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Legislators push to extend housing benefits

Illinois state Senate Chamber at Springfield Capitol. PHOTO/Daniel Schwen
Illinois state Senate Chamber at Springfield Capitol. PHOTO/Daniel Schwen

Georgetta Deloney is no stranger to speaking before politicians and legislative bodies, but this particular state committee meeting left the nonprofit CEO irked and dismayed.

“I’ve come so far and I still don’t know what happened at the committee meeting, even after it is over,” said Deloney, who traveled from Chicago to Springfield to advocate for affordable housing legislation that would help veterans and other at-risk individuals.

The scheduled bill on the March 2 Veteran Affairs Committee docket–Senate Bill 2271–wasn’t called, however.

This was the second postponement for the bill, the first coming at last month’s Veteran’s committee meeting. Sponsored by state Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), the legislation would amend the Comprehensive Housing Plan Act, extending it for another 10 years.

The act is set to expire in June.

The Housing Plan Act, which went into effect 2006, requires the state to come up with a comprehensive plan to create and fund affordable housing options for under-served populations.

Extending the law would ensure that the state is covering under-served populations in Illinois, according to supporters. Veterans are among those covered under the act.

That group is what led Deloney, CEO of nonprofit It Takes a Village, to the state Capitol Building. The postponement, however, concerned Deloney.

“Generally speaking, I think these committee meetings are disrespectful to the people. It’s a process of deception,” she said of the meeting, which lasted less than 10 minutes.

The outspoken CEO has also been a fixture at public meetings in Chicago, including speaking at City Council meetings. She would not get that chance in Springfield on this day.

Deloney, who also goes by “Queen Sister,” said she was there on behalf of veterans she assists at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center on Chicago’s Near West Side.

Low-income senior citizens, persons with disabilities and the mentally ill are also covered under the Housing Plan Act, as well as substance abusers, and homeless persons.

“Our priority households are the extremely low income,” said Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois.

Palmer described low income recipients as families with a household income of less than $22,000 a year.

Martinez filed her extension bill in January of this year, but as of March 17 has been postponed for a fourth straight committee meeting.  Postponement delays consideration of a bill or resolution to a specific legislative calendar date.

Although the bill had already been agreed upon without opposition, it has been postponed at multiple Veteran Affairs Committee meetings, according to Aaron Holmes, an aide for Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

Deloney said she was confused by what exactly happened during the March 2 committee meeting.

“I’ve discovered that a lot of veterans do not even know resources are available to them. That’s why I come to the meetings to inform them,” she said. “Veterans need, deserve attention.”

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