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FRANKFORT – A measure led by State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort) that would expand access to utility bill assistance programs passed the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee Thursday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced many working families into untenable situations with skyrocketing energy bills they cannot afford,” Hastings said. “As a public servant, I take the responsibility to safeguard the livelihood of our most vulnerable residents very seriously, and I believe the legislature has the chance to do so by acting on this proposal.”

Under Senate Bill 265, families above 60% of the Illinois median income level would be ineligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP). Additionally, the legislation establishes a priority application period for households with children under age 6 and extends LIHEAP and PIPP availability to all eligible low-income residents.

The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program and Percentage of Income Payment Plan offer bill payment assistance to low-income residential utility customers by helping eligible households pay for their gas and electric utility service. Both programs are administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCEO).

“Unfortunately, too many working families are slipping through administrative cracks or are unaware of the assistance available to them,” Hastings said. “By expanding and promoting these programs, we can give those struggling the chance to emerge from this pandemic stronger.”

This legislation now awaits consideration before the Senate.

Category: Press Releases

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FRANKFORT – School districts in the 19th District are set to receive $97 million in additional funding to help address the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort) says this funding will jumpstart the state’s recovery efforts.

“For just over a year, teachers, students, and parents have worked diligently through less than ideal learning conditions,” Hastings said. “By robustly investing in broadband infrastructure, addressing our students’ mental health needs and retaining quality educators, we can give our kids the ability to grow and jumpstart the state’s recovery process, despite the unfortunate circumstances of the past year."

The funding comes as part of the most recent federal COVID-19 relief packages. Schools, students and parents have overcome challenges that no one could have imagined before the pandemic began, including remote and hybrid learning, digital connection issues, new processes for receiving state and federal aid that normally flow through schools, and more.

Local school districts are set to receive the following amounts:

  • Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144 - $16,502,652
  • Arbor Park School District 145 - $2,831,311
  • Community Consolidated School District 146 - $4,341,454
  • Elementary School District 159 - $6,917,056
  • Country Club Hills School District 160 - $7,188,682
  • Matteson Elementary School District 162 - $10,347,724
  • Rich Township High School District 227 - $9,704,306
  • New Lenox School District 122 - $1,476,819
  • Mokena School District 159 -$974,967
  • Summit Hill School District 161 - $1,320,568
  • Lincoln Way CHSD 210 - $1,637,916
  • Consolidated High School District 230 - $15,281,735
  • Bremen Community High School District 228 - $13,781,814
  • Kirby School District 140 - $4,740,875
  • Union School District 81 - $351,091

The majority of the funding comes from the American Rescue Plan, which gives local schools a great deal of flexibility in how they can use the money over the next 3 ½ years. At least 20% of the funding must be used to address learning loss, but beyond that, school districts can use the money to address many different issues and costs. For example, it can be used to better equip schools for safe learning, to prevent layoffs, to address students’ social and emotional needs, to fund summer programs, or to ensure all students have access to reliable Wi-Fi and technology.

The State Board of Education, in collaboration with other state agencies that address education, has produced a guide for local school districts to help them decide how to best use their resources. While the guide and other state-sponsored services are completely voluntary, the state aims to support local districts during this difficult time.

“With the state’s vaccination efforts increasing, the COVID-19 pandemic nearly behind us, our focus must be shifted to recovery,” Hastings said. “I am confident this funding will give our school districts the relief necessary to move forward after a turbulent time.”

In total, Illinois received nearly $7 billion to support local school districts.

Category: Press Releases
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FRANKFORT – The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, chaired by State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort), held the first public hearing on the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act Tuesday.
 
“We have embarked on a journey that will culminate with increased investment in our state’s capacity for clean energy and in our working families,” Hastings said. “Our top priorities must be guaranteeing our infrastructure can maintain the necessary baseload to power Illinois homes, solidifying our status as a leader in energy generation and distribution space, and sustaining good-paying jobs.”
 
Under the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act – found within Senate Bill 529 – millions of dollars in grants would be available for five solar energy stations at the site of existing coal plants. Those eligible coal plants would be provided with grants to remain open until 2025, protecting the jobs of thousands of hardworking people.
 
“Communities across the state have relied on these coal plants as a source for a path to the middle class for generations,” Hastings said. “Enacting this measure would protect that path for future generations while simultaneously enabling the state to do its part to curb the very real effects of climate change.”
 
