SPRINGFIELD — A bill distributing $1.4 billion of federal relief to those in need of COVID-19 emergency housing assistance was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on Thursday over Republican objections that the measure does not target those who are in real need of help.
“This bill essentially is trying to keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, the bill’s sponsor. “It tries to prioritize and surgically utilize the one-time money that we’re getting from the federal government to assist those people that truly need it the most.”
The bill “prioritizes disproportionately affected areas” based on “positive COVID-19 cases” or by “a history of homelessness,” according to the Near Northwest Side Democrat.
But state Sen. Jason Barickman said the money does not go to those who need it the most because it prioritizes “not based on their individual circumstances but based on the ZIP code in which they live.”
“Each of us represents constituents in some part of our district who may not be a part of one of these disproportionately impacted areas. And when they call us and they ask why… they don’t get anything even if they seemingly qualify. What do we say?” asked the Bloomington Republican. “I listened to the governor. The governor told us all Illinoisans were in this together. But what I see in this bill is something that says, ‘No we’re not.’”
Aquino said the prioritization is “suggestive” and that those who do not live in disproportionately affected areas would still be eligible for assistance.
“Do you know families that come to your offices that can’t cannot afford rent? This bill prioritizes that family. Do you know someone who has experienced homelessness at some point in their life? Well, this bill addresses those folks too. It does so no matter where you live in the state of Illinois,” Aquino said.
The bill passed the state Senate in a 39 to 13 vote with six Republicans in favor of the measure. Having previously passed the House, the bill will be sent to Pritzker’s desk for his signature.