Pink tieSPRINGFIELD – A measure co-sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that speeds access to a property tax break for seniors was signed into law Tuesday.

House Bill 961 will allow seniors to benefit earlier than originally scheduled from a new law removing the need for Cook County residents aged 65 or older to reapply annually to receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a property tax exemption designed to assist senior citizens financially.

Seniors will have to apply only once more for the Homestead Exemption in 2020 before being grandfathered in to the program. A previous law would have required them to reapply through 2021.

“The application process for the Homestead Exemption can be confusing for some people and it just doesn’t make sense to require it more than once,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Once you turn 65, you’re always eligible for the exemption. We shouldn’t be forcing people to prove that year after year.”

Currently, every county in Illinois other than Cook may allow seniors to receive the exemption without reapplying.

The measure also requires Cook County agencies to record events that would end the exemption, such as property transfers, to ensure that ineligible property owners do not take advantage of the tax break.

House Bill 961 passed the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives without opposition in November.

Category: Press Releases

CapitalSPRINGFIELD – More seniors will be eligible for certain state benefits under new changes implemented by the Illinois Department on Aging, State Senator Bill Cunningham announced Tuesday.

“Many seniors live on a fixed income, and we need to ensure that all of them have access to the benefits they need,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This program provides valuable assistance to some of the most vulnerable people in our state. Expanding its availability is simply the right thing to do.”

The new rules increase annual income limits to participate in the Benefits Access Program, which includes the Secretary of State license plate discount, seniors ride free transit benefit and persons with disabilities ride free transit benefit. Eligibility for the program is now determined by income as follows:

  • For households containing one person, an annual income of less than $33,562
  • For households containing two persons, an annual income of less than $44,533
  • For households containing three or more persons, an annual income of less than $55,500

For applications submitted between January 1 and April 15, income amounts from 2018 will be used to determine eligibility. For applications submitted after April 15, income amounts from 2019 will be used.

The changes come as part of the bipartisan budget implementation bill passed by the General Assembly last spring. This is the first time the annual income limits for the program have been increased since 2010.

Applications may be submitted online at www.illinois.gov/aging under the “Benefit Access” tab. For assistance, call the Illinois Department on Aging Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 (hearing impaired call 1-888-206-1327).

Category: Press Releases

08152019CM0240SPRINGFIELD – Illinois law enforcement officers will receive increased wellness and suicide prevention training starting Jan. 1 thanks to a new law sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham.

“Suicide and mental health are some of the most serious issues facing our law enforcement community,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This law will help officers recognize these issues and provide them with a better understanding of the mental health resources available to them.”

House Bill 2767 requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to develop a course addressing the issues of officer wellness and suicide prevention. The course will be included in the training requirements police officers must complete before graduating the police academy and will also need to be completed every three years after graduation.

The training will include recognizing signs of work-related cumulative stress, issues that may lead to suicide and solutions for intervention with peer support resources.

“Seeking help for these issues isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength,” Cunningham said. “We need to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the first responder community and ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need.”

This year, Cunningham also cosponsored House Bill 2766, the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act, which implements training for individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to colleagues, requires police and fire departments to develop disciplinary measures for those who violate confidentiality agreements, and creates a civil cause of action for employees whose employment status is adversely affected by information obtained during a counseling session. That law has already taken effect.

Both measures passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and were signed into law in August.

Category: Press Releases

red tieSPRINGFIELD – A requirement forcing Cook County seniors to reapply annually for a tax break will soon be eliminated under a measure co-sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham.

House Bill 961, passed by the Illinois Senate Wednesday, would eliminate the need for residents of Cook County residents aged 65 or older to reapply annually to receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a property tax exemption designed to assist senior citizens financially.

Seniors would be required to reapply once more for the exemption in 2020, and would then be grandfathered into the program through 2024. Similar legislation, House Bill 833, was signed into law this summer, but required seniors to reapply in both 2020 and 2021.

“Seniors shouldn’t be forced reapply for the Homestead Exemption an extra time. It’s just common sense,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “You only turn 65 once, and there’s no reason to put seniors through a confusing reapplication process for this exemption when they’ve already proved that they qualify for it.”

Currently, every county in Illinois other than Cook may allow seniors to receive the exemption without reapplying.

The measure also requires Cook County agencies to record events that would end the exemption, such as property transfers, to ensure that ineligible property owners do not accidentally take advantage of the tax break.

House Bill 961 passed the Senate without opposition. It will now head to the governor’s desk.

Category: Press Releases

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