The Illinois Emergency Administration Company shares classes from the Illinois pandemic

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Emergency Management Agency was forced to quickly adjust to a new role when the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged last year, and the agency’s director told a legislative committee that more work needed to be done to keep itself up prepare for the event of another state disaster.

“Although we provide resources to counties and local jurisdictions during times of disaster, we never had a logistical arm for the organization. That has changed since then, “IEMA director Alicia Tate-Nadeau told a Senate budget committee. “Overnight we transformed ourselves into a Fortune 500 logistics supply chain management system. And you can imagine the lessons that can be learned from this. “

One of the earliest challenges the agency faced in the early weeks and months of the pandemic was trying to amass a supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE – the face shields, robes, gloves and N95 masks needed to protect health care Workers and first responders who dealt directly with COVID-19 patients.

However, it quickly became apparent that most of the world’s PPE either came from outside the US or from the raw materials used to make it. And although the federal government had a supply of PPE, Tate-Nadeau said, “The strategic national supply was only for a city or two across the country, not the entire United States.”

“Whenever we think about weaknesses and how we can improve things, it really comes down to manufacturing,” she said. “Strong relationships with manufacturing, the ability to grow in certain areas.”

IEMA has since acquired two warehouses of its own, including one in Rochelle in northern Illinois and one in Pana in central Illinois. But she said a third is needed in southern Illinois, which has long been at risk of a major earthquake.

“What remains to be determined in the south is crucial if we should ever see the earthquake scenario,” she said. “That way, the southern part of the state is not cut off from the supply chain because we know everything from the southern part of the state to Tennessee. Everything is blocked. Everything has to come north to be supplied again. “

Another lesson the agency has learned, according to Tate-Nadeau, is that more work needs to be done to empower and professionalize local emergency management agencies at the county level.

“Many of our smaller counties may have someone who is only part-time, or a third time, or just one person,” she said. “And we know that at big events like this, success is about having someone who really understands business continuity management. … The ability of each county to host 25 people at one event would have prevented the state from playing such a big role. “

Tate-Nadeau’s comments came during a Senate committee hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Overall, the agency is aiming for a budget of just under 2.2 billion US dollars for fiscal year 2022, 404 million US dollars less than in the current year. This is mainly due to an expected decline in federal funding, which accounts for around 84 percent of the agency’s budget.

However, as of fiscal 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began and disaster preparedness funding increased significantly, that represents an increase of more than $ 100 million. It is also nearly four times the approved fiscal 2019 budget, which is the final budget that will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to the federal aid that has been flowing in since March 2020.

One of the main tasks of the IEMA is to act as a transit agency that receives federal funds for disasters and homeland security and passes them on to other agencies.

The agency moves, and Governor JB Pritzker proposed in February a $ 3.5 million increase in allocations from the General Revenue Fund, the main discretionary spending account that lawmakers allocate each year. That would bring GRF funding for the agency to $ 11.35 million.

The additional GRF funding would increase the number of IEMA employees funded through the General Revenue Fund from 20 in the current fiscal year to 58. This would bring the agency’s total workforce to 213.5, an increase of 13 over the current fiscal year, with fewer employees receiving federal and other state funding.

According to Tate-Nadeau, payroll accounts for just 13 percent of the agency’s total operating budget.

The proposed budget provides for a total of $ 4.1 million in government funding when “other government funding” is added to general revenue funding. “Other government funding” comes mainly from fees charged for the various IEMA missions. The agency expects the Nuclear Safety Preparation Fund to decrease by $ 7 million, funded by statutory fees for the nuclear industry.

Tate-Nadeau said the agency took several steps to cut its budget in light of the state’s tight financial situation. These include reducing the demand for new equipment by $ 1.4 million, reducing the demand for information technology by $ 1.2 million, and reducing the operating budget by $ 251,000.

“Over the years this agency has faced attrition budget restrictions, hiring freezes and staff who are constantly being asked to do more to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” she said.

Jerry Nowicki, chief executive of the Capitol News Illinois Bureau, contributed to this story.

Capitol News Illinois is a not for profit, impartial news service that covers the state government and is distributed to more than 400 newspapers nationwide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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