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Around The Burg

Around The Burg


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Friday: Cloudy. High 60. Low 42. 

Saturday: Cloudy. High 72. Low 50.

Sunday: Windy. High 71. Low 56.


Mark Your Calendar

April 26-28

A Night of One Act Plays, Fine Arts Theater, Carl Sandburg College, 2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd. Free event. Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m.


Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit

Illinois’ affordable housing shortages have reached crisis levels in Chicago and other communities, fueling needed public policy discussions about short-term and long-term solutions. State legislators and housing advocates say one important piece of the puzzle is the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit, and they have a new, influential ally in organized labor.

The Illinois Housing Council has led the push in Springfield for the proposed state tax credit to drive new investment in affordable housing development, an issue that has new energy amid the migrant challenges facing Chicago and homelessness and under-housing growth elsewhere. The facts are staggering:

  • Illinois now has one of the nation’s highest housing deficits – with 64 percent growth in just the last decade

  • 20 percent of our low-rent apartments have vanished since 2011

  • Nearly 300,000 more affordable rental homes must be built to help those most in need across the state

  • Illinois has invested $225 million in federal funds since the pandemic into the development of affordable housing, but those federal funds have come to an end

Enter the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit, as proposed in Senate Bill 3233 by Sen. Robert Peters and House Bill 4909 by Rep. Dagmara “Dee” Avelar. The legislation was introduced Wednesday at a Statehouse news conference by IHC leadership, the two legislators sponsoring the effort, and new support from the Laborers’ International Union – Midwest Region which runs the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation to build affordable housing in underserved communities. 

“The Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit fits well with our mission to create more quality, reasonably priced housing for working families and seniors, and we call on our leaders in Springfield to make its passage a priority as we make a strong investment in affordable housing,” said Sean Stott, Director of Governmental Affairs for LiUNA-Midwest Region.

The tax credit mirrors the highly successful federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which quickly runs out of money under high demand each year. The state credit would allow more affordable housing developments by giving developers credits to exchange with private investors to reduce mortgage debt and make the apartments more affordable for renters.

The best part? The proposed tax credit program limits the state’s annual out-of-pocket cost for credits and is structured as a “pay-for-success” model: investors only receive credits after construction is complete and qualified tenants move in. Under the current grant programs the state runs, the state’s costs are high up front, and developments can be put in jeopardy because of the uncertain nature of the year-to-year funding approach.

As proposed, the $20 million annual program over six years would generate up to 1,150 affordable homes and apartments, more than $650 million in economic benefits over a decade, and more than 7,000 jobs.

Advocates say the tax credit is a clear win as policymakers debate the difficult choices needed to address Illinois’ housing crisis.

“When people know they can afford their rent and can meet all of their other basic needs, the burden in their lives eases tremendously, and it takes a huge strain off of our state social service support system,” said Allison Clements, Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Council that developed the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit legislation. “Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin all have seen tremendous benefits right away from their state affordable housing tax credits, and we know Illinois will see the same.

“Our bipartisan support sends a clear message: it’s time for Illinois to set a foundation for success for low-income families in Illinois through the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit.”

“Illinois’ housing needs are significant, well-publicized, and only going to get worse unless we have a long-term, sustainable plan to address them. The Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit is essential to that long-term plan,” said Guacolda Reyes, Chief Development Officer of The Resurrection Project and IHC member. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Rep. Avelar, Sen. Peters and our other champions in the Legislature who are working to not let the divisive politics of affordable housing issues cloud the need for a fiscally responsible tool for sustainable investments that will produce more housing, create jobs, strengthen communities and save Illinois taxpayers dollars today. Illinois needs affordable housing, and Illinois needs the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit.”

Legislators sponsoring Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit bills said this is a need that simply cannot be met without more state investment.

“We have let the political rhetoric over housing needs overshadow the need for a long-term plan to consistently build up our housing stock. Any discussion of legislation and aid we provide this year must include the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit,” said Sen. Peters, D-Chicago. “The credit will help us address the root causes of these difficult problems with the assurance the credit model protects taxpayers at every step along the way.”

