National Press Club

Illinois Governor Promotes Federal Military Relief Fund

November 6, 2009 | By Keith M. Hill |

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Declaring that there is no more important cause for Americans than protecting democracy, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn spoke at a National Press Club Newsmaker Nov. 4 about the establishment of a relief fund for military families.

A bill (H.R. 1175) introduced in Congress in April by Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., would create the National Military Family Relief Fund to be administered by the Defense Department and be available to the families of active-duty members of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These families often experience a substantial salary cut during these deployments, Quinn said.

This national fund would be similar to the Illinois Military Relief Fund that since 2003 has provided $10.4 million in grants to 19,238 families of Illinois National Guard members and Reservists. Quinn drafted the legislation creating the fund when he was lieutenant governor.

The average grant is about $500, Quinn said, but some families have received as much as $2,000. There is no restriction on what the money can be used for, and every penny in the fund is used to help military families, he added.

Only 878 applications have been declined over the six years of the fund's existence, Quinn said.

Illinois citizens contribute to the fund by checking the box on their state income tax form. The Illinois Military Relief Fund gets the most contributions of those entities listed, he said.

Quinn said President Obama was one of the proponents of and voted for the Illinois Military Relief Fund when he was a state senator. He did not tell the audience whether the president has expressed support for H.R. 1175.

Quinn said that when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan in July, the guard members and reservists he met with all expressed concern for their families. We need to make sure that our fighting men and women are focused on the job they're doing rather than worrying about how their families are faring, he stated.

Creating a national relief fund for military families would "make every day Veterans Day," Quinn said.