Legislature passes sweeping equity reforms

In a marathon close to the 101st Illinois General Assembly last week, lawmakers considered four comprehensive bills to address equity in education, economic opportunity, health care and criminal justice. Work on the health care legislation continues while the three other bills were sent to the Governor. I want to give you an easy-to-digest overview of what I believe are the key points of these monumental, long-overdue reforms:


Education Equity

  • helps ensure struggling young children get the resources they need to be ready for school and prepares all children for post-secondary education
  • identifies more equitable ways to fund higher education
  • expands and reprioritizes efforts to increase minority teachers

Economic Equity

  • increases goals for minorities, women and people with disabilities to access state contracts
  • protects consumers from predatory loans by capping interest rates
  • evaluates discrimination in the state’s beauty supply industry

Health Care Equity

  • evaluates the effectiveness of Illinois' managed care program
  • grants a two-month stay on hospital closures
  • creates a task force to undertake a review of health and human service programs with the goal of improving access and outcomes for all Illinois residents

Criminal Justice Equity

  • increases police accountability, transparency and training
  • promotes the use of co-responder models in a mental health crisis response

 

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Stadelman announces more BIG funding for Rockford businesses

State Senator Steve Stadelman reported today that five Rockford businesses received financial assistance through the second round of the Business Interruption Grants, bringing to $3 million the total to be awarded locally through the BIG program to date.

“Small businesses are part of the livelihood of the Rockford community,” Stadelman said. “They need all the additional grant money they can get to keep their doors open, and I’m pleased the state remains committed to communities like Rockford during these difficult times.”

Businesses in the Rockford area received nearly $2 million the first BIG distribution, and another $1 million was given out earlier in the second round. The additional five local businesses awarded this week are:


Jason M Grinters Dds Pc Onsite Dental: $135,000

Evergreen Warehouse: $20,000

Rockford Area Arts Council: $65,000

Anderson Japanese Gardens: $55,000

Rockford Staybridge Inn and Suites: $150,000.


Grants have ranged from $5,000 to $150,000 to help with expenses like payroll costs, rent, utilities, equipment and other possible unexpected costs to relieve the effects of the pandemic. To ensure funds are distributed across the state and across business types, $60 million has been specifically allocated for heavily distressed industries, and another $70 million has been set aside for businesses located in disproportionately impacted areas, or low-income areas that have experienced high rates of COVID-19, including Rockford.

“As the pandemic continues and more businesses struggle, it is important they know there is assistance available,” Stadelman said. “Businesses must be given the capital they need to continue to navigate this pandemic with the winter months quickly approaching.”

Local businesses can still apply for assistance online.


Stadelman announces almost $7 million for Rockford Mass Transit

The Illinois Department of Transportation is set to allocate $350 million in funding as part of the Rebuild Illinois Capital Project -- and almost $7 million of that is heading to Rockford to support mass transit, State Senator Steve Stadelman reported this week.

"Every day, thousands of people rely on Rockford Mass Transit District to get to and from home, work or school or to visit one of the countless local businesses that make our city great. With this grant," Stadelman said, "they’ll be able to provide a better and safer experience for riders, which is even more crucial during a global pandemic that is causing people to rethink their travel habits.”

IDOT will provide the RMTD with $6.85 million, which will be used for various maintenance related projects including:

The purchase of new paratransit units and alternative fuel buses to replace existing vehicles that have reached the end of their lifespan;

The purchase of technology, including radios, computer tablets, cameras and automatic passengers counters, to help enhance safety, improve operation connectivity, and streamline the process of transferring to the Stateline Mass Transit District; and

The design, construction, purchase and installation of various electric and power equipment to reduce levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission.

“These funds will go a long way toward helping RMTD provide a more modern, efficient service that will greatly benefit those who use the system as well as the city of Rockford as a whole,” Stadelman said. This is the first of three grant distribution cycles, with the subsequent two scheduled to be released in 2021 and 2023. A full list of grant recipients from the first cycle can be found here.


Stadelman announces more than $1 million for Rockford museums

Discovery Center children's museum, Midway Village and Museum Center, Burpee Museum of Natural History and Winnebago County will receive more than $1 million in combined grants to improve their facilities and develop new exhibits, State Senator Steve Stadelman reported this week.

"Museums tell a story about the past, and remembering our past is crucial for shaping our present and future,” Stadelman said. “Learning about our state’s history is an important part of being an Illinoisan, and I’m glad more people will have that opportunity because of this funding.”

The Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the state’s multi-year capital program, is open to any museum operated by local government or located on municipally-owned land. The maximum grant award for the projects announced this week was $750,000 with matching funds required in many cases based on museum attendance levels.

“Discovery Center, Burpee and Midway Village attract thousands of visitors each year,” Stadelman said. “This grant program is making an investment in the Rockford community, which will spark economic growth in our community.”

More information on the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program is available on the IDNR website.


 COVID-19 surge cancels veto session

As cases of COVID-19 surge at record high rates, the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session has been cancelled to keep legislators, staff and the community safe and healthy.

The Springfield area’s rolling average positivity rate for confirmed COVID infections had skyrocketed to 14.4% in the days leading up to the decision, prompting concerns about hospital capacity in the capital city, which is the medical provider for its region. As of Thursday, that rate grew to 16.4%.

The veto session was scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3 to bracket the Thanksgiving holiday. The fall dates are typically scheduled for lawmakers to take up any vetoes made by the governor. However, there were no vetoes this year. Rather, the legislature planned to use the additional session days to pass a comprehensive package to combat systemic racism.

Despite the recent cancellation, members of the General Assembly still plan to meet again before the 102nd General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13 to discuss those measures, should it be safe.

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Stadelman opposes Mercy decision to close mental health unit

State Senator Steve Stadelman and State Rep. Maurice A. West II voiced their disapproval to Merchyhealth's closing of its mental health unit during a hearing Thursday in downtown Rockford. Senator Stadelman's remarks to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board are below:

"It seems odd to ask this Board to deny Mercy's request to close its behavioral health unit, when the health system has effectively done so already. Still, that's precisely my request.

Mercy has stated publicly the reason for the closure is the unit's only full-time psychiatrist left the company July 19. How much advance notice did Mercy receive? Did Mercy try to find a replacement? Or did Mercy just conveniently wait until the end of the 30-day time period before its requirement of notifying the Board of this so-called "temporary" closure. Under the rules, Mercy is supposed to update the Board on the progress for correcting the issue. Clearly, Mercy had no intention of following the rules and keeping the unit open before this Board made its decision.

I believe Mercy should be held accountable for its actions.

stad mercy

 As to the larger issue of whether these inpatient beds are needed in this community, I've always heard from experts and advocates we need more inpatient services, not less. Mercy claims low demand for those beds. But why is that? This claim needs to be probed further. Advocates believe Mercy's refusal to accept the types of insurance most mental health consumers use is one reason why the hospital system reports lower patient numbers. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, in today's Rockford Register Star, SwedishAmerican's Chief Operating Officer told the newspaper the closure of the behavioral health unit is placing pressure on remaining mental health resources in Rockford, and patients are being forced to seek help outside the area. By granting Mercy's petition, this Board will allow Mercy's leadership to abandon the very situation they're responsible for creating.

Finally, five years ago, Mercy appeared before this Board requesting to build a new hospital on Riverside Boulevard. Its slogan was "one hospital, two campuses." Mercy's President and CEO promised then that the Rockton Avenue facility located in the disadvantaged part of town would not lose anything. But the disadvantaged part of town has lost out, including level two trauma emergency services and now the behavioral health unit. This year, Mercy will receive millions of dollars more under the state's new hospital assessment program for Medicaid funding and an additional $2 million from this year's state budget to help safety-net hospitals.

The state has increased its commitment; now it’s incumbent upon Mercy to keep its promise to provide quality health care across ALL our community."

Drive-through T-shirt giveaway replaces HoopStars tournament for 2020

Boys and girls who might have played in what would have been the eight year of State Senator Steve Stadelman's youth basketball tournament instead can obtain their customary event T-shirt during a Labor Day drive-through giveaway.

Stadelman announced today that he won't be hosting the popular free 3-on-3 competition because of concerns over transmission of COVID-19. Senator Stadelman's HoopStars has drawn as many as 400 players and hundreds more spectators to what for several years took place outdoors in Davis Park and more recently has occupied the UW Health Sports Factory, both in downtown Rockford.

stadelman hoops JACK EDIT copy

"As much as I believe in providing this no-cost, positive activity for young athletes in the Rockford area, the ongoing global pandemic simply prevents safe competition among kids as well as the enthusiastic families and friends who cheer them on," Stadelman said, noting recently released state health guidelines that don't allow competitive play in basketball. "Hopefully, we'll all be able to return to the courts next year with the current health crisis behind us."