“Families in my district and around the state of Illinois should not have to choose between paying their rent and getting their prescriptions filled, or feeding their families a good meal,” said Rep. Avelar, D-Bolingbrook. “With the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit, they will not have to make these dire choices. When people come home knowing they have something left over after working hard to support their families, we all benefit.”


CEO Trade Show

The Knox County IL CEO Program will host its 2024 Trade Show on Thursday, April 25 th at the Vault in Galesburg from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and is free to attend. The CEO Program is an entrepreneurship and business program for regional high school students that is currently in its sixth year. The Trade Show will see the 11 CEO students unveil their individual businesses in a classic trade-show format. Attendees will hear pitches for these new businesses and will be able to purchase goods and sign up for services from the new businesses.

“We’re really proud of our students and can’t wait to see them share their new businesses with the community. The CEO Trade Show is a fun and uplifting event. Its really amazing to see what our community’s youth are capable of creating.” – Ken Springer, Knox County CEO Program Board Chair. 

CEO was launched in 2018 and is open to any High School junior or senior in Knox County. The program is facilitated by Jeremy Kleine and is a dual-credit offering in partnership with Carl Sandburg College. Daily meetings of the CEO class take place all throughout Knox County and students get to learn directly from area business leaders throughout the year. The Trade Show serves as the final exam for the program. This year’s Trade Show is being co-branded as a Business After-Hours along with the Galesburg Area Chamber of Commerce.


Galesburg Public Library

Galesburg Public Library celebrates their 150th anniversary by opening their brand new building on Wednesday, April 24. The library has been closed since March 1 while books, supplies, and equipment were moved to the new location, 264 West Main Street. Once the library opens, visitors will be able to check out books, movies, and, for the first time, video games. The 68,000 square foot building features five study rooms, a children’s library, a teen zone, a community room, a fireplace alcove, an art exhibit wall, and a reading balcony.

The new library was largely funded by a 15.3 million dollar Public Library Construction Act Grant and over four million dollars raised by the community.

Library hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

For more information about getting a library card, attending a program, or using a meeting space, visit galesburglibrary.org.


G&M

American farmers are the backbone of our country and G&M Distributors, Inc. is proud to partner with Anheuser-Busch to support them. Nearly all agricultural ingredients in Anheuser-Busch’s iconic American beers are sourced from hard-working U.S. farmers - many of whom the brewer has worked with for generations - and together they are deeply committed to the entire agriculture community across the country. 

To expand on their shared commitment, Anheuser-Busch recently announced that it is the first company ever to bring U.S. Farmed certified brands to shelves across the country, beginning with their iconic Busch Light, Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob ULTRA beers. This new certification and packaging seal, created by American Farmland Trust, is available for products across the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry that derive at least 95 percent of their agricultural ingredients from farms in the United States, making it easier than ever for consumers to identify and shop products that benefit American farmers. 

By harnessing the potential of U.S. sourced goods across the entire CPG industry, the U.S. Farmed certification aims to create a far greater impact for American agriculture than any one company could alone. Anheuser-Busch encourages all CPG companies to obtain the U.S. Farmed certification for eligible products. American Farmland Trust will use funds raised through product certifications to expand programs and provide U.S. farmers across all 50 states with free resources and expert advisory services to help them access, protect, and maintain American farmland. 

G&M encourages everyone to look for the U.S. Farmed certification in local stores and to CHOOSE BEER GROWN HERE to show support for American farmers. Cheers to them!


Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Establishment Act 

Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17) along with Congresswoman Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (PR-AL), and Congresswoman Kim Schrier (WA-08) introduced the bipartisan Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) Establishment Act. This legislation will provide states with federal grants to help working families afford clean drinking water and wastewater services.  

“We have wonderful communities here in Central and Northwestern Illinois, and I know too many of our working families are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet,” said Sorensen. “Having access to safe and clean drinking water means families across our region can live healthy lives. The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Establishment Act makes this a reality for all of our neighbors, regardless of how much money they have. This program has been a lifeline for those who need a helping hand, and we must make sure LIHWAP continues to support those in need.”  

“The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program has helped thousands of Oregon households afford their water bills, including in rural areas and communities that have faced steep rate hikes. As families continue to pay elevated prices for everything from gas and groceries to rent and utilities, now is not the time to cut off critical assistance for those who need it most,” said Chavez-DeRemer. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with Congressman Sorensen to authorize and establish the LIHWAP permanently. I look forward to working together on this effort to provide continued assistance for working families.” 

