Update from Senator Plummer: March 6

The Illinois Senate expects some very busy days in Springfield this week as March 10 marks the deadline for substantive bills to be heard in Senate Committee. In other news, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced $60 million in grants for local park districts seeking to expand recreational activities. Additionally, the month of March marks the end of many different pandemic-related benefits. During the pandemic, Medicaid members were automatically re-enrolled into the program, but that protection ends March 31, requiring most participants to fill out critical paperwork to renew their coverage. The emergency COVID-19 allotment awarded to each household on SNAP has also ceased as of March. As such, all SNAP benefits will return to pre-pandemic levels, a decrease of anywhere between $95 and $340 per household per month.
Local Park Districts throughout Illinois Receive Grants Last week, IDNR announced nearly $60 million in state grants being awarded to park districts across Illinois. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants are awarded to qualified recipients to help communities acquire land and further develop recreational, outdoor opportunities. In the 55th District, Kingsbury Park District in Bond County received $600,000 in funding, Flora and Louisville in Bond County received $299,957 and $581,881 respectively, and Madison County Mass Transit District received $388,000. Senator Plummer says investing in outdoor spaces is critical to the health and well-being of a community’s residents. 
Committee Room
Committee Deadline for Senate Bills Approaches The Senate returns to session this week ahead of a March 10 deadline that requires all Senate Bills to be heard in Committee. While there are often-used maneuvers that still allow legislation to advance past this deadline, it’s expected to be a very busy week in Springfield as legislators seek to move their bills through the legislative process. Several bills filed by Senate Republican members have been posted for the upcoming week and are expected to be heard in their respective Senate Committees. Once a bill gets approved by the Committee to which it has been assigned, the legislation then advances onto the full Senate for consideration before being sent over to the House of Representatives. To find the Senate Committee schedule for next week and a list of bills to be heard, click here.
Medicaid Members Must Update Home Address to Avoid Risk of Coverage Medicaid members are encouraged to update their contact information, specifically their home mailing address, with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service (IDHFS) or they may risk losing their health insurance coverage. IDHFS is encouraging all Illinoisans currently covered by Medicaid to verify their current address as most will soon be receiving critical renewal notices in the mail. On March 31, the protections put in place to maintain continuous enrollment in Medicaid will lapse. Prior to the pandemic, Illinois residents were required to annually renew their health insurance coverage to prove they still qualified for the program; however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government began to provide extra funding to states who did not disqualify any residents from Medicaid. Illinois Medicaid members were automatically re-enrolled during this period. Now, this protection has come to an end. Currently, the first round of anticipated renewal notices will begin to arrive in mailboxes in May, to be due in June. The month participants receive their renewal notices in the mail will depend on when their coverage is expected to expire. Notices will be mailed over the course of a year. Some Illinois residents may still automatically renew; however, most will have to fill out paperwork to maintain their coverage. It is critical that participants focus on verifying their current address with the HFS. Those who have moved addresses recently can update their information on the HFS website. Residents should keep in mind that it may take some time for contact information to update in the government’s systems and should verify their information before May. Furthermore, residents can check renewal dates online on the Application for Benefits Eligibility website. If Medicaid policy holders are unresponsive to IDHFS notifications and inquiries, they will be unenrolled and lose health insurance coverage.
SNAP Benefits Reduced to Pre-Pandemic Levels Last week, under direction from the federal government, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has returned SNAP benefits to pre-pandemic levels. Since April 2020, an emergency SNAP allotment was added to the regular monthly benefits in order to address the worsening food insecurity challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act gave households who participate in SNAP an additional $95 to $340 per month. In Illinois, this reduction will impact approximately two million families, even as inflation continues to increase in grocery stores. As a result, Illinois food banks and pantries are beginning to brace for a difficult month. Already this year, many food pantries have reported a continued increase in families served throughout January and February. In an effort to reduce strain on households, IDHS has put together a resource page for constituents who may need assistance in managing this reduction in funds. Furthermore, IDHS has said that it will be working closely with various communities and organizations to develop additional support and resources for families struggling with this reduction.
Jason Plummer

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