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Bush legislation seeks to address limited options on rape kit testing during COVID-19 crisis

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CHICAGO – Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) have passed emergency legislation to address concerns related to ensuring that survivors of sexual assault have access to care and evidence collection during the COVID-19 crisis. Under current law sexual assault survivors’ only option for a forensic exam and evidence collection is to go to an emergency department. Many survivors seeking treatment at alternative sites have expressed fear of being exposed to COVID-19 at hospital emergency rooms.

Senate Bill 557 seeks to allow approved federally qualified health centers (FQHC) to perform rape kit examinations and collection during public health emergencies such as COVID-19.

“We know sexual assaults are not stopping during this time. Survivors should not have the added worry of being exposed to the virus, they deserve better,” Representative Cassidy said. 

Advocacy groups and experts in the industry know that sexual violence is not decreasing during this time. Resilience, Chicago’s largest comprehensive rape crisis center has reported a 49% decrease in call volume from hospitals since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile Howard Brown Health Center a federally qualified health center, has seen its volume of sexual assault cases double.

"Currently, the only place a survivor of sexual assault can get a rape kit or medical help is a hospital. With survivors citing COVID-19 and the health risks associated with going to a crowded hospital as a reason to stay away, it's more important than ever to allow federally qualified health centers to perform rape kits and give survivors additional options to seek help," Bush said. "The need for alternative options has never been more important than right now." 
 

In order to provide these exams FQHCs would need to apply to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Facilities must also abide by strict guidelines including working with emergency departments, rape crisis centers and offer wrap around services to survivors.

"With many survivors uncomfortable going to a hospital during the pandemic, it's critical to provide other places where they can access safe treatment and compassionate care," said Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx. "Expanding these options will also allow for evidence collection, which is vital to bringing survivors justice. I'm grateful to the sponsors and advocates who share our trauma-informed, victim-centered approach and moved quickly to advance this important legislation."

This legislation represents an initiative by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Chicago Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Office of the Attorney General and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The bill passed the House by a vote of 107-1 and the Senate 56-0. 

Bush highlights additional student loan relief

student loan2 042320GRAYSLAKE — In an effort to help people struggling to pay their student loans during the unprecedented economic challenges facing the state and country, State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) highlighted relief options that could benefit nearly 140,000 Illinoisans. 

“If you are struggling with student loan debt, please contact your loan providers immediately to discuss a repayment plan that incorporates expanded relief options during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Bush. “Illinoisans should not have to worry about how they will repay their student loans during a national crisis.”

Under the initiative, spearheaded by Gov. JB Pritzker and Secretary Deborah Hagan of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, people with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are having a hard time making their payments due to COVID-19 will be eligible for expanded relief. 

Borrowers who need assistance are asked to immediately contact their student loan provider to set up a plan. 

Relief options are based on a person’s individual needs and include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance,
  • Waiving late payment fees,
  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting,
  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days,
  • Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income-based repayment.

If a person is having problems contacting their student loan servicer, they can contact the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Division of Banking at 217-785-2900 or the attorney general’s student loan helpline at 1-800-455-2456. If Illinois residents have difficulty contacting state agencies at those numbers, they are encouraged to reach out to their state senator’s office. 

Senator Bush’s District Office is serving constituents remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, so please call (847) 548-5631 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance.

Bush: A sudden need for a home repair can be stressful for anyone

homerepair1 041720GRAYSLAKE — The Community Partners for Affordable Housing in Lake County was awarded nearly $500,000 to help area homeowners with repairs, State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) announced Friday.

“A sudden need for a home repair can be stressful for anyone," said Bush. "It's even more stressful at a time when money is limited. Some people are already worried about feeding their families. They shouldn't have to worry about fixing the leaking roof over their head, too.”

The Illinois Housing Development Authority Board of Directors awarded the Lake County organization $482,000 to help low- and very low-income homeowners with necessary home repairs. The group awarded $11,000,000 statewide through the state’s Single Family Rehabilitation Program. The lump sum is projected to help at least 326 families. 

The Single Family Rehabilitation Program provides forgivable loans of up to $45,000 per household to assist with necessary repairs to remove documented health and safety hazards. Eligible repairs include roofing, flooring and plumbing, among others. 

A roof-only option is also available for people who do not need other repairs. Those recipients are offered up to $16,500 to mitigate against future roof damage. 

“The money awarded to Lake County will change the lives of some people who are stressed about paying for housing repairs, especially at a time where more people are finding themselves on fixed incomes,” Bush said.

Households can apply for grants by contacting Community Partners for Affordable Housing at (847) 263-7478. The group will walk families in need through the application process and explain eligibility. 

Bush asks out-of-state health care professionals to come to Illinois

bush030920GRAYSLAKE – Due to the skyrocketing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois and more anticipated cases on the horizon, State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) is asking doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other healthcare professionals from border states – especially Wisconsin – to apply for Illinois’ new Out of State Temporary Practice Permits.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has announced several new actions to increase the number of healthcare professionals working to help combat the novel coronavirus. One of the new measures includes an IDFPR proclamation allowing out-of-state nurses, physicians, and various medical professionals to provide care to Illinois residents with COVID-19. 

“Illinois is home to many well qualified medical professionals, but with health systems increasingly being filled to capacity, we simply won’t have enough people to care for all COVID-19 patients unless we take drastic actions,” Bush said. “The district I represent is on Illinois’ border, and I want to make sure that residents affected by COVID-19 who live close to the Wisconsin border have access to well qualified medical professionals.”

The application for the Out of State Temporary Practice Permit is available online at www.idfpr.com/Renewals/Apply/Forms/F2398.pdf

Sen. Melinda Bush

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31st Senate District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations II; Education; Environment and Conservation (Chairperson); Government Accountability/Pensions; Revenue; Transportation; Subcommittee on Capital (AP); Sub. on Tax Exemptions and Credits; Sub. on Interscholastic Athletics; Opioid Crisis Abatement Spec. Com..

Biography: Born March 18, 1956; former member of the Lake County Board, Forest Preserve Board and former Grayslake village trustee; married (Andy) with one adult son (Chris).

Associated Representatives:
Joyce Mason
Sam Yingling