Illinois Veterans Grant; Feds Investigate Gov. Pritzker; Ford & Rivian; Federal Response To Opioids

April 25, 2019
 

Paul Copeland (right), coordinator of veterans services at SIU, gives Amanda Allen an overview on how to utilize her veteran's benefits for her classes at SIU.

Byron Hetzler, The Southern

Governor JB Pritzker is under federal investigation for a property tax break on a Gold Coast mansion. Plus, for more than 50 years, Illinois veterans have been able to go to college tuition-free. It’s a great option for veterans, but it turns out the state hasn’t funded the program for years. And, the electric car startup Rivian has big plans for their factory in Normal. Now, the company also has a $500 million dollar investment from Ford. Finally, we'll sit down with the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since 1967, veterans who want to go to college after an honorable discharge have been able to get financial help through the Illinois Veterans Grant, a state program which covers tuition and fees for public colleges and universities in Illinois.

Last year more than 4,000 veterans attended school here with the help of the program. That equates to more than $18 million waved by public colleges and universities in 2018. Those numbers are from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

But, since the 2012 fiscal year, universities have not received reimbursements been reimbursed from the state for tuition-free veteran education.

For more on this, we spoke with Paul Copeland. He’s the Veterans Coordinator for Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Gabe Neely-Streit also joined us. He’s a higher education reporter for The Southern Illinoisan. 

Jana Albrecht is the Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Management for Illinois State University. She joined us on the line from there.

Plus- 

Yesterday WBEZ Chicago broke the news that there’s a federal criminal investigation going on right now into our current Governor J.B. Pritzker as well as First Lady MK Pritzker, and his brother in law, Thomas Munnster. It involves one of Gov. Pritzker’s properties, a Gold Coast mansion that got a property tax break of more than $331,000.

The Pritzker's got that tax break by having all of the toilets removed so the house could be declared uninhabitable.

You might remember this because it came up during the campaign last year. And it turns out this investigation even started back then, back in October, before Governor Pritzker won the election.

WBEZ’s Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold first reported this story yesterday. Tony Arnold joined us from Chicago.

And- 

The electric car company Rivian plans to manufacture trucks out of a factory in Normal, at the former Mitsubishi plant.

If you live in Bloomington-Normal, you’ve been slowly learning more about the Michigan-based startup. And yesterday, Rivian got a huge boost from Ford Motor Company when the automotive giant announced a $500 million investment.

Keith Naughton is an auto reporter based in Detroit. 

Also- 

Across the country, tens of thousands of people continue to lose their lives to drug overdoses. Here in Illinois, more than 2,000 people died from an overdose involving opioids in 2018. That’s according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state did recently receive an additional $15 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand addiction treatment services.  

State officials say the money is being directed to areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis. That includes Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, St. Clair and Madison counties.

Medical experts and public health leaders are also getting the word out about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. There will be sites all over the state where you can dispose of your extra prescription drugs.

To talk about all this and more we were joined by Doug O’Brien. He’s Regional Director with the Department of Health and Human Services overseeing six Midwestern states, including Illinois.