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Schools could give housing assistance to homeless students

Homeless youthSPRINGFIELD – School districts will now be allowed to help students who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless under a plan passed the Illinois Senate.

Under House Bill 261, schools will have the option to use their own transportation funds to provide housing assistance to students in need if they determine it will be more cost-efficient.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is the legislation’s sponsor in the Senate.

“This legislation allows schools to take steps to use existing funds to help these students add some stability to their lives,” Bennett said. “A student whose family is going through tough circumstances should be able to stay in their school, which will provide stability.”

The Regional Office of Education serving northern Cook County says they spent nearly $1 million in northern Cook County alone on transporting homeless students. Those same funds, they contend, could house up to 40 families.

Finding ways to help students in need has been an issue of great importance in the Champaign-Urbana area. Urbana Public Schools recently announced they would continue free lunch programs through the summer ensuring students are getting the meals they need.

The measure passed the Senate 39-15.

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Associated Representatives: Carol Ammons; Chad Hays

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations II; Criminal Law; Gaming; Higher Education; Labor.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.