Dear Neighbor,

We’ve wrapped up the spring legislative session! We passed a historic budget that includes a provision to expand the earned income tax credit, which I personally fought hard for. Alongside the budget, I was able to secure the passage of 10 pieces of legislation covering a range of issue areas including youth mental health. I also helped drive the passage of several bills as a chief cosponsor including groundbreaking gun safety legislation and a Medicaid expansion. The Senate finished its final session going late into the night and adjourning at 3 am! 

 

Here are some highlights from the budget:

$1.83 Billion in Tax Relief for Working Families

  • Permanently expands the earned-income tax credit for those currently eligible– putting an additional $105 million per year back into the pockets of low-income households
  • Expands eligibility for the earned-income tax credit to adults 18-24 years old, ITIN filers, and seniors 65 and older
  • Provides direct checks to working families: $50 per individual and $100 per child, up to three children per family
  • Helps teachers buy supplies for their classroom through a tax credit up to $500
  • Back to school tax relief on school clothes and materials for families and teachers – saving consumers $50 million
  • Suspends the tax on groceries for one year – saving consumers $400 million
  • Freezes the motor fuel tax for six months – saving consumers $70 million
  • Doubles the property tax rebate – up to $300 per household

We also secured a wage increase for 60,000 of our homecare workers who often care for seniors and help ensure seniors can remain living in their communities. My bill, SB4030, originally called for a $1.56 increase and was partially included in the final budget providing these workers a 70 cent an hour pay increase. We will continue to fight for pay equity for our frontline workers who do the hardest jobs and are absolutely indispensable and deserve a dignified wage. 

Supporting Arts, Theater and Music Venues, Restaurants, Breweries, and Small Businesses – All Key Wins for Our District

The budget also includes $50 million for new grants for arts organizations, music and theater venues, and an additional $50 million for restaurants, bars, and breweries. License fees for bars and restaurants are also being suspended. 

And it supports small businesses by providing $16 million for community navigators for technical assistance, and funding increases for the creation of low-interest loans for small businesses looking to grow or expand and that need access to capital. 

And the budget allocates $20 million for grants to attract and retain businesses in Illinois – encouraging people to start businesses here in Illinois and, in turn, create jobs – and another $350,000 for job training and employee development. It also includes $50 million for the Employer Training Investment Program -- $5 million of which will be used for the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment’s small business support efforts.

 

Paying Down Debt and Fulfilling Pension Promises

The budget meets the state’s full pension commitment while adding $200 million to pay down debt, bringing the total pension payment over what is required to $500 million dollars and saving taxpayers more than $1.8 billion. To save for an unforeseen crisis and protect the budget from future expenses, the Rainy Day Fund is appropriated $1 billion.

 

Investing in Education

The FY 23 budget invests in our children’s future by appropriating nearly $600 million in early childhood education and keeps our commitment to fully funding K-12 schools by dedicating an additional $350 million to fund the evidence-based funding formula.

College applicants would also see an additional $122 million for the needs-based MAP grant program – a total of $601 million in assistance would be available. This investment will make financial aid available to at least 24,000 more students and increase the maximum grant award to $8,508 – which is nearly half a year’s worth of tuition at a state university.

Prioritizing Mental Health

The budget puts $5 million in funding for Crisis Response services for individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis and call into the 9-8-8 hotline. Additionally, it calls for an increase of $50 million for addiction treatment services.

 

Legislative Updates

I am proud to share that I have ten bills heading to the governor’s desk for signing. The bills are: 

