SPRINGFIELD – A measure co-sponsored by state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, that speeds access to a property tax break for seniors was signed into law Tuesday.
House Bill 961 will allow seniors to benefit earlier than originally scheduled from a new law removing the need for Cook County residents aged 65 or older to reapply annually to receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a property tax exemption designed to assist senior citizens financially.
Seniors will have to apply only once more for the Homestead Exemption in 2020 before being grandfathered in to the program. A previous law would have required them to reapply through 2021.
“The application process for the Homestead Exemption can be confusing for some people and it just doesn’t make sense to require it more than once,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Once you turn 65, you’re always eligible for the exemption. We shouldn’t be forcing people to prove that year after year.”
Currently, every county in Illinois other than Cook may allow seniors to receive the exemption without reapplying.
The measure also requires Cook County agencies to record events that would end the exemption, such as property transfers, to ensure that ineligible property owners do not take advantage of the tax break.
House Bill 961 passed the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives without opposition in November.