Law to improve internet access for seniors passed and signed

Law to improve internet access for seniors passed and signed

Law to improve internet access for seniors passed and signed

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed bills today to increase Illinois seniors’ access to high-speed internet and provide more convenience with permanent identification cards.

House Bill 5752 creates the Broadband Advisory Council to explore ways to expand broadband access, often called high-speed internet, throughout the state, including in unserved and underserved areas.

“This is the continuation of our initiative to ensure our senior citizens have better access to affordable high-speed internet so they may benefit from the resources and support online platforms offer,” Rauner said.

The bill, initiated by AARP, provides specifics on the council’s membership, powers and duties. The council will be administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

Just under 4-in-10 people aged 65 and older have high-speed internet access in their homes, compared to 77 percent of the 30- to 49-year-old demographic, according to AARP Illinois’ most recent data.

“We applaud Gov. Rauner for signing this important, bipartisan legislation into law,” said Ryan Gruenenfelder, director of Advocacy & Outreach at AARP Illinois. “It’s time to ensure every Illinoisan has access to broadband. By signing this legislation, you are moving our state toward the widespread adoption of technology to help all Illinoisans live healthier, longer and happier lives.”

Many seniors need broadband access to benefit from web-based technologies that support aging in place, such as telehealth and “smart home” systems. Other uses include self-management of chronic diseases that can help prevent or postpone functional decline, such as home-based smart medical services.

“Today’s signing is a positive step forward for those rural communities in Illinois that have had limited internet connectivity, they’ve been underserved and held back,” said Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). “In today’s world this is a basic utility. I’m grateful we’re broadening our horizons and recognizing that everyone needs reliable access to this vital tool.”

Additionally, the ability to work part-time from home online could be particularly valuable to older adults facing growing demands to manage complex health, retirement and care arrangements.

“It’s imperative that we eliminate barriers to broadband access and provide fair and equitable access to 21st-century technology,” said Jean Bohnhoff, director of the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA). “I’m encouraged that the Department on Aging will have a voice on the Broadband Advisory Council. We look forward to working toward solutions that keep our seniors and those in unserved areas connected to the worldwide web.”

The bill was supported by AARP of Illinois, AT&T, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Municipal League, Illinois Telecommunications Association, IDOA and DCEO.

House Bill 4424 eases the renewal requirements for Illinois identification cards for Illinois seniors. It provides that identification cards issued to Illinoisans over 65 are permanent and do not need to be renewed. ID cards issued to those 65 and older will continue to be free of charge.

“We want to make life easier for our seniors, and this bill will save them the time and hassle it takes to go down to the DMV and get a new ID card,” Rauner said. “It will also relieve some of the burden of the Secretary of State, saving taxpayer resources.”

The bill also provides that Illinois Person with a Disability ID cards will expire after 10 years.

The initiative was supported by the Secretary of State and the AARP.

These bills are a part of the administration’s initiatives to improve the quality of life for Illinois seniors. These include a bipartisan budget that will ensure the state avoids long payment delays to senior service providers.

The budget included funding to help prevent the abuse, exploitation and neglect of seniors and promote their care, including $980 million for the IDOA’s budget, an additional $1 million in funding for Area Agencies on Aging and full funding for programs such as Meals on Wheels.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

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