The massive federal spending bill Congress passed this week has lots of spending for Illinois, just not to cover the state’s budget deficit.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, said the $900 billion stimulus bill that passed Congress late Monday has a lot of spending, just not for state and local government budget deficits. But there are a lot of funds for government services like public schools and more.
“If it’s money for transit and highways, it’s going to be helpful to them as well, so there is assistance in this bill,” Durbin said. “So there’s money for bus lines and for as I mentioned Amtrak transit, all of these are going to get a helping hand and that will help the states out.”
As to advice for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who’s been holding out for federal aid to plug the state’s budget that’s billions out of balance, Durbin said don’t bank on it.
“I wouldn’t make any assumption that the money is coming from Washington for the help of the state,” Durbin said. “They have to prepare their budget on the possibility there will be no assistance.”
Illinois’ budget is nearly $4 billion out of balance. State lawmakers approved the $42 billion budget, the largest in state history, that was reliant on the failed progressive income tax and federal funds that never materialized.
The federal COVID-19 stimulus bill includes checks of up to $600 per adult and their children under certain income thresholds, a 15 percent increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and tens of millions for financial assistance for health care workers, mental health and addiction treatments and more.
On top of the $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said the measure brings a good ending to the story of Illinoisans who mistakenly got additional benefits and have been asked to pay some back.
“Some of these families are just struggling to survive,” Durbin said. “So we have included language in this bill that forgives them from paying this back.”
Some in the business community fought for liability protection against possible COVID-19 related lawsuits. Durbin said that’s an overblown concern, and congress will address that issue if it becomes one.
“We’re going to be ready,” Durbin said. “I’m ready to help businesses. We want to make sure that we give them an opportunity that if they’ve done their best and followed the standards that were publicized and tried to protect their employees and their customers, then they shouldn’t have to worry about lawsuits.”
Durbin said negotiators couldn’t agree on the appropriate language to provide liability protection, but it could be addressed in the future.
The package does include more than $280 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, similar to what was passed back in March.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.