-page run-down of the two SBA programs provided by the 50 State Afterschool Network, click here.

H.R. 748 – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Signed into Public Law: On March 27, 2020, the President signed the third coronavirus aid package, the CARES Act.

The CARES Act’s provisions would send checks to more than 150 million American households, set up loan programs for large and small businesses and nonprofits, increase funding for unemployment insurance programs, and heighten spending for hospitals, etc. The Act allocates several provisions that are essential for afterschool providers:

  • The State Education Stabilization Fund can be used to support afterschool and summer learning programs and corresponding providers.
  • The additional funding for childcare can be used by afterschool staff that are continuing to stay open to serve their existing students and/or the children of health care providers and other essential staff.
  • It makes it clear that nonprofits are eligible for all the resources targeted to small businesses.
  • Makes changes to the charitable deduction for tax year 2020 to encourage support of nonprofit organizations.

For more information on it, click here. To read a brief breakdown of the CARES Act, click here.

H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Signed Into Law: On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in order to provide paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for healthcare workers. That same day, President Trump signed the Act into Law, making it Public Law No: 116-127. For more information on it, click here.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Announcement of Flexibility in Federal Child Nutrition Programs ensures that youth will receive meals during school closures via the Summer Meals Program. The USDA also issued a guidance for programs.

    • *The guidance includes a list of states that have received approval for waivers allowing programs to serve meals in non-congregate settings and at school sites during COVID-19 related closures. Click here for information on how to submit a waiver request.

The U.S. Department of Education has released additional information and resources for schools and school personnel regarding COVID-19.

State Policy Updates

MultiState has developed a COVID-19 Policy Tracker that offers a variety of resources from state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find Illinois on the dashboard and map to remain in-the-know.

Updated COVID-19 Guidance and Resources

  • On March 30, 2022, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released an updated COVID-19 guidance document for school districts and program providers. This guidance surrounds strategies for addressing COVID-19 Cases Contacts and Outbreaks
  • Unfortunately, the prospect of new variants of concern, the potential seasonality of transmission, and underlying social and medical vulnerabilities increase the likelihood that communities across the state of Illinois will encounter future waves COVID-19. To ensure the state is prepared for the next surge of COVID-19, ISBE and the IDPH ask that Illinois schools have updated emergency plans in place now. Read the letter here.

Mask Update for Illinois Schools – Masking is Optional

On February 25, 2022, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced that the mask mandate for schools will be optional effective yesterday, February 28, 2022. ISBE shared that the Illinois Supreme Court issued its decision in the Austin, Graves, Hughes, and Allen cases and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated its guidance on masking in school buildings. This updated CDC guidance highlights that masking is recommended only in areas of high transmission, based on new key metrics. To read more about this decision, click here. ISBE will work with the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) to provide updated resources for educators, school administrators, students, and families.

School Districts Will Determine Whether Students and Staff Have Mask Mandate

On February 18, 2022, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld a circuit court decision to stop emergency public health orders that mandated masking and teacher vaccinations in schools. This appellate court ruling, however, allows districts to establish their own rules by saying “in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the (Illinois Department of Public Health) in creating provisions addressing COVID-19.” Therefore, school districts have the ability to uphold Governor JB Pritzker’s Executive Orders.

Public Health Interim Guidance for Local Health Departments and Pre-K- Schools

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has released guidance on COVID-19 Exclusion Protocols. There is also guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding the return to in-person instruction.

Governor JB Pritzker Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Healthcare Workers, Pre-K-12 Teachers and Staff

On August 26, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker announced that all healthcare workers, including nursing home employees, all pre-k-12 teachers and staff, as well as higher education personnel and students will now be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

  • Workers and students in applicable settings must receive the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series or a single-dose vaccination by September 5, 2021. Second doses of the vaccine must be received by 30 days after the first dose. The announcement supersedes previous deadlines set for Chicago Public Schools (CPS)
  • Employees in all of these settings and higher education students who are unable or unwilling to receive the vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once per week, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) may require increased testing in certain situations. 

Governor JB Pritzker also announced a statewide indoor mask mandate for all Illinois residents, regardless of vaccination status, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to increase. The masking requirements are effective Monday, August 30, 2021. 

Chicago Public Schools Clarification on Vaccination Mandate for All Vendors

Last week, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that as the district prepares to welcome students back to in-person on Monday, August 30, 2021, it will require that all vendor employees with regular direct contact with Chicago Public Schools students, and all vendor employees who are subject to a Chicago Public Schools background check, to be fully vaccinated unless they receive a medical or religious accommodation from their Employer. It will be the responsibility of each Vendor to certify to CPS that they comply with this vaccination requirement and that they maintain accurate personnel records to verify compliance. Vendor organizations will certify compliance by logging into the CPS Supplier Portal beginning August 30, 2021.

