Durbin Hosts Three Illinoisans for President Biden's First State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today held a virtual news conference to preview President Biden’s first State of the Union Address to Congress. Durbin’s “virtual guests” include Mayor Vernard Alsberry Jr., of Hazel Crest; Don Finn of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker (IBEW) Local 134 in Chicago; and Christine Morris, RN, Site Manager at Heartland Health Services in Peoria. All three guests have made significant contributions to their communities through funds provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“My guests to this year’s State of the Union Address have made incredible contributions to their communities,” said Durbin. “From getting people vaccinated and back to school, to distributing funds for water and sewer infrastructure, to expanding EV infrastructure, they are changing lives and I’m thrilled to share their stories. I’m also thankful for President Biden’s leadership. Thanks to both the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have delivered on our promises to the nation.”

“Since President Biden took office, there’s been a strong partnership between the federal and local government,” said Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Jr.  “The American Rescue Plan has been a lifeline for municipalities around Illinois, both small and large, including my community of Hazel Crest. These funds will be used to invest in our water infrastructure, economic development, and continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank Senator Durbin for his leadership and continued advocacy on behalf of our residents.”

“Heartland is grateful for the federal funds we received, which helped us expand COVID-19 vaccination and testing, while continuing to deliver needed preventive and primary health care services to our community,” said Chrissy Morris, RN, Site Manager at Heartland Health Services in Peoria. “We want to assist in any way to get us back to the norm or close to it, and getting vaccinated is the best way to do that. Thanks to Senator Durbin for his support of Illinois’ community health centers and health care workforce.”

"I want to thank President Biden, Senator Durbin, and all the legislators that came together to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes historic investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” said Don Finn IBEW Local 134’s Business Manager.“In order to support the investment in electrified transportation, the IBEW is leading the way by training a diverse and inclusive workforce through partnerships with area high schools, community colleges, and community-based organizations.  All of these programs offer opportunities to enter our apprenticeships that can lead to a career in the electrical industry that provides economic stability and a solid footing in the middle class to benefit future generations.  The IBEW has been the driving force in clean energy technology for decades.  Electric vehicle charging infrastructure, solar and wind power generation, and energy storage systems will all play key roles in the resilient electrical grid of the future.  Current and future IBEW members will continue to lead this charge towards the clean energy reality.”

Through the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by President Biden last March, Illinois received $14 billion in state and local fiscal relief funding, including nearly $6 billion for Illinois municipalities.  These flexible funds can be used for pandemic costs, to replace lost revenue, and for local infrastructure and economic development. The Village of Hazel Crest received $1.8 million in ARP funding, which it will use to invest in its water infrastructure and sewer infrastructure, provide economic aid through a home improvement match program, and make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ARP also provided more than $70 billion in funds for vaccine distribution, testing and public health, and bolstering the health care workforce, including $7.6 billion for community health centers. Christine administered vaccines through Heartland Health Services, which reviewed $4.5 million in ARP funding. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Biden last fall, includes more than $7.5 billion for the construction of a national Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network. The electrical workers will play a key role in expanding EV infrastructure, and IBEW is preparing its members for the infrastructure jobs of the future—including by expanding a high school solar installation and maintenance program to include EV training. The program includes three Chicago and one Springfield high schools, with plans to expand to Peoria, Decatur, and East St. Louis. IBEW Local 134 uses the nationally recognized Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) curriculum to train members from the apprentice to journeyman level. 

Recently, Durbin highlighted that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) nationwide charging network investments through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will have important benefits in Illinois, including creating good-paying, local jobs and making it easier for Illinoisans to travel the state and nation.  DOT’s investments in EV charging will total nearly $5 billion over the next five years, including $22 million this year alone in Illinois, to help build out our nation’s electric vehicle charging network.