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Murphy: Pritzker's Plan Does Not Work For Springfield

Mike Murphy

A number of legislators have criticized Governor J-B Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state’s economy in five phases.

Reporter Mike Smith talked to one such lawmaker, Republican state Representative Mike Murphy of Springfield. He says the months ahead will be challenging for businesses in his district if the Governor’s plan is not adjusted.

MS: Have you spoken with Mayor Langfelder about the plan to reopen and how that would work for Springfield?

MM: I haven't [spoken] directly with Mayor Langfelder in the last week. I have talked to some county officials that are working on a plan that would be a much smaller regional plan than the suggestion by the governor. And I know that the mayor has been involved with the county in regards to that. Couple area legislators, we're also working on a plan that would encompass all or parts of our districts that we think have some similar areas of concern that we're going to be working on a regional plan as well. So we've had some discussions more with the county that we have the city, but I anticipate as we move forward that the mayor and I will have some discussions.”

MS: Do you think businesses in Springfield are ready to reopen?

MM: “Well, you know, I know many of them wish to. I do think we have to be cautious. One of the reasons that I'm not saying we need to open today is I'm not getting that information from our hospitals or our public health [officials]. I've said from day one that I will go by their guidance. And right now I'm not sure that we're at a position to loosen restrictions.”

“I think it's important that we develop a plan so we're ready to let the businesses know what our thoughts are and what they can prepare for. I have a restaurant who recently went out and designed his dining room to have spaces for tables six feet apart. He sent me some pictures of that and what it would look like and…[it] won't be like everybody’s, but he can do social distancing and end up with about 60 percent of its capacity, while all along, I thought when we roll out in the beginning, it would probably be a 50 percent capacity. So, you know, we need to let people know what they need to have, whether that's PPE and a thermometer to test the customers when they come in, know all those types of things so they can be ready to prepare to open. When that date comes, it will be safe.”

MS: A lot of businesses are barely getting by through takeout orders. As a former restaurant owner yourself, do you think restaurants will survive under these conditions?

MM: “I have discussions with many operators. Some of them are, you know, getting by with what that is but it's only because of the PPP program from the federal government and they're very concerned that, you know, after the eight weeks of the PPP, what's going to happen if they're not going to be reopened? Are they going to have to lay off their people again? They would like to be open while the PPP is still in effect to allow them to build up some cash that they lost.”

“When I was with Charlie Parker's, we paid for this week's food bill with last week's sales, and they're not going to have much of last week's sales if it continues this way. I don't know anybody who is actually doing great. I even talked to some people who do a great drive up business before and they're probably doing better than most, but they're still not doing really good.”

MS: Overall, do you think the governor’s regional reopening plan works for Springfield?

MM: “I'm glad he has a plan, a regional plan. I think we need to tweak it. No, I don't think it works for Springfield. I think having everything from, you know, Adams County all the way across to Vermillion County in the same region, I don't think that works well. I think we need to look at it a little bit more of a micro-regional consideration, take into account the different hospital availabilities and things like that.”

“I think it's very unfair for some of the regions in the northeast that are lumped in with Chicago that probably have an incident rate and more of a geographic look of central Illinois than they do Chicago, but they're going to be lumped in with with Chicago and probably not be able to reopen for months.”

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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