CHICAGO - As 51 businesses in the 7th district receive financial assistance from the Business Interruption Grant program to help offset financial losses stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) encouraged more to apply Friday.

“This is encouraging news for the businesses who received this aid, but I know a lot of other businesses and organizations who qualify have yet to apply, and there are still funds available,” Steans said. “I urge every business and organization that has fallen on hard times to consider seeing if they qualify and applying.”

Fifty-one businesses received $1.8 million in $5,000-$150,000 grants to help cover the costs of payroll, rent, utilities and other working capital during the time they have experienced interruptions due to the pandemic. 

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded the grants this week, as part of the second round of BIG Grants. However, applications will remain open until all of the funding is spent. 

The BIG program is the largest state-run economic support program formed in response to the financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are available on the DCEO’s website.

CHICAGO – State Senator Heather Steans applauded news Friday that $140 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act payments will be distributed to crucial hospitals throughout the state to offset the costs of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

This first round of funding will help Medicaid providers cover COVID-19-related costs, such as hazard pay for direct care workers, personal protective equipment purchases and other previously unbudgeted expenditures.

“One of the most important things we can do right now is ensure the long-term viability of Medicaid and our hospital system, which is why I sponsored Senate Bill 2541 earlier this year to increase provider rates for hospitals serving low-income communities,” said Steans, D-Chicago.

In the first wave of funding, $58.8 million was set aside for providers serving communities across the state with disproportionately higher cases of COVID-19, and many Medicaid providers, like safety net hospitals and federally qualified health centers, will receive the first-round CARES payments automatically. Of the total funding, $68 million in payments went to long-term care facilities, $50 million to federally qualified health centers, and $23.5 million to safety net hospitals. 

Future rounds of funding will require providers to complete an application. HFS is set to launch an online portal next week where providers can apply.

“I am also urging all providers who qualify to apply through HFS for future rounds of funding,” Steans said. “These are the health care providers, clinics and other services that are on the front lines of the pandemic every single day, and they’ve never needed more support than they do right now.”

CHICAGO – Under a new law in effect today, Illinois schools will be required to include in their curriculum history about the contributions of LGBT people.

“As we move forward from a Pride Month marked by protests against injustice, it’s as fitting a time as ever to remind everyone that LGBT people must not be erased,” said State Senator Heather Steans, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “LGBT people have fought for our country, crafted enduring works of art, and produced great inventions. We need to honor their lives, their works, and their identities.”

Under the new law, Illinois public schools would be required to include the relevant curriculum in U.S. history courses.

The measure was House Bill 246, which passed the General Assembly last August.

CHICAGO – State Senator Heather Steans issued the following statement on news the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of extending Title VII employment protections to LGBT workers:

“This decision represents long-overdue acknowledgment that LGBT people deserve protection against arbitrary discrimination on the job,” Steans said. “I hope this decision also serves as the basis to undercut the president’s cruel move last week to deny trans Americans the right to medical care. This decision is justice for the LGBT community.”

The Supreme Court’s decision applies to two sets of cases. One involved a pair of lawsuits from gay men alleging they were fired because of their sexual orientation, and the other involved a suit from a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who alleged she was fired when she revealed her gender identity to her employers.

The ruling explicitly establishes that workplace discrimination against LGBT people violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a conclusion first drawn by federal courts in Chicago and New York.

“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee's sex when deciding to fire that employee,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his ruling for the majority. “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

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