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State, local lawmakers propose ‘right to recovery’ coronavirus relief package

A coalition of lawmakers are touting nine relief measures they call the “right to recovery” package; among other areas, it focuses on education, healthcare and other assistance for seniors and those with disabilities.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) at a rally last year for striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members and their supporters at the Thompson Center. On Monday, she was one of several lawmakers to announce a “Right to Recovery” relief package for those effected by the coronavirus.
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) speaks at a rally for striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members and their supporters at the Thompson Center last year. On Monday, she was one of several lawmakers to announce a “Right to Recovery” relief package for those effected by the coronavirus.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Aldermen, Cook County commissioners and state legislators have drafted a list of demands focused on providing relief to Illinois residents as they deal with life changes brought on by the coronavirus.

At a press conference Monday morning, those lawmakers unveiled nine relief measures they’re calling the “right to recovery” package; it touches on areas including education, healthcare, help for seniors and those with disabilities and people who may be awaiting trial.

The proposed package is meant to “address the basic needs of all of us, particularly the most vulnerable in a moment of an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd).

Among the items:

• 20 days of paid emergency leave, guaranteed by city, county, and state governments.

• An indefinite moratorium on evictions and pause on all court hearings and filings for evictions and foreclosures.

• A legally-binding moratorium on water and electric utility shut-offs.

• A waiver on all late payment fees and charges associated with such services.

Some of those policies already are in place, at least partly, temporarily. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, for instance, has halted evictions. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year ordered an end to all water shut-offs for non-payment.

In addition to the relief package, the legislators also issued a call to modernize legislative sessions until the disaster proclamation for the virus is lifted. This would allow lawmakers to continue to legislate and pass the relief measures unveiled Monday, 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson said over the past few days the legislators had been able to talk to constituents, service providers and community leaders as well as others about the “necessary measures” needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as well as to make sure people are able to recover from it.

The group is also calling for all tests, treatments, and vaccines for the virus to be provided free of charge. All families with school-aged children and all workers facing furloughs, layoffs, and reductions in hours should receive $750 weekly payments during this time to cover the cost of childcare, meals, and or lost wages among other things, according to a memo on the measures.

Carmen Betances, a member of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, lives in a facility for seniors managed by the Chicago Housing Authority; the recommendations the group has made could help protect seniors like her.

“I am a prisoner of my lungs and a progressive virus, a time bomb,” Betances said. “The CHA’s lack of a clear plan for my health and safety is immoral and unjust.”

A spokeswoman for the housing authority was not immediately available for comment.

Legislators at the three levels are still working to get the proposed legislation written and introduced at the local and state levels, Emma Tai, the executive director of United Working Families, said in a statement. The timeline for passage will “be based on each governmental body’s ability to legislate safely and virtually during the quarantine.”