“Water is the most essential of all the public utility services,” said González-Colón. “The LIHWAP program has been vital for many low-income families across the nation, including over 11,200 homes in Puerto Rico avoiding service interruptions. Over 10,000 of those homes include seniors and over 3,700 include one or more disabled members. We must protect this program and I am glad to join as a co-sponsor of this bipartisan initiative to reauthorize it for the long term.”

“No family should lose access to reliable water in their home because of inability to pay. Water is essential for any household’s health and well-being,” said Schrier. “With rising costs, programs like LIHWAP play an integral role in ensuring that Washingtonians, regardless of financial status, have access to water in their homes. That’s why I’m proud to be an original cosponsor on this legislation, which would significantly impact the 8th District and communities across the country.” 

“For two years, LIHWAP was a lifeline for customers struggling to keep up with their water bills,” said Tracy Mehan, Executive Director of American Water Works Association Government Affairs Office. “We are pleased that Reps. Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer have joined Sen. Padilla in the next phase of moving this important legislation forward. Authorizing a permanent low-income assistance program is an important step toward assuring that all households have access to safe and reliable water service.” 

“Drinking water service is an essential lifeline, regardless of a person’s income,” said Tom Dobbins, CEO of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. “AMWA thanks Reps. Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer, along with Sen. Padilla, for their leadership in the effort to extend the LIHWAP program, and we are proud to support the LIHWAP Establishment Act. Just as the federal government has long-established programs to support nutrition assistance and home heating and cooling service for households in need, it is necessary to include low-income water assistance in the federal safety net as well.” 

“We have seen firsthand how LIHWAP has proven to be successful in getting assistance to our neighbors who need it the most,” said Robert F. Powelson, President and CEO of the National Association of Water Companies. “We are grateful for the leadership of Reps. Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer as well as Sen. Padilla and their efforts to help consumers by introducing and championing legislation to make this assistance permanent. Now it is imperative that Congress take action to establish a permanent low-income assistance program so that the most vulnerable households have a lifeline when they are struggling.” 

“LIHWAP has proven to be an essential lifeline, serving more than 1.6 million households who cannot afford clean and safe water services,” said Adam Krantz, CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). “NACWA applauds the leadership of Reps. Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer in recognizing the need for a permanent federal water assistance program. This program helps public clean water agencies make necessary infrastructure investments while protecting households in need. We look forward to working with these Congressional water champions to get this across the finish line.” 

“WEF is grateful for the leadership and compassion Representatives Sorensen and Chavez-DeRemer have demonstrated through the introduction of the low-income household water assistance program legislation (LIWAP). Clean, safe, and reliable drinking water, sewer, and stormwater services are critical to public health, public safety, and environmental protection.” said Aimeé Killeen, President of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). “Household ratepayers provide the vast majority of the funds needed to maintain, operate, and modernize our water systems. Unfortunately, many households also face financial struggles that make it difficult to pay rising utility bills. Having a sustainable financial assistance program to help these households not only ensures that all Americans receive essential water services, but also allows the entire community to benefit from investment back into our water systems.” 

The bill will establish the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). This program assists working families pay for clean drinking water and other wastewater services by subsidizing the utility bills of eligible households. Funding will go from the state to the utility and be deducted from the household's bill. The program will originate with the Department of Health and Human Services and will transition to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

States may also use up to fifteen percent of funds to offset the cost of administering, determining eligibility of, and conducting outreach to low-income households. 

LIHWAP was briefly funded in 2021 and 2022. In Illinois, LIHWAP has served 84,759 households, prevented 19,233 water disconnections, helped 4,889 families have their water restored, and assisted 56,921 families in having their water bills reduced.


Niabi Zoo

Due to ongoing restoration efforts, specific animal habitats will be closed, and some animals will be unavailable for viewing during the 2024 season. 

At this time, they know that the large cat, Pallas’s Cat, and Eagle exhibit will be under construction, so Amur and African leopards, Pallas’s Cat, will not be available for viewing this season. Don’t worry  - they will be giving updates all season long on what they are up to. 

