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IL Treasurer’s Office Provides Greater Access to Higher Ed

IL Treasurer’s Office Provides Greater Access to Higher Ed

Treasurer Frerichs Expands Access to Higher Education

Treasurer’s Office Celebrates ‘529 Day’ to Increase Awareness of 529 College Savings Plans Among All Illinois Families

On May 29, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs’ office will celebrate ‘529 Day’ to increase awareness of the state’s highly-rated 529 College Savings plans – Bright Start and Bright Directions – in an effort to provide all Illinois families with greater access to higher education.

“We want to enable families to save for their children’s higher education and be comfortable investing their hard-earned dollars in a college savings plan,” said Michael Frerichs, Illinois State Treasurer. “We understand the desire parents have to save for their children’s future, as well as the potential apprehension to invest in college savings plans; therefore, my office has enhanced our 529 plans that offer a variety of investment options and flexibility for families.”

Treasurer Frerichs aims for all families to save for their children’s future. In Illinois, families with children are increasingly diverse. Today, hundreds of thousands of African American, Hispanic, and Asian children are enrolled in Illinois public universities and community colleges. In the future, the percentage of Illinois university and community college students from diverse backgrounds is only expected to rise. As such, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office aims to help all families – from a wide variety of backgrounds – save for college.

Since first being elected in 2014, Treasurer Frerichs has worked to establish Bright Start and Bright Directions as two of the most accessible and affordable 529 plans in the country by cutting costs and eliminating annual account fees, minimum contributions and minimum balances.

These efforts have helped more and more Illinois families – from a range of incomes, ethnicities and races – to start saving for college. From 2015-2021, the growth rate of new IL 529 College Savings accounts opened by families making less than $30,000 annually increased by 81% and new accounts from families making $30,000-$49,000 increased by 76%. Over that same period, new accounts opened by Hispanic families increased 68% while African American new accounts increased by 51%.

To open an account, all you need is to be at least 18 years old, a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and a valid U.S. mailing address. Anyone can contribute to an account, and there are no enrollment fees, minimum contribution or minimum balance requirements to open or maintain an account. Furthermore, earnings are free from federal and state taxes if used for qualified education expenses, and up to $10,000 in contributions ($20,000 for married couples filing jointly) to an account are eligible for an Illinois income tax deduction. With Bright Start, you don’t even need a financial advisor, and it takes just approximately 10 minutes to open an account online.

To learn more about how to save for your child’s higher education through Illinois’ 29 College Savings plans, visit www.illinoistreasurer.gov. For more information about Bright Start, visit www.BrightStart.com, and for more information about Bright Directions, visit www.BrightDirections.com.

When a violent windstorm struck the Chicago area in July 2011, it left a lot of destruction in its wake – and 904,000 ComEd customers without power. The energy company struggled to respond effectively.

“It was a wakeup call for both us and decisionmakers that something very significant had to change,” said Sheila Owens, vice president of economic and business development at ComEd.

The storm and its aftermath set in motion an effort to build support for upgrading the electric grid for northern Illinois and Chicago.

“The effort was not just to change the law or to change the relationship,” said Tom O’Neill, senior vice president and general counsel of ComEd parent company Exelon. “We had to change the mindset of how people saw the utility.”

Three months after the storm, Illinois passed the Smart Grid Law, which enabled the company to make needed investments to strengthen and modernize the grid. It included technology that would meaningfully improve service reliability and bring the grid into the 21st Century.

“Making the smart grid ‘smart’ through automation has really resulted in significant improvement in reliability and fewer customer outages,” said Michelle Blaise, senior vice president of technical services for ComEd.

Delivering on the smart grid promise took an extraordinary act of collaboration – not only across by the more than 6,000 employees across the company, but with public officials, and community leaders.

“We had some issues [in] one of our subdivisions, where they were losing power constantly,” said West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda. “Now…through the community, we’re about 99.9 percent without problems, and the few problems that we have, have been…very brief – a blip.”

The six-year smart grid program also gave the local economy a much-needed boost in the form of new jobs creation and investment.

“ComEd has helped United Scrap Metal transform our company from 20 employees to over 400 team members,” said Marsha Serlin, founder and CEO of United Scrap Metal.

See ComEd’s smart grid transformation by watching the video here: https://poweringlives.comed.com/transformation-making-the-electric-grid-smart/