taxes 121820Three members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus joined together to speak on behalf of residents struggling to stay healthy and pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn yesterday.

Together, they urged Gov. Pritzker and fellow members of the legislature to close corporate tax loopholes to preserve education, health care and other essential community services.

“People in Illinois are in extreme pain,” said State Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), Chair of the Senate Black Caucus, whose district stretches from Chicago’s loop to the Indiana border. “While so many people struggle, 651 billionaires saw their combined wealth jump over a trillion dollars during this pandemic. They are so rich that they could give every American $3,000 and still have more money than they had at the start of the pandemic. It’s time for those who have made money hand over fist to pay their fair share.”

“My children attend one of the most underfunded school districts in the state, and we cannot make any more cuts to education without causing great harm,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

“The state has already instituted cuts in 2011, 2017, and at other times over the past decade,” said Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). “The meat has been cut. We are talking about cutting the bone now and that is unacceptable.”

The legislators were joined by two individuals who bravely shared their hardships.

Jose Serna, a college student and grocery store worker from Bloomington, talked about lost wages and mounting medical bills. Serna’s mother works as a travelling nurse and does not get paid when she is unable to work due to COVID exposure. They are two months behind on rent and just learned his mother’s car will be repossessed.

“I had to come home early from college because of an undiagnosed illness. I have insurance, but already the bills are piling up from my multiple ER visits and four-day hospital stay,” Serna said. “I have a job at the local grocery store, but I haven’t been able to work because of my mom’s exposure to COVID and my illness. We are past our breaking point in terms being financially afloat.”

Tina Hammond is a child care provider from West Englewood and a member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

 “The child care industry was in crisis before the pandemic. Parents couldn’t find affordable child care, and providers - mostly Black and Brown women - were not being paid our worth, with many of us making way below the minimum wage,” Hammond said. “It took a pandemic for many to recognize how important our work is to our communities – and our economy – but even still, the recognition as ESSENTIAL did not mean much. During this time, many providers had to shut their doors, some permanently. Some had to let go of staff or spend more on PPE and cleaning supplies to keep our doors open.”

The legislators expect to move on COVID-19 related relief measures when the Senate reconvenes in January.