Cunningham: New state budget prioritizes critical services like unemployment program, public health

cunningham 052320CHICAGO – State Senator Bill Cunningham is pleased that the budget signed into law today by Gov. JB Pritzker funds critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic for Fiscal Year 2021.

“These are uncertain times, but the budget that was signed into law today will provide stability for the people of Illinois,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “It’s critical that we ensure the services Illinois families need remain available while our state recovers from this pandemic.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois has seen record levels of unemployment, causing challenges for the state’s unemployment insurance system. In response, the budget provides nearly $60 million to the Illinois Department of Employment Security to help them respond to the increasing demand.

“The job losses we have seen over the last few months are unprecedented, and our unemployment system has struggled to keep up with skyrocketing claim numbers,” Cunningham said. “This funding is essential to protecting Illinois families during this crisis and providing workers with resources to get them back to work as soon as possible.”

The budget also provides significant investment in public health to help Illinois recover from COVID-19, including an additional $600 million for the Illinois Department of Public Health and an additional $400 million for local health departments throughout the state. The plan also includes a funding increase for Medicaid to ensure everyone can access the health care they need during this crisis.

“This budget recognizes the importance of supporting our state and local health departments as we guide Illinois through this emergency,” Cunningham said. “This additional funding will be critical to helping public health officials keep families safe.”

Cunningham cosponsors measure to protect first responders, essential employees during pandemic

cunningham floor 052220SPRINGFIELD – A measure cosponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that would expand protections and eligibility for benefits for first responders and other essential employees during the COVID-19 pandemic passed the Illinois Senate.

“These men and women are putting themselves at great risk to provide us with the critical services we need during this pandemic,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “We need to ensure that they have adequate protections should they get sick as a result of their work.”

Though worker’s compensation does not normally cover illness, these are not normal times. Senate Bill 2455 allows employees to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if the they contract COVID-19. 

However, the legislation also creates a mechanism for employers to rebut their claims.

Employers may rebut this presumption by:

  • Demonstrating that for at least 14 days prior to the date the employee claims injury, the workplace was following up-to-date public health guidelines appropriate to their type of business,
  • Demonstrating that the employee in question was working from home for a period of at least 14 days prior to the injury claim,
  • Or demonstrating that the employee was exposed to the virus by an alternative source outside the workplace.

The legislation also includes a similar rebuttable presumption for benefits provided to the families of Chicago police officers, firefighters and paramedics who die from COVID-19. Under the measure, it is presumed that they contracted the virus in the line of duty, affording their survivors with associated death benefits.

“Due to the nature of their work, our first responders are among those with the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19,” Cunningham said. “In the unfortunate case that a first responder passes from the virus as a result of their work, it’s essential that we make sure their family can access the benefits they are entitled to.”

The measure also makes changes to Illinois’ unemployment insurance system to help maximize the relief Illinois residents can receive from federal relief packages, including:

  • Extending benefits until funding is no longer available from the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act.
  • Waiving the one-week waiting period for claims related to COVID-19 until available funding under the CARES Act expires or the governor’s final disaster proclamation expires, whichever comes last.
  • Not charging employers for unemployment benefits paid to a person whose unemployment is the result of COVID-19.
  • Expanding unemployment insurance eligibility for non-instructional education employees, such as teacher’s aides and cafeteria workers.

“These provisions are critical to our residents’ ability to qualify for much needed funding from relief packages from the federal government,” Cunningham said. “I’m glad that the Senate was able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to get this done for our state.”

House Bill 2455 passed the Senate 50-4. 

Cunningham highlights new resources to help reduce cancer risk for firefighters

firefighter dr 051420CHICAGO – State Senator Bill Cunningham is commending the Illinois Fire Service Institute, Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal and Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Illinois for creating a new project to help mitigate increased cancer risks for firefighters.

“Firefighters risk their lives every day to protect us, and it’s critical that we take steps to keep them safe as well,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “I’m grateful to these agencies for their commitment to continually finding new ways to protect the health of our firefighters.”


Cunningham: Expanded telehealth services coming to Evergreen Park

cunningham telehlth 041520CHICAGO – Telehealth services for those at risk of COVID-19 are being expanded in eight locations throughout the state, including Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, State Senator Bill Cunningham announced Monday.

The state of Illinois, in partnership with OSF HealthCare and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, has launched a new Remote Patient Monitoring Program and Pandemic Health Worker Programs to support residents across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. OSF HealthCare is a statewide health system that merged with Little Company of Mary Hospital earlier this year.

“With many of our hospitals at capacity during this pandemic, it’s critical that we expand services like telehealth that allow people to seek care from home,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This new program is a great step toward increasing our telehealth capacity, and it is based here in our community thanks to Little Company of Mary’s new affiliation with OSF.”

Pandemic Health Workers will provide care digitally for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to stay home to protect themselves and others.

Area residents are eligible for care through the program if they show COVID-19 symptoms or are at a high risk for contracting the virus, but do not require emergency or inpatient care. To seek care through the program, call the OSF hotline at 833-673-5669.

 “If your symptoms are mild, I urge you to call the OSF hotline rather than seek care in person,” Cunningham said. “By staying home, you can help save lives.”

 More information is available at​.  

Senator Bill Cunningham


Assistant Majority Leader
President Pro Tempore
18th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Energy and Public Utilities; Executive Appointments; Higher Education; Insurance; Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Vice-Chairperson).

Biography: Born July 21, 1967. Full-time state legislator and lifelong resident of the 18th Senate District. Graduate of Mt. Carmel High School; B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Former Chief of Staff and Director of Communications for the Cook County Sheriff's Office. Previously served as a State Representative (2011-13) and as an elected member of the Sutherland Local School Council. Resides in Chicago's Beverly community with wife, Juliana, and two daughters, Madeline and Olivia.

Associated Representatives:
Kelly M. Burke
Frances Ann Hurley