  • HB 4369 : Mandates lead inspections during lead abatement activities, adding enforcement teeth so we can reverse a decades old public health issue 
  • SB 4028 : Requires all Illinois K-12 schools to instruct on how and where K-12 youth can access mental health resources; sets up a diverse statewide Student Metal Health Council inclusive of queer youth voices and youth voices from across the diaspora. The council will recommend systemic changes to the mental health system for state legislators to act on.  
  • HB 4430: Groundbreaking legislation that will give those at risk of or recently exposed to HIV the option to access PreP and PEP medications at a local pharmacy. This is a big step in ending the HIV epidemic, ensuring those lacking health insurance or who don’t feel safe in medical settings to access life-saving medications. 
  • SB 702: Creates a statewide Senior Residents’ Council which will review the impact of COVID-19 on senior housing, living arrangements, and overall livability. The council will recommend formal policy and program changes ranging from improving outreach to seniors to addressing food insecurity. 
  • SB 3865: Removes the word “alien” from all Illinois state statutes, programs, etc., in reference to noncitizens and undocumented immigrants. We are a sanctuary state and a district of immigrants. The word alien has got to go. 
  • SB3136: Helps those who are houseless or housing insecure access health care by automatically re-enrolling them in Medicaid annually if they have no income, and ensuring at least 12 months of continuous coverage for those whose income fluctuates (especially helpful for our neighbors in between gigs or who have multiple sources of very small income). They deserve consistent and reliable health care! This bill was included in the Medicaid omnibus HB4343
  • HB 4589: Creates a Division of Men’s Health within the Illinois Department of Public Health, which will focus on preventing chronic diseases that reduce life expectancy for men. This agency will work alongside the existing Division of Women’s Health and Family Services. 
  • HB 5016: Provides remote learning for incarcerated young adults in custody. This will help give these folks the chance to complete a degree and better position themselves to re-enter their communities and secure work. 
  • HB 5201: Establishes an Agricultural Equity Commission which will identify ways to bring equity to the agricultural sector across Illinois and may look at issues such as land ownership for black farmers, economic opportunities for growers, and even health, food safety, and pay equity for black and brown agricultural workers. The commission will include socially disadvantaged farmers, business, and policy experts to begin to rectify historical injustices in this space. 
  • HB 5525: Creates the Commission on Children of Incarcerated Parents within the Department of Human Services to begin implementing recommendations from a two year working group co-led by Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton that identified scores of policies and program improvements to better serve children whose parents are incarcerated, including ensuring they can maintain a healthy relationship with their parents. 

I also am proud to have helped secure passage of HB4383, groundbreaking legislation that outlaws untraceable “ghost guns” in Illinois. These are guns that are often assembled from parts purchased online and when the guns are recovered, they lack serial numbers. There were 455 ghost guns recovered in Chicago in 2021 alone. We absolutely need to get them out of our communities and this was a key step in driving down gun violence.

 

Sen. Simmons’ Community Event

Join us Saturday, April 30th for our Northside Resource Day Event at Swift Elementary. The Secretary of State's Office is joining us from 10:00am - 2:00pm and will be offering a variety of services for State IDs and Driver's Licenses (no Real ID services will be offered).

You can find more information about fees and required documentation you will need to provide at here.

 

7th District Candid Photo!

7th District Candid! Bowmanville garden is a charm every time and sits next to Rosehill Cemetery, itself a wonder.

 

Sen. Simmons’ Community Resources 

 

Illinois has received approval from the U.S. Department of the Treasury on its Illinois Homeowner Assistance Fund (ILHAF) program to provide assistance to Illinois homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19. The state is now accepting applications from homeowners for grants of up to $30,000 to eliminate or reduce past-due mortgage and property tax payments. Apply here 

Cook County is seeking to award $65 million in grants for programs designed to prevent and reduce gun violence in Chicago and Cook County. These gun violence prevention grants hope to fund a variety of violence prevention strategies including mental health and employment services, street outreach and case management as well as other programs which support residents at-risk of being involved in community violence. These grants are part of nearly $1 billion of federal funding the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act. Applications for proposals under $1.5 million are due by May 9. For more information visit here.

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program seeks to increase diversity in the building trades by expanding pre-apprenticeship skills training in underserved communities. Those interested in enrolling in training should fill out the interest form here.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if you have questions or would like to voice your opinion about legislative or budget issues. I would like to reiterate that our office is here to help. We are a non-judgment, welcoming place where 7th district residents are encouraged to contact us to request constituent services.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 if we can help you with anything.

Sincerely,

Mike Simmons

State Senator | 7th District  

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Office Info

District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 769-1717

Springfield Office:
Senator 7th District
M115 Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8492

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