senior care 052820CHAMPAIGN – The state budget for the next fiscal year will increase funding to senior services to help some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans cope during the COVID-19 crisis, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Thursday.

“Because seniors are more likely to experience serious consequences if they contract coronavirus, many older adults have had to isolate themselves from friends and family for the past few months,” Bennett said. “This budget gives our seniors the tools to live independently.”

To offer much-needed assistance to struggling seniors during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget provides $201.7 million in additional funding to the Illinois Department on Aging.

This includes $1 billion in support for the Community Care Program, which provides cost-effective alternatives to nursing home placement and helps seniors maintain their independence. As long-term care facilities account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths across the country, programs that enable older adults to remain at home may save lives.

The funds will also allow the Department on Aging to continue to offer home-delivered meal services and run the Senior HelpLine, which connects older adults and caregivers with local programs and services. In addition, the budget increases funding to Adult Protective Services to expand efforts to prevent abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of older adults.

Area Agencies on Aging will receive an additional $1.2 million to provide community-based services to seniors at a local level.

“While isolation may be a necessary step to keep higher-risk older adults safe during this pandemic, they are not alone,” Bennett said. “I’m pleased to see the state is stepping up to protect vital services for our aging parents, friends and loved ones.”

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) once again demonstrated his support for education by voting for a preservation budget Saturday, which fully funded education at all levels.

“The state’s budget has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, and we’re facing incredibly difficult financial times,” Bennett said. “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.”

This budget preserves P-12 education funding, ensuring that this pandemic does not strip students of the opportunity to succeed in the future. The plan provides $12.6 billion to P-12 education and $7.2 billion specifically for the state’s evidence-based funding model.

The plan also represents level funding for higher education and MAP grants, which many college students depend on to fund their education, as well as $35 million for the AIM HIGH Pilot Program, which provides additional assistance to Illinois students to remain in the state and attend public colleges and universities.

Bennett emphasized that the funding for state colleges and universities was held flat, helping protect them from destructive budget cuts.

“I’m grateful for the hard work that was put forth to negotiate a budget that prioritizes education even in these difficult economic times,” Bennett said. “That said, this budget gives certainty to the University of Illinois, Parkland College and Danville Area Community College.”

The budget will fund state government for Fiscal Year 2021, beginning July 1, if approved by the governor.

IMG 9631 1SPRINGFIELD – Students and educators have faced tremendous barriers with COVID-19, which has impacted every classroom in Illinois. State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) recognized the challenges they face and favorably voted for an education package to make a high quality education available for students at all levels, whether it be in-person or remotely.

“It is imperative we continue to invest in our education system, especially in these unfortunate times,” said Bennett, a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “I have always prioritized education during my time in the General Assembly, and I believe people will need higher education and job training more than ever after this pandemic.”

In terms of higher education, the package – Senate Bill 1569 – allows for any grade of “pass,” “credit,” or “satisfactory” during the public health emergency to be transferable and to fulfill prerequisite requirements for more advanced courses.

The package also assists students participating in the AIM HIGH program, a tuition grant program that provides additional financial aid to incentivize Illinois students to remain in the state and attend public colleges and universities. Under the measure, the income of a student when entering the program will be the income of the student for the life of the program.

“This package is sensible and shows our continued support for our students and educators during this health crisis,” Bennett said. “A lot of students that began the semester under normal circumstances faced grave changes. We have to ensure they are well-equipped for continued success.”

Senate Bill 1569 passed the Senate 42-13 and goes to the governor for final approval.

local restaurant menu food royalty free thumbnailCHAMPAIGN – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is pleased with Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision to withdraw his emergency rule Wednesday, which would have penalized businesses for reopening early.

The rule, which the governor introduced Friday, would allow fines up to $2,500 for businesses caught violating the executive order. Bennett raised his concerns with the emergency rule in a formal letter to the chairs of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) Tuesday.

“Business owners are eager to get back to work under our economic circumstances,” Bennett said. “If the rule had been ennacted, the consequences would have been severe. Even proposing this rule created unnecessary fear for business owners just trying to get by.”

Bennett also emphasized in his letter the need to consult with local officials and the General Assembly before filing these rules.

JCAR announced in its Wednesday meeting that it would not take action since the emergency rule is already being repealed by the governor.

“With the General Assembly back in session this week, it’s appropriate to continue dealing with this issue through the regular legislative process where my colleagues and I can provide input,” Bennett said.

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