While HoopStars has attracted teams from across the country, Stadelman established the event especially for inner-city youth. The tournament's launch in 2012 coincided with the demise of On The Waterfront, an end-of-summer street festival that had taken place downtown for almost 30 years.

The afternoon-long contest, which traditionally gets under way immediately after the annual Labor Day parade, has become known for its diversity and the good-natured rivalry between teams in school grades 3 to 8. Shirts will be handed out to families with children in those grade levels on a first-come, first-served basis.

WHAT: HoopStars T-Shirt Giveaway

WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m., Monday, September 7

WHERE: UW Health Sports Factory parking lot, 305 S. Madison St., Rockford

Face masks that promote the U.S. Census in English and Spanish -- "Make It Count" and "Hazte Contar" -- also will be distributed. Available shirt sizes are youth large, adult small, adult medium and adult large.

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Stadelman asks fraud victims to help bring scammers to justice

Rockford area residents who are concerned about potential identity theft after recent claims of fraudulently obtained unemployment cards should file a report with Illinois Department of Employment Security, State Senator Steve Stadelman advises.

“During this time of so much uncertainty, it’s sad that people are being taken advantage of,” Stadelman said. “If you believe you’ve been a victim of this scam, you can help other Illinoisans by filing a report with IDES. We need to hold these scammers accountable.”

Recent reports have shown Illinoisans have been receiving KeyBank debit cards and unemployment letters in the mail, despite never applying for benefits. According to IDES, individuals who received these mailings may be targets of fraud.

After receiving these reports, IDES launched an investigation into a national fraud scheme targeting claimants to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. IDES said unclear federal guidelines quickly developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, making claimants vulnerable to these scams. IDES employees are now working with people whose identities have possibly been stolen and with local and federal law authorities to track down and prosecute those committing fraud.

Individuals who have received debit cards in the mail without applying for benefits should call IDES immediately at 1-800-814-0513 to report identity theft. Do not activate the debit card. Victims of fraud are also encouraged to check their credit reports for possible suspicious activity, post a fraud alert and visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for tips on recognizing and reporting identity theft.

ides scam graphic

Literacy Council to receive more than $70,000 in grants

To provide Rockford-area residents with an opportunity to improve important life skills, State Senator Steve Stadelman announced that the Literacy Council in Rockford will receive more than $70,000 in grants from the Illinois Secretary of State to help adult learners develop reading, English-language and others skills.

“Giving adults the ability to learn new skills not only provides them with new opportunities. It enhances the community they live in as well,” Stadelman said. “Everyone, no matter their age, should be given the chance to improve their skills and better themselves.”

More than 13,500 students will be served by adult literacy programs throughout Illinois. Supported by $5.6 million in state funds, the programs will depend on nearly 6,000 volunteer tutors to provide skills training for students, according to the secretary of state’s office. Adult literacy projects are focused on improving reading, writing and math and are targeted at Illinois adults who read below the 9th-grade level or speak English at a beginning level.

“I encourage Rockford-area residents to give back to their community and volunteer for this great program,” Stadelman said.

The Literacy Council in Rockford is set to receive a total of $70,690. Those interested in volunteering should contact the Illinois Adult Learning Hotline at 800-321-9511.

Stadelman encourages child care providers to apply for grants

With many parents returning to the workforce, the need for safe child care is more important than ever. State Senator Steve Stadelman is urging child care providers to apply for Child Care Restoration Grants to give them the ability to safely reopen and stay open after months of financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With more Rockford residents returning to the workforce, parents need child care providers they can trust with the wellbeing of their children during a pandemic,” Stadelman said. “These grants will allow parents to send their children to facilities that are following local health guidelines.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services is distributing $270 million to assist child care providers across the state with reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Licensed child care providers that meet the eligibility criteria may apply for Child Care Restoration Grants.

To be eligible for the grant, providers must:

  • Have a current license from the Department of Children and Family Services to care for childre
  • Be open and caring for children at the time of application
  • Be able to demonstrate a “business interruption” from their pre-COVID capacity
  • Submit a complete application with all required documents.

Applications are open until Aug. 14. To learn more and apply, providers should visit www.inccrra.org/.

In case you missed me on Facebook ...

Took part in a forum on the struggles facing businesses in the Hospitality & Tourism sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As the state and country see an uptick in cases, following safety guidelines will help keep them open.

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Contact Info

Springfield Office:
Senator 34th District
121B Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8022
 
District Office:
200 S. Wyman St., Suite 301
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 987-7557
(815) 987-7529 FAX