Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Washington – Over the course of the 116th Congress, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos worked to deliver historic accomplishments in an unprecedented Congressional term. From delivering hundreds of millions in federal funding for the communities she serves to helping Illinois navigate a global pandemic to giving the Heartland a seat at the House leadership table, Congresswoman Bustos has been a tireless advocate for Northwestern and Central Illinois over the past two years.
“Whether working to increase access to affordable health care or prioritizing rebuilding our economy in the midst of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, it has been my honor to fight for our corner of Illinois during these last two historic years,” said Congresswoman Bustos.
“The fact is that whether you are an underserved family living in an urban community or an underserved family living in a rural community, we all want the same thing – the chance to work hard and earn a good living. That’s why, this Congress, I was proud to have worked to invest in our infrastructure, help our Gold Star families and injured veterans, work to lower prescription drug costs and help our communities navigate an unprecedented global pandemic.”
INCREASING ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
Beginning with helping to pass legislation to protect Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions, Congresswoman Bustos has worked tirelessly to increase access to health care. In 2019, the Congresswoman convened local roundtable discussions in Peoria and Rockford and lifted up the stories of Illinoisans (VIDEO) to highlight the need for lower prescription drugs, worked to include a permanent repeal of the “Cadillac Tax” in a year-end spending bill, secured millions in federal funding for rural health centers and helped pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (VIDEO) to rein in skyrocketing drug prices and allow Medicare to negotiate prescription costs. For rural communities, the Congresswoman pushed the USDA to hire their first-ever Rural Health Liaison, whose sole focus is to improve health outcomes in rural America and introduced legislation to address rural health workforce challenges.
In 2020, Congresswoman Bustos secured a first-of-its-kind $3 million pilot program, modeled after her Social Determinants Accelerator Act, as part of Congress’ year-end spending bill. This new program will help local governments create plans to empower communities to fight the social factors that harm long-term health, such as health care provider shortages, food deserts, unsafe and insecure housing and other environmental factors.
Throughout the year, Congresswoman Bustos utilized her position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee to advocate for COVID-19 help for rural communities (VIDEO) and address disparate impacts of the Coronavirus on communities of color (VIDEO). Partnering with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois, she convened a roundtable to discuss Black maternal health. And as mental health struggles reached epidemic levels in the midst of state and local shutdowns, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act to help states upgrade crisis care programs and strategies. This legislation was passed as part of the year-end package.
In Rockford, when Mercyhealth refused the insurance of Medicaid patients and downgraded the community’s access to critical health services in the midst of a pandemic, Congresswoman Bustos stood up to CEO Javon Bea, calling on House leadership to limit federal support unless Bea restored service to all Medicaid patients and protesting the institution’s mental health unit closure.
EXPANDING OUR FARMERS’ ACCESS TO MARKETS
Access to markets is critical for the survival of our growers and producers. When negotiations began on an update to North American Free Trade Agreement, Illinois’ farmers and workers deserved the strongest trade deal possible. In 2019, Congresswoman Bustos worked to create a path forward that would provide a seat at the table for labor and agricultural stakeholders, including convening a meeting in Illinois with the Speaker of the House, the Illinois Farm Bureau and Farmers for Free Trade. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which delivered real progress for labor, farmers and manufacturers, was passed and signed into law (VIDEO).
Congresswoman Bustos also worked to make sure that our region’s goods can continue to get to market efficiently by pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide the first funding in a decade for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). In FY20, the Corps invested $4.5 million for preconstruction engineering and design for NESP, which would modernize and expand seven outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Upper Mississippi River.
DELIVERING FOR OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES
In rural Illinois, one in four people do not have access to high speed internet. Congresswoman Bustos helped pass the Moving Forward Act, a funding package and an infrastructure bill that included nearly $1 billion for rural broadband.
In 2019, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the Rural Green Partnership – a framework of principles and policies to combat climate change, spur economic growth and lift farmers’ voices in the conversation on climate. The Rural Green Partnership details a set of policies that work with federal, local and state governments, producers, businesses, unions, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to lower greenhouse gas emissions in every economic sector of rural America.
In 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released their Climate Crisis Action Report, which included critical aspects of the Rural Green Partnership. Voluntary incentives for farmers, utilization and expansion of carbon capture, ongoing roles for biofuels and increased deployment of other renewables like wind and solar were included as key recommendations on how we can best tackle the climate crisis head-on.
To bring an environmental lens to biofuels production, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the Next Generation Fuels Act, a bill to leverage greater fuel octane to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, improve air quality by reducing the use of harmful aromatics and increase demand for biofuels. Named “bold and innovative” by stakeholders, this legislation continues to gain support from producers and industry leaders.
To address severe nationwide shortages of early childhood and K-12 teachers that disproportionately impacts students from low-income backgrounds and students of color, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the bicameral Retaining Educators Takes Added Investment Now (RETAIN) Act, which would create a fully refundable tax credit for teachers and other education professionals to encourage recruitment and retention in rural communities and communities of color. The legislation has earned the support of local school officials in Rockford, Peoria, Monmouth and Rock Island.
