Senate Week in Review: February 27 – March 3

The Illinois Senate expects some very busy days in Springfield next week as March 10 marks the deadline for substantive bills to be heard in Senate Committees.

In other news, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced grants for local park districts seeking to expand recreational activities. Local park districts within the 50th District received more than $3 million in grants.

Feb. 28 marked the last day of production for the Stellantis Assembly Plant in the northern Illinois community of Belvidere. This “idling” has resulted in the loss of more than 1,000 jobs for the town of 25,000, both from the factory and from companies who provide materials to the factory.

Additionally, the month of March marks the end of many different pandemic-related benefits.

Committee deadline for Senate Bills

The Senate is expected to return to session next week ahead of a March 10 deadline that requires all Senate Bills to be heard in Committee. While there are often-used maneuvers that still allow legislation to advance past this deadline, it’s expected to be a very busy week in Springfield as legislators seek to move their bills through the legislative process.

Several bills filed by Senate Republican members have been posted for the upcoming week and are expected to be heard in their respective Senate Committees. Once a bill gets approved by the Committee to which it has been assigned, the legislation then advances onto the full Senate for consideration before being sent over to the House of Representatives.

To find the Senate Committees schedule for next week and a list of bills to be heard, click here.

Local park districts receive grants

This week, IDNR announced nearly $60 million in state grants being awarded to park districts across Illinois. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants are awarded to qualified recipients to help communities acquire land and further develop recreational, outdoor opportunities.

Park Districts within the 50th Senate District received a total of $3,241,500:

  • City of Jerseyville (Jersey County) – $600,000
  • City of White Hall (Greene County) – $242,500
  • Village of Bluffs (Scott County) – $600,000
  • Village of Hardin (Calhoun County) – $600,000
  • Village of Milton (Pike County) – $599,000
  • Village of Palmyra (Macoupin County) – $600,000

State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) says investing in outdoor spaces is critical to the health and well-being of community residents. She applauds park districts officials for seeking to improve the quality of life for the people they serve.

Automaker Stellantis closes Belvidere factory

On March 1, about 1,350 people did not return to work in Belvidere at the Stellantis Assembly Plant, which until that point had been a main producer of Jeep Cherokees, among other models. Last December, when this pause was first announced, Stellantis declared it was idling with the hope to repurpose the plant; however, at this time, there are no plans to reopen. Currently, the company has said that the workers will be laid off indefinitely.

This factory has served as a critical part of Belvidere’s economy since the 1960s. Its importance in local economy means that in addition to the jobs lost at the plant, 400 jobs at different companies who supplied the plant have also been cut. Already some former employees of the plant have relocated while those remaining are left unsure as to the town’s future.

Stellantis cites the government’s recent push for electric vehicles, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the microchip shortage, and Illinois’ high taxes as the main reasons for its departure. At this time, no mention has been made of where the production location for the next-generation Jeep Cherokee will be located since the Belvidere plant closed.

Medicaid members must update home address to maintain coverage

Medicaid members are encouraged to update their contact information, specifically their home mailing address, with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service (IDHFS) or they may risk losing their health insurance coverage.

IDHFS is encouraging all Illinoisans currently covered by Medicaid to verify their current address as most will soon be receiving critical renewal notices in the mail.

On March 31, the protections put in place to maintain continuous enrollment in Medicaid will lapse. Prior to the pandemic, Illinois residents were required to annually renew their health insurance coverage to prove they still qualified for the program; however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government began to provide extra funding to states who did not disqualify any residents from Medicaid. Illinois Medicaid members were automatically re-enrolled during this period.

Now, this protection has come to an end. Currently, the first round of anticipated renewal notices will begin to arrive in mailboxes in May, to be due in June. The month participants receive their renewal notices in the mail will depend on when their coverage is expected to expire. Notices will be mailed over the course of a year.

Some Illinois residents may still automatically renew; however, most will have to fill out paperwork to maintain their coverage. It is critical that participants focus on verifying their current address with the HFS. Those who have moved addresses recently can update their information on the HFS website. Residents should keep in mind that it may take some time for contact information to update in the government’s systems and should verify their information before May.

Furthermore, residents can check renewal dates online on the Application for Benefits Eligibility website. If Medicaid policy holders are unresponsive to IDHFS notifications and inquiries, they will be unenrolled and lose health insurance coverage.

SNAP benefits reduced to pre-pandemic levels

This week, under direction from the federal government, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has returned SNAP benefits to pre-pandemic levels. Since April 2020, an emergency SNAP allotment was added to the regular monthly benefits to address the worsening food insecurity challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act gave households who participate in SNAP an additional $95 to $340 per month.

In Illinois, this reduction will impact approximately two million families, even as inflation continues to increase in grocery stores. As a result, Illinois food banks and pantries are beginning to brace for a difficult month. Already this year, many food pantries have reported a continued increase in families served throughout January and February.

In an effort to reduce strain on households, IDHS has put together a resource page for constituents who may need assistance in managing this reduction in funds. Furthermore, IDHS has said that it will be working closely with various communities and organizations to develop additional support and resources for families struggling with this reduction.

Jil Tracy

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: