Illinois Senate passes relief funding for higher education and social services, awaits Governor’s approval

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

The Illinois Senate passed emergency relief funding for public colleges, community services and other unfunded areas Wednesday as programs struggle to function as usual on month nine without a budget.

The bill would appropriate $3.9 billion, mainly from general revenue funds, to a variety of human services, public health programs and back pay for some public employees in addition to higher education funding. The bill, which passed by a vote of 38-17, awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval.

“If the governor signs this piece of legislation, we’ll keep talking; we’ll come back to the table to work out a budget plan,” Illinois Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said in a news release. “But while we’re talking, the organizations serving our most vulnerable residents can be submitting their vouchers and continuing their important work.”

The action came 17 days before Chicago State University, a public university serving largely low-income, minority and non-traditional students, planned to shut down and lay off its employees. In addition, the bill funded MAP grants, financial assistance to low-income students attending college in Illinois.

Although Rauner could not be reached for comment, he said he would veto the bill when it was passed in the Senate for the first time last September.

Illinois Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said in a news release that passing the legislation was a “moral obligation,” and that Rauner and all Illinois elected officials need to take responsibility for the budget.

“If the governor is going to continue holding the state and its most vulnerable residents hostage while he demands reforms that would hurt the middle class and aren’t proven to benefit anyone but large corporations and the wealthy, the least he can do is allow universities and service providers to present their bills to the Comptroller and get in line to be paid as soon as the money becomes available,” Collins said in the release.

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