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Antioch, IL… A law signed last month by Governor Rauner created the Human Trafficking Task Force to study the growing impact that human-trafficking is having in Illinois and offer solutions by June of 2017 as to how the state of Illinois can strengthen its efforts to fight the problem and help its victims.  State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) has been leading the fight in Springfield to combat human exploitation and was the chief sponsor of the bill to create the task force, House Bill 2822.

 “I feel strongly about this issue, which is why I worked hard to get this task force created and I look forward to finding solutions by serving on it,” Rep. Jesiel said. “Right now there are lapses in Illinois' laws and practices that have left us with no set method on how to handle these victims who often have no family or support system. The task force will examine the ways that all levels of law enforcement and social services can work together to both help current victims and prevent new victims of this terrible crime.”

"Human trafficking” is a euphemism used to describe the forced movement or confinement of human beings.  Most, but not all, of the victims of human trafficking are girls or women, and most, but not all, are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation.  The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which operates a nationwide hotline (1-888-373-7888) to report cases of human trafficking, reports that since 2007 they have received 130,485 reports of human trafficking throughout the United States. In some cases, more than one person is being victimized. The Center further discloses that 3,646 cases of alleged human trafficking have been reported to it so far this year throughout the U.S., including 94 cases from Illinois, which is on pace to exceed last year’s 122 reported cases. 

The bill to create the task force was a major piece of legislation championed by Rep. Jesiel in her first term in the Illinois House of Representatives. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has appointed Rep. Jesiel, along with Representatives Barb Wheeler (R- Crystal Lake) and Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) to serve on the task force.
State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R- Winthrop Harbor) was recently given a "Guardian of Small Business" award by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The NFIB is Illinois' leading small business association, representing 11,000 businesses across the state. Every two years the organization scores legislators based on key small business votes they take in Springfield. Rep. Jesiel received the award for her 83% positive voting record. 

 “As major sources of job creation, ingenuity, and services, small businesses are and will continue to be essential any state’s thriving economy.” Rep. Jesiel said. “It’s an honor to be recognized for my record of support and I am committed to fighting for our struggling small business community and future entrepreneurs.”

The State as a whole receives poor marks in the area of small businesses. A recent small business survey from Thumbtrack found that Illinois got Fs in overall friendliness, ease of starting a business, employment, labor and hiring, tax code and licensing. Illinois was second to last among the 50 states, with Connecticut ranking as the worsts. This is the third year in a row Illinois has received a failing grade from Thumbtack surveys.

Illinois small businesses make up 98% of all Illinois businesses and employ nearly have of the workforce. Last year, Illinois grew at an annual rate of 1.6% which was slower than the overall US growth rate of 1.9%.
As part of the recovery from the 2008 market crash, real estate values have increased much faster in some parts of the United States than in Illinois. As of March 31, 2016, approximately 8% of all U.S. house owners (4 million homeowners) owes a mortgage debt that is greater than the market value of the property, something known as as being “underwater.”  In Illinois, 14.4% of all homes remain under water, the 3rd-highest under-water state in the U.S. Under-water homeowners have two pathways to recover positive equity in their homes: firstly, by continuing to pay off the mortgage in times of market stability, they can reduce the debt down to a level that is lower than the market value; and secondly, they can work with their neighbors to increase community standing and achieve a positive rate of return on the market value of their home.  
          The  I-Refi program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home itself is worth.  Since August 1st eligible homeowners, have been able to apply for admission to the “Hardest Hit” program.  Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount of unpaid equity remaining on their mortgages.
        The Illinois program is being backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding.  It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home.  To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000.  Despite being under water, they must have been current on making mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months; and must live in the home. Previous recipients may not apply.
  • You can qualify for up to $35,000 in federal assistance by applying for the Illinois Hardest Hit Program here
  • You can learn more about I-Refi and get up to $50,000 in federal assistance here
  • You can also get help obtaining a fixed rate mortgage at At Home Illinois

Gurnee Park District and District 56 held a ribbon cutting for the new River Trail School playground. The playground was built through a partnership between the park district and school district.

The Illinois State Board of Elections was recently breached by unknown, possibly Russian, hackers. The board became aware of the breech on July 12th. The foreign hacks were made public by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division on Monday, August 29th. 

The Board doesn’t yet know exactly whose information was accessed, it can only say with certainty that almost 700 voter records were viewed and it is possible the number could be as high as 86,000Hackers could have obtained the name, address, and date of birth of voters as well as a telephone number or email address if provided when the voter registered.  Once those individuals have been identified, they will be notified as the law requires.

The ISBE currently does not believe the access changed any of the data within the database or moved the dials on any of the ways the Board tries to monitor and enforce election law.  For example, the Election Code requires disclosure of a wide variety of contributions to campaign committees and the ISBE keeps databases of these disclosures.

The office of the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security said that the Secretary has contacted state election officials, presumably including Illinois officials, to offer help in building or reinforcing “firewalls” around state election commission data.  

If at any time a voter suspects they are a victim of identity theft, he or she may contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 or 1-877-844-5461.
The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Office of Energy Assistance recently announced that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities beginning September 1, 2016.

LIHEAP and the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program are funded as part of the stopgap funding plan signed into law by Governor Rauner.


LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will begin accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly and people with disabilities starting on September 1, 2016.

Springfield, IL… The State of Illinois has taken an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking. A new law sponsored by State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) creates the Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force to study the issue.

House Bill 2822 stipulates that the task force examine the traumatic impact that human-trafficking is having in Illinois and offer solutions by June of next year as to how the state of Illinois can counter this horrible crime. The task force will develop a plan to address human trafficking through increased data sharing, establishing policies to work with non-profit groups, increasing public awareness, and evaluating methods to protect the rights of victims and promote their safety. It will consist of members of the General Assembly as well as a representative from the Chicago Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the Director of the State Police.

“This so-called ‘modern slavery’ is unacceptably prevalent in Illinois and is irreparably harming the lives of our citizens,” Rep. Jesiel said. “These are daughters, sons and even parents who live in our own communities.  Even though we rarely hear about it, we need to draw attention to this growing problem to reduce and ultimately eliminate the exploitation of very real people. The task force will serve to find ways to rescue victims and prevent the crime.”

Internationally human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of victims and their families impacted each year. More locally, Chicago is seen as a national hub for human trafficking, given its role as a major convention city.

Governor Rauner signed HB 2822 in to law over the weekend. Appointments to the 14 member task force are expected soon.