What we’re celebrating, and where we keep on fighting
Access Living friends and allies,
The Illinois spring legislative session has wrapped up! Today, we’d like to share a lot of great wins, plus some of what we will be doing to follow up this year. It’s a long email today but worth your time! Thank you to the many legislative champions, advocacy groups, and folks like you who helped us this spring.
After fourteen intense weeks of a session that started and ended earlier than usual, the Illinois Senate finally adjourned in the wee hours of Saturday, April 9, with the Illinois House adjourning just after 6 am the same day. They passed a $46 billion budget that both includes tax relief measures and fiscal measures that could improve our state’s bond rating, which is important for economic stability. Read more at this story from WBEZ.
What We’re Celebrating
The following list is a combination of key bills and budget items that Access Living either led, co-led, or supported through coalition partnership. All of them passed both chambers of the legislature and will go to the Governor to sign/pass into law. The bills are listed in legislative bill order.
- HB 2775: Bill to end source of income discrimination statewide, strengthens certain areas of tenant rights. Access Living supported this through the Housing Action Illinois coalition effort. The passage of this bill is a result of MANY years of advocacy to protect tenants.
- HB 4437: Expanding Medicaid to undocumented folks ages 42 and up. Access Living supported this through the Healthy Illinois coalition.
- HB 4595: Protects the 340B Prescription Program against harmful practices by pharmacy benefits managers (see this fact sheet: IPHCA – 340B Fact Sheet – 03.03.22.pdf). Access Living supported this through the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition.
- HB 4920/SB3774: expand EIC to childless workers ages 18-24 and over 65, and folks with ITINs. See more at this fact sheet. Access Living supported this through the Illinois Coalition on Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).
- SB 180: Legislative Accessibility Act. Access Living led on this bill, which is about improving coordination of accessibility with the Illinois legislature in their business with the public at the Capitol complex, including the Bilandic building in Chicago.
- SB 829: Creating the beginnings of a certified remote accessible vote by mail system for the general election this fall and going forward. Access Living was proud to support blind advocates with National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and the Illinois Council of the Blind on this key step forward to improving election accessibility.
- SB 1975: Automates renewal of disability homeowner homestead exemption for qualified people with disabilities. Access Living worked closely with the leadership of the Cook County Tax Assessor, Fritz Kaegi, on this bill.
- SB 3132: Expands the Illinois DHS-DRS Home Services Program by allowing spouses to qualify as personal care attendants (technically known as Individual Providers for this program). Access Living was proud to support the leadership of DHS-DRS on this bill.
- Budget items: Centers for Independent Living (CILs) saw a 3.9% increase in state funding, and the State committed an additional $96.4 million for the DHS-DRS Home Services Program. These are investments in disability-led supports statewide.
Additional Important Wins
Although Access Living was not a key player in the following efforts, they are very important to our disability community as a whole.
- The budget includes $170 million in new Medicaid reimbursement funds for mental health and substance abuse.
- A major nursing home reform consensus bill was passed, for the first time tying staffing levels to state funding for greater accountability. Read more at this link.
- SB 1633 was passed, improving nursing home resident rights and internal grievance procedures.
- Developmental disabilities advocates won a $1 per hour wage increase for direct service providers, but there is more work to be done (see following section).
What We Will Keep Working On
We also continued to see progress on other fronts and expect to keep up our advocacy on the following, post-session.
- HB 1587: $7.5 million for a statewide home modification program run by CILs. The bill passed the House but needs to make it through the Senate, so we will focus on that as the next step. Advocates interested in supporting this effort should contact Cathleen O’Brien, Access Living’s Housing Organizer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- HB 5096: The Keeping Kids in School Act calls for improved documentation of school removals, also known as informal suspensions. We made good progress in the House, but will keep working on it over the summer. Advocates interested in supporting this effort should contact Frank Lally, Access Living’s Education Policy Analyst, at email@example.com.
- Although we applaud the incremental increase of funds towards the wages of developmental disabilities workers, we know this is not enough and support our colleagues in the They Deserve More coalition in calling on our state to fully fund the recommendations of the Guidehouse Rate Study. Per advocacy consultant Ed McManus, the current rate of vacancies in DD support positions is a mind-boggling 27%.
- We also will continue to press with our friends in Healthy Illinois to include home and community based services as part of the Medicaid package available to undocumented people in our state. While we are thrilled about the expansion of basic Medicaid to ages 55 and up, and soon 42 and up, the reality is that HCBS is not currently part of that deal.
Again, thank you to the many, many legislators, legislative staff, and fellow advocates who help make this session so productive.
As we are in an election year, we are pleased to see so many new commitments. We are looking forward to the work ahead to implement the laws/budget items that passed, and keeping up the work on areas where we still needs to meet our goals. Please share this email with fellow interested Illinois advocates.