“Something miraculous has happened in Washington. We’ve actually done something, on a timely basis,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday about the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill the Senate passed Wednesday night and and earned full approval from the House early Friday afternoon.
About $5 billion of that will be direct federal funding for state and local Illinois governments to help fund COVID-19 soaring expenses. A bit more than half would go to the state government with the rest distributed to local governments.
The measure provides a stream of federal assistance to Illinois: from cash to state and local governments to assistance for Illinois’ struggling hospitals, aviation industry and more. The four absent senators were out because they were diagnosed with COVID-19 or were staying at home because of possible exposure.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo complained during his briefing Thursday that the measure would be only a “drop in the bucket” compared to the Empire State need. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has tangled with President Donald Trump over that lack of more federal assistance, did not grumble at his Thompson Center briefing, where he was joined by Durbin.
“This is progress,” Pritzker said, “so let’s at least recognize a win when we see one.”
To get an idea of the enormity of $2.2 trillion, Durbin said that sum is “larger than the federal budget for an entire year in domestic and discretionary spending.”
With no one flying and airports empty, the aviation industry in Illinois and across the country is in dire straits. “These are major employers in our state and nation,” Durbin said, so they have become a “focal point in terms of rescuing the economy of this nation.” Details have yet to emerge about specific airline rescue packages.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times that among the most urgently needed items in the package is the money to provide emergency funding for hospitals. She said a number of hospitals across the state “were all faced with being within weeks of insolvency.”
Here are other Illinois benefits in the legislation, according to a Durbin and Duckworth analysis:
• Hospitals: “Billions” for health providers and facilities in a “Marshall Plan” for hospitals to cover COVID-19 expenses such as staff and equipment and revenues lost from elective procedures.
• Public Health: The senators estimated $16 million for the Illinois Department of Public Health and an additional $9 million for the Chicago Department of Public Health.
• Relief for Transit Agencies: According to the senators, Illinois transit agencies will receive an estimated $1.6 billion in federal transit funding including $800 million for the CTA, over $400 million for Metra and over $100 million for Pace.
• Airports: There will be grants to help Illinois airports; no details yet available.
• Relief for Amtrak and State 209 Partners: “More than $1 billion in funding for Amtrak including $239 million state supported routes that will cover Illinois Amtrak costs.”
• Law Enforcement: “Includes $31.9 million in Byrne-JAG grant program funding for Illinois law enforcement to buy personal protective equipment.”
• Student Loans: The bill suspends student loan monthly payments for 6 months, the senators said.
• Education Stabilization Fund: There will be $30.75 billion to school districts and institutions of higher education, with no breakdown yet for what that could yield for Illinois school districts.