In an exclusive interview with the Chicago Crusader late Wednesday night, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said the State of Illinois expects to get $7 billion in federal stimulus money to be used to pay down the debt borrowed from the Federal Reserve last year for unpaid bills.
Speaker Welch said he, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon are on the same page with where these funds should be directed.
“We think it is important to make sure your money has a good credit rating, and we will use the rest of the funds to help spur the economy to create jobs and help us build back Illinois,” he said.
Asked about the governor signing HB158, which creates the Community Health Worker Certification and Reimbursement Act that will help to eliminate racism in health care and provide greater and more equitable service for people of color, Speaker Welch said, “I was very pleased to see the governor sign that bill.”
Praising Pritzker for signing the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ four bills, Speaker Welch said, “That was historic. It was monumental. It’s going to help us move the ball forward and close our health disparities in the Black, brown and Asian communities.”
Speaker Welch said the legislation would help in providing greater service to seniors, who have chronic conditions. “It will help us provide regular and consistent health care. It will help those Black, brown and Asian mothers, who have issues as well. I am really proud of that.”
He is also anxious to see the results that will come out of the anti-racism commission that is in the bill and looking forward to seeing the results of the implicit bias training. “I think this is a good strength in moving us forward towards health equity.”
The creation of a Health and Human Services Taskforce and an Anti-Racism Commission would be a liaison between legislators and health care professionals, who will be analyzing the racial inequities in the health care system. They would recommend solutions to be enacted by hospitals, health care organizations and the General Assembly.
When contacted, Senator Mattie Hunter (D-IL) who sponsored HB158, said, “We are excited about the governor signing this bill into law. I am very proud of taking a lead in the senate to restructure Health and Human Services in the state of Illinois. It will have a major effect on the Black and brown communities.”
Senator Hunter said one of the key components of this bill is a provision that would end hospital closures for up to 60 days to ensure underserved communities do not lose access to emergency care during and immediately after the pandemic.
When asked about redistricting, Speaker Welch confirmed that Illinois would lose one congressional seat. Asked when the Census numbers come in will any of the Illinois Black Caucus lose any seats, Speaker Welch said, “I think we are getting ahead of that.” He added they would follow the procedure and plan to meet all deadlines.
He also vowed to ensure that all state universities get their fair share of funds and will pay special attention to the Chicago State University, which is predominantly Black.
Welch vowed to be transparent as the Illinois Speaker of the House.