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Pritzker signs legislation to subsidize certain grocery stores

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(The Center Square) – A newly signed measure looks to end hunger in Illinois communities.

On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure into law that will establish the Illinois Grocery Initiative, a multi-pronged policy his office said is designed to address food deserts across the state.

Of 665 measures legislators approved in spring session, Senate Bill 850 was the last bill that remained on the governor’s desk. The measure allows grocery stores receiving taxpayer-funded grants as part of the program to be designated as High Impact Businesses, providing the opportunity to receive tax credits.

Pritzker said the measure aims to help those areas that do not have enough to eat.

“I proposed the Illinois Grocery Initiative to provide financial assistance to new and existing independent grocery stores, nonprofit stores, cooperatives and municipal run grocery stores throughout the state,” Pritzker said.

Illinoisans shouldn’t have to make tough decisions when it comes to food, he said.

“When our residents struggle to keep a roof over their head, can’t put food on the table or have to choose between paying for basic medical care and keeping the lights on, that’s a failure of the system,” Pritzker said.

The measure received bipartisan support in the General Assembly and has both Republican and Democratic sponsors.

“The bill flew out of the Senate. It just flew out,” said state Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Swansea. “[State Sen. Dale Fowler], on his end with his caucus and me representing our caucus, it unanimously went out.”

Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said the bill being supported by both sides of the aisle and signed into law is a step in the right direction.

“This new law serves as a critical resource and lifeline to those who have been impacted by food deserts across our state,” said Fowler. “Access to fresh, nutritious food can be hard to find, especially in the 59th District. The signing of this bill is a big step in the right direction as we work towards eliminating our great state’s food insecurities.”

The measure faced some opposition in the Illinois House.

State Rep. Martin McLaughlin, R-Barrington Hills, said during debate the government should not be in the grocery store business.

“I understand the intent, we want to help those that need to be served, however, there are much better ways to do it than putting the future taxpayer on the hook of Illinois, and having the government run grocery stores is an absolute, horrendous idea,” said McLaughlin.

State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, said during debate the measure isn’t the answer for the problems some face in Illinois.

“We continue to put policies in place and pass bills and legislation that prevent businesses from wanting to come here and make it more costly for them to be here,” Ugaste said.

The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association was listed as an opponent.

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