Monday, March 10, 2014

Rep. Rodney Davis: Hire More Heroes Act Headed for House Vote on Tuesday, March 11

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced that bipartisan legislation introduced in November to incentivize small businesses to hire veterans while at the same time providing them relief from the Affordable Care Act will be headed to the floor of the U.S. House for a vote on Tuesday. 

H.R. 3474, the Hire More Heroes Act, incentivizes small businesses to hire veterans by exempting veterans who already receive health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs or reservists covered under TRICARE from being counted towards the number of employees required by the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act. The employer mandate is a requirement that all businesses with more than 50 full-time employees provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fee.

“We know offering health care is costly for small businesses and the employer mandate in Obamacare has forced many to delay hiring, cut hours and in some cases reduce their payroll at a time when our economy is struggling to recover,” said Davis. “The Hire More Heroes Act gives our small businesses another incentive to hire veterans, which helps to address the increasing number of unemployed veterans, while providing them with some relief from Obamacare.”

The legislation currently has 26 co-sponsors and is supported by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the only military service association representing the interests of every enlisted soldier and airmen in the Army and Air National Guard, and The Retired Enlisted Association, a Congressionally-charted veterans’ service organization and the largest association in the nation of enlisted retirees and veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces.

“This legislation will give employers, especially small businesses, even more incentive to hire veterans and members of the National Guard, and Reservists,” said Al Garver, Executive Director of EANGUS.

Bradley A. Lavite, Superintendent of the Madison County Veteran's Assistance Commission, came up with the idea for the legislation and had it shared with Rep. Davis at a Veterans Advisory Board meeting on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in November.

“Prior to the ACA enrollment going into place in October, I started educating veterans on how the health care law does not change their VA health benefits or out-of-pocket costs and that the VA medical benefits met the minimum standard under the law,” said Lavite. “At the same time, I was also educating service members on the importance of signing up for TRICARE to ensure that they had coverage for themselves and their families in order to be in compliance with the law. It was during this period that I began noticing that unemployed veterans and service members who are enrolled in VA medical benefits and TRICARE, as well as the small businesses that hire them, could really benefit from a piece of legislation. Therefore, Hire More Heroes was proposed as part a veterans’ employment, health care and small business development initiative.”

Currently, there are 8 million veterans receiving health care through the VA system, and every service member returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has the option of signing up for health care through the VA.

“A survey done by the U.S. Chamber found that 71 percent of small businesses say Obamacare makes it harder for them to hire more employees,” said Davis. “It only makes sense to exempt veterans receiving health care through the VA from Obamacare’s employer mandate since they are clearly covered elsewhere and do not need employer-provided insurance.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among veterans is at 6.3 percent, slightly lower than the national average. However, veterans who have served since 9/11 are facing a much higher unemployment rate of 9.2 percent.

“We know our military receives some of the best training in the world which produces skills that will benefit civilian employers,” said Davis. “In fact, data recently released by the advisory company CEB shows veterans offer 4 percent greater productivity and they are more likely to stay at a company longer than their non-veteran peers. This is a commonsense piece of legislation that will help our veterans find work and assist small businesses in hiring qualified, well-trained employees while providing much-needed relief from Obamacare and I urge each of my colleagues to support the bill when it’s called for a vote on Tuesday.”


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Following FEMA's Rejection of Federal Aid, Gov. Quinn Announces $45 Million State Relief Package for Communities Devastated by November Tornadoes

