Underwood defends Social Security, pushes lower health costs and local infrastructure during town hall meeting

By Jack McCarthy Chronicle Media

An Aug. 14 town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-14th, drew around 50 persons for an hour-long session. (Photo by Jack McCarthy/Chronicle Media)

Congress is out of session this month, but there’s been no break for Rep. Lauren Underwood.

The 14th District Democrat has used the first three weeks of recess to crisscross the seven-county district, conducting issues-oriented town hall sessions plus meet-and-greets with supporters.

At one recent stop — an Aug. 14 town hall meeting at Plano High School — the third-term representative highlighted successful economic and infrastructure legislation pushed by President Joe Biden and Democrats as well as constituent assistance and bills she sponsored that became law.

Underwood, 35, also chided House Republicans for their opposition to many of those efforts and pointedly called them out for threats to cut Social Security.

“Today is a special day,” she said. “Eighty-eight years ago on this day President (Franklin) Roosevelt signed the critical legislation that established Social Security. This vital program has allowed generations of Americans to retire with dignity and it has remained a financial lifeline for millions of people.

“But it’s under attack by the most extreme Republicans in Washington,” she said. “Over and over and over again they threaten to cut Social Security and these aren’t just idle threats. … I will not let that happen and I’m committed to defending and expanding the benefits our seniors have earned.”

Closer to home, Underwood said she has sought federal funding to help Oswego and Yorkville to obtain Lake Michigan water and also extend Metra commuter rail service into Kendall County.

“We’re the fastest-growing county here in Illinois and so this is a top priority of mine. I’ve secured funding for an environmental study which is the next step in getting Metra here.”

She’s also sought $1 million to combat lead exposure in Newark plus money to help renovate the Kendall County Food Pantry.

Illinois is expected to receive up to $17 billion from a bipartisan infrastructure package passed by Congress and local projects will get their fair share.

An information packet highlighted funding for more than 60 projects in the 14th District. They include a big ticket $90 million radiation contamination cleanup in Ottawa, $27 million for Illinois Route 71 reconstruction in Oswego and $20 million in Interstate 55 improvements.

There are also more modest, but still vital bridge and other projects scattered throughout the district.

Underwood, who addressed about 50 persons while perched onstage behind a lectern featuring a House of Representatives seal, said lowering healthcare costs also remain a top priority.

She strongly backed “lifesaving” caps in insulin costs at $35 monthly for Medicare recipients, a game-changing policy that led the three largest manufacturers to also lower insulin costs to that level for other users.

A registered nurse, Underwood said she also sought to extend and increase availability of tax credits to reduce healthcare premiums.

“These tax credits were set to expire at the end of last year, but I was not going to let that happen,” she said. “I fought to get these tax credits extended in the Inflation Reduction Act, helping a family of four save an average of $2,400 per year on Marketplace coverage. Because of the savings of my legislation, we are seeing record numbers of people signing up for healthcare coverage.”

Underwood, a longtime Naperville resident, is known in her suburban Chicago base through the course of three campaigns for Congress. And town halls in other communities have helped spread awareness after boundary changes added smaller towns and rural areas in LaSalle, Putnam and Bureau counties.

On more specific subjects raised in a question-and-answer session, Underwood encouraged questioners to seek out one of several staffers on hand to determine the scope of a problem and ways to assist.

“I have a district office nearby in Sandwich and my team and I are here to serve you,” said Underwood, who also spent post-town hall time in the auditorium’s foyer in casual conversations.

Underwood’s town hall meetings started on Aug. 3 in DeKalb. In addition to Plano, she also made visits to Utica, Joliet, Aurora and Hennepin. The finale is scheduled for Aug. 28 in Bureau County.