SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Democratic leaders in Illinois announced Thursday that they have agreed to repay federal pandemic relief loans more than a year ahead of schedule, saving $ 100 million in interest to taxpayers.

The plan was announced as Democrats who control the House and Senate head into the final 10 days of the legislative session, still struggling to find ways to close a $ 1.4 billion deficit for the budget that begins. July 1.

Washington lent money in early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures left economies battered and hundreds of thousands unemployed. Illinois borrowed $ 3.2 billion and repaid $ 2 billion. The rest was due in December 2023, but the state has money to pay it sooner.

“The federal loan was a lifeline in keeping our state and our economy afloat,” said Senate Speaker Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “The fact that our economy has rebounded so strongly that we can now pay it off quickly is a testament to the resilience of people and businesses in the great state of Illinois.”

The deadly respiratory disease continued its carnage on Thursday, when the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,542 additional confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease, which killed 42 more. There have now been 22,536 deaths among 1.37 million cases.

Authorities also reported that 47% of adults in Illinois have now been vaccinated against the virus. But there have been 1,488 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 404 in intensive care units and 226 receiving respiratory assistance from ventilators.

The coronavirus entered Illinois in late January 2020 and by March most businesses and schools were closed, large gatherings banned and for several weeks residents were urged to stay at home.

State revenues plummeted and he borrowed $ 3.2 billion. Last fall, major revenue metrics such as sales tax collections began to rebound beyond expectations and continued into the spring. Democratic Governor JB Pritzker proposed a budget that would have needed to cover a deficit of $ 2.6 billion, but his administration has been able to adjust it down since.

Controller Susana Mendoza said she can now structure payments to alleviate debt in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Mendoza joined Pritzker, Harmon and Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside in making the announcement.

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