Governor Secures State Resources After Denial of FEMA Funding Appeal; Aid Will Help Local Governments Recover
SPRINGFIELD – Following federal denial of urgently-needed disaster assistance, Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $45 million state relief package to help Illinois local governments recover from the deadly November tornadoes. This assistance was assembled at the Governor's direction following the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denial of the state's appeal for federal disaster assistance for local governments.
The relief package will provide much-needed aid for impacted municipalities, including Washington, Brookport, Gifford, New Minden, Diamond, Coal City and East Peoria. All local governments in the nine counties impacted by the historic tornadoes will be eligible for assistance. The counties are: Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford.
“Our tornado-ravaged communities need help and they need it now,” Governor Quinn said. “While it's disappointing that our request for federal disaster relief was denied due to outdated rules, the state of Illinois is committed to providing assistance to communities that need it. Recovery won't happen overnight but this aid will help people rebuild their lives."
The state's multi-agency relief package for local governments includes assistance from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA).
DCEO will provide up to $19.1 million in state and federal funds to be used toward disaster recovery. These commitments include:
1.         Up to $10 million in state funds to local governments to rebuild tornado-damaged infrastructure.
2.         Approximately $4.5 million of the agency’s Community Development Assistance Program allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be directed toward housing repair and reconstruction for low-income residents.
3.         An additional $3.6 million is expected from HUD this summer to address unmet housing needs from communities impacted by last spring’s flooding or November’s tornadoes.
4.         The DCEO Office of Employment and Training will supply up to $1 million in Rapid Response funding which will provide paid work experience to individuals to assist with disaster cleanup and recovery efforts – $138,875 of these funds are already being used for this purpose in Brookport.
5.         Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization funds are available to eligible recipients for a variety of storm-related issues including temporary shelter, transportation, utility reconnection, heating and air conditioning replacement, coats and blankets, insulation repair, generators, re-weatherization of damaged homes and technical assistance. The amount of funding available will depend on the number of eligible LIHEAP and weatherization households seeking assistance.
IDOT will provide up to $10 million for communities to repair storm-damaged infrastructure. IDOT continues to work with communities to identify eligible transportation infrastructure needs.
IFA, the state’s infrastructure bank, will immediately make available up to $4.5 million in below-market rate loans to finance repairs constituting capital expenditures to publicly owned and operated facilities that sustained damage in the tornadoes, not otherwise covered by insurance. Due to the legal and credit requirements of each individual project, the IFA will work through the Governor’s Response Team with individual local governments in the tornado-ravaged communities.
IEMA will provide $3.55 million to help municipalities pay for costs already incurred for items such as debris removal, emergency protective measures and overtime payments. This assistance comes from state General Revenue Funds.
IEPA will set aside up to $5.35 million in low-interest loans through the Illinois Clean Water Initiative to repair damaged water systems in impacted communities.
IHDA will provide $2.5 million in emergency rehabilitation assistance to approximately 50 low-income households affected by the severe storms. Eligible homeowners will receive up to $40,000 in assistance to pay insurance deductibles or provide home repairs. The assistance comes from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
For information on how local government can benefit from the relief package, please visit
The Governor recently addressed the National Journal’s Disaster Forum in Washington, D.C. to push for needed changes to the FEMA disaster aid criteria. The Governor is working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Illinois’ congressional delegation to pass legislation that would give FEMA a clearer, more substantive formula when evaluating natural disasters. It will modify a flawed system that places small and rural communities in highly populated states at a disadvantage in the federal disaster declaration process. The bill assigns a specific weight to each of the factors already used by FEMA and adds other economic factors for the agency to consider when determining whether or not an area should receive federal assistance.
“FEMA has gotten it wrong in Illinois not once but twice,” Senator Durbin said. “The federal government can’t be expected to help after every weather event, but the damage I saw in Central Illinois convinced me that we need to be doing more. Senator Kirk and I have a bill—introduced in the House by members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation—that would fix FEMA’s funding formulas so communities in downstate Illinois are no longer at a disadvantage when disaster strikes. I am encouraged by Governor Quinn’s commitment today to help make these communities whole again and will be working with my colleagues to advance the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act and identify any additional federal funding opportunities.”
Shortly after the deadly storms on Nov. 17, 2013, Governor Quinn surveyed the damaged areas and activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the deployment of state resources and personnel in support of local response and recovery efforts. While federal assistance for local governments has been denied, just nine days after the storms the Governor successfully secured federal aid for families and businesses in 15 counties which has topped $23.5 million, including FEMA grants of more than $2.6 million and $21 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

AFSCME Local 31 Endorses Sen Kirk Dillard (R) for Governor

CHICAGO, IL – Republican candidate for Illinois Governor Kirk Dillard today proudly received the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, adding to the significant statewide support that he's received in the past two weeks. Council 31 represents 100,000 public service workers and retirees in the state of Illinois.

“We believe that Kirk Dillard would be the best choice in the Republican primary because he has a long record of public service and demonstrated understanding of state government," Henry Bayer, executive director for AFSCME Council 31, said. "He rejects the demonization of public employees – the teachers, state police and correctional officers, caretakers for those with disabilities, and thousands of others who provide the vital public services that Illinois citizens demand.”

Dillard said he was honored by AFSCME's strong support. "I can't tell you how much this means to me and my campaign," Dillard said. "We owe a great deal to the tens of thousands of hard working public service employees across our state, and their support is resonating with their friends and families who know that we must bring new leadership to Springfield."
"Together, we'll roll up our sleeves and make Illinois work again."
Kirk Dillard
The AFSCME endorsement follows earlier endorsements from the Illinois Education Association, which represents 130,000 teachers and professional staff statewide, the more than 100,000 member Illinois Federation of Teachers and the 36,000 members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.
Bayer underscored Dillard's vast experience in Springfield in making the endorsement. "We believe Kirk Dillard, with his long experience in the Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar administrations, as well as the state senate, is the responsible choice in the Republican race for governor.”

Dillard earlier this week released his jobs plan for Illinois, calling it making Illinois a Destination Economy. The plan outlines a broad vision for getting the state's fiscal house in order, cutting excessive regulations and encouraging businesses to grow and create new jobs.

"I'm excited to have AFSCME join our campaign. Together, we'll roll up our sleeves and make Illinois work again," Dillard said.