Chicago clears way for business reopenings, bus lane, library repairs

1st Ward Ald. Daniel La Spata answers questions on Zoom.

Chicago's eased COVID-19 restrictions this month do not sacrifice public health, insists Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward).

"There was actual data behind them," including a drop in COVID-19 cases, La Spata told EVA members Oct. 5 via Zoom. City inspections quickly brought a few businesses into compliance with early reopening guidelines. Residents need to do their part to stay safe, but mask wearing is not targeted for enforcement.

"I hope we don't have to get to that place," La Spata added. While Chicago few issued few lockdown-related tickets, he said most went to people of color.

Chicago Avenue's reopening includes a 6-month bus lane trial, to test whether commuting time and pacing improve. The route carries essential workers to office and medical jobs.

Custom-built windows are scheduled to be installed Nov. 11 through Dec. 15 at the West Town branch library building, 1625 W. Chicago. After years of delay, La Spata expects scaffolding finally to be removed by yearend.

Housing relief grants open Aug. 10

Renters and homeowners can apply for relief set aside in this spring's emergency Illinois legislative session. State Rep. Delia Ramirez gave the outlines of the program at the East Village Association's Aug. 3 online meeting.

Staring Aug. 10, renters can apply for up to $5,000 in rent assistance to cover COVID-19 related hardships, drawn from $396 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. Five local organizations are administering the $150 million available on a first-come, first-served basis, Ramirez said. On Aug. 24, the mortgage relief program opens with $150 million set aside, up to $15,000 per household. Ramirez will offer details in online information sessions Aug. 11-13; her office is open by appointment.

With Latinx testing positive for COVID-19 at twice the rate of other ethnic groups, Ramirez secured Medicaid benefits starting Sept. 1 for undocumented seniors with incomes of $12,670 or less. Mobile COVID-19 testing raises the state's capacity 30,000 tests a day, including walk-up testing sites in East Village and Ukrainian Village. In member questioning, Ramirez pledged to consider arts relief; EVA contributed $1,000 to the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund.

And what about House Speaker Michael Madigan? "I ran to make Springfield different," Ramirez said, repeating her call that Madigan should resign if he is implicated in a bribery investigation. She plans to make utility relief grants using a $500 ComEd campaign contribution. 

In a divided vote Aug. 1, EVA's board recommended the group not oppose emergency patio seating for Inner Town Pub, 1935 W. Thomas St. President John Gantner said EVA had not reviewed the application until 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins asked July 29 for an advisory opinion.

EVA Monday on Zoom: Rep. Ramirez, dining on Winchester

Monday's meeting previews the opening of Kasama restaurant, 1001 N. Winchester Ave. with owners Tim Flores and Genie Kwon. State Rep. Delia Ramirez reports on the legislative session in Springfield. The Chicago Reader recently featured her efforts to aid renters. Join us at 7pm Aug. 3 on Zoom.

Arts for Illinois Relief Fund

The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund supports the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art and other local arts groups and artists. Chicago thanks EVA for its $1,000 donation to support local artists in the COVID-19 crisis.

West Town restaurant sets table for outdoor dining

As Chicago began considering street closings for restaurant patio seating, Roots Handmade Pizza asked EVA to support its application to close from Winchester Avenue from Chicago Avenue north to the alley.

Members in the June 1 meeting on Zoom had questions about days and hours of operation, emergency vehicle access, table setup and takedown, supplier dropoffs and delivery driver pickups. They were generally supportive of discussing a limited trial.

With looting in West Town stores the weekend after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association vice president Grant Chamberlain suggested staging a neighborhood cleanup once disturbances end.

The scheduled speaker, state Rep. Delia Ramirez, did not attend the meeting. EVA will not meet in July.

Quigley: Time to fund infrastructure

Congressman states his priorities in Zoom session

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley says recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown might require $2 trillion to $3 trillion in infrastructure spending–not only roads and bridges but also schools, parks, Blue Line improvements, broadband access and shoreline protection.

"It's a little surreal we're over $3 trillion right now" in federal aid, Quigley told EVA members from his Washington office in a May 4 Zoom meeting. Quigley offered his staff's help navigating the Paycheck Protection Program and other small business initiatives. "They say it's a stimulus bill and it's not. It's really a survival bill."

Nursing home residents and people at high risk will need more protection, he said, with summer COVID-19 transmission expected to drop by only 20%. Quigley noted the budget sent to his House subcommittee cuts Centers for Disease Control funding by 18%.

The coronavirus poses global threats, he says–it could destabilize governments (one African nation has three ventilators, he noted) and invite terrorism. Quigley says federal priorities need restructuring, including immediate Postal Service support to sustain voting by mail.

"Trying to coordinate in the middle of this," he said, "is trying to rebuild a battleship as we're turning it around in a small lagoon."