ROSELAND, Ill. — After COVID-19 shined a spotlight on need to improve neglected Illinois nursing homes, the Springfield legislature acted.

Tuesday, at Victory Centre of Roseland, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation to incentivize higher staffing levels and quality improvements at nursing homes.

“We’re taking an enormous step forward so that our most vulnerable seniors will get the equitable, compassionate and dignified care that they deserve,” he said. “These are our mothers and our fathers, our aunts and our uncles, our grandparents.

House Bill 246 ties funding for nursing facilities to staffing size and qualities measures while boosting pay for some health care workers.

To better serve seniors on Medicaid, the new law injects $700 million from state and federal tax funds annually to encourage facilities to adopt federal payment standards that Pritzker says will more accurately reflect clinical care needs of residents.

“With today’s signing, Illinois will no longer tolerate a emphasis on profits over people especially at the sense of our most vulnerable seniors,” he said. “Now when nursing homes provide better care, they will be rewarded.”

Care of the state’s most vulnerable has become an issue on the campaign trail. Republicans are hammering Pritzker for his handling of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home. Thirty-six people died.

“Remember a deadly global pandemic and that was literally nearly the height of it – at least for 2020. And so many people across the state were getting COVID-19. It was being transmitted nonstop, really, and it seemed like it wouldn’t end,” Pritzker said.  “In the wake of LaSalle, we made sure that not only did we hold people accountable, replaced them, and now we have a terrific leader of the Department of Veteran Affairs and I believe that our homes are people well managed.”

While Pritzker faces scrutiny for his handling of LaSalle, there was bipartisan support for this nursing home overhaul. This new law passed both the state House and Senate unanimously.