Chicago Public Schools New Reopening Guide for Families Released

On August 25, 2021, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that the district will drop the electronic COVID-19 screener it previously required families to complete daily before students stepped onto campus. Instead, CPS is asking families and caregivers to utilize an online checklist of symptoms and fill out an “attestation” form four times a year confirming that practice. CPS also introduced a new reopening guide for parents to review before the start of the school year on Monday, August 30, 2021.

Indoor Mask Mandate for All Individuals in Chicago Regardless of Vaccination Status

On August 17, 2021, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced that the agency will re-instate the face mask mandate for all indoor public settings as the average number of new daily cases of COVID-19 in Chicago surpasses 400. All individuals aged 2 and over, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask as of Friday, August 20, 2021, while indoors in public settings.

Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education: COVID-19 School Guidance FAQs

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) have released joint COVID-19 School Guidance FAQs to help Preschool to Grade 12 school administrators and program providers select appropriate, layered prevention strategies in order to keep in-person learning environments safe for students and staff during times of fluctuating transmission. This guidance also applies to child care workers and programs.

Chalkbeat Article: Chicago Public Schools Mandates Full Vaccination Status of School Personnel by October 15

On August 13, 2021, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that the district will require all school administrators and educators to be fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021, unless these individuals require a medical or religious exemption. School-based teachers and staff, central office, regular vendors, and network personnel who aren’t fully vaccinated or can’t provide documentation of an exemption by October 15th, will be ineligible to work for the district until they submit proof of vaccination or exemption. The decision reflects concerns for the safety of students and staff due to the emergence of the Delta variant.

Governor JB Pritzker’s Office: Extension of Nutrition Benefits Program Announced

On August 12, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker shared that the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has extended the deadline for Illinois families to apply for nutrition benefits until August 31, 2021. This change is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These benefits apply to households with school-aged children who were eligible for free or reduced meals from March 2020 through June 2020 when schools were operating remotely. Those who did not receive SNAP benefits last spring are able to submit a simplified application for P-EBT now.

Governor JB Pritzker’s Office: Mask Mandate for Students, Educators, and Staff in Schools and Daycare Programs

On August 4, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker announced that masks will be required for students, teachers, and staff at pre-school, and kindergarten through 12th grade schools and daycare sites across the state. The new requirement formalizes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance released in July on universal masking for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people in schools to ensure a safe return to classrooms. Governor JB Pritzker also announced his intent to require all state employees working in congregate facilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by October 4, 2021

Foundations, Inc.: Keep Kids COVID Safe and Healthy Toolkit

Foundations, Inc. has compiled a toolkit for afterschool and summer learning providers to ensure that programs are confident in keeping young people safe and engaged during Summer 2021. Resources and training materials are now available through the Keep Kids COVID Safe and Healthy Toolkit and will be updated as guidance changes throughout the summer.

Illinois State Board of Education: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released a guide for school administrators, educators, and out-of-school time (OST) providers to utilize in preparation of returning to in-person instruction or programming. To read the guide, click here

Illinois State Board of Education: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released the following recorded webinar sessions to support planning efforts for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, including the third round of funds enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) in March 2021. The following recordings are intended for district superintendents and regional superintendents but also may be helpful for providers looking to partner with school administrators for afterschool and summer learning:

To learn more about the Learning Renewal Resource Guide, click here. To access more information on the ESSER III funding, click here.

Governor JB Pritzker’s Office: On April 8, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that starting April 12, 2021, the state of Illinois will be opening universal eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination for individuals 16 and older. Furthermore, the Governor shared that starting this week, an additional 150,000 new first-dose vaccine appointments will be made available at the 11 state-supported mass vaccination operations in Cook and the collar counties and area pharmacies. All sites still require appointments. To read the full press release and review the nearest vaccination location to you, click here.

Governor JB Pritzker’s Office: March 15, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker announced that the State of Illinois will be launching a rural vaccination pilot program in order to further expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Beginning this week, additional National Guard mobile operations will visit rural communities across the state with the capability to deliver upwards of 1,000 doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine per day. To read the full press release and access the list of locations, click here.

