Lawmakers approve budget, COVID-19 response
Gov. JB Pritzker on Sunday praised lawmakers for their work during an abbreviated spring session, including the passage of a roughly $41 billion budget and a COVID-19 relief measure.
“These are just our first steps forward in what will be a long and difficult journey,” he said. “Unfortunately, more hard choices… remain to be made.”
Pritzker’s press conference came hours after the General Assembly worked into Sunday morning to finish their work.
The budget mostly holds level to the budget approved last year. Republicans decried the proposal, specifically because it relies on billions of dollars in borrowing, including up to $5 billion from the federal government authorized by one of the recent stimulus packages.
Pritzker said Sunday that Illinois is not alone in this request, and he asked Congress to “do the right thing” to help the states.
A healthcare omnibus package was also approved, which would allow telehealth to be reimbursable by the state, requires the Illinois Department of Insurance and Department of Healthcare and Family Services to study how state government can help people who lack health insurance, creates a task force on kidney disease prevention and requires Medicaid coverage for clinical trials.
Not included in that package was an expansion of telehealth. Lawmakers said they will continue to work through the summer with stakeholders on the matter, with the potential for a telehealth omnibus during the fall veto session.
Lawmakers also approved the renewal of the hospital assessment program. The $3.8 billion plan, which would run from July 1 through the end of 2022, would increase funding for hospitals by nearly $250 million a year.
A plan that would allow essential employees, including nurses, first responders, paramedics and other front-line healthcare workers to receive workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19 was also approved.
Lawmakers did not take up Pritzker’s request to allow businesses to be fined for not following his stay-at-home order, something he said Sunday was a “complete abdication” of the General Assembly’s authority. The administration will look at other ways to enforce the order, he said.
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