SUPPORTING OUR SERVICE MEMBERS AND VETERANS AND HONORING OUR HEROES
This Congress, Congresswoman Bustos was honored to hold two different ceremonies to rename our post offices after local heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation: the Alpha Post Office after Captain Joshua E. Steele and the Pekin Post Office after Lance Cpl. Jordan Bastean, and introduced and passed a bill to rename the Galesburg Post Office in honor of Senior Airman Daniel Miller (VIDEO). Congresswoman Bustos spearheaded support for Gold Star families and spouses of catastrophically injured service members through her bipartisan, bicameral Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act, which was signed into law as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In the 2020 NDAA legislation passed this December, the Congresswoman worked to include provisions to establish a “Zillow”-style real estate online tool for the Army, provide a pay raise for our military, enhance student loan benefits for National Guard and Reserve members and require the Department of Defense to provide answers for its inconsistent and troubling record on National Guard COVID-response funding. As cash-strapped states faced cuts to federal support for pandemic response efforts, Congresswoman Bustos urged the Administration stop playing political games, restore full funding and extend National Guard deployments for the duration of the pandemic.
After re-introducing her All American Flag Act last year, to ensure that all American flags purchased with taxpayer funds are made in America (VIDEO), Congresswoman Bustos secured a provision in the final Congressional package to encourage all federal agencies to purchase only American flags made in America and with American products. This was passed this month.
WORKING TOWARD RACIAL JUSTICE
Following the national outcry after George Floyd’s death, Congresswoman Bustos attended listening sessions and meetings with religious leaders and members of communities of color throughout Northern and Central Illinois. As an original co-sponsor of the bill, she helped introduce and pass the historic George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (VIDEO), an important step toward comprehensive reform that aims to protect civil rights at the federal level, increase accountability and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
To address ongoing segregation in our educational institutions, and provide support to school districts that are developing, implementing and expanding school diversity initiatives, Congresswoman Bustos helped pass the Strength in Diversity Act and the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act.
When minority-owned businesses faced additional barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congresswoman Bustos hosted virtual small business roundtables for Latino and Black small business owners from across the region to provide resources at the state and federal level, featuring special guests Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Chair of the House Small Business Committee, and House Majority Whip Congressman Jim Clyburn (SC-06).
ENSURING THE ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL’S SUCCESS FOR THE FUTURE
Congresswoman Bustos worked across the aisle to prioritize support for the Rock Island Arsenal’s success, including advocating for the Arsenal during key Appropriations Committee hearings and securing over $50 million in funding for much needed building repairs on the Island.
As part of a major 2019 funding package, Congresswoman Bustos included millions for the Rock Island Arsenal’s Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC), the conversion of Humvees into service trucks and future projects. In addition to increased federal investment in the Arsenal, the Congresswoman joined her colleagues in the Senate to announce 50 new jobs at the Arsenal in 2019. After the Congresswoman’s continued advocacy, a total of 65 new human resources professionals were hired in 2020.
After the pandemic hit, she joined Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy to visit the Arsenal to discuss their ability to pivot to produce desperately-needed personal protective equipment.
SUPPORTING THE CHICAGO ROCKFORD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
With a long track record of supporting the Chicago Rockford International Airport, Congresswoman Bustos founded the Air Cargo Caucus in 2019 to allow members of Congress and industry leaders the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and foster relationships. In May, Congresswoman Bustos announced $9 million in federal funding for the airport, and later announced additional $11 million in grant funding to rehabilitate the airport’s taxis and runways.
Congresswoman Bustos also helped secure $10 million for aviation workforce development grants for the aircraft pilot workforce and aviation maintenance workforce, in order to address the skills gap in the industry and in 2020, announced another $2.6 million to reconstruct a de-icing containment facility.
Last year, Congresswoman Bustos joined Senator Duckworth in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Delivering for America Act (VIDEO).
BY THE NUMBERS
201 (2019) + 352 (2020) = 553 – Total events in the district hosted or attended by Congresswoman Bustos, including teleconferences, virtual town halls, webinars, supermarket visits, business and organization tours, Cheri on Shifts, roundtable discussions and rural library visits, in addition to book donations. Congresswoman Bustos is proud to maintain strong outreach in Peoria, Rockford, the Quad-Cities and the many communities in between.
605 (2019) + 1,088 (2020) = 1,693 – Constituent cases resolved. Congresswoman Bustos is fighting to make sure the government works for the people and is dedicated to helping Illinoisans cut through red tape at the VA, IRS and other federal agencies.
$319,593.90 (2019) + $669, 183.48 (2020) = $988,777.38 – Nearly $1 million in constituent money recovered from the Social Security Administration, the IRS and the VA, and returned to constituents in the district. Constituents having problems with any of these agencies are encouraged to reach out to one of our offices in Peoria, Rock Island or Rockford.
Congresswoman Bustos’ office was also proud to be recognized as a 2020 Democracy Awards Finalist for Constituent Services, one of only eight House offices in the nation.