City of Chicago: At the end of February, the Chicago Department of Public Health released new guidance as it relates to COVID-19 restrictions and Out-of-School Time (OST) programming. OST providers are now allowed to host indoor group exercise or fitness classes capped at 20 individuals (e.g., dance, yoga). Programs in which participants are primarily seated/stationery may continue in cohorts of up to 20 people (e.g., painting, creative writing, homework help). Day camps are still limited to 50% of facility capacity with no more than 15 participants per group. To learn more, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On February 26, 2021, in a joint announcement with the Biden Administration, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot, and Senators Durbin and Duckworth, Governor JB Pritzker, shared that eligible Illinoisans from every part of the state will be able to be vaccinated starting March 10, 2021, at the United Center.  To read the full press release with more information and locations of the 15 state-supported mass vaccination sites, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On February 26, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 4276 into law, which extends worker compensation benefits until June 30, 2021, for first responders and frontline essential workers who were exposed to and contracted COVID-19 through their job. This legislation also allows employees to take extended time-off to up to 60 days if COVID-19 impacted the recovery of the individual. To learn more about this law, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On February 25, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that Illinoisans with serious medical conditions will be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations. Eligible individuals include Illinois residents 16 and older with disabilities or underlying serious health conditions who aren’t otherwise covered in previous eligibility categories, in accordance with CDC guidelines. To access the full list of underlying health conditions, click here. To read the full press release, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On February 10, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced that the state of Illinois is in the process of expanding Phase 1B eligibility to individuals who have comorbidities and underlying health conditions as defined by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). In addition, Illinois will also prioritize individuals with disabilities. This expansion also applies to people 16 and older that aren’t otherwise covered in previous eligibility categories. To review read the full press release and learn more about the expansion of Phase 1B, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On January 22, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced that Illinois will move into the early stages of Phase 1B of the COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Plan beginning yesterday (January 25, 2021). While federal vaccine shipments to states remain limited, the state is aggressively building out provider capacity to ensure efficient distribution as soon as more vaccine becomes available. The Governor reminded the public that Phase 1B includes all residents over the age of 65 and frontline essential workers, including educators and child care providers. Illinois will begin vaccinating eligible residents by appointment only. To read the full press release, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On January 15, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced that following a decrease in COVID-19 test positivity rates and hospitalizations throughout Illinois, certain regions across the state are now eligible to move out of Tier 3 mitigations. This means that regions are allowed to resume moving out of the tiered resurgence mitigations (Tier 3, Tier 2, and Tier 1) and back into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan on a data-driven basis. Important adjustments in resurgence mitigations now include:

  • Tier 1 of the resurgence mitigation plan allows restaurants and bars in a qualifying region to resume indoor dining with limited capacity
  • Youth and recreational sports may also resume play following the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) All Sports Policy in all regions moving out of Tier 3

Finally, the Governor announced Phase 1A of the Illinois COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Plan is on track to be substantially completed this week, with the entire state moving to Phase 1B on Monday, January 25, 2021. Please note that Phase 1B now includes educators and child care workers. To read the full press release with information on tier designation based upon region, click here.

Chicago Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health: On January 15, 2021, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) confirmed the first case in Illinois of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. This was identified by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine through sequencing analysis of a specimen from bio-banked samples of COVID-19 positive tests. Public health officials state that evidence suggests that the variant can spread more easily than most currently-circulating strains of COVID-19. However, there is no evidence that this new strain affects the sensitivity of COVID-19 tests or that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. In addition, data shows that the current vaccines will be effective and safe in providing protection against the variant. To read the full press release, click here.

Governor Pritkzer’s Office: On January 6, 2021, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) announced that building on guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Illinois will advance to Phase 1B of its vaccine plan. Governor Pritzker also announced that educators are to be next in line for COVID-19 vaccinations. Education workers, including teachers, support staff, and child care providers, are now included in group 1B (frontline essential workers) of the rollout. To read IDPH’s updated guidance, click here. IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike shared that the state of Illinois is also lowering the vaccine eligibility age to 65 years. Dr. Ezike added that “generally, Latinx and Black populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with data showing related deaths at younger ages. We are hopeful that by lowering the eligibility age to 65 years we can help reduce this disparity.”

City of Chicago: The City of Chicago has compiled resources on the COVID-19 vaccination program:

The City of Chicago is also hosting a variety of ongoing educational events on the COVID-19 vaccination. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m., Dr. Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, will be facilitating Facebook Live conversations to address questions and concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and rollout plan for the City of Chicago. On Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m., Dr. Luna will be discussing the vaccination on Univision.

Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development: On January 25, 2021, Illinois transitioned into Phase 1B to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those eligible in Priority Group 1B. Illinois has included the following providers under the “educator” category eligible for vaccines in Priority Group 1B as outlined in the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 Vaccination Plan:

  • Early Intervention personnel
  • Home- and center-based child care providers
  • Home Visiting & Maternal, Infant & Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) providers
  • Head Start/Early Head Start providers
  • Preschool for All providers
  • Support staff, including custodial, transportation, kitchen, and other staff

Please note that Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) staff and family members of the provider are not included in this priority group. It is expected to take at least several months before all those who are eligible in Priority Group 1B to receive their first dose of the vaccine. All eligible people must make an appointment with their local health departments, medical centers, and pharmacies in order to receive a vaccine. As a result, the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD) has compiled a variety of resources on Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccination rollout:

Chicago Department of Public Health: The Chicago Department of Public Health has curated resources and educational materials on the COVID-19 vaccination and rollout of the vaccination plan.

