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SPRINGFIELD –  To give those who have been exonerated and are eligible for the Grant Program for Exonerated Persons more flexibility with their benefits, State Senator Ram Villivalam advanced legislation to allow those covered by the program to pass on unused benefits to dependent spouses or children.

“This gives people who have been wronged by the legal system and may not want to use all of their grant benefits the ability to pass them on to someone in their family who may benefit more,” Villivalam said. “Wrongful convictions are devastating for families, and this legislation gives more agency to how exonerated persons can use their benefits and ensures that their benefits are not going wasted.”

Under the current law, individuals who receive a gubernatorial pardon on the grounds of innocence of the crime for which they were imprisoned, or have received a certificate of innocence from a court, are eligible for the Grant Program for Exonerees. The grant can cover the cost of obtaining a high school equivalency certificate, pay tuition and mandatory fees for undergraduate or graduate study at Illinois public universities, and can be used for four regular school years of full time enrollment.

The new measure, Senate Bill 2426, would allow any qualified recipient of the grant the ability to pass unused benefits, up to the individual’s maximum of 48 credit hours, on to a dependent. This could include spouses, natural children, legally adopted children or children in the legal custody of the exonerated person.

Senate Bill 2426 passed the Senate on Friday and now heads to the House for further deliberation.