Eye On Illinois: State set for investment in human services workforce – Northwest Herald

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Money doesn’t solve every problem. Perhaps not even most problems. But when finances significantly impede progress, cash can be corrective.

As part of a short series examining state laws taking effect Jan. 1, considering Senate Bill 3925, which state Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, introduced in January. The Senate approved, 51-0, on Feb. 24 and the House, 109-0, on March 31. The governor’s June 10 signature means the Illinois Student Assistance Commission can award loan repayment grants to people with a college degree and working for a human services agency that is either contracted with or grant-funded by a state agency.

Applicants can qualify for four annual grants with maximum amounts tied to the person’s degree: $3,000 for an associate degree, $15,000 for a bachelor’s and $25,000 for any graduate degree. There is a $5,000 annual option linked to professional licenses. Applicants must already have 24 consecutive months of qualified employment with no student loan defaults. Accepting the grant means agreeing to stay in the same job for a year.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

“While it is necessary for human services professionals to have specialized degrees to work with at-risk communities, possible student debt should not be a deterrent for interested students,” Fine said in June. “This loan repayment program will help ensure that the cost of tuition is no longer a financial roadblock when pursuing a career in human services.”

Launched in 1997, the state Department of Human Services directly employs 13,000 people focusing on developmental disabilities, early childhood, family and community services, mental health, rehabilitation and substance use. Thousands of other Illinoisans are employed in those fields, and we all benefit from their work helping people in need.

Like a veterans affairs bill discussed Dec. 22, this plan also is subject to appropriations, which makes it worth watching during the spring budgeting process.

SET YOUR DVR: If the Rose Parade broadcast isn’t part of your New Year’s Day tradition, here’s two quick tips: First, the parade is actually Jan. 2, 2023, so as to avoid Sunday, and second, this marks the Illinois Office of Tourism’s inaugural appearance in the Pasadena procession. According to a press release the float is 24 feet tall, incorporates almost 30,000 flowers and required about 22,000 volunteer hours.

Chicago native Grace Kinstler, third-place “American Idol” finisher in 2021, will perform her song “Leo” on the float, which is full of Illinois iconography, including the Cloud Gate sculpture and a Shawnee National Forest Garden of the Gods homage incorporating a flowing waterfall. The state bird, insect and flower are featured, as is a Route 66 sign referencing Pontiac and, leading the way, a replica of the bronze bust from Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield tomb, complete with a discolored nose.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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December 28, 2022 at 09:00AM

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