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SIU wide receiver Avante Cox heads upfield against South Dakota State this season at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, S.D. Cox caught five passes for 58 yards, but the Salukis fell 31-26 in the FCS quarterfinals to finish 6-4.


Study shows working mothers hard hit by pandemic-related child care burdens
  • Updated

SPRINGFIELD — New research shows pandemic-related child care burdens have magnified economic inequalities for women in the workforce in Illinois.

That research was included in The Child Care Crisis in Illinois: A Survey of Working Mothers During the COVID-19 Pandemic, conducted by the by the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute nonprofit research organization.

data review in that report showed the workforce participation rate among women hit its lowest level in more than three decades in January 2021, at 57 percent nationally.

One of the most significant findings, according to the researchers, was that 40 percent of working moms who were employed at the beginning of the pandemic were out of work or saw reduced hours as a result of the pandemic.

From August to October 2020, researchers surveyed about 1,300 working mothers who were employed as of March 2020. The respondents were limited to working women who provided residence for at least one child under the age of 13 and earned $150,000 a year or less.

This sample only provides a snippet of the state’s child care crisis, according to researchers, considering 1.6 million Illinois workers have at least one child age 13 or younger – which is the child care-aged population. As well, just less than 500,000 children participate in day care or state-recognized family homes, the report shows.

The closure of schools and child care centers throughout the pandemic played a major role in decreased job performance, reduced work hours and income loss for working mothers, according to survey respondents.

As a single, working mother herself, UIUC senior instructor and study co-author Alison Dickson said the study was a reflection of her lived experiences.

“We knew going into this, that things were going to be bad and that the women we surveyed would be experiencing significant levels of hardship, but it's much worse, I think, than many of us anticipated,” Dickson said.

Dickson has one son and works from home, but she said many of her friends are also single, working moms, and were left with no available child care options amid closures.

“I inevitably had four kids at my house for a number of months last year,” Dickson said. “While relatively speaking my situation was not nearly as bad as so many of the women's stories we captured in the survey, I certainly feel like across the income spectrum, across occupations, any mom who had to deal with these child care closures was still trying to keep their jobs instead of taking leave.”

On average, the annual cost of child care for infants is about $13,800 and about $10,400 for a four-year-old.

“Illinois’ child care costs are the 10th-highest in the nation and rival annual tuition costs at public colleges and universities in the state,” said Frank Manzo, ILEPI policy director and co-author of the study.

Working mothers with high child care costs were 10 percent less likely to remain employed and 24 percent more likely to report that they suffered a loss of income, as compared to other working mothers, the survey shows.

The survey found that 55 percent of employed mothers worked fewer hours during the pandemic and 54 percent earned less income. The burdens hit women of color especially hard, Manzo said in reference to survey findings.

“Women compensated for these income losses by...delaying rent and mortgage payments, spending less on food, pulling from their savings accounts and delaying medical treatments,” Manzo added. “Just a lot of different ways to make up the loss of income but ways that have negative effects on nutrition, on health and retirement, things like that have long-term effects.”

Prior to the pandemic, according to the study, there was a 3 percent gender employment gap between working-age women without children (72 percent employed) and working-age men without children (75 percent employed) in Illinois. For working-age parents, however, that gap grew to 21 percent, with 93 percent of fathers being employed compared to 72 percent of mothers.   

Manzo said the first step to combating these issues faced by working mothers is making child care affordable through policy change.

He recommends the state-run Child Care Assistance Program could be doubled to cover more families at relatively affordable costs. He also suggests that the state could institute its own refundable child care tax credit, similar to one that is currently being considered at the federal level.

“That would result in over $1,000 in annual tax relief for more than 700,000 working families every year, as well as boost employment by 29,000 jobs,” Manzo said. “So just as one potential policy option, targeted aid to low-income families and universal child care tax credits, would expand access to quality, affordable childcare.”

Access to paid family leave is also important, he said. In some instances access to paid family and medical leave have kept working mothers employed, Manzo said. Policies similar to this already exist in other states.