Governor’s Office: On December 30, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that families in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), will pay a maximum of $1.25 in monthly co-pays. This action relates to the Governor’s new initiative to allocate additional funds to support child care providers across the state and in order to support low-income families and working parents with child care services. These lower CCAP rates are applicable in January and February 2021. To read the full press release, click here. For updates regarding CCAP, click here. To access the Illinois Department of Human Services’ (IDHS) website, which administers CCAP, click here.

Governor’s Office: On December 23, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that his administration will be directing additional funding to support child care providers that are part of the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Funding from the federal CARES Act, which was allocated to the State of Illinois, will be used to cover all eligible days of CCAP payments for December 2020, January 2021, and February 2021, regardless of attendance. To read more about this announcement and to learn more about eligibility, click here.

Governor’s Office: On December 18, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that his administration has provided over $1.3 billion in funding this year for businesses and families through COVID-19 emergency assistance programs. Programs such as the Help for Illinois Families ProgramBusiness Interruption Grant Program, and the Local CURE Program are still accepting applications. To learn more about these support services, and to read the full press release, click here.

Governor’s Office: On December 15, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced an initiative in Illinois to expand digital access for low-income households throughout the state. The Governor’s Office is partnering with PCs for People, Cook County, and community-based organizations to do so. The new Connect Illinois Computer Equity Network aims to put computers and other mobile devices into the hands of Illinois residents – assisting more families with access to high-speed internet that is essential for e-learning, remote work, telehealth, and more. Governor Pritzker also issued a call to action to the public, private and philanthropic sectors to donate used equipment in order to meet the program’s goal of disseminating at least 20,000 refurbished computers annually to Illinois families. For more information on how to recycle technology or to apply for an upgraded device, click here

Governor’s Office: On December 15, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that there will be more than $700 million in spending reductions for fiscal year 2021. The plan is the result of a months-long and ongoing review of agency spending under the Executive branch. The plan includes a hiring freeze, grant reductions, and operational savings. There are also projected budget cuts of $200 million to health and human services. To read the full press release and access the FY21 budget document, click here.

Governor’s Office and the Illinois Department of Human Services: On December 14, 2020, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced a new partnership with ALDI to provide Illinois residents, who are a part of the Electronic Benefit Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBT SNAP), with a new option for online shopping. Participants will have to access fresh food and pantry staples from ALDI via Instacart’s same-day delivery and pick-up services. To begin, eligible SNAP customers can visit IDHS’ website, by clicking here. To read the full press release, click here.

Illinois Department for Health: On December 4, 2020, the Illinois Department for Health (IDPH) released its preliminary COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, which is a draft document designed to assist Local Health Departments in planning for vaccine distribution. Information is based on limited and preliminary guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and will be continuously updated as that guidance evolves. To read the document, click hereInitial populations prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccination in Phase 1 are the following:

  • Health Care Personnel & Residents from Long Term Care Facilities
  • Essential frontline workers including first responders
  • Those with high-risk medical conditions and adults over 65 years of age

Illinois educators, afterschool providers, and children will not be among the first wave to receive a vaccination. When asked by Chalkbeat, during the press conference, when teachers would receive vaccinations, Governor Pritzker said that essential workers, such as teachers, will be addressed in the next phase (Phase 2). To read the full article, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On July 29, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced guidance for youth and adult recreational supports, developed with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) following consultation with a number of stakeholders including the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA). The guidance takes affect August 15, 2020. The guidance lists sports by risk, including high, medium, and low. Moreover, sports in each risk level have different allowable activities at the moment. To read the guidance, click here. ​

Chalkbeat: Chicago Public Schools (CPS is tentatively planning for most students to be school buildings two days a week. However, CPS is in the process of reviewing its reopening plans and may change them. If the City of Chicago reaches 400 new cases a day or 200 new cases a day with concerning factors (such as a spike in cases), then CPS will switch to all remote learning. Fewer than 100 new cases a day will prompt this district to consider a return to full, in-person instruction, after consulting with local health officials. It appears that a number of districts outside of CPS are walking back their reopening plans and delaying the start of school and/or turning to all remote learning for Fall instruction. Furthermore, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has called for all-remote learning, saying that Black and Latino students will be hit the hardest if the pandemic worsens. To review Chalkbeat’s district reopening plans tracker, click here.

Note* To watch the recorded community meetings surrounding CPS’ reopening plans, click here.

