CAPITOL RECAP: September 3, 2022
A look at the week's news from around Illinois
* * *
TEXAS MIGRANTS: At least 60 migrants arrived in Chicago Wednesday, Aug. 31, on buses from Texas as part of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s ongoing policy to send undocumented immigrants to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
But Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, both Democrats, say the new arrivals are welcome in Illinois, and they are vowing to make sure the new arrivals receive essential services.
“Illinois welcomes refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants and we are working with federal and city officials to ensure that these individuals are treated with respect and safety as they look to connect with their family and friends,” Pritzker said in a statement Wednesday night.
Abbott launched the program in April when he issued a memo directing the state’s Department of Emergency Management “to begin coordinating the voluntary transportation” of immigrants who had been released from federal custody.
Abbott began by busing immigrants to Washington, D.C., and later to New York City. Chicago is the third city he has targeted to receive immigrants.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that most of those arriving Wednesday originated from Venezuela, a country in the grips of a yearslong economic crisis that has reportedly forced some 6.8 million inhabitants to leave their homeland.
The move was part of Abbott’s protest of President Joe Biden’s decision in April to end what are known as Title 42 expulsions – a practice used during the Trump administration to immediately expel immigrants, including asylum seekers, arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border based on public health concerns related to COVID-19.
“President Biden’s inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans – and Americans – at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C. and New York City as an additional drop-off location.”
“Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status,” he continued, “and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”
A spokesperson for the mayor quickly fired back, posting a statement on Twitter around 8:30 p.m. saying: “We know that racism, discrimination, and human cruelty have played a pivotal role in how immigrants are received within our borders, and we are still working to recover from the previous presidential administration, which encouraged this behavior. This is such an important moment for Chicago as a city has been a sanctuary for thousands of newcomers. We are welcoming them and we will not turn our backs on those who need our help the most.”
* * *
ABORTION RIGHTS: Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday, Aug. 30, that abortion rights will be a central issue in the 2022 election, not just in his bid for reelection but in races up and down the ballot.
That includes races for Congress and the Illinois Supreme Court as well as the governor’s race and state legislative contests.
Speaking at a news conference with officials from political advocacy arms of Planned Parenthood organizations, Pritzker said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade changed the focus of the 2022 elections and gave voters – particularly women – a new motivation to vote this fall.
“But make no mistake, the right wing may have taken away abortion rights from half of all Americans, but they've unleashed a tsunami of determined women voters and their allies who will lift up pro-choice candidates and take down the ultra-conservative fundamentalists this November,” he said.
Pritzker’s comments came as the general election cycle is just getting into full swing and the two major party candidates try to define what the central issues of the campaign should be.
So far, Pritzker’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, has tried to focus the race on issues of law and order, including the high rate of violent crime in Chicago, as well issues like taxes, the economy and Pritzker’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bailey’s lieutenant governor running mate, Stephanie Trussell, was scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday in Chicago to focus on what the campaign called “the Pritzker administration’s failure to address rising crime and businesses shutting down and fleeing communities across Illinois.”
And on Monday, Bailey released a statement calling on Pritzker to apologize to Illinois students and parents for closing schools and cancelling extracurricular activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
* * *
ENERGY ASSISTANCE: As of Thursday, Sept. 1 low-income families in Illinois can begin applying for state assistance on their natural gas, propane and electricity bills.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, has $300 million available. Families can apply by visiting helpillinoisfamilies.com or by calling 1-833-711-0374. Information on other state assistance programs can be found on that website as well.
A list of local agencies can be searched by county here.
LIHEAP provides one-time payments directly to energy service providers on behalf of recipients.
Families who earn up to two times the federal poverty level are eligible for LIHEAP. That works out to a 30-day gross income below $2,265 for a one-person household, $3,052 for a 2-person home, $3,838 for a three-person home, $4,625 for four people, $5,412 for five people and $6,198 for six people.
The level of assistance received is needs-based, and last year's LIHEAP recipients received an average of $1,330 per household, according to the governor’s office.
EV REBATES: A state rebate program for the purchase of an electric vehicle remains open through Sept. 30, and the state announced this week a new rebate application window will open on Nov. 1.
The current round of funding opened on July 1, offering a $4,000 rebate for individuals purchasing an all-electric vehicle and a $1,500 rebate for an all-electric motorcycle. Applications for the first round of funding must be postmarked by Sept. 30 and submitted within 90 days of the vehicle’s purchase.
The next round will open on Nov. 1 and run through January 2023.
The rebates don’t apply to hybrids or vehicles not licensed for Illinois roads. It also doesn’t apply to rented or leased vehicles.
The purchaser must reside in Illinois on the date of the vehicle purchase and it must be purchased at a state-licenses dealer. Documentation requirements include a copy of purchase invoice, proof of purchase, vehicle registration, and IRS W-9 or W-8 forms. The purchaser must also own the vehicle for 12 months.
As of July 1, the fund paying out the rebates had a balance of $17.9 million, and rebates were subject to funding availability.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the rebates, gives priority to low-income applicants whose income doesn’t exceed 80 percent of the state median income and expedites grants to those individuals. Thus far, as of Aug. 25, according to IEPA, the state has received 72 low-income applications and approved 22 of them. It had received 898 that didn’t meet the low-income threshold.
More information can be found here https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/ceja/Pages/Electric-Vehicle-Rebates.aspx.
* * *
ANTI-VIOLENCE FUNDING: Gov. JB Pritzker’s office announced grant opportunities are available for $100 million in funding made available through the state’s Reimagine Public Safety Act.
The RPSA, an effort to drive violence-prevention funds to the state’s most dangerous areas, was approved in 2021 and received $250 million in the state’s current-year budget from federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The funding announced this week will support nonprofit community-based organizations and local governments in 16 municipal areas outside of Chicago, according to the governor’s office.
The state also made $113 million available in May, for which the application window is still open.
The state’s Office of Firearm Violence Prevention, or OFVP, convened local advisory councils in the 16 non-Chicago communities eligible for funding, which include Aurora, Belleville and East St. Louis area, Berwyn-Cicero area, Calumet City area, Chicago Heights area, Danville, Decatur, Joliet, Kankakee, Maywood-Bellwood areas, Peoria, Rock Island, Rockford, Springfield, Urbana-Champaign area and Waukegan-North Chicago area.
The OFVP will award grants through the program to eligible nonprofits that focus on violence intervention programs, mental and behavioral health programs designed to help victims of trauma, and for youth mentoring programs.
* * *
ETHANOL PRODUCTION: The state announced this week that it and surrounding states have been granted a federal emergency waiver by the U.S. EPA that allows for high volatility gasoline to be sold through Sept. 15.
The governor’s office said it will reduce fuel disruptions following an Aug. 24 fire which broke out at a BP facility in Whiting, Ind., which produces 430,000 barrels of oil per day.
Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin also requested and were granted the waiver which, the Pritzker administration noted, would boost the use of ethanol produced by Illinois corn farmers.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.