On Monday, Aug. 10 President David Spinner of AFSCME Retirees Sub-chapter #87 held a phone conference to discuss and update important State and Federal issues for retired seniors. Spinner called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone.

Spinner introduced Ms. Maria Britton Sipe, Retiree Program Coordinator for AFSCME Chapter 31 as the guest speaker.

Sipe began by thanking all the AFSCME members for helping out communities during this trying time of Covid-19 pandemic.

She said that with the State of Illinois can finally fix the structural deficit that has plagued the state for decades. As of now the state has a flat tax, and the Fair Tax would move us to a progressive tax. The Fair Tax or Graduated Tax legislation has passed both the Illinois Senate and House and was signed by the Governor. The Fair Tax will be on the November 2020 voters’ ballot as a Yes or No question and must be approved by the voters in the General Election.

The Fair Tax will bring in $3.5 billion per year that is desperately needed to shore up public pensions and address our state’s dire budget shortfall. The Fair Tax will require wealthy people to pay their fair share on income over $250,000 a year. The Fair Tax will give a tax cut to the working people – everyone who makes less than $250,000 a year will get a tax cut or pay no more than now. The Fair Tax will not establish a tax on retirement income. This revenue does not go just to fund pensions but is earmarked for education, mental health and the social safety net. If the Fair Tax doesn’t pass the legislatures will have to go back and many believe they would attack out pension protection in order cut pensions and health insurance.

Sipe mentioned that Senator Andy Manar was instrumental in passing Insulin 667 Bill to keep the costs of insulin at $100.00. Becky Spinner was also one of the presenters that helped get the bill passed.

Next, Sipe brought up the topic of Prescription Drugs. She said that despite COVID-19, the pharmaceutical companies continue their price-gouging practices. Pharmaceutical companies raised the price of 245 drugs between January 20 and June 20 of this year by an average of 23.8% according to a new analysis by Patients for Affordable Drugs. AFSCME Retirees are more committed than ever to rein in the rising costs of prescription drugs and their initial efforts successfully reduced the maximum cost of insulin.

President, David Spinner mentioned the issue of “Voting by Mail” which was expanded last month and signed into legislation by Governor Pritzker. The vote-by-mail program is an attempt to reduce crowds at the polls and reduce the spread of COVID-19. The county has been sending out applications for mail ballots to anyone who voted in the 2018 General Election, 2019 Municipal Election or March 17 Primary, as well as anyone who registered to vote or updated their address since the primary. These are ballot applications, not ballots. Those who submit their application by October 1 will receive their mail ballot by October 6. There is also a “secure mail drop box” located at the Montgomery Court House for your convenience.

The U.S. Postal Service has never been more important. More and more Americans are relying on the delivery of critical supplies and medications. Now, the crucial ability to vote safely by mail in the November election. We CANNOT afford to let the U.S. Postal Service go bankrupt. Unless the federal government intervenes, the USPS could be insolvent by September.

Spinner stated the Social Security Trustees reported that payments continue to all beneficiaries, but Covid-19 has slightly worsened the stability of the Trustees Fund due to record levels of high unemployment. The Trustees Fund will be solvent until 2034, an estimated reduction by one year.

State Legislators are working with AFSCME to respond to the need to establish new protocols and protections for over 20 thousand essential State employees during the pandemic. Five employees have lost their lives so far and no State employees were laid off with only a few local governments to lay off some people. Employment Security is trying to process over 12 times more unemployment claims than last year with no additional dollar deficit because of the tax loss since March, while the State has had huge expenditures due to the crisis.

All of the retirement systems were closed for a long period of time and now reopened with a skeletal staff, however two SERS staff tested positive and they are now closed for cleaning. All retirement systems are sending out pension payments without issue and continue to be fully funded each month.

The AFSCME legislative committee has worked diligently with legislators and Governor Pritzker to fully fund and make payments to the pension systems.

This AFSCME Retiree Subchapter will hold a Zoom meeting for the Sub-chapter members on Tuesday September 8 at 1:00 p.m. You will be able to attend by either computer or phone. For more information or to register for the meeting please contact David Spinner at 217-324-2018 or email Bspinner@consolidated.net.

The phone conference was well received by all who participated. The meetings are open to any retired senior who wants to stay informed on current state and federal issues that affect senior citizens.

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