Illinois State Board of Education: On July 23, 2020,the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released its Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations. ISBE asks that all remote learning days have 5 hours of instruction and/or school work, including 2.5 hours of synchronous learning. ISBE again reiterated emphasizing in-person instruction for special education, english learners, and youth under the age of 13. School districts should consider unfinished learning and learning loss from the previous school year in creating their plans and collaborate between subjects and grade levels to minimize gaps in learning. The plan specifically mentioned that afterschool activities should support gaps in learning. Other recommendations included ensuring all students have the materials needed to succeed, considering the child’s whole needs, and conducting constant check-ins with students and their families. The plan also breaks down specific grade level recommendations. To review ISBE’s recommendations, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On July 22, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) that the state will award a grant to one community-based organization (CBO) in each of the nine regions referenced in the Governor’s COVID-19 Resurgence Mitigation Plan. The goal is for Cook County and the City of Chicago to develop their own contact tracing programs with CBOs. The nine organizations will serve as coordinators in their region, awarding sub-grants to CBOs who can most effectively conduct tracing, education, and outreach in their communities. The NOFO is available on the IDPH website here. To review the entire press release, click here.

Governor Pritzker’s Office: On July 14, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that he will allocate $108.5 million, from the Federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds, to PreK-12 public education institutions and higher education institutions to meet the diverse challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Governor Pritzker mentioned that this funding will help to promote equity, bridge the digital divide, ensure the health and safety of students, and help to overcome barriers created by COVID-19.

$10 million will be allocated to support early childhood programs across the state

  • $50 million will be reserved for K-12 schools in order to close the digital divide, train educators and parents, and social-emotional supports for students

  • $7.5 million in training for K-12 educators and families, so they can support students’ growth holistically and strengthen their understanding of new technologies and learning models

  • $2.5 million for the Illinois State Board of Education to create the Student Care Department

  • $49 million for higher education institutions to overcome barriers facing students that have been created by the COVID-19 pandemic

  • $3 million in grants designed to enroll and retain underrepresented, first- generation, and high-need students at public and non-profit, independent four-year institutions of higher education in Illinois

    To review the entire press release and learn more about the Governor’s allocation of funds, click here

  • Illinois Department of Human Services: In collaboration with the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) and the Child Care Resource and Referral System (CCR&R), the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is providing limited cleaning and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) supplies to child care providers across Illinois.

    • The supplies can be ordered at no cost, but providers will need to pay the shipping cost by credit or debit card
    • You must be a child care provider already providing care in Illinois or preparing to reopen in Phase III or IV of the Restore Illinois Plan
    • This opportunity is available to licensed centers, license-exempt centers, licensed home and group homes, and license-exempt homes

    For more information and to access the PPE, click here.

  • Governor Pritzker’s Office: On June 25, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that all regions of the state have met health metrics and may move to Phase IV of the Restore Illinois Plan. To read the Governor’s full statement on this transition and the data behind the decision, click here.

  • Illinois Department of Child and Family Services: On June 24, 2020, in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) issued update guidance for Day Care providers. This guidance aligns with Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan. To review the guidance, click here. Additionally, DCFS filed an emergency rule making on 407, which went into effect on June 24, 2020, and extends for a maximum of 150 days. To read the emergency rule, click here. Additions to the rules include the following:

    • Centers may choose to staff classrooms with a qualified early childhood assistant for up to 3 hours of their program day and should document such in the program’s Enhanced Staffing Plan.

    • Staff qualified to work as Early Childhood Teachers in an Emergency Day Care (EDC) and who served in the role from March-May 2020 can continue to work as an Early Childhood Teacher through July 31, 2020, at the same program which has since reverted to their normal day care license.

  • Governor Pritzker’s Office: On June 22, 2020, Governor Pritzker released additional guidance on the re-opening of businesses and industries as the state advances towards Phase IV of the Restore Illinois Plan. Phase IV of the plan creates safety guidelines for the following permitted activities and businesses to resume, with capacity rules in place:
    • Meetings and events: Venues and meeting spaces can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people OR 50% of overall room capacity. Multiple groups are permitted only if facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups. Guidance applies to events such as conferences and weddings.
    • Indoor and Outdoor recreation: Revised guidelines allow select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks), as well as clubhouses to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers OR 50% of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50, and permitting multiple groups given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
    • Museums: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
    • Zoos: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits, indoor exhibits, and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; zoos should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
    • Youth and Recreational Sports: Revised guidelines allow competitive gameplay and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50% of facility capacity, 20% seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50 with multiple groups permitted during practice and competitive games given venues have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
    • Health and fitness centers: Revised guidelines allow gyms to open at 50% capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors, with multiple groups permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups.
    • Day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly.