The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee will meet again on April 1 at 9 a.m. to consider additional measures related to Illinois’ clean energy future.
Category: Press Releases

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Climate Union Jobs Act puts union labor to work building Illinois’ clean energy economy 

Frankfort — State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort), chair of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, today announced legislation that would put hundreds of thousands of union laborers to work building a 100 percent clean energy economy in Illinois. The newly filed Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA), which was crafted in partnership with labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI), would create and save an estimated 280,000 jobs and provide over $150 million annually in rate relief to low-income families. 

“We have outlined how Illinois can move forward with working people building our state’s clean energy future. We should turn this plan into action to solve some of our state’s biggest challenges today,” said State Sen. Hastings.

Joining State Sen. Hastings in sponsoring CUJA are State Sen. Sue Rezin, State Reps. Marcus Evans, Lawrence Walsh Jr., and Jay Hoffman. The measure broadly:

  • Offers an additional $31 million per year in low-income assistance by expanding the Energy Assistance Act;
  • Saves $67 million per year by doubling energy efficiency commitments for low-income households;
  • Saves $30 million per year in clean transportation assistance for low-income consumers; 
  • Saves $23.5 million per a year for small businesses, non-profit and non-residential customers; and
  • Expands eligibility for Percent of Income Payment Plan, limiting energy bills to no greater than a certain percentage of an individuals’ income.

“For decades, union men and women have built the infrastructure that powers Illinois’ future. We should put them to work again as the state sets out to build a clean energy economy. Passing this ambitious yet achievable legislation, we can lower unemployment, reduce emissions and close income inequality from Chicago to Cairo and Moline to Mahomet,” CJI Executive Director Joe Duffy said. “We look forward to working with Sen. Hastings, his colleagues in the General Assembly and other stakeholders during this session to enact legislation that will help build a cleaner, fairer state.”

Among the legislation’s many features, it would set robust union labor standards when Renewable Portfolio Standard, Carbon Mitigation and Solar for All credits are used. CUJA would require incorporating the: 

  • Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, requiring paying the going hourly rate for work of a similar character in a locality;
  • Project Labor Agreements, setting the terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers;
  • Stringent goals for apprenticeship programs;
  • Mandatory reports on workforce diversity; and
  • Labor neutrality agreements between an employer and an organizer where the employer agrees it won’t work for or against efforts to organize a union. 

In addition, the legislation would create a just transition for communities economically reliant on fossil fuel generation and establish equity requirements for clean energy jobs by: 

  • Requiring Coal Plant Retirement Advisory Committee to report on employee and community impacts;
  • Creating Empowerment Zones and tax incentives to spur investment in areas hit by plant closures; 
  • Creating a selection criteria so that new solar is distributed widely across the state prioritizing brownfield sites and disadvantaged communities;
  • Providing $50 million over 10 years for job skills and training programs to build an equitable and inclusive workforce of the future;
  • Investing $5 million into the Illinois Works program to support the recruitment of a diverse workforce into pre-apprenticeship training programs;
  • Requiring renewable energy developers to report on their workforce diversity and develop an action plan if they do not meet necessary metrics; and
  • Establishing a Displaced Energy Workers Bill of Rights that would provide:
    • Advance notice of power plant or coal mine closure,
    • Employment assistance and career services,
    • Full-tuition scholarship for Illinois institutions and trade schools,
    • Financial planning services, and
    • 24 months of insurance coverage that costs no more than the average monthly premium paid by the worker over the last 12 months and offers the same level of benefits.

By advocating for bold clean energy investments with comprehensive labor standards, including prevailing wage, apprenticeship requirements, labor peace agreements, project labor agreements and responsible bidder requirements, Climate Jobs Illinois—which is independent of energy developers and utilities—is working to ensure these jobs create more pathways to the middle class, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. 

Climate Jobs Illinois represents the hundreds of thousands of Illinois working men and women who are best suited to build Illinois’ new clean energy economy from the ground up. Executive Committee members of Climate Jobs Illinois are: Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers State Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, Laborers International Union of North America Great Lakes Region, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Service Employees International Union State Council and United Auto Workers Region 4.

Climate Jobs Illinois is a state affiliate of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center. CJI has partnered with The Project for Middle Class Renewal at UIUC, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Cornell University Worker Institute.

Category: Press Releases

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CONTACT SENATOR HASTINGS

Welcome to the official website of Senator Michael E. Hastings. Please fill out our contact form to contact Senator Hastings directly or you may call any of our offices. We look forward to hearing from you.

Springfield Office:
111 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-9595

East Office:
813 School Ave
Matteson, IL 60443

District Office:
20855 South LaGrange Road
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 464-5431

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