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October 23, 2008

Governor Blagojevich Announces Free Rides on Public Transportation for More Than 275,000 Low-Income People with Disabilities Statewide
Implementation of SB 1920 Offers Transit Options and Independence for Thousands

SPRINGFIELDBeginning Friday, low-income disabled individuals will be allowed free rides on all regularly scheduled buses and trains that run on fixed-routes throughout the state.  Governor Rod R. Blagojevich welcomed the implementation of the new People with Disabilities Ride Free program for which he signed Senate Bill 1920 in August, which requires transit systems throughout the state to provide free rides to people with disabilities who meet the income requirements of the State’s Circuit Breaker program.


Since August, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) has contacted approximately 114,000 current Circuit Breaker enrollees with disabilities to notify them of their eligibility to receive free transit rides. 


“Building on the success of the Seniors Ride Free program, people with disabilities who are enrolled in Circuit Breaker will now be able to ride public transportation free of charge,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Given the economic slowdown that is causing tough choices, it’s the ideal time to launch a program that will enable more people to enjoy the benefits public transit.”


Senate Bill 1920, sponsored by Senator Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and Representative Kathleen Ryg (D-Vernon Hills), received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Illinois Senate, where it passed 55-1-0 and in the Illinois House where it passed 95-15-0.


“This new law will make the daily lives of individuals with disabilities easier by limiting the burden of transportation costs. I am proud to have co-sponsored this bill, and look forward to seeing it take effect,” said Senator Garrett.


People with disabilities who wish to take part in the free transit benefit must enroll in the Circuit Breaker program in order to be eligible, and they must register with their local transit agency. The Circuit Breaker program provides support to senior citizens and persons with disabilities to help them reduce the impact of taxes and prescription medications on their lives. When the costs of property taxes and prescription medicines begin to “overload” our seniors and persons with disabilities, this program can help, just as a circuit breaker prevents overloads in an electrical system.


“This law will help to provide for people with disabilities who are greatly impacted by rising medical and transportation costs during tough economic times,” said Kathleen Ryg.  “I am proud to have worked on a bill that will help alleviate financial burdens for our citizens.”


The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) has mailed letters and postcards to approximately 114,000 individuals who meet Circuit Breaker income eligibility requirements and who have a qualifying disability. 


“We are very pleased to provide this new benefit and hope that it helps getting to work, school, and medical appointments or with any activity of daily living,” said IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson. 


Those already enrolled in Circuit Breaker can contact their local transit agency to learn about the free rides policies they have established.  Individuals with disabilities who are not eligible for Circuit Breaker are still be eligible for reduced fare, half-price transit rides as provided under current law.  Eligibility for reduced fare service is generally determined at the local level.  For a list of local transit agencies and policies, log on to www.illinois.gov/transit.


“We are pleased that this new free ride benefit will be available to people with disabilities on a limited income,” said Janice Stashwick of Civil Rights Advocate for Access Living.  “Public transportation is critical to the everyday lives of many people with disabilities.  This free ride benefit will offer more independence to get to work, school, medical and social appointments, etc., and thus will benefit us all.”


“The enactment of a free ride program for people with disabilities will help them to be more active and achieve the goals and daily necessities of importance to the entire community,” said Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois.  


Circuit Breaker annual household income limits are $22,218 for a household of 1; $29,480 for a household of 2; and $36,740 for a household of 3. To apply for Circuit Breaker, people with disabilities can visit www.cbrx.il.gov or call 1-800-624-2459 [1-888-206-1327 (TTY)] to request an application.


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