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.

Springfield, IL… A new law from State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) will help to ensure that all officers are prepared to properly answer a domestic violence call. The crafting of House Bill 5538 was inspired by the research and personal experience of a domestic violence survivor in Rep. Jesiel’s district. 

“This bill will help to ensure that police are able to handle the delicate situation of domestic violence cases with the care and insight they need,” Rep. Jesiel said. “The goal of this legislation that enhances officer preparedness is to prevent the further victimization of those who have been abused.”

Current law mandates training in domestic violence for new recruits, but this training is minimal and does not require continuing education or more in depth training for law enforcement on the subject. HB 5588 requires law enforcement agencies to educate recruits and officers every five years with a particular focus on the psychology of abusive relationships, looking beyond the physical evidence and evaluating competing claims from both parties.

“It’s important that officers know more than just the procedural steps of what to do so they can effectively evaluate and respond to these sensitive calls,” Rep. Jesiel continued. “Officers and victims alike will benefit from a better understanding of the psychology of an abusive relationship so they can analyze things that may be going on behind what can be carefully crafted facades.”

The bipartisan bill passed both chambers unanimously and Governor Rauner signed the bill over the weekend during First Responders Day at the state fair.

Gurnee, IL…. State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) hosted a free workshop for women and girls last night. The class was a lesson in learning avoidance tactics, self-defense misconceptions, offensive techniques and defensive escapes. 

It was taught by the nonprofit group, One Light Self Defense. The One Light mission is to prepare people, especially women, to avoid, face, and heal from physical violence. One Light has taught about 100 free self-defense workshops and trained about 2500 people in the United States. In addition to conducting self defense classes across Illinois, One Light travels to Africa to teach girls and new trainers who can continue their mission once they leave. Thousands of dollars of donations from workshops have been donated to Women At Risk International, a charity that helps victims of human trafficking, to use towards their emergency and safe house funds.

Throughout her time in the General Assembly, Rep. Jesiel has worked on legislation in Springfield to advance and protect women. This past spring she passed House Bill 2822 to create a human trafficking task force. The task force will examine the traumatic impact that human-trafficking is having in Illinois and offer solutions as to how the state of Illinois can partner with other agencies to counter this prevalent practice of human exploitation.

IDVA Announce Schedule Changes
The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs representatives have reduced their hours at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center to Tuesday and Thursday only. However, the Veterans Assistance Commission is open Monday through Friday at Lovell, Bldg. 133, Rm 112 and at their Waukegan Office located at 20 S. Martin Luther King Ave from 8am-4pm.  Office hours on Saturday in Wauconda at the American Legion are by appointment only. Please call 847-377-3344 for an appointment or information.

SWALCO Household Chemical Waste Events
On Saturday, August 13th and Monday, August 22nd you can make an appointment for one of these events at the SWALCO facility located at 1311 N. Estes Street in Gurnee. Collections are for residential waste only. Click here to schedule an appointment. Items you can bring to a collection include: CFL bulbs, unwanted prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and supplements (people and pets), household cleaners, gasoline, garden chemicals, pesticides, oil-based paints and varnishes, etc.

NCICG Announce Grant Opportunities:
North Central Illinois Council of Governments recently announced two grant opportunities:
Spirit of Blue Foundation Safety Equipment and Training Grants
The Spirit of Blue Foundation is dedicated to protecting law enforcement agencies on all levels by ensuring access to equipment and training.  By working with corporate sponsors, the foundation has provided grants that have served a variety of law enforcement needs including, but not limited to trauma kits, ballistic vests and helmets, the purchase of a new K9, and dialogue training to aid officers in interacting with minority youth.  For more information about the foundation and this grant, please visit their website.

Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects Grant
The National Endowment for the Arts is accepting grant applications to fund collaborative projects between non-profit cultural organizations and local governments. The projects must address community priorities such as public safety, health, blight and vacancy, environment, job creation, equity, local business development, civic participation, and/or community cohesion. Projects may include arts engagement, cultural planning, and design projects. The goal of the grant program is to improve the livability of communities through creative placemaking. Local governments and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for up to $200,000 in funding. For more information, click here.

A letter to the editor by State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor)

I had the delightful pleasure of spending an evening at the Zion Township’s Summer Program Celebration last week. If you don’t know anything about what is happening with this group of student workers and their leader/mentors, you should.

This dinner and program was the culmination of a summer of work and mentoring of 34 students who were selected and placed by the Lake County Jobs Center. Some students were assigned to outdoor work projects that assisted the community with clean-up and repair; others were assigned to work with local partners which included the Zion-Benton Library and Northpointe Resources.