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Illinois Senate sends Fiscal Year 21 budget to the governor

Sen. President Don Harmon

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and focusing on preserving vital services, the Illinois Senate passed a budget that prioritizes public health and safety and vital services.

In order to protect people’s health, the budget provides additional funding to both the state’s health department and local health departments. It also expands programs that help seniors and people with disabilities remain in their homes, keeping them out of long-term care facilities that have been hit disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Responding to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the budget provides additional funding to the state agency that manages the unemployment system in an effort to address the overwhelming number of new claims caused by efforts to slow the spread of the deadly illness.

To provide struggling families and businesses with additional assistance, the budget directs federal CARES Act funds to help revitalize small businesses, provide mortgage and rent assistance, and create additional resources for immigrants struggling with COVID-19. These programs are structured to ensure that both Chicagoland and downstate communities benefit, and they set aside funds for underserved communities.

Also preserving and bolstering vital services, the budget holds the line on P-12 and higher education funding, public safety, and more. It even provides additional funding to help fix problems at the state’s troubled Department of Children and Family Services, which has faced additional problems due to the pandemic.

Here are some reactions from members of our caucus:

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood): “One budget is not going to bring our state back from such a devastating crisis, but what we can do is focus on driving resources to education, social safety nets and small businesses that have been overlooked by other aid programs.

“We were able to fund programs for struggling day cares, provide grants that will offer rent and mortgage relief, minority and small businesses, and increased funding for healthcare services with the goal of reaching those facing the depths of this pandemic.”

Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago): “Increasing funding for immigrant welcoming centers and allowing undocumented seniors to qualify for Medicaid will be significant in the communities I represent as they were left out of federal aid packages. I am glad we were able to drive resources to programs that will help small businesses, provide rent and mortgage assistance, and deliver important healthcare services.”

Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago): “It has never been more important to preserve state services,” Steans said. “This budget maintains our funding levels in the most important areas, while targeting increases to the Dept. of Children and Family Services and programs that help seniors and the developmentally disabled – especially crucial as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes (D-Aurora): “I believe an important part of the budget we passed today is that we will make our full pension payment as planned. That is such a cornerstone of our ongoing efforts to address our underfunded pension systems and state finances, alongside our current COVID-19-related budget issues at hand.”

Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign): “The state’s budget has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, and we’re facing incredibly difficult financial times. Planning for an economic recovery will depend greatly upon education and workforce development. That’s why I voted for a budget that will improve the quality of life for the people across the state.”

Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago, South Suburbs): “I’m particularly pleased to see that this budget contains an additional investment of $59.2 million in the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which administers our state’s unemployment insurance program. During this crisis, we have seen an unprecedented number of unemployment claims filed, and it’s critical that we ensure IDES has the resources necessary to deal with them. This added funding will be vital to protecting Illinoisans displaced by the pandemic.

Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek): “Under this budget, we’re taking care of the things we need to keep our state running. For instance, we’re fully meeting our funding obligations to retain stability for our pension system. We’re also fully funding our public schools, ensuring that no school district will receive less funding than it did last year.”

 Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview): “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates that we must make sure all Illinoisans have the tools they need to face critical and unexpected challenges. As we navigate post-pandemic life, this budget will provide a strong foundation for Illinois to begin its recovery and give the next generation the support they need to build a better state, country and world.”

Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago): “This has been one of the most trying few months in most of our lives, and there are folks in my community and all across the state who have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Working class families are struggling. This budget provides much needed services, support and relief to the families that need it, and I’ll always support budgets that do this.”

Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon): “While I have faith in teachers and students adjusting to e-learning, investing $12.6 billion in public education is fundamental to our students’ success and access for future opportunities. To ensure students are not falling behind, we must establish economic relief for our school districts.”

Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago): “The historical inequalities in our state aggravated the impact of COVID-19 among minority groups. After the federal government left these residents with no assistance or stimulus, our job in Springfield was to provide a functioning social safety net for them and the rest of the state.” 

Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin): “Now more than ever, it’s important that we create some kind of stability in a time of such uncertainty. This budget maintains education funding at all levels, keeps our obligation to make the full pension payment, and, most importantly, provides real relief and support to struggling families in our state.”

Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago): “It’s essential that we retain the critical services people need to support them during this pandemic, and that’s what this budget does. Included in this budget is a $178.5 million funding increase to the Department of Children and Family Services to help continue to improve the agency and better serve our state’s children. This investment is particularly important now as children spend increased time at home, putting them at greater risk of abuse and neglect.”

Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights):“Too many people are left out of our health care coverage system because it is unaffordable for low- and middle-income families. This study will look at a variety of options and best practices used in other states to see which is the best fit for Illinois.”

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago): “This budget maintains funding for schools and public safety, and contains important increases to the Dept. of Children and Family Services and to programs like Community Cares, which specifically help vulnerable people live independently in their own homes. That is more important during this pandemic than ever.”

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago): “Regardless of the financial downfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our state remains committed to our students and residents. I was proud to negotiate and vote for a budget that makes responsible decisions based on our economic reality, while maintaining ample funds for P-12 public schools and the Department of Human Services to help our state’s most vulnerable population.”

Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs): “Our local governments will continue to receive level funding, even during these difficult times. Local government distributive funds keep our communities alive and it is more important than ever that we protect these services. This budget also keeps our education system stable. Our children already face unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. Reducing school budgets now was not an option and I'm glad we worked together to keep this funding level.”

Senator Elgie Sims (D-Chicago): “As a budgeteer, I saw firsthand how difficult it was to craft this budget during these unprecedented times, but I take pride in knowing that it will provide needed relief and address issues of inequity in marginalized communities throughout the state.”

Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville): “As we progress through this health and economic crisis, this budget is a stepping stone toward financial recovery. Providing additional resources for underserved communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 will hopefully help address the disparities that have always existed. The health and wellbeing of children, families and early childhood care providers in Illinois is of utmost importance. I’m pleased they will receive relief in this budget to sustain their quality of life.”

Senator Emil Jones, III (D-Chicago): “One budget is not going to provide all the recovery we need, but this is a good start. Some families entered the Stay at Home order in already difficult economic positions that have only worsened as employees were let go from their jobs as a result of the pandemic.”

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield) “As expected, the budget priorities for our state were altered due to the worldwide pandemic. I am glad funding for our schools were held flat and local governments will continue to receive funding through these difficult times. In addition, we focused on funding for our families, unemployment needs, businesses impacted by COVID-19 and local public safety.

“This budget was cut by nearly $1 billion from the governor’s initial proposal and does not include legislators’ pay increases. It does include full pension payments and ensures our needed construction projects continue."

Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake): “We are living through a nightmare, but we can’t afford to shut down and wait for it to end while families and small businesses struggle to survive. This isn’t a normal year, and this budget will reflect the unique circumstances under which it’s being passed. It already has nearly $1 billion in cuts from the governor’s original budget proposal.”