Update From Senator Bennett: Feb. 9

Senate Republicans Highlight Pritzker Administration’s Misplaced Priorities Over Free Healthcare for Migrants

The three Senate Republicans who sit on the bipartisan and bicameral Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) had an opportunity to question Gov. JB Pritzker’s Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) officials on Tuesday over their program to provide free healthcare to undocumented immigrants. DHFS officials came to JCAR to present rules to begin charging co-pays to migrants in the program.

During the hearing, the Senators learned that copays will be far more limited and vastly less expensive than traditional healthcare plans that most Illinoisans have. In addition, managed care providers can decide whether or not they will charge co-pays, with one of the largest providers in Cook County already announcing they will not. At the meeting, it was learned that mandatory co-pays will only exist for overnight hospital stays and surgical procedures.

A group of Senate Republicans held a press conference on Thursday, and highlighted the misplaced priorities that allow noncitizens to receive healthcare at nearly no cost while Illinoisans continue to pay hefty premiums and co-pays for the same services. The Senators explained how the free healthcare for noncitizens program has ballooned from an estimated $2 million to over $1 billion in just a few years. They also pointed out that Illinois taxpayers are not only paying premiums and co-pays for their own health insurance, but the taxes they pay are also covering the cost of healthcare for the massive amount of noncitizens who have come to Illinois.

During the budget process last year, the Pritzker Administration claimed that they could keep the annual budget for the program under $550 million. At Tuesday’s JCAR meeting, DHFS officials admitted they were already over budget and announced the cost of the healthcare component alone would be in the range of $770 million this year, eclipsing the cost that was initially promised by nearly 50%. According to current estimates, total spending on all programs for noncitizens during fiscal years 2023 and 2024 is likely to exceed $2 billion. “Illinois families can’t afford another tax hike to pay for this crisis,” said State Senator Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) “While the Governor prioritizes using taxpayers’ money to pay for non-citizens medical bills, I am going to continue to prioritize the families and organizations of our great state and work with other Republican Legislators to make a change.”

Statewide Initiative with Google Improves Access to Children’s Behavioral Health Resources
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and Google Public Sector are partnering to create a new program called Behavioral Health Care and Ongoing Navigation (BEACON). The program includes a service portal for Illinois youth to help them access behavioral and mental health resources. BEACON will utilize Google’s cloud services to keep all information on the portal secure and accessible. The Division of Mental Health (DMH) at DHS will be spearheading this effort to centralize behavioral health resources for Illinois families.

It is anticipated the program will benefit children and families that regularly engage with the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), and the Department of Human Services (DHS). BEACON will rely on human-centered artificial intelligence and will serve as a preventive measure by intervening in children’s lives earlier to prevent further trauma from occurring. It will also help children learn positive ways to deal with and heal from trauma they have experienced. Senator Bennett is in support of this initiative, and thinks it is wonderful to see today’s technological advancements being used to benefit children and families.

DCEO and IMEC Launch “Made in Illinois” Grant Program to Boost Manufacturing

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is partnering with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to create the Made in Illinois grant program. A total of $1 million in funding has been allocated to this program, which will provide up to $50,000 in matching grant funding to small and mid-sized Illinois manufacturers. Through the matching fund grants, Illinois manufacturers can meet growing market demands and expand their businesses.

To be eligible for the grants, companies must be operational in Illinois for over three years and employ between five and 250 people. This grant program will be accepting applications through March 31. For more information on the Made in Illinois program visit www.imec.org/madeinillinois Senator Bennett greatly encourages business owners to take this opportunity if eligible.

How much do we owe? As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,335,871,001.34 to  state vendors, including 16,950 pending 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 time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.

Did You Know?

Tax Credits Lure Moviemakers to Illinois

Through a series of tax credits aimed at luring moviemakers to the state, Illinois has become a popular location for the motion picture industry. The General Assembly’s Illinois Film Production Tax Credit Act has been on the books since 2008, and a 10-year extension was approved last year.

Since its inception, this tax credit has benefited the state’s economy with an economic impact of more than $6 billion. In the 10-year span from 2012 to 2022, Illinois averaged $404 million in direct expenditures by film studios. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reported their membership for Illinois residents doubled during this time period as well. Senate Republicans continue to prioritize policies that help grow businesses and encourage investments in Illinois.

This Week in the 53rd District

State Senator Tom Bennett – Working full-time to represent you

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