AURORA, Ill. – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, took critical steps to address Illinois’ most urgent priorities by passing a balanced budget, advocating for essential workers, expanding tele-health and mental health resources, providing immediate property tax relief for homeowners and helping our schools accommodate e-learning.

 “I want to thank all of the first responders, nurses and doctors working to keep our families safe, as well as the workers at grocery stores, factories, gas stations and other essential businesses who are continuing to serve the needs of our community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hernandez said. “Although there are many important matters before the legislature that still need to be addressed, in the wake of this crisis we must put some of those bills on hold as we work toward bringing support to the communities most impacted. While there is more work to be done, this session we have been able to provide support to those hit hardest by the pandemic and ensure essential services continue uninterrupted.”

Hernandez helped pass a balanced budget that prioritizes the state’s most urgent needs, including increased funding for Medicaid, in-home health care for seniors and homelessness prevention. In addition, the budget ensures level funding for schools and college financial aid resources, as well as half a billion dollars for early childhood education. The budget also provides full funding for unemployment, domestic violence shelters and fulfills pension obligations. While Illinois continues to try to slow the spread of this deadly virus, the budget includes new funding for public health, including over $400 million for COVID-19 testing and health services. As the state continues to process the full extent of the virus’ effect on state finances, this budget will allow for the flexibility needed to manage critical services, while also increasing legislative oversight of state spending.

“Though we still face uncertainty during this pandemic, a balanced budget is the first necessary step to ensuring access to essential services,” said Hernandez. “While our budget reflects the urgent needs of our families, it was important to take additional steps to provide much-needed relief to residents who have been most affected by COVID-19.”

Hernandez worked to provide support for homeowners by passing Senate Bill 685, which allows for delayed property tax payments without penalty and creates a one-year application deferral for seniors, veterans and those with disabilities who are currently receiving an exemption and would otherwise be required to go through an annual reapplication process. Hernandez also backed measures to expand access to tele-health and mental health care resources and direct the state’s top insurance and health officers to report to the General Assembly on steps that can be taken to lower health insurance costs.

“The current pandemic has caused an increase in stress on the already strenuous property tax burden that middle-class families face in our state, but by suspending late payment penalties and ensuring that our seniors, veterans and persons with disabilities can continue receiving tax exemptions, we can help provide much-needed financial relief to homeowners during this pandemic,” said Hernandez. “And with all of the uncertainties that come in the wake of this public health crisis, the need for accessible and affordable health care is especially critical. There is more work to be done to address these issues, and I will continue working to provide relief to those most affected by this pandemic.”

Protecting workers was also a crucial focus for Hernandez. In addition to supporting a budget that fully funds unemployment and provides over $40 million for career and technical education to aid those whose jobs have been wiped out by the pandemic, Hernandez supported Senate Bill 471 to expand benefits for the tens of thousands of Illinois workers struggling through the economic insecurities caused by COVID-19, and allow those who have been laid off or furloughed to recoup a larger percentage of their previous income. Hernandez’s bipartisan worker protection package included input from both business and labor groups, and also aims to ease the process of receiving workers’ compensation benefits for first responders and essential workers who have been diagnosed with the virus.

“Police officers, firefighters, EMTs and essential business workers have faced serious risks to ensure our safety and keep our critical services open throughout this pandemic,” said Hernandez. “It is absolutely vital that these front line workers are protected and supported as they continue working to protect and support us.”

Hernandez also backed an education package that brings much needed support to schools across the state. In consultation with the State Board of Education, Hernandez passed Senate Bill 1569, which takes necessary steps to help schools prepare for summer and fall e-learning, codify graduation requirements and ensure that student teachers are able to complete their requirements remotely.

“Education has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, with teachers and students having to make significant and difficult adjustments to make it through the end of the school year successfully,” said Hernandez. “We must do everything in our power to support our teachers and ensure that every student in Illinois has access to a quality education, even during a health crisis.”

Hernandez also supported Senate Bill 1863 to broaden vote by mail programs for the upcoming November election to ensure that all voters can make their voices heard while following health guidelines and protecting themselves from the spread of COVID-19. This measure also allows for local election officers to create curbside voting options and designate special voting hours for seniors.

“As we adapt to the changes this pandemic has made on nearly every aspect of our lives, we must do everything possible to ensure that every eligible person in Illinois can participate in the upcoming election, while simultaneously protecting their health and the health of others,” said Hernandez. “As we move forward toward an uncertain future, I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to address Illinois’ needs and helps those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rep. Barbara HernandezRep. Barbara Hernandez

83rd District

Springfield Office:
233-E Stratton Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 558-1002
District Office:
540 W. Galena Blvd.
Aurora, IL 60506
(630) 270-1848