puertoricanagendachicagophotoCHICAGO – State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas and State Senator Omar Aquino joined leaders this morning to demand a swift and meaningful response from the federal government to Hurricane Fiona and to call attention to the structural inequities that leave Puerto Rico vulnerable to catastrophic destruction in the aftermath of disasters fueled by climate change.

“The health and safety of Puerto Ricans cannot continue to be ignored by those with power to assign significant resources,” said Senator Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Five years after our pleas were ignored following Hurricane Maria, we cannot standby idly for the federal government to mobilize and act with urgency while our community is in crisis. Instead, we take action today to provide immediate relief to households in Puerto Rico, and to publicly demand that the government take concrete steps to for long-term recovery on the island to rebuild a more resilient Puerto Rico using sustainable energy sources.

On September 18, the entire island of Puerto Rico lost power when Hurricane Fiona hit, bringing violent winds, heavy rain, catastrophic flooding and landslides to the island. In many areas, rainfall and flooding greatly exceeded that of Hurricane Maria, causing many to lose everything. LUMA Energy, the main source of power on Puerto Rico, stated it will take days to get the power back up to all residents but unfortunately they have not provided consistent service since the beginning of their contract. This is deeply troubling for members of the Puerto Rican diaspora, as many folks on the island will not have access to food, water, basic sanitation needs, and their ability to connect to family or work for as long as they are without power.

The foundational needs of Puerto Ricans, such as power, clean water, or supplies, have historically been overlooked, leading to unnecessarily long periods of recovery. Whether preparing for, responding to, or disbursing funds to rebuild after a hurricane, the federal government has historically prolonged its initiatives to provide relief that is desperately needed and, in many cases, resulted in the loss of human life and widespread health and safety concerns for residents.

Hurricane Fiona has come at the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which added to the existing physical and economic devastation on the island. Despite immediate aid from the Puerto Rican Agenda, thousands of people in Puerto Rico have not yet recovered from Maria, living in damaged homes or under blue tarps. Remembering the difficulties they faced five years ago, many folks in Puerto Rico are fearful not only of their safety during the storm, but for the recovery period that will likely be drawn out unless there is a more efficient and prioritized federal response. 

“Myself and so many in my community are devastated as we see the damage and injuries facing Puerto Ricans,” said Aquino (D-Chicago). “Today, we are calling on government leaders to take a firm stand in support of Puerto Ricans, and to work with local community leaders on the next steps towards recovery and infrastructure repair.”

Today we stand with The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago in demanding an effective and prioritized response from the federal government that will not only provide immediate relief for residents, but also address the lingering structural, governmental obstacles that undermine Puerto Rico’s ability to recover and rebound from the adverse impact of climate change. For more information on their goals, click here.

Category: Press Releases

CHICAGO – On Wednesday night, a group of immigrants from Venezuela arrived in Chicago after they were “shipped out” on buses by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Regarding this matter, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) welcomes the newcomers, highlights local resources, and disavows Abbott’s decision to use human lives as political currency for personal gain.

“I am proud that my state, Illinois, and my city, Chicago, continue to be the most welcoming places in the nation to our immigrant siblings. We welcome the newcomers as we work to deploy resources to support them in both the immediate and long term.

“My community already took action. Chicago is the soul of our nation, a place built by the strength and contributions of people from all corners of the globe. A temporary shelter was staffed through the night by trusted partners including Rincon Family Services, Family Focus, and Onward Neighborhood House who support immigrants year-round through state funded Welcoming Centers. Many other local partners are mobilizing to ensure we can offer resources they need to settle and thrive in our community.

“Also, I condemn Abbott’s lack of humanity with his approach to immigration. Our actions and/or the lack thereof reflect upon one’s character. The Governor of Texas has clearly failed this test.

“Instead of using refugees as political pawns, our city and state choose to respond to our challenges with compassion and humanity, not cruelty. I commit to working with my colleagues to create opportunities for the new residents of Illinois ensuring prosperity is accessible to all people.”

Category: Press Releases

05302021CM0250SPRINGFIELD – As an advocate for more affordable higher education, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas is excited that federal student loans are expected to be forgiven for people facing the most economic hardship.

“With rising tuition prices, many students from low and middle income families have no other choice but to borrow if they want to pursue a degree, and are receiving less federal support relative to the cost of education,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Together, this makes it difficult to make monthly loan payments while also paying their regular bills. I am grateful that President Biden’s plan attempts to mitigate this burden on our hardworking students.”

Last week, President Biden announced his plan to address student debt, which includes cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans, modifying the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to provide credit to borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, military, or in federal, state, tribal, or local government, and protecting future students by reducing the cost of college.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in loan relief to borrowers with loans held by the department whose individual income is less than $125,000 and who received a Pell Grant.  Nearly every Pell Grant recipient came from a family that made less than $60,000 a year, and Pell Grant recipients typically experience more challenges repaying their debt than other borrowers. Borrowers who meet those income standards but did not receive a Pell Grant in college can receive up to $10,000 in loan relief.

Pacione-Zayas is hopeful that this plan will be transformative for those struggling with student debt, acknowledging this is an issue so many are facing as the cost of higher education continues to rise.

“As someone who is still paying back student loans, I know firsthand the challenges of balancing supporting a family and saving for the future when you have student debt,” Pacione-Zayas said. ““It is a struggle so many of us face. I am thrilled that some relief is on the way, especially for folks with limited access to economic resources.”

For more information and to sign up to be notified for when relief is available, click here.

Category: Press Releases

CHICAGO –To help individuals enroll in health care following a law expanding health care access, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas and other local officials are hosting an enrollment event to answer questions about eligibility and offer assistance.

“Before this expansion, many people in my community were unable to access safe, affordable health care, which was detrimental to their physical health and quality of life,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “I am thrilled that Medicaid-like health care coverage is now accessible to all folks who qualify under the poverty guidelines, regardless of immigration status, because healthcare is and should be treated as a basic human right.”

Thanks to a new law supported by Senator Pacione-Zayas, HBIA, or Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults, enrollment is now available to anyone in Illinois age 42 or older who earns under 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline—regardless of immigration status. This measure will have an enormous impact on many immigrant families who have struggled to access health care in the past, or even avoided necessary treatment because of their immigration status or financial resources. Sen. Pacione-Zayas is looking forward to how this initiative will improve health care access for families in her community.

“In a medical crisis, the last thing folks should have to worry about is if they should risk not seeking medical attention because the costs are too high—they should only have to worry about getting themselves or their loved ones better,” Pacione-Zayas said. “This law is the first step to making health care more financially accessible. I look forward to seeing the impact on this enrollment drive in my community, and making sure families can focus on nursing their loved ones back to health instead of how they can afford to pay for health care out-of-pocket.”

The health care enrollment event will take place on Aug. 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Northeastern University’s El Centro campus. Attendees should also bring their identification, proof of income, and proof of household size.

Walk-in appointments will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to availability. However, those wishing to attend the event are strongly encouraged to make an appointment in advance by calling 312-620-7592.

Category: Press Releases

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