CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to expand the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund (IMFRF) to cover future conflicts for which the Illinois National Guard and Reserve may be called to duty. Since its inception in 2003, the IMFRF has provided more than $15.4 million in support of 28,840 families of deployed servicemembers. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to honor and support Illinois’ veterans and their families.
“As we approach our nation’s Independence Day, we should all take a moment to thank those who have borne the battle,” Governor Quinn said. “When Illinois’ brave men and women answer the call to duty, they should not have to worry that their families back home are struggling financially. This legislation will expand the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to ensure our state’s military families are taken care of while their loved ones are deployed.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Quinn worked to launch the IMFRF with Mary Beth Beiersdorf, a military spouse whose husband, Will, a naval reservist, had been called for 13 months of active duty. At the time, the Beiersdorfs had three young children and their income decreased significantly during Will’s deployment.
Quinn led a grassroots effort for two years, after which lawmakers voted to make IMFRF the law of the land in 2003, shortly after he took office as Lieutenant Governor. A check-off on Illinois income tax returns was then established to allow Illinois citizens to donate to the fund.
Many National Guard and Reservists who deployed as part of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffered a substantial salary cut in order to serve their country (as much as 70 percent of their income). The IMFRF was designed to aid military families with expenses for groceries, rent or utility bills. The fund has been a vital source of support for families who must pay living expenses while their loved ones are away for months or years at a time.
House Bill 3833, sponsored by State Representative Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) and State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), provides benefits for families of Illinois National Guard and Reserve servicemembers who are called to action during future conflicts. The Military Family Relief Fund was originally established to provide family benefits when Illinois National Guard and Reserve members are called to duty for any conflict arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The new law extends those benefits for service in any future global conflict. The law is effective immediately.
"The Illinois National Guard's missions overseas and within the state continue to grow and it's great this fund is adapting to those changes," Maj. Gen. Daniel Krumrei, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard said. "Assistance like the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund helps enable the Illinois National Guard to help our neighbors, protect our state and defend the nation while making a strong military force even stronger."
“Our nation’s warriors served their country with selflessness and courage,” Senator Hastings said. “This law expands relief to men and women who faithfully served and were disabled while carrying out their duties during combat operations.”
At tomorrow’s Arlington Heights Independence Day Parade, the Governor will march alongside military spouse and champion of the IMFRF Mary Beth Biersdorf and other military families to spread awareness of the program. For more information on the program and how you can support it, visit Homefront.Illinois.gov.
Throughout his career, Governor Quinn has made commitment to veterans, servicemembers and their families a top priority. He recently signed a law to make it easier for the children of Illinois servicemembers to enroll in Illinois schools. He Initiated the Illinois Veterans Grant and Illinois National Guard Grant, which cover tuition at all Illinois public universities and community colleges for eligible veterans and serving National Guard members. He also required colleges to post all benefits available to Illinois veterans and assign a staff member to serve as the point of contact for student-veterans who need information and assistance.
Governor Quinn launched the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program that helps veterans transition back to their daily lives and the Welcome Home Heroes program which helps support Illinois servicemembers seeking home ownership. In total, the state has targeted $20 million total in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funds to the Welcome Home Heroes program to help increase affordable homeownership opportunities for military veterans and their families.
In 2012, Governor Quinn and the Departments of Veterans and Military Affairs spearheaded the statewide public-private partnership, Illinois Joining Forces, which has been a model for other states to follow. The programs Families, Children, and Survivors Working Group has been effectively collaborating to make sure Illinois is addressing the needs of military families and children here in Illinois.