COOK COUNTY PRESIDENT TOUTS ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING TERMS

Toni Preckwinkle has served as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners since 2010. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS.
Toni Preckwinkle has served as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners since 2010. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS.

COOK COUNTY PRESIDENT TOUTS ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING TERMS

BY TIA CAROL JONES


Toni Preckwinkle was elected President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2010. During her time as Cook County President, Cook County has sought to provide good health care, improve the criminal justice system and use federal funds to reduce medical debt and provide a guaranteed income.

Preckwinkle was drawn to politics when she was 16 years old
and she worked on the city council campaign of Katie McWatt in
her native St. Paul, Minn. While McWatt didn’t win, Preckwinkle
decided she liked working on political campaigns. When 
Preckwinkle moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago, she worked with Independent Voters of Illinois.

Preckwinkle was a teacher for 10 years, then worked for a neighborhood non-profit. She went on to work in state government
and at the Department of Economic Development for the City of Chicago. She also was the Executive Director of the Chicago Jobs Council. Preckwinkle was the 4th Ward Alderman for 19 years.

Preckwinkle believes that healthcare should be a Universal
right. Half of the Cook County budget is healthcare. Preckwinkle
said that providing good health care has always been part of Cook
County’s mission. She is proud of the work that has been done
there.

“We’ve worked very hard to stabilize and improve access to care for the residents of Cook County,” she said, adding that improving access to care includes creating a Medicare expansion
program, County Care, which provides insurance coverage for
people.

Preckwinkle acknowledges that Black and Brown communities
are overpoliced. A lot of energy has been put into reducing
the reliance on cash bond, because of the way it discriminates
against those without resources and those who are poor. She
pointed to the Pre Trial Fairness Act within the Safe-T Act in the
Illinois legislature. Diversion programs have been developed to
reduce the number of people who come in contact with the criminal
justice system.

Through the American Rescue Plan Act, Cook County has launched the guaranteed income pilot program. With the program, about 3,250 individuals in the program receive $500 a month for two years. With $42 million allocated for the program, it is the largest guaranteed income pilot program in the country.

Recently, Cook County announced a program to eliminate
medical debt, working with RIP Medical Debt. The Medical Debt
Relief Initiative has already erased $79.2 million in medical debt
for more than 72,000 Cook County residents. “For many families,
medical debt negatively impacts their credit score and therefore,
their ability to get a mortgage and buy cars. The leading cause of
bankruptcy in this country is the inability to pay your medical bills,”
she said. “If we wipe out the medical debt, people are more likely to
get the medical care they need, to pursue additional care they need
and be in a better financial shape, having higher credit scores.”

Preckwinkle acknowledged the work State’s Attorney Kim Foxx
did to address the harm done in the criminal justice system and
make amends. She pointed to Foxx’s work to expunge drug convictions. “Those who are in government, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge the ways in which government has contributed to the damage done to Black and Brown communities and to do everything we can to rectify it,” she said.

Preckwinkle said it is her goal as Cook County President to use
the levers at her disposal to help residents who are in need. Cook
County has allocated $100 million for violence prevention, anti-recidivism programs and restorative justice work. The county has engaged community-based partners to help address those challenges.

Preckwinkle said the city has two big challenges: the violence
and the asylum seekers. It is her hope that she can work with Mayor Brandon Johnson. For more information about Cook County government, visit cookcounty.il.gov.

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