Senators Mulroe, Steans and Hastings address a witness during committeeCHICAGO – The Senate Appropriations I Committee, chaired by Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) and the Senate Public Health Committee, chaired by Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago 10th) held a joint hearing today to consider testimony on the public health risks caused by the lack of a state budget.

“Who can argue that public health is not an essential duty of state government?” Mulroe said. “Under the constitution and as elected officials, we are obligated to ensure that the health and safety of the people is protected.  Public health should not be jeopardized by the governor’s obsession with an anti-union and anti-middle class agenda.”

Each year, the state distributes millions in grants to local public health agencies to fund critical community health services: vaccinations, education on topics such as how to care for a newborn or quit smoking, restaurant inspections and more. These resources also allow local authorities to respond quickly and effectively to outbreaks of disease.

Without a budget in place, these Local Health Protection Grants are unavailable this year. Lawmakers on the two committees learned about the challenges faced by under-funded local health departments and considered legislation (Senate Bill 2178) that would release $17.1 million for the grants. Steans, Mulroe, Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) and several public health advocates and professionals also spoke to the press before the start of the hearing.

“As budget negotiations continue, policymakers still have a responsibility to maintain essential services and ensure that communities across the state are ready to respond to public health emergencies,” Steans said. “Local public health grants make up a relatively small portion of the overall budget, but releasing these funds will make a critical difference.”

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