116th Congress in Review: Bustos Delivers Historic Accomplishments in Unprecedented Term

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 Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical training (PART) 147 Act to update the decades-old federal regulations for training aviation maintenance workers and make sure those regulations align with work that more accurately reflects what is actually done on the job. This critical aviation legislation was passed as part of the Congressional year-end package.

SUPPORTING THE QUAD-CITIES RAIL ROUTE

Congresswoman Bustos believes in investing in public transportation infrastructure – that’s why in 2019, she was proud to announce an extension of $177 million in Federal Railroad Administration funding for the Amtrak route between Chicago and Moline, through December 31, 2024. Support for this critical rail funding passed the House as part of a major funding package in December.

SAVING THE PEORIA AG LAB AND FIGHTING FOR OUR NATIONAL GUARD

Congresswoman Bustos has spent this Congress tirelessly working to support the Peoria Ag Lab and Air National Guard Project’s successes. She ensured that the President’s budget included funding for the program after it was proposed to be eliminated. A 2019 legislative package included a requirement that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service fill its vacant staff positions with permanent scientists, in order to help the Peoria Ag Lab fully staff up.

Congresswoman Bustos also worked to protect and secure funding for the construction of a new fire station at the Peoria Air National Guard base after the funding was threatened to be diverted to construction of a Southern border wall.

After fighting to save funding for the National Guard base, the Congresswoman pushed the Department of Defense to commit to leaving the Fire House funds untouched and later announced the award of a $7.8 million contract for the construction of a new Fire Crash Rescue Station at the Peoria Air National Guard.

Congresswoman Bustos worked to include $79 million for engine enhancement packages for C-130H aircraft in a 2019 year-end package. In the 2020 NDAA bill, she worked to include authorization for continued propulsion and propeller upgrades for C-130H aircraft, such as those in operation at the 182nd Air National Guard squadron.

CLEANING UP CORRUPTION AND STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY

At the beginning of this term, Congresswoman Bustos helped introduce and pass H.R. 1 the For the People Act (VIDEO), to strengthen ethics laws, end the dominance of big money in elections and make it easier for Americans to vote.

Building on the For the People Act, she passed legislation to protect the sanctity of the election process, strengthen our voting infrastructure and combat foreign interference in our elections. This year, she introduced a resolution to recognize the critical role election workers played in the historic Presidential election.

Last year, Congresswoman Bustos introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would save significant taxpayer dollars by cutting down on wasteful government payments to people who have passed away or are otherwise ineligible to continue receiving these benefits. After news broke this June that the Administration had been sending stimulus checks to deceased people, Congresswoman Bustos continued to advocate for federal agencies to share data in order to avoid wasteful spending. A compromise version of this legislation passed this year as part of the year-end Congressional package.

NAVIGATING THE COVID-19 GLOBAL PANDEMIC

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congresswoman Bustos helped pass the most significant series of relief packages in American history. These packages invested in our health care infrastructure; supported federal, state and local public health agencies and health centers; provided billions for research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and supported the procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. Legislation included: Coronavirus Supplemental Legislation, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, the CARES Act and the final pandemic relief package signed into law this week. Despite Senate Republicans’ failure to act, Congresswoman Bustos also worked to pass both the Heroes Act and Heroes 2.0 in May and October, as well as legislation increasing direct payments to $2,000 yesterday.

Congresswoman Bustos also brought resources and information directly to constituents throughout the months following the first COVID-19 cases. She hosted multiple tele-town halls with public health experts, held regional webinars for small businesses, and virtual meetings with local stakeholders, including Farm Bureaus, postal workers, child care providers, public health experts, public health departments, hospital administrators, emergency management agencies, school superintendents, faith leaders and ministers, nursing homes and food banks.

As frontline and essential workers faced a lack of critical child care services, Congresswoman Bustos also helped pass two major pieces of legislation to support and stabilize access to child care – the Child Care is Essential Act and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act. Together, these critical bills work to ensure child care providers can remain open, cover increased costs, operate safely, retain employees, expand access to care and support hardworking families.

At Thomson and Pekin prisons, both staff and inmates faced unique challenges in navigating how the pandemic would impact each of their locations. After Thomson was initially included in a list of prison quarantine sites, Congresswoman Bustos joined Senators Durbin and Duckworth to push back and was successful in having the site removed from the list altogether. Later, when COVID-19 cases were confirmed both at Thomson and at Pekin, the Congresswoman worked to fight for testing and pressed the BOP Director on testing practices in a Congressional hearing (VIDEO). She also worked to help secure a new 25 percent relocation and recruitment incentive for Thomson Prison, in order to address long-standing understaffing at the site.

Finally, when the USPS was threatened, putting veterans, seniors and small business owners at risk, Congresswoman Bustos met with local letter carriers (VIDEO) and helped pass the 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.

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