Mendoza Manar 2(AP Photo by John O’Connor)

BUNKER HILL – More than 70 critical access pharmacies, primarily in rural and underserved downstate communities, will benefit from $1.3 million in payments released on Saturday by Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza under a program championed by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

The payments were released under the Critical Access Pharmacy program for pharmacies that have experienced serious financial difficulty because of lower rates offered under the state’s managed care program and also because of rate cuts by pharmacy benefit managers. To qualify for the CAP Program, pharmacies must be located in medically underserved areas, as determined by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

“The current public health crisis reinforces the importance of the small, independent pharmacies that are vital to the health and economic viability of rural communities,” Manar said. “Neighborhood pharmacies are facing a double bind of predatory practices by corporate competitors and increased costs due to volatile supply chains amid the pandemic. Despite that, they’ve been a trusted source of local medical care for rural families, and these payments will ensure that service continues.”

Manar has negotiated funding for the CAP Program in the state’s budget for the past three years, including the recently passed fiscal year 2021 budget. He also championed a number of measures aimed at providing relief to rural pharmacies and reining in monopoly power and profiteering by the pharmacy benefit manager industry.

Earlier this year, Manar successfully lobbied Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson to expedite payments under the CAP program as a way to help rural pharmacies brace for the spread of COVID-19. The program disbursed nearly $1 million in March.

Saturday’s payment was the fourth payment to critical access pharmacies under the program. The comptroller released $4.7 million in payments on July 1 and $1.9 million on Dec. 10 last year.

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BUNKER HILL – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is encouraging Central Illinois communities to apply for the Illinois Connected Communities grant program aimed at helping local governments, schools, and community organizations expand their broadband capacity.

Unveiled this month by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, the $150,000 program will provide professional expertise and grants of up to $15,000 to help communities close existing gaps and lay the groundwork for improved broadband access, adoption and utilization.

“Lack of connectivity is one of the most urgent challenges facing rural families, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Manar said. “No access to internet could mean no access to remote learning, telehealth services, job opportunities, and a number of government services. This program will be an excellent tool for rural communities in need of a stronger and more robust broadband infrastructure now and for the future.”

Illinois Communities Connected grantees will participate in a combination of focused in-person and/or online community-specific, cohort-wide, and regional activities throughout a period of up to 12-months. These activities will build toward the creation of a community-driven broadband strategic plan. At any point during the program, communities may invest their grant funding toward one or more of the following:
  • Connected Community staff time or overhead
  • Study, planning, or preparation for broadband access, adoption or utilization
  • Additional broadband-related support, technical assistance or consultative services

The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis, and applications will be accepted here through June 12.

Communities seeking more information on the grant program are encouraged to tune in to the next Developing Broadband Leadership webinar at 11:30 am on Wednesday, June 3. To register, visit https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=21891.

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SPRINGFIELD – With Gov. Pritzker’s signature, Illinois Medicaid recipients would be eligible for life-saving clinical trials to treat cancer and other serious diseases.

During the abbreviated session last week, the Illinois General Assembly approved a plan by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) that would require Medicaid to cover routine care costs incurred for an approved clinical trial involving the prevention, detection, or treatment of cancer or any other life-threatening disease, as long as Medicaid would normally cover those same routine care costs for a non-clinical procedure.

“This is a major stride toward health care equity that will save lives. Access to the latest, most advanced cancer treatments can mean the difference between life and death for patients, treatments that they are unable to access today,” Manar said. “The type of insurance you have shouldn’t disqualify you from accessing treatment that could save your life.”

More than 20% of Illinoisans are covered by Medicaid, making it the second largest type of insurance behind Medicare.

Medicare and private insurance carriers are already required to provide coverage for routine care costs in clinical trial participation. Medicaid is not. This legislation would align Medicaid coverage for clinical trials with coverage under those insurance plans.

Because routine costs would be paid for by Medicaid if the patient were not on a clinical trial, there is minimal cost difference for Medicaid to cover these costs within a clinical trial.

This legislation was an initiative of the American Cancer Society.