To read the full press release, click here

  • Illinois State Board of Education: On June 17, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) met for its monthly meeting. During public comment, many advocates spoke about the state’s education reopening plan and incorporating racial justice in teaching. ACT Now also provided public comment on the need to release 21st Century COVID-19 Guidance and to include out-of-school time programs in the state’s reopening plan. During the meeting, the Board adopted a resolution to eliminate racial injustice and also discussed its school reopening plan. It was stated that NO out-of-school time or parent organizations were consulted in the creation of the plan. Further, ISBE staff was not able to immediately provide the racial breakdown of the workgroup members that wrote the plan. As a result, the plan will be released by the end of June and is expected to include information on social distancing, screening and temperature checks, cleaning recommendations, scheduling and instruction, districts creating planning teams, and requirements for face coverings. The Board also approved several regulations and large grants. Finally, the Board discussed the implications of the FY21 budget including shortfalls in early education funding. To review the Board’s materials, recording, and find further information on Board meetings, click here.
  • Illinois State Board of Education: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is updating its FAQ resource for applicants completing the FY21 RFP for 21st Century Community Learning Center funding. Information regarding the RFP can be found hereThe application is due to ISBE by July 13, 2020*Note: ISBE is now accepting electronic signatures in the application. Click here to review the material.

  • City of Chicago: The City of Chicago has released guidelines for out-of-school time learning providers to implement during the summer and in conjunction with the guidance issued from state agencies to confront the public health crisis. Click here to access the guidelines. To help providers indicate that their staff and facilities are abiding by guidelines, the City has also released signs. Click here to review the signs available and print them out. Finally, to share the list of mental health resources and supports with youth and colleagues, click here.

  • Governor Pritzker’s Office: On June 10, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced a $270 million grant program has been established for Illinois child care providers. The Child Care Restoration grant program will allocate at least $270 million of the state’s Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) Fund to support the economic health of childcare providers. As part of CURE, the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) Program is designated to support businesses, including child care providers, that lost revenue as a result from the public health emergency. Child care providers that are license exempt are not eligible to receive assistance from the Child Care Restoration Grant program. More information regarding the grant is to be released in July 2020 and providers will receive their first installments later this summer. Click here to read the full press release.

    The administering agencies of the grant program are asking child care providers to complete a survey to gather information on the diverse needs. Click here to take the “Intent to Apply” survey. The survey closes on June 19, 2020 at 5:00 p.m

  • Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health: On June 4, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) jointly released Part Two of the Transition Plan Advisory Workgroup’s recommendations for transitioning to in-person programming. Click here to review the full guidance, which focuses on activities allowed in Phase III of Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan. Activities allowed in Phase III include: 

    • Host Summer Camps and Other Programs: Schools and districts may allow buildings to be used for summer camps and other programs sponsored by third parties. Playgrounds may not be used. 
    • Staff Meetings and Professional Development: Districts may convene staff members for any appropriate training, planning, and professional development purposes.
    • Summer Meals Distribution: ISBE highly encourages school districts to continue to provide meals through the summer. Public Act 096-0734 requires every public school in which at least 50% of the students were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and has a summer school program must provide a summer breakfast and/or lunch to the students in the summer school and children in that community.  
    • Summer School: Schools and districts may conduct in-person summer school. Special populations, which may include students with IEPs, English Learners, and students who received incompletes during remote instruction, should receive priority consideration for services. 
  • Illinois Department of Human Services: The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has received federal approval to administer Pandemic Emergency Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program that provides aid to help families in Illinois buy food for school-aged children and youth that would traditionally receive the National School Lunch Program’s free or reduced-priced meals during the school year. To spread awareness of this program with your communities, access the P-EBT Digital Toolkit here.

  • Illinois General Assembly: On May 23, 2020, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The following programs were allocated funding at:
    • $14.5 million for Teen REACH
    • $3.4 million for After School Matters
    • $20 million for ISBE’s After School Programming
    • $19 million for grants to CBOs and local governments for youth employment programs
    • $428.8 million for expenses associated with Child Care Services
    • $230 million for Grants for Free Distribution of Food Supplies and for Grants for Nutrition Program Food Centers under the USDA Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program
    • $500 thousand for grants and administrative expenses associated with the USDA Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program 
To review the full FY21 Budget, click here.
  • Governor Pritzker’s Office: On May 22, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced his new plan to gradually reopen childcare facilities and services, in Phases 3 and 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, in order to ensure that Illinois’ families can return back to work. Public health officials have developed guidelines and regulations for the opening of childcare facilitiesin order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for children, staff, and their families.
    • New group size limits will be roughly 30% lower than their pre-pandemic levels for centers
    • Emergency childcare providers can move immediately to new maximum capacities when their Region enters Phase 3. Most licensed childcare homes will also be able to reopen to their licensed capacity
    • The state is encouraging closed licensed childcare providers to reopen when their Region moves to Phase 3. These newly reopened providers will have no more than 10 children per classroom, for the first 4 weeks
There will be no restrictions on which families can use child care in Phases 3 and 4. Additional guidance will be issued to support programs planning to reopen or transition back from emergency care to regular childcare licenses. To read the Governor’s full announcement, click here.
  • Illinois State Board of Education: On May 15, 2020, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Camen I. Ayala, of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), released Part I of its recommendations for transitioning to in-person instruction, which focuses on Considerations for Closing the 2019-20 School Year & Summer 2020. 

