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Trump Administration Ending Federal Funding For Peoria COVID-19 Testing Site

A sign on Main Street in downtown Peoria directs people to the IEMA COVID-19 testing site set up in the Peoria Civic Center's Fulton Street parking lot.
Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
A sign on Main Street in downtown Peoria directs people to the IEMA COVID-19 testing site set up in the Peoria Civic Center's Fulton Street parking lot.

The Trump administration is moving to end federal funding for the COVID-19 testing site in Peoria on June 30.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hasn't yet replied to WCBU's request for comment beyond an acknowledgment of the inquiry, but the agency's coronavirus testing czar, Brett Giroir, tells POLITICO the move to eliminate funding for Peoria and 12 other testing sites across five states comes as the government looks to transition "antiquated" testing sites to "more efficient and effective testing sites."

The federally-funded COVID-19 testing site is located at the Peoria Civic Center parking lot at Fulton and Monroe streets. Those resources were moved to Peoria last month in an effort to increase testing after officials said the site went underutilized in Bloomington.

The Peoria site offers both walk-up and drive-up testing. There are 250 tests available daily, seven days a week.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Geneseo, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state is currently looking to take over the Illinois sites with local personnel. They're currently staffed by the Illinois National Guard.

"We'll maintain the locations of those sites for now. But we are also adding mobile testing, for example. We're adding more sites all the time. We want to make sure that it's easy to locate, to get to," the governor said. "And so, as long as this pandemic lasts, our job here is to keep people safe."

The former federally-funded site in Bloomington, also open daily, is now a smaller mobile site run by Pekin's Reditus Labs.

Pritzker visited the Peoria testing site on June 5. Central Illinois also has community-based testing sites operated by Heartland Health Services at its East Bluff clinic, the Peoria City/County Health Department, and at Tazwood Center for Wellness in Pekin.

Asked Wednesday evening for comment, a Peoria City/County Health Department spokeswoman said she hadn't yet heard the news that federal funding is ending for the Civic Center COVID-19 testing site.

An Pritzker administration spokeswoman said the other testing site affected by the termination of federal funding support is Harwood Heights, in south suburban Cook County.

"Just yesterday, the U.S. recorded its third highest coronavirus case count since this pandemic began. So today, the Trump Administration announces that it will cut off federal funding to operate COVID-19 testing sites in Illinois and four other states," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in a prepared statement. "At a time when expanded testing is critical to conquering this virus and re-opening our economy, President Trump’s decision defies common sense.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, also blasted the Trump administration's decision.

"As if it isn’t enough that Washington Republicans are focused on blocking support for state and local governments on the forefront of the pandemic, now the administration is planning to cut off funding for COVID-19 testing right here in Peoria," Bustos said in a statement. “This news comes on the heels of the president’s outrageous comments over the weekend that he directed the administration to slow down testing. Hiding our heads in the sand won’t make COVID-19 disappear, and it is my hope that the president reverses this decision immediately."

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said the congressman supports more COVID-19 testing in the 18th Congressional District.

"As one of the Department of Health and Human Services pilot community-based testing sites, funding for the Peoria site has been extended twice by the federal government since April when it was originally located in McLean County," the spokesman said. "Additionally, Congress provided funding in the CARES Act for states to utilize to help transition these sites to the control of the states, as always intended."

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Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.