“We thank the legislature for taking this step and look forward to working with them to continue to reduce Illinois’ cancer burden in the near future,” said Shana Crews, Government Relations Director at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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Putting our economy back on track

Between the state’s CURES Act and the federal CARES Act, over $800 million is earmarked for Downstate communities, of which $229 million is set aside to help downstate small businesses keep their doors open and recoup their losses. The money will be distributed through Business Interruption Grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Reducing state spending

While we made historic investments toward both protecting public health and economic recovery, we managed to trim more than $1 billion in spending off the governor’s original budget.

Preventing cuts to our schools

The budget contains $8.9 billion in General Revenue Funds for preschool-12th grade education, marking a slight increase compared to the current fiscal year. There will be no cuts to public schools.

Protecting our seniors

The budget package also expands funding for the Community Care Program and the Home Services Program – programs that ultimately help vulnerable senior citizens and Illinoisans with disabilities stay in their homes who would otherwise have to be in assisted living facilities, which have seen several spikes in cases during the pandemic. Similarly, with the help of federal funding, the state’s Home Delivered Meals Program will nearly double its capacity for the upcoming year.

 Helping working families bounce back

The spending plan provides $80 million in rent and mortgage assistance for people impacted by COVID-19 in downstate communities. We also set aside $10 million for mental health and substance abuse treatment related to COVID-19 in downstate communities.

In addition, the budget ensures construction projects continue, putting people to work and making sure essential goods and services can get where they need to go.

Reinforcing our health care infrastructure

To support the long-term stability of vital downstate health care institutions, ambulance providers, medical assistance providers, and community health centers will receive more than $118 million in federal funds through grants from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Empowering your local health department

To assist local efforts to suppress the spread of COVID-19 at the local level, Senator Manar successfully fought to increase local health protection grants to certified local health departments from $23.1 million in the current fiscal year to $29.1 million starting July 1. This is in addition to hundreds of millions in federal funds provided by the CARES Act.

Boosting staff capacity at the Illinois Department of Employment Security

This vital state agency has fewer employees today than it did in 2008. We are investing significant resources into IDES so the agency can meet the demands of residents during this pandemic.

Freezing pay for state legislators

Our priority is to preserve the life-saving services that people rely on every day, which is why we appropriated $0 for legislator cost of living adjustments in the budget. Despite misinformation circulating on social media, no legislator will receive a pay raise this year. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who heads the state office responsible for processing state payroll, reaffirmed on Tuesday that lawmaker will be paid the same as last year.

To dispell the false rumors, Comptroller Mendoza released the video below.

 

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comptroller mendozaBUNKER HILL – Some Illinois lawmakers took to social media this week to disingenuously spread misinformation regarding pay increases for legislators in the state budget approved early Sunday morning, prompting Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza to step in and issue a statement dispelling the falsehood. Now, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) says some of his colleagues willfully deceived the public for political gain.

“There is not a single member of the Illinois House or Senate who will receive a pay raise. My colleagues in the Senate are aware of this now and were aware of this when we voted,” Manar said. “At a time when our constituents are all feeling economic hardship and angst, for lawmakers to knowingly suggest otherwise is cheap, disingenuous, and indicative of the worst of our politics. The people we represent deserve better and are owed the truth.”

Despite some confusion among House members, Manar says members of the Senate fully understood both the budget measure’s intent and impact, which was covered in detail on the Senate floor prior to the vote.

“Republicans are arguing today that we should have just ceded our legislative authority to a yet to be named judge in a presumed lawsuit that hasn’t even been file,” said Manar. “Instead, we chose to make the pay raise worth nothing and we stopped it.”

Due to a past court decision challenging how the General Assembly blocks its own pay increases, the legislature took a proactive route to ensure a pay freeze for legislators. Senate Bill 264 appropriates $0 to fund legislative cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, meaning the Illinois Comptroller has no authority to process pay increases.

“The General Assembly appropriated no money for legislative COLAs, so lawmakers will be paid the same amount as last year,” Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said.

Moments before the Senate voted on the spending plan early Sunday morning, Manar made clear to his colleagues on the Senate floor that no pay increase was included in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal under consideration.

“There is no pay raise paid for in this budget. I need to say that on the record. This budget appropriates the same amount of money as the current fiscal year,” Manar said in his closing remarks. ”It does not pay for a pay raise for the legislature. One more time, it does not provide an increased appropriation to raise the pay of legislators. That was a choice we made for obvious reasons.”

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Springfield Office:
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Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-0228

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