ISBE underscored that while Phase 4 of Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan allows for the resumption of face-to face instruction, this is not the same as a return to pre-pandemic operations.

    • Extensive social distancing measures, enhanced sanitation measures, and other accommodations will be necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families. 
    • Public health experts have communicated to ISBE and to the Governor’s Office that they believe coronavirus transmissions may subside in the summer months, but spike again in the fall/winter. 
    • ISBE also pointed out that districts may be in Phase 4 by August and could choose to start school then, instead of after Labor Day, to maximize instruction time. 

During the closing of the school year, ISBE strongly encourages schools to work with community partners to ensure the needs of students and families are met. During the summer, ISBE recommends maintaining virtual contact with student to check on their well-being and to conduct summer school remotely. Further schools should distribute technology to prepare for a return to remote learning if necessary, and ensure teachers have adequate professional development in mental health needs. ISBE further recommends that districts create a plan for summer meals.

  • Chicago Public Schools: On May 6, 2020, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) sent afterschool programs and vendors information regarding remote learning. Each vendor was also sent details on which tier they belong to for this process. Most remote learning partners fall into Tier 1 status, which allows for programming with multiple students via Google Hangouts given CPS principal permission and participation from CPS staff.  Further information on the Tier scale can be found here.
  • Illinois State Board of Education: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is submitting its application for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Illinois schools are set to receive close to $570 million. Ninety percent of those funds will flow through ISBE and be awarded directly to school districts based on each district’s proportion of Illinois Title I, Part A funds. ISBE will release this application in eGMS. While districts may use the funds for any expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISBE encourages districts to use these funds to close the digital divide and to provide direct supports for students. Examples of allowable expenditures include:
    • mental health services and supports
    • summer and extended learning opportunities
    • technology, meals, and activities to address the needs of students of color, low-income students, homeless students, or youth in care who have been affected by COVID-19

The remaining CARES Act funds will be directed by ISBE to provide additional funding in the following six categories:

    • $33.3 million for laptops and tablets
    • $7.1 million for internet connectivity
    • $6.5 million for virtual coaching
    • $6.5 million for professional development
    • $2.8 million for state administration
    • $685,000 for entities that are not eligible for the direct funds due to ineligibility for Title I.
  • ACT Now’s COVID-19 Afterschool Sign On Letter: ACT Now’s network partners and afterschool members have signed their names in solidarity in our letter to Governor Pritzker. The letter asks the Governor to:
    • Include afterschool programs and providers in to the COVID-19 Education Stabilization Funds
    • Provide flexibility for 21st Century Community Learning Centers grantees
    • Continue using flexibility by the Federal Office of Child Care to ensure that childcare centers are safe, education, and operational

To read the letter, click here.

  • Governor’s Office: On May 6, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced a regionalized, five-phase plan called Restore Illinois, which details a public health approach to safely reopen our state.
  • To varying degrees, every region in Illinois has achieved “Phase 2 – Flattening” as of early May.
  • The plan places the reopening of physical school buildings in a region in “Phase 4 – Revitalization.
    • For this to happen, the region must pass through “Phase 3 – Recovery,” in which the rate of infection among those already tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining and enter Phase 4.
    • In Phase 4, the rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. 
  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency: On Saturday, May 2, 2020 the State of Illinois announced it was expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing and that that a new drive- thru COVID-19 testing facility will be open to the public in the coming days. All individuals with symptoms are encouraged to seek testing at these Community Based Testing Sites. Additional accommodations have been made for testing for various industries including childcare workers. To find the locations of the CBTS nearest you and your community, and to read the entire press release, click here.
  • Illinois State Board of Education: On April 24, 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) updated its guidance for Illinois school educators, school districts, and afterschool providers. Updates included clarification on summer programming following the conclusion of the academic year, collection of personal belongings by students and educators from school buildings, utilization of CARES Act funding for school districts, flexibility in state grants and general questions regarding grants. In regard to state grants, ISBE announced that it is extending all fiscal year 2020 state grants to June 30, 2021. To read the entire updated guidance, click here.
  • Governor’s Office: On April 23, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that he was extending the Stay At Home Ordinance for Illinois residents until the end of May. However, the Governor also issued guidance on allowable actions relating to education, face coverings, outdoor recreational spaces, new essential businesses, etc. To read the full press release, click here.