In the current legislative session, House Bill 74, sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, which would require private employers to provide six weeks of paid leave to an employee for various family and medical reasons, missed a deadline to be voted out of the House and stalled in a committee.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden’s proposed American Families Plan could provide paid leave and reduce child care costs for working families. If passed as proposed, the plan would provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who meet certain income requirements.

“But one of the most important provisions of this proposal is to extend the child tax credit that pays $300 per month for children under six years old, and a smaller amount for other children every month,” Manzo said. “The amount that is credited to each family amounts to $7 billion in extra income that enables working mothers and working families to afford the cost of child care.”


Communities
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Southern Seven hosts day of remembrance for those lost to COVID-19
  • Updated

ULLIN — Southern Seven Health Department hosted a COVID-19 Day of Remembrance Tuesday afternoon.

For Morrissa Clanahan, it was a day to remember her sister, Ouida Haralambidis, who died Jan. 17. Haralambidis had been retired for several years after owning a popular bar at Horseshoe Lake for 30 years.

“She was big-hearted and everybody loved her,” Clanahan said.

She added that her sister had health conditions that put her at high risk for complications from the virus. They tried to do everything right — they wore masks and stayed home as much as possible. Clanahan herself got COVID-19 in December. 

Clanahan and her sister lived together, so the loss has been difficult.

“When she went to the hospital, we couldn’t go be with her,” Clanahan said.

Shawna Rhine, community outreach coordinator and spokeswoman for Southern Seven, opened up the short remembrance service to honor those lost to COVID-19.

Bishop Derek Eurales, of First Opportunity Free Will Baptist Church in Carrier Mills, offered words of encouragement to families and friends who had lost a loved one to the virus.

“We are here to remember those lost to a disease we’ve never seen before and hopefully we will never see again,” Eurales said.

In the seven counties served by Southern Seven, their first COVID-19 fatality came May 4, 2020, in Union County.

“We’re here to remember the lives of 102 men and women who lost their lives to COVID-19. One year ago at 2 p.m., I received a call about the first person lost to COVID-19. That person has a family, had dreams, hopes and things they wanted to do,” Rhonda Andrews-Ray, executive director of Southern Seven Health Department, said.

Before last year, Ray had never heard the phrase “social distance” and had never seen anyone wearing a mask in public.

Now, it is common.

She also praised health workers, especially those in public health, for their dedication.

“They have worked weekends and night without any time off,” she said.

Lauren Kerr, an office assistant with Southern Seven, read the poem “Life Still has Meaning.”

Natalie Sawyer, South Seven Health Education Director and public health officer, read a proclamation marking May 4 COVID-19 Remembrance Day.

The ceremony closed with those attending being asked sign the proclamation and take a blue ribbon to wear in remembrance of victims.

“I have lost a family member and have seen the impact of COVID-19 through my job,” Morgan Frayser, contact tracing manager for South Seven, said.

She added that it is important to remember those lost and to understand and grieve with those who have lost loved ones while continuing the fight the spread of the virus.

“It’s important to get vaccinated if we want to minimize variation of COVID-19,” Frayser said.

Southern Seven Health Department provides services in Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties.


International
AP
Biden boosts vaccination goal
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the "doubters" and those unmotivated to get inoculated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.

His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.

"You do need to get vaccinated," Biden said from the White House. "Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love."

Biden's goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It's a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.

Already more than 56% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated. The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden's target.

"I'd like to get it 100%, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July Fourth," Biden said of his new goal.

He said the administration would focus on three areas as it tries to ramp up the pace of vaccinations:

  • Adults who need more convincing to take the vaccine.
  • Those who have struggled or are in no hurry to obtain a shot.
  • Adolescents aged 12-15, once federal authorities approve vaccination for that age group.

Acknowledging that "the pace of vaccination is slowing," Biden predicted the inoculation effort is "going to be harder" when it comes to convincing "doubters" of the need to get their shots.

He said the most effective argument to those people would be to protect those they love. "This is your choice: It's life and death."

Biden's push comes as his administration has shifted away from setting a target for the U.S. to reach "herd immunity," instead focusing on delivering as many shots into arms as possible. Officials said Biden's vaccination target would result in a significant reduction in COVID-19 cases heading into the summer.

