Update June 4, 2018: The Illinois Solar for All Fund was protected from sweeps and fully funded in the passage of the budget!
The legislative session for the Illinois General Assembly will draw to a close at midnight tomorrow, May 31, 2018.
As state legislators are busy negotiating a state budget by this deadline, critical funding for job training programs in the clean energy economy is at risk.
In December 2016, the state legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) – a historic piece of legislation that creates significant investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Advocacy efforts by people of faith were extremely important for the passage of FEJA with provisions to address environmental justice.
Under FEJA, the Renewable Energy Resource Fund (RERF) is a dedicated source of funding for the Illinois Solar For All program. This program will build solar energy projects in economically challenged communities that prioritize employment of returning citizens, foster care graduates, and residents of communities that have faced environmental injustices.
However, now the RERF funds are at risk for permanent “sweeps” to be used for other purposes in the budget. Any funds swept will not be replaced.
Labor and community groups have already begun to design and implement the training programs and infrastructure to prepare citizens for these job opportunities. Any sweeps of the RERF will eliminate jobs that these training programs are anticipating.
In 2017, the House and the Senate unanimously adopted resolutions opposing RERF sweeps. Once again, the activism of people of faith signing petitions and attending Advocacy Day helped make passage of these bipartisan resolutions possible.
Our Policy Director, Pastor Booker Vance, testified in Springfield today, along with other environmental and community organizations, about the importance of maintaining funding for these programs.
Illinois desperately needs a real budget. However, it must be one that is based on real, sustainable revenues, not one-time gimmicks that eliminate future career pathways for people that need them most and delete hundreds of new solar energy projects across our state.
We continue to need people of faith to raise their voices! Be on the lookout for more information about our "Listen, Lead, Share," listening sessions this June and July. Your participation is critical for shaping future environmental justice policy priorities.