Berrios announces Senior Policy Plan

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 Chicago, IL – Democratic candidate for Assessor Joseph Berrios on Thursday announced several policies that he will enact if elected on November 2nd. However his top priority will likely come sooner, and affect all senior property owners in Cook County.

“Now, more than ever, we need to help our seniors. Times are tough, and they deserve to be protected. That’s why I plan to work with legislative leaders immediately to eliminate the annual senior tax exemption renewal requirement,” Berrios said. “Seniors should automatically have their exemption renewed each year. I don’t want seniors who are rightfully entitled to forget, and miss out on this very important exemption.”

 There are nearly 285,000 senior citizen property owners in Cook County, said Berrios, who is working with lawmakers to eliminate the annual senior exemption during this fall’s veto session in Springfield. Under the automatic rollover system used by the Cook County Assessor’s office, seniors who showed proof of age and residency needed to apply for an exemption only once. Each senior saves hundreds of dollars through the exemption, Berrios said.

 Berrios is currently working with legislative leaders, and believes that the annual exemption requirement will be eliminated during veto session. Berrios made the announcement at his new campaign office, located at 664 W. Diversey Parkway in Chicago. He also announced several other initiatives that will help seniors when he takes office:

-Create a Senior Outreach Department 

A  newly created Senior Outreach Department at the Assessor’s office can help make the senior exemption and senior freeze more accessible to seniors and easier to understand. This will be a one or two-person department which will help facilitate new and existing senior programs. This department existed five years ago, but was eliminated by the current assessor. 

“During these difficult economic times, we need to make sure our seniors have the proper attention and understand which tax breaks they are afforded,” Berrios said. “We will work with the City of Chicago, as well as the State of Illinois, to attend various events and conduct outreach.”

-Implement a medical care deduction

Given the high cost of medical care seniors are faced with, Berrios will work with legislative leaders to create policy that would allow for the deduction of non-reimbursed medical and prescription drug expenses when determining income eligibility for a Senior Tax Exemption and/or Senior Tax Freeze. This is currently done in Nassau County, as well as in the state of Washington.

Deductions would be calculated from non-reimbursed medical and prescription drug expenses, non-reimbursed home care, and non-reimbursed amounts paid for nursing or adult family homes. These would require receipts and insurance proof that they were not reimbursed or claimed on 1040 income tax forms.  

-Create a user-friendly assessment notice

The current assessment notice includes just the prior assessed value and current assessed value. Berrios will redesign the notice to include assessment and appeal history for the past five years. It will also include sample comparables on each property owner’s block, including Recorder of Deeds transactions

-Heavily promote the long-time occupancy exemption

Currently, more than 270,000 people are eligible for this exemption, and are notified. However, only one-third of those eligible actually file for the exemption. Once elected, Berrios will create an intensive outreach program so that those eligible will actually apply for this exemption. While this isn’t solely a senior issue, Berrios would have his new senior outreach program work to ensure that seniors become aware of this exemption.

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