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.

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CHAMPAIGN – As the state is on track to move to Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan May 29, all state parks will be able to reopen, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Thursday.

At a May 20 press briefing, the governor reported all state parks that have not already reopened will be allowed to do so when the state moves to the next phase, and all concession stands at those parks will be permitted to reopen, with safety measures in place.

“This decision is the latest sign that Illinois is progressing forward,” Bennett said. “I understand that this has been a challenging time for residents that enjoy our state parks on a regular basis. As warmer weather approaches, I’m happy more people will be able to have opportunities for recreation and exercise.”

Bennett is also stressing the importance for visitors to follow the safety and social distancing guidelines recommended by public health experts.

Health and safety guidelines from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources include:

  • Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others;
  • Stay home if you are sick or feeling any symptoms, such as fever, coughing, troubled breathing, and/or other flu-like symptoms;
  • Visit alone or with members of your household;
  • Stay local; visit parks that are closest to where you live;
  • If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, please move to another area or return another time/day to visit; and
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm/elbow.

“For our physical and mental health, it is crucial that our communities have access to parks and outdoor spaces,” Bennett said. “We’re making strides in the right direction and I will continue to keep up that momentum as we approach Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan.”

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CHAMPAIGN – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is encouraged to learn the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has updated its guidance on allowing dental providers to resume routine oral and dental care beginning this week.

“IDPH’s decision to allow dentists to resume routine oral and dental care gives me great optimism and shows the progress we’ve made,” Bennett said. “Dental offices are good at infection control and always have been. I’m confident they will be able to comply with IDPH’s guidelines to ensure patients and staff are safe.”

IDPH says to yield good procedural outcomes, oral health providers should consider their patient's health care needs, assess the risks and benefits of any procedures, and appropriately screen patients for COVID-19. Patients will need to be symptom free and have their temperature taken.

Dr. J Barry Howell, who maintains a private practice in Urbana, expressed his thanks to the Department of Public Health for the work and effort they put forth to allow dental offices to reopen, but expressed concern for the need of PPE in their office as they adapt to the new normal.

Dentists gave up their PPE in the early days of the pandemic for hospitals, first responders and nursing homes. Now they have difficulty getting what they need to resume dental care.

“The new guidelines are nothing out of the ordinary for us to reopen in a safe and effective way so that we can protect ourselves and our patients,” Dr. Howell said. "Protective gear is necessary to not only meet IDPH’s guidelines, but to safely deliver the services that we are now allowed to do."

More details from IDPH are here.

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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