Joliet’s new congresswoman introduces herself

Underwood speaks to Joliet chamber, says she wants to hear from new constituents

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood attends the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Joliet.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, whose congressional district included only a sliver of Joliet and now contains most of the city, was making herself better known there Thursday.

Underwood said she is in the process of “a strong introduction” of herself in the new 14th District as she took questions from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry and visited Joliet Junior College.

She has represented the 14th District since 2018, but the district was drastically redrawn for the 2022 election. Joliet previously was primarily in the 11th District represented by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville. Underwood took office in the newly drawn 14th District on Jan. 3.

“My district is 70% new,” Underwood told the audience at a chamber luncheon at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. “And just like you are trying to hear from us, we are trying to hear from you to develop our contact list.”

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood talks with Joliet Junior College President Clyne Namuo during her visit to the City Center Campus in Joliet.

Underwood encouraged the chamber audience to contact her office with ideas for projects that need federal funding.

She had just come from JJC, where college officials and economic development specialists joined to celebrate a $353,404 federal grant Underwood secured last year for the college’s Entrepreneur & Business Center.

The JJC district goes into seven counties, and part of it previously was in the 14th District although not as much as is in it now.

Like many congressional districts, the 14th stretches out and goes as far west as Putnam and Bureau counties and takes in DeKalb and Northern Illinois University.

“We just get on I-80 and keep going,” Underwood quipped as she discussed the new layout of the district.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood presents a check to the Joliet Junior College Entrepreneur and Business Center program at the City Center Campus in Joliet.

The district goes beyond Interstate 80. Other Will County municipalities now in the district include Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville.

Joliet is the dominant city in the district in terms of population, Underwood said.

Answering a question on health care at the chamber luncheon, Underwood noted some counties in the 14th District don’t have hospitals, which came as a surprise to some in the audience.

Underwood lives in south Naperville, a section of the city in the 14th District. She grew up in Naperville and is a graduate of Neuqua Valley High School. She then graduated from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University.

She is a registered nurse who spent time in Washington working on the Affordable Care Act with President Obama’s administration before running for Congress.

“At that point, I was hooked,” Underwood said of her time in the Obama administration when answering a question what inspired her to run for congress.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood speaks at the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Joliet.

In answers to other questions at the chamber luncheon, Underwood said:

• Helping find federal funds for the pipeline project bringing Lake Michigan water to the Joliet area is one of her top priorities

• She opposes reduced insurance reimbursements for medical providers, although Underwood spent more time in response to a question on that subject talking about reducing costs for patients

• More federal funding was needed for mental health care, especially for high school students noting programs to support in-school services

• Immigration reform, affordable childcare and job training were keys to addressing the nation’s labor shortage

• Closing tax loopholes for corporations and “the wealthiest Americans’ were key factors in reducing the national debt

Most of all, Underwood encouraged constituents to call her office (630-549-2190) and suggested she would announce a new office in Joliet in the coming weeks.