President Joe Biden’s signature $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is expected to bring roughly $13 billion in aid to Illinois.
The bill passed both chambers of Congress without any Republican support and is scheduled to be signed into law by the president on Friday.
Among other things, the bill includes $1,400 checks for individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, and some $350 billion in relief for state and local governments.
State Senators returned to Springfield on Tuesday. We asked four of them what the American Rescue Plan could do for Illinois — and what it was like to be back in the state capital.
State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) said he was glad to be back.
“Obviously, we have been working tirelessly in our districts making sure that our constituents have been served over the last year during the pandemic,” Villivalam said. “We’ve had virtual committee meetings much of last year and into this year. However, being in Springfield, nothing replaces being in the Capitol, making sure we are having the conversations we need to have and moving the bills we need to move in order to get through this pandemic, have serious conversations to get to a balanced budget, and move our state forward.”
Asked if it was a mistake to have no Republicans in Congress supporting the president’s relief package, state Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said the focus now needs to be on where that money goes.
“Washington had a debate on this. It’s over. The question in Illinois is how those funds are going to be spent and I think that deserves a thorough debate in our state’s capital,” Barickman said. “We know Illinois is going to receive a significant amount of money from the federal government. We’d like to see those funds prioritized, first towards our debts, second towards our bill backlog. We think it’s really important that those funds aren’t used to simply expand our government.”
State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), said she was particularly pleased to see funds specifically earmarked for child care in the rescue plan.
“My understanding is that about $40 billion is dedicated to child care specifically, and about a little over $1 billion is coming to the state of Illinois — which is really critical,” said Pacione-Zayas. “Whether people recognize it or not, child care is an enabling sector for our society to function and that was really on the brink of collapse without this particular investment. The same with our schools. We really need to not only think about stabilizing our schools and preparing them for in-person learning, but also thinking about how are we going to reimagine education.”
State Senator Donald DeWitte (R-West Dundee), said he’s hoping to see aid prioritized for the businesses and workers hardest hit by the pandemic.
“There were segments of our economy that took a significant beating. Our entertainment, hospitality, restaurant and hotel industry — over half a million people were put out of work (because of the lockdown order imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker),” said DeWitte. “I think the real challenge that we have ahead of us is how quickly do we get those different industries and segments of our economy back up and running so that they can be productive, revenue-generating components of bringing our state back to some semblance of fiscal order.”