Governor JB Pritzker joined local officials at Illinois Central College on Tuesday morning to discuss a health care initiative proposed in its fiscal year 2023 budget. Pritzker is proposing a $25 million investment aimed at increasing the healthcare opportunities. (Credit: Blueroomstream.com)
The program will focus on attracting and retaining healthcare workers
By GRACE KINNICUTT
Illinois Capitol News
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker continued to promote his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday, outlining his plan to rebuild the state’s health care workforce during a stop at a community college in Peoria.
He joined local leaders at Illinois Central College to talk about the Pipeline for the Advancement of the Healthcare Workforce program, a proposed initiative modeled after an existing statewide grant program, the Workforce Equity Initiative.
The PATH program would be delivered through the state’s community college system, providing financial assistance to students enrolling in courses to earn certificates in high-needs healthcare areas. Targeted programs include certified nurses and nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and emergency medical technicians.
Help would also be available to overcome other barriers such as transportation, childcare, food stamps and tutoring.
Pritzker has asked lawmakers to invest $25 million in the program over the next fiscal year.
“We create opportunities in underserved communities for Illinois residents to build great careers,” Pritzker said.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said the initiatives will help address the skills shortage.
“These new opportunities, the PATH program, the WEI program, will allow us to take many people that we already have in our community and give them, through this investment in education and workforce training , the skills they need to fill all the jobs we have now and in the near future,” Ali said.
Pritzker also proposed a $2 million increase in funding for the state nursing scholarship program, which aims to retain and recruit nursing professionals. The governor also proposed eliminating licensing fees, which will save healthcare workers about $21 million.
Its budget also proposes to double funding for a nurse educator scholarship program and a competitive nursing school grant program aimed at increasing the number of nursing school graduates.
Pritzker also touted the Labor Equity Initiative program, launched in 2019 with the support of Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria. This initiative offers 120 training programs at 18 colleges across the state to increase workforce skills and expand educational opportunities for minority students. Funds can be used for tuition, childcare, transportation, and school supplies, and the program receives approximately $18.7 million annually.
Gordon-Booth said the data from the WEI program is “the best in the country” and that the program serves as a “model” for the national education system.
As of December 31, 2021, the collective FY20 and FY21 scholarship results showed that 5,221 students had enrolled in WEI, of which 3,885 were African American students.
Danielle Pate, a graduate of the WEI program at ICC, said she was going to attend another college, but was recruited to join the WEI program at school. Pate said the program helped fund her college while providing her with stipends, tutoring and any other help she might need.
“It was definitely a blessing to focus mostly on school and get all the help I needed at the time,” Pate said.
Pritzker said he has three goals for higher education programs, including increasing grants from the Monetary Scholarship Program, working to make Illinois one of the first five states to receive more funding. government for student aid and to increase state support directly to higher education institutions.
In the proposed FY2023 budget, Pritzker proposed a $122 million increase for MAP grants, bringing total funding for the program to more than $600 million. He also proposed an increase of $2.5 million for adult education and career and technical programs for community colleges, and $2.3 million for a scholarship program for teachers in minorities.
“We’re finally making it more affordable for students to earn their degrees in Illinois, and so our future is bright,” Pritzker said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.