SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) joined with 250 volunteers and BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at last Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for a playground built in a day. The playground, the one hundredth installed in Chicago by KaBOOM!, will give children attending before- and after-school programs at Auburn-Gresham’s Lots of Love Community Center a safe place for unstructured physical activity and imaginative play.


KaBOOM! works with community stakeholders and businesses like BlueCross, which donated the Lots of Love playground, to bring playgrounds to places where children have few opportunities for outdoor recreation. The building process, described as an “urban barn-raising,” brings together hundreds of local volunteers, community leaders and employees of generous businesses to install the playground in about six hours.

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Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, surrounded by members of the Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers, looked on today as Governor Pat Quinn signed into law  measure she sponsored allowing judges to increase criminal penalties for those who assault or rob letter carriers.

“A recent rash of attacks on letter carriers in the Chicago area, including in my district, inspired this legislation, which received unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature,” Sen. Collins said. “We depend on postal workers to deliver our mail in all types of weather and under all kinds of adverse conditions, and we owe them our best efforts to ensure they are not targets of crime as they go about their essential work in our neighborhoods.”

Kenny Lewis, an Iraq War veteran employed by the Postal Service for the last 20 years, was delivering mail on West 80th Street in Gresham when he was brutally attacked by two men on May 1. They knocked him unconscious and stole his mail bag. He suffered loss of vision and severe headaches after the incident. In April 2011, a postal worker was robbed at gunpoint while delivering mail on the South Side. In December 2010, six attacks on Southeast Side letter carriers were reported within two days; one attacker pulled a knife on his victim.

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Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins has sponsored legislation tightening the regulation of mortgage lenders and protecting borrowers seeking loan modifications or short sales. Senate Bill 4521, now on its way to the governor’s desk, requires lenders to submit to background checks performed by a national industry standards group, increases licensing fees and fines for violators and prohibits lenders from charging homeowners in advance for loan modifications.

“In 2009, I co-sponsored the law that enrolled Illinois in the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry; today, we are taking another step toward an objective, transparent and accountable process for licensing and regulating the lenders who hold so much power in our economy,” Sen. Collins said. “Exercising vigilant oversight in the areas of loan modifications and short sales will be particularly beneficial as we work to slow the rate of foreclosure and protect distressed homeowners from financial exploitation.”

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Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins secured passage in the Senate today of a package of reforms designed to protect Illinoisans from financial exploitation when they pay their taxes and when they buy a home. Once signed by the governor, Senate Bill 1692 will impose stricter controls on tax refund anticipation loans facilitated by tax preparers; it will also ban balloon payments and prepayment penalties on high-risk residential mortgages.

“Exorbitant interest rates, undisclosed terms and hidden fees associated with loans help keep the poor in poverty,” Sen. Collins said. “Measures like this one empower borrowers to make informed decisions as they seek to meet their financial obligations and improve their families’ quality of life.”

Tax refund anticipation loans (RALs) allow customers to get their refund money up front after a tax preparation firm estimates the amount. RALs have come under scrutiny recently, especially after problems at a Chicago location of Mo’ Money Taxes spurred the Office of the Attorney General to open an investigation. Customers complained that their refund checks were late, much smaller than promised or couldn’t be cashed. SB 1692 prohibits tax preparers from charging extra fees for facilitating these loans and caps RAL interest rates at 36% for non-bank entities like payday lenders.

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