Capitol Update from Senator John Curran

Senators Curran and Glowiak Hilton to co-host ACA Health Insurance Marketplace special enrollment event
On Monday, March 22, Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Oakbrook Terrace) and I will co-host a virtual information session to help Illinoisans who need health insurance connect with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace. This online event is in response to the federal government’s decision to open a special enrollment period (SEP) due to COVID-19. Unlike traditional SEPs, those enrolling during this special enrollment period, which is open through May 15, will not need to show documentation of a qualifying life event.

Our March 22 virtual event on Zoom begins at 1:00 PM and will feature representatives of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and the Illinois Department of Insurance, who will discuss the special enrollment period of the ACA Marketplace and provide information about the new SEP, including eligibility for the Medicaid program and how to enroll.

If you currently need health insurance or would like to change plans within the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, please register for this free event using this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-seminar-special-enrollment-period-aca-health-insurance-tickets-146841989343. When we receive your registration, Zoom login details will be sent to you. For additional information, please contact my office at (630) 914-5733.

Governor Outlines Bridge Phase for Reopening
Yesterday, Governor JB Pritzker announced a new “bridge” phase to his Restore Illinois Plan. This new bridge phase includes new requirements that must be met as Illinois transitions to Phase 5.

According to the Governor’s new plan, this newly-created bridge phase will kick in once the following benchmarks are met for 28 consecutive days:

  • 70% of people 65 and older have received at least one vaccination dose (today at 58%);
  • ICU bed availability remains at 20% or greater; and
  • there is a non-increasing trend in COVID-19 hospital admissions and mortality rate.

After moving to the bridge phase, transitioning to Phase 5 still cannot occur until 50% of those age 16-64 have received at least one vaccination dose (today at 28%), and ICU availability, hospital admission and death rates are maintained or trend downward. Those age 16+ will be eligible for vaccines on April 12.

Today the Governor also announced a small change to current Phase 4 mitigations, and slightly relaxed mitigations for the bridge phase. Click here to view a detailed chart for settings, and how capacity limits would change between Phase 4 and the bridge phase.

Vaccine eligibility expanding for residents of suburban Cook County
Earlier this week it was announced that more than one million additional Cook County residents will soon become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In the announcement, made by the Cook County Department of Public Health, it was stated that the department will officially move to Phase 1b+ on Monday, March 22. This new group of eligible Illinoisans includes those age 16-64 with underlying health conditions that increase their risk of developing serious COVID-19 complications.

County-run suburban mass vaccination sites are available at the former Des Plaines K-MartSouth Suburban CollegeTinley Park Convention Center and Triton College. Appointments can be booked online or by phone. Go to https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location to access the online registration portal, or dial 833-621-1284 (toll free) if you require assistance securing an appointment.

DuPage County Receives Bike Path Grant for Springbrook Prairie Trail
Grants were unveiled this week for development and improvements to bike path facilities throughout Illinois, and I am pleased to announce that the DuPage County Forest Preserve District will receive a $100,000 grant for improvements to the Springbrook Prairie Trail’s Brighton Ridge Connector. The DuPage County allocation is part of an $885,300 total allocation for bike path projects.

Funds for the Bicycle Path Grant Program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), are for the acquisition of land or development of facilities for bicycle paths. The Bicycle Path Grant Program was approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 1989 and funding comes from a percentage of motor vehicle title fees. The program provided a maximum grant award of $200,000 per application for development projects, with no maximum grant award limit for acquisition projects.

The Bicycle Path Notice of Funding Opportunity received a total of 33 applications totaling $4.9 million in requested funds. Since 1990, IDNR has awarded grants that have helped develop nearly 1,000 miles of local government bicycle trails in Illinois.

Redistricting process begins
The Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee began holding hearings this week, as the once-a-decade remap process gets underway. Every 10 years, following the decennial U.S. census, lawmakers are required to update legislative and congressional districts to match changes and shifts in population. Historically, Illinois has a notorious reputation for partisan, “gerrymandered” district maps. The existing process is a winner-take-all system where the party in power has the ability to draw maps that favor their candidates. This often leads to legislative districts that so strongly favor one party that sitting lawmakers repeatedly run for reelection unopposed. In 2020, 62 out of 138 legislative races on the ballot were uncontested.

I have repeatedly called for reforms to the redistricting system, and for the creation of an independent, nonpartisan map-making committee. Leaders across the country agree, from former Presidents Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, that gerrymandering is bad for democracy. You can add your voice to the call by signing a fair maps petition at https://senatorcurran.com/News/1407/Sign-the-Petition-for-Fair-Maps/news-detail/.

Helping Businesses Recovering from Pandemic
New legislation has been filed aimed at providing a boost to still-struggling businesses by expanding the state’s Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Program. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation.

Filed by State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), Senate Bill 1615 would allocate 25 percent of future federal COVID-19 relief funds received by the state to the BIG Program to provide economic relief to small businesses that experienced losses due to the ongoing pandemic.

The BIG Program was implemented in two rounds, with approximately $580 million allocated to the program. Funding was evenly split between childcare providers and every other kind of business.

For the business grant portion, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) reported more than 40,000 applications but only awarded grants to approximately 9,000 of the applicants, leaving the vast majority (79 percent) without assistance.

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