SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, D-Chicago, issued the following statement at the conclusion of this spring’s special session:
“The men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our families and those that have kept our communities running are the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to expressing our gratitude to the first responders, nurses, doctors and emergency medical service providers who continue to put themselves at risk every day, we must also recognize the sacrifices of all essential workers such as grocery stores and those in the manufacturing industry. As the COVID-19 pandemic creates an uncertain future, it was more important than ever to ensure that the essential services our families rely on can continue uninterrupted.”
“Ensuring access to critical services begins with a balanced budget. This year, I supported a spending plan that provides increased funding for Medicaid, senior care and public health, including over $400 million for COVID-19 testing and other services that our local health providers perform. This plan also provides level funding for our students’ education, from early childhood learning to college financial aid, and fully funds our pension obligation while living within our means.
“While the spending plan I supported provides full funding of unemployment benefits and over $40 million in career and technical education for those whose careers have been wiped out by the pandemic, it was important that we provide added protections for workers affected by COVID-19. I backed Senate Bill 471 to help first responders and essential workers who have been diagnosed with the virus receive workers’ compensation benefits more easily, and ensure that those receiving unemployment benefits are able to receive a higher percentage of their previous pay. I also supported Senate Bill 2455 to provide more safeguards for employees across the state, and make sure families in our community are able to receive unemployment benefits for longer periods of time and do not have to go through a waiting period in order to receive the benefits they need.
“Our educators deserve our support, which is why I worked to pass Senate Bill 1569 to help schools accommodate e-learning, codify graduation requirements and ensure that student teachers meet their requirements remotely. I also supported Senate Bill 1864 to expand access to tele-health and mental health care, which have become increasingly important during this crisis. This measure also directs the state’s top insurance and health officers to report to the General Assembly on ways to reduce the costs of health insurance.
“I also backed Senate Bill 685 to ensure immediate relief for homeowners affected by COVID-19, by allowing for delayed property tax payments without penalty and providing a one-year reapplication deferral for seniors, veterans and those with disabilities who are currently receiving an exemption. Additionally, I supported Senate Bill 1863 to ensure that Illinois residents are able to safely make their voices heard this November through an expanded vote by mail program and opportunities for local election officers to create ‘curbside voting’ options and special voting hours for seniors.
“There is more work to be done to continue moving Illinois forward as we battle COVID-19, and I am committed to working together with my colleagues to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents across the state.”