To that end, the Biden administration is shifting the government's focus toward expanding smaller and mobile vaccination clinics to deliver doses to harder-to-reach communities. It is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to boost interest in vaccines through education campaigns and greater access to shots through community organizations that can help bring people to clinics.

Biden touted creative efforts to make it "easier and more fun" to get vaccinated, such as grocery stores offering discounts to shoppers who come to get shots and sports leagues that hold promotions to gets shots for their fans.

Ahead of the Food and Drug Administration's expected authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12-15, the White House is developing plans to speed vaccinations for that age group. Biden urged states to administer at least one dose to adolescents by July Fourth and work to deliver doses to pediatricians' offices and other trusted locations, with the aim of getting many of them fully vaccinated by the start of the next school year.

While younger people are at dramatically lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, they have made up a larger share of new virus cases as a majority of U.S. adults have been at least partially vaccinated and as higher-risk activities like indoor dining and contact sports have resumed in most of the country.

Officials hope that extending vaccinations to teens — who could get the first dose in one location and the second elsewhere, if necessary — will further accelerate the nation's reduced virus caseload and allow schools to reopen with minimal disruptions this fall.

The urgency to expand the pool of those getting the shots is rooted in hopes of stamping out the development of new variants that could emerge from unchecked outbreaks and helping the country further reopen by the symbolic moment of Independence Day, exactly two months away. Though White House officials privately acknowledge the steep challenge, Biden sounded an optimistic note.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter," Biden said.

Biden's speech comes as the White House announced a shift away from a strict allocation of vaccines by state population. The administration says that when states decline to take all the vaccine they have been allocated, that surplus will shift to states still awaiting doses to meet demand.

Governors were informed of the change by the White House on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be "horrible."

India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.


Secretary of state calls for new Martin Luther King statue on Capitol grounds
  • Updated

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on Tuesday said it’s time for the state to construct a new statue commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., as the current statue’s rendering “does not properly reflect Dr. King,” White said in a news release.

White said he would personally contribute the first $5,000 in funding the new statue that would be situated in a more prominent location on the Capitol grounds.

The current 300-pound bronze likeness of King is located across the street from the Capitol building, on the corner of 2nd Street and Capitol Ave. — referred to as Freedom Corner.

“To this day, I remain impacted by Dr. King’s teachings,” White said in a news release. “His values and dignified behavior continue to inspire and resonate with me. I remember Dr. King attending my college basketball games and staying afterward to offer me words of encouragement and support. He made a difference in my life.”

King’s likeness on the Capitol grounds was built in 1988, and he was the first non-Illinois resident to be memorialized with a statue, according to the Springfield visitor’s center.

King’s efforts to oppose segregation in all segments of American society, from housing and schools to public accommodations and private businesses, are often credited with propelling the civil rights movement into mainstream popularity in the 1950s and 60s.

White’s statement comes after House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, created a new committee tasked with reviewing statues and monuments on state property. The committee, which met for the first time on April 21, heard testimony from professors and state government associations about how to guide the review process.

Last spring, the Capitol architect board voted to remove statues of Stephen A. Douglas and Pierre Menard, two slave-owning men with ties to Illinois, from the Capitol grounds.

The decision by the board of the Office of the Architect of the Capitol followed a request from former House Speaker Michael Madigan to remove those two monuments from the state grounds.

Douglas was a slave owner who served as Illinois’ secretary of state, state Supreme Court justice and in the U.S. Senate among other roles. He proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and replaced it with a system for states to decide whether to be pro- or anti-slavery.

Menard, also a slave owner, was the first lieutenant governor of Illinois, and he supported political actions devised to ensure slavery was legal in the state.

When the architect board voted to remove the statues of Douglas and Menard, members also discussed relocating the likeness of King.

King’s statue is located across the street from the Statehouse because of an administrative rule that only allows historical figures related to Illinois to be installed on the Capitol grounds.

At the meeting, the board approved a motion to revise that rule.

The Office of the Architect of the Capitol did not immediately respond to a question about whether the rule has been revised to allow non-Illinois figures on the Capitol grounds.


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