Fire Equipment Grants
The Office of the State Fire Marshal is now accepting applications for the competitive Small Equipment Grant program. The program allows fire departments, fire protection districts and township fire departments, as well as not-for-profit EMS providers to access up to $26,000 in grant funds for specific purposes as outlined in program documents. Applications must be postmarked no later than February 29, 2020. A total of $3.5 million is available for this application cycle.
For further details https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/sfm/Iam/FireDepartment/Grants-and-Loans/Pages/default.aspx.
Seclusion rooms face public scrutiny
Following a public outcry about the investigation released by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica detailing the use of isolation rooms throughout the state’s public schools, lawmakers held their first hearing about the controversial practice.
The scathing report described overuse of physical restraint and isolated timeouts, prompting state lawmakers to gather on Jan. 7 for a joint hearing in Chicago to discuss legislation to ban the use of solitary confinement rooms.
According to the report, more than 20,000 incidents of isolation were used in schools in less than two years.
Until the report, students could be isolated or restrained if they were deemed a safety threat to themselves or others. After the report was released, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) took action to ban “isolated seclusion” in schools.
Further investigation is being done by the ISBE to gather data on public schools’ seclusion practices and incidents. Meanwhile, two bills—Senate Bill 2315 and House Bill 3975—have been introduced to ban schools from placing a student in seclusion.
Comptroller pumps brakes on red-light camera debt
In the midst of ethical probes into the Illinois Statehouse, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza recently announced that her office will no longer assist municipalities in collecting fines for violations caught by red-light cameras.
The red-light camera industry and contracts with local municipalities and political officials have recently come under scrutiny as federal investigations continue.
In 2012, the General Assembly authorized municipalities and other local governments to use the Office of the Comptroller to help collect debts resulting from unpaid traffic tickets. Outstanding debts were collected from violators by withholding state income tax refunds or other payments. According to the Comptroller, this method of collection has been used to recover unpaid child support, overpayment of benefits, and other types of debt.
The Comptroller’s assistance with unpaid traffic tickets from red-light cameras will come to an end on Feb. 6, 2020.
Senate Republicans anticipate red-light cameras being a topic of discussion during the spring legislative session. Legislation has been filed to analyze the use of the cameras and to ban red-light cameras.
Tax credit offered to small businesses in the wake of minimum wage hike
The start of the New Year brought about the beginning of Illinois’ controversial minimum wage hike. Effective Jan. 1, Illinois’ minimum wage increased from $8.25 per hour to $9.25 per hour, putting additional cost burdens on small-business owners across the state. Wages will continue to increase incrementally to $15 per hour by 2025.
To help offset increased costs to the state’s business community, Illinois Senate Republicans are encouraging small businesses to take advantage of a tax credit available to businesses and nonprofits with 50 full-time equivalent employees or fewer.
The Minimum Wage Credit will allow small businesses a maximum credit of 25 percent of the difference between the new minimum wage and what each employee was paid previously. The percentage allowed each proceeding year will decrease before it sunsets in 2026. Businesses can begin to claim the credit on their quarterly Illinois Withholding Income Tax Returns.
Senate Republicans recognize that while this is not a long-term solution for small businesses, it will provide a measure of relief to employers as they face the hardships imposed by the minimum wage increase.
For more information on the Minimum Wage Credit and how to calculate this credit, visit tax.illinois.gov.