Downstate Democratic State Senators are working to get local health departments more money to sustain their efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. State Senator Andy Manar and several other downstate democratic senators are pushing to double state funding to support local health departments for the coming year. Manar says it’s to ensure that the health departments have enough money while county and municipal governments struggle to fill shortfalls in their own budgets. “We see this as critical to reopening the state’s economy because local public health departments are the front line in terms of a response to what we are seeing on the ground in an outbreak. Part of what we believe needs to happen is that local public health departments have to have the resources necessary to, for example, set into motion testing very quickly at a long-term care facility or at a business that might have a particular outbreak down the road like we’ve seen in other parts of downstate. Right now, we believe that local public health departments, despite all of their efforts which have been incredible, don’t have the funding available to them from the state in order to provide those services.”
Manar says mounting fiscal uncertainty and looming cuts to county and municipal budgets could impede local public health efforts and the state’s progress as a whole. Manar is calling for the doubling of funding to the Local Health Protection Grants in the upcoming state budget. The grants provide funding to certified local health departments to ensure that basic levels of protection for Illinois residents are maintained at the community level for infectious diseases, food protection, safety of potable water supplies, and private sewage disposal. Funds are distributed by the Illinois Department of Public Health based on a formula that includes population and poverty levels within each jurisdiction.
Manar says that by funding the local departments, it will ensure a safe reopening of the state’s economy. “If we don’t have a collective push at the local level to expand the efforts that are already incredible on the part of local public health departments, we are never going to be able to respond appropriately when the stay-at-home order is relaxed, which to a small degree is already happening with Governor Pritzker’s newest order.”
Manar says it is one of the only areas in the upcoming state budget that needs to have an increase in spending. “County and municipal governments are going to be under incredible stress when it comes to their budget just like the state. This is a place where the state – and I don’t think there is too many of these in the state budget coming up, and we’re going to have a tough time bringing the budget into balance – but there are a few specific places where we have to do more to respond to the pandemic so that we can reopen the economy; and this is one of those very specific places. That’s why as a downstater I’m joining other downstate Democrats in the Senate calling on our colleagues in the legislature to double the size of this program in the state budget. We think we can do that responsibly, and we think that’s going to help beef up and further help reopen the economy in downstate Illinois.”
Manar says he has seen tremendous response by local health departments to COVID-19 in the counties he serves. He says that by continuing that response it will help keep people safe and save lives, and money should not stand in the way for the continuing of that service.