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Downstate Senate Democrats push to double funding for local health departments

vials 022820 Lawmakers say increased funding is key to reopening economy

SPRINGFIELD - To help local health departments sustain their COVID-19 response efforts in addition to their basic functions, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and other Downstate Senate Democrats are pushing to double state funding to support local health departments for the coming year.

Manar’s plan would increase funding for Local Health Protection Grants to $36 million in the state’s next budget, which Manar says is key to opening up the economy.

“Our state’s response and recovery will require 97 fully staffed local health departments to continue to do their part each and every day to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are the first line of response and are the foundation to reopening the economy,” Manar said.

Manar says mounting fiscal uncertainty and looming cuts to county and municipal budgets could impede local public health efforts and our state’s progress as a whole. “This additional funding will ensure they have what they need to do their jobs effectively through the end of our recovery period,” he added.

As a lead budget negotiator and chair of one of the Senate’s two appropriations committees, Manar has been vocal about the need to reinforce support for local health departments.

“As we continue to seek solutions to the unique problems the coronavirus pandemic has presented to our state, we have to adopt an approach that continues to breathe life into the organizations that allow our downstate communities to thrive,” said State Senator Dave Koehler, a Democrat representing parts of Tazewell, Peoria, and Fulton Counties. "Downstate is built on the back of entities like small businesses and local health departments, so we need to give them every chance to succeed going forward.”

"Our economic response to COVID-19 needs to match the scale of the crisis," said State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville). "We must be ready to deal with the financial fallout after this emergency, and as our local governments prepare for cuts, we have to prioritize funding for our health departments to ensure our communities can bounce back."

“This is a budget process unlike any we’ve ever faced before,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “Our local health departments are the first line of defense against an infectious disease, and we will fight to ensure there is adequate funding available to them to cover their programs.”

“By increasing funding for local health departments, Illinois is reaffirming its commitment to the well-being of its residents,” said State Senator Rachelle Crowe, a Democrat representing parts of Madison, Jersey, and St. Clair Counties. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring health departments can operate is critical to public safety.”

Local Health Protection Grants provide funding to certified local health departments to ensure that basic levels of protection for Illinois residents are maintained at the community level for infectious diseases, food protection, safety of potable water supply and private sewage disposal. Funds are distributed by the Illinois Department of Public Health based on a formula that includes population and poverty levels within each jurisdiction.

“This pandemic has demanded an unprecedented response beyond the operating capacities of most local health departments and the budgetary capacities of most county boards, so departments are already forced to spread themselves thin,” Manar said. “As local governments begin to grapple with balanced budgets, it is critical that local health departments remain stable and are able to respond to the spread of COVID-19 when needed. This is key to reopening the economy.”