Update from Senator Bennett: March 3

Bennett Pushes Bill to Help Veterans’ Families Senator Tom Bennett has advanced legislation to help the families of veterans with their property taxes. “Veterans and their families make incredible sacrifices to protect their country and keep us safe,” said Bennett. “This legislation is designed to make sure that they receive the benefits that are rightfully owed to them.” Senate Bill 1534, filed by Bennett, fixes an issue with homestead exemptions for veterans. Under Bennett’s legislation, if a veteran with a spouse dies while their veteran’s homestead exemption is under review, the review will continue, and if the exemption is granted for the veteran, then it will be granted to the surviving spouse. “This change could offer vital assistance to the families of veterans, especially when they are dealing with the loss of a loved one,” said Bennett. The Illinois Senate Revenue Committee recently approved the measure unanimously. It now awaits action by the full Senate.
Local Park Districts throughout the Illinois 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 53rd Senate District received a total of $1.8 million The recipients of the grants include the Eureka, Marseilles, and Morris Park Districts. Senator Bennett says investing in outdoor spaces is critical to the health and well-being of a community’s residents. Senator Bennett applauds the recipients for seeking to improve the quality of life for the people it serves.
Medicaid Members Must Update Home Address to Avoid Risk of 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 in order 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.
Dollar Pipeline
How much do we owe? As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,616,136,416 in unpaid bills to state vendors, including 16,084 ending vouchers. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $139 billion. At the same point last year, the estimated amount owed was a little less than $3 billion.
Milford Buzz Bomb
Did You Know? There have been lots of concerns about unknown objects, potentially from foreign countries, flying over the United States, starting with a suspected Chinese spy balloon that made headlines before it was shot down by an American F-22. During World War II, citizens of Britain (and later targets in other countries) were terrorized by V-1 “Buzz Bombs” launched from Germany. The V-1 was an unmanned, pulse-jet powered “flying bomb,” considered to be an early form of cruise missile. During the war, an estimated 9,521 were launched at London. The United States reverse-engineered the V-1 from parts recovered in England and eventually introduced their own version, the Republic-Ford JB-2 “Loon,” which was planned to be used against Japan. No JB-2’s ending up being used in combat, however. There are believed to be more than a dozen surviving examples of the JB-2, one of which is prominently displayed in the 53rd District as part of a World War II memorial, at the Milford Township Park in Milford. Milford’s JB-2 was reportedly stolen at one point in the 1970’s. The craft was eventually located in Texas and returned to its home in Milford where it was put back on display.
This Week in the 53rd Senate District
Tom Bennett

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