  • Governor’s Office: On April 21, 2020, Governor Pritzker and Secretary Hagan of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced that Illinois has secured relief options with twenty private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. Click here to read how this will benefit over 138,000 Illinoisans with privately held student loans.
  • Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS): On April 20, 2020, IDHS announced that Illinois has been approved to provide approximately 316,000 Illinois households with additional SNAP benefits. The USDA authorized and will fund Illinois’ Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which will bring food benefits to all school-aged children who are eligible for free or reduced meals. The benefit will be issued to all SNAP households with school-aged children. Click here for more information.
  • Governor’s Office: On April 17, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that he was suspending in-person classes for the rest of the school year in Illinois. All K-12 institutions will not re-open this year and instead continue with remote learning curricula. Click here to read the full press release.
  • Governor’s Office: On April 1, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that he was extending the Stay at Home Order in Illinois until April 30, 2020 to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This order also included the suspension of all on-site learning in schools until further notice. To read what this means for Illinoisans, afterschool and childcare providers, and youth, click here.
  • Illinois State Board of Education: On March 27, 2020, Superintendent Carmen I. Ayala of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) issued guidance for Illinois educators declaring that remote or distance-learning must begin Tuesday, March 31, 2020, and continue until in-person instruction can resume. 
    • During Remote Learning Days, schools may implement either an E-Learning Plan or a Remote Learning Day Plan that provides students with instruction and access to educators through whatever means possible.
    • Schools may use up to five Remote Learning Planning Days at any time after March 30 to work on Remote Learning Day Plans in partnership with their collective bargaining units.

To read ISBE’s Emergency Rules for Remote Learning Days, click here. To read, ISBE’S Remote Learning Recommendations, click here.

  • The Illinois State Board of Education has created guidance for 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ISBE is permitting programs to continue to pay full and/or part-time staff as long as its in furtherance of the programming. Some allowable uses are:

    • Online Professional Development for staff
    • Virtual learning curricula and activities for students
    • Working to coordinate resources and services for parents and families
    • Working to support students’ families
    • Data collection
    • Federal grant reporting

    ISBE has not made a decision about whether or not grants will be amended due to school closures. Please send any questions regarding issues related to COVID-19 to To read the read the letter sent to 21st CCLC grantees, click here.

  • Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development: On Saturday, March 21, 2020, the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development released a letter to the general public stating:
    • All child care centers licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and legally license-exempt centers outside of schools will be closed.
    • All child care homes licensed by DCFS will be closed.
    • Early education programs in public and private K-12 institutions are required to remain closed while the K-12 schools are closed.
      • This covers any early childhood program for children ages birth through five within public and private institutions.

    Effective March 21, 2020 and for as long as the public health emergency continues, emergency child care will be available to essential workers in both homes and centers. Essential workers are outlined in Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-10.

    • Child care homes may serve up to six children of essential workers, while child care centers will be able to apply for emergency child care licenses to serve up to 10 children in one room and may be located in schools, community-based organizations such as churches and social services organizations, or health care facilities or other workplaces for essential workers.

To read the entire letter from the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, click here.

  • The Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) presented a webinar on COVID-19 on March 24, 2020. Specifically, the webinar presented policies, best practices, and resources relating to permitted childcare business operations during the pandemic. Click here to watch the webinar.

  • The State of Illinois Governor’s Office has compiled a variety of resources on COVID-19 to ensure that the public understands the regulations in place to prevent the spread of the disease. On Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-10, requiring all Illinoisans to stay in their homes to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
    • *The order prohibits the following: visiting other people’s homes (except to provide care or supplies) and gatherings of more than 10 people.
    • *The order closes all nonessential establishments which includes most retail, recreation and entertainment businesses.
  • Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS): Last week, the Illinois Department of Human Resources (IDHS) sent guidance regarding COVID-19 to service providers and organizations in order to inform everyone on the issue. On March 16, 2020, IDHS released an update on budget principles to provide reassurance to programs funded by the agency: 
    • Programs will not be financially penalized if they slow or stop services during this emergency. Community-based human service providers will be held harmless and kept whole as operations are diminished or temporarily suspended during this national and state emergency. 
    • Staff who work for your organizations should continue to be paid.
    • Likewise, organizations taking on increased public responsibility during this time may receive additional funding commensurate with the temporary reorganization of services. On a limited basis, going forward, existing contracts may be amended to account for increasing needs for services on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your program liaisons for more information.
IDHS encourages those with questions to contact their program liaisons, or email the agency at with concerns. You can also review past communications that have gone out to providers.