Also, the good news is that the Bobcats will be out and will be taking over the Binturong habitat in 2024. This will give all guests an up-close view of the Bobcats and then the Binturongs will be back in 2025. Additionally, Snow Leopards and Eagles will have some outdoor access so come out for a visit to find out where they have moved to and say hi. 

As a gesture of appreciation for their visitors’ support during the renovation, they are offering discounted rates to access the zoo grounds both online and at the gate. 


Tax Dollars Returned to Illinois Families

Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17) is announcing that his office returned over $1 million in tax dollars to constituents through federal casework services since he entered Congress last year. 

“For two decades as a trusted meteorologist, I helped our neighbors stay prepared during uncertain times. Now as their trusted voice representing Western Illinois, I’m working to make sure our communities are stronger for the future,” said Sorensen. “If you’re having an issue with a federal agency, I encourage you to reach out to my office so I can get to work as your trusted neighbor in Congress.” 

The $1,157,992 secured for families comes as a result of Sorensen and his staff’s work to help constituents resolve issues with federal agencies, which include getting overpaid taxes returned, fulfilling requirements for VA benefits, processing worker's compensation claims, and more.

Sorensen’s office processes several hundred constituent cases at a time for constituents from across Central and Northwestern Illinois. 

Illinoisans in search of help with a federal agency are encouraged to contact Sorensen’s office at (309) 786-3406 or fill out a casework request form on Sorensen’s official website.

All submissions are reviewed by a member of Sorensen’s staff. 

The following are just a couple stories from constituents impacted thanks to Sorensen’s office:  

Peggy from Galesburg received help getting money owed from the VA: “I’ve been having trouble getting the VA to return money they removed from my account after my husband passed. We could not get them to realize their mistake for nearly one year. Eric Sorensen’s office kept on the case and checked in with me every month for several months. 

She was diligent, and we finally got the case resolved 11 months later. I was very impressed with their staying in contact and working to help me!” 

Kelly from Galesburg was able to get her son health care coverage after reaching out to Sorensen’s office: “I signed up for Marketplace healthcare in September for myself and my two sons. One of my sons was sent to the state to see if he qualified for state insurance, which set off a six-month long battle to get him insurance coverage. Within four days of contacting your office, the issue was fixed, and my son was covered by insurance retroactively. The communication with your office was amazing, and I'm still in shock at how quickly you resolved it. My family is very grateful for your help!” 


UScellular

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and it’s an important reminder to drivers everywhere that they should practice safe driving habits at all times. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the road.

The NHTSA’s latest research does show one promising statistic; passenger vehicle drivers talking on handheld phones decreased from 2.5 percent in 2021 to 2.1 percent in 2022.

This shift in driver behavior is likely attributed to increased usage of hands-free technology and "do not disturb while driving" features on smartphones. However, there is progress to be made to keep drivers safe as many drivers fail to utilize these options or do not know how to use them properly.

“Illinois drivers should be focused solely on driving safe, protecting not only themselves and their passengers, but others on the road as well,” said Mike Burwell, director of sales and operations for UScellular in Illinois. “While technology can enhance safety on the roads, it’s important for drivers to understand the available tools to eliminate distractions.”

UScellular suggests the following tips to help drivers remain focused while driving.

·        Use Do Not Disturb While Driving. Built-in phone features are available to help drivers stay focused on the road. Driving Focus and Driving Mode can be utilized on iPhones and Android phones to enable “do not disturb” features that include limiting notifications, calls, and texts when driving. Individuals sending a message will see that the driver has silenced notifications or will receive an automatic reply while incoming calls are only allowed when connected to CarPlay, Bluetooth, or another hands-free accessory.

·        Utilize Handsfree Options When Necessary. Smartphones can be a resource for music, driving directions, and more. Before hitting the road, connect your device to your vehicle. This pairing process takes just minutes - local UScellular associates can also help drivers set up these features at no charge. If you have an older vehicle that does not have built-in Bluetooth, after market solutions such as the Scosche Pro Bluetooth FM Transmitter are available to add voice activated services.

·        Take advantage of apps. A wide range of applications are available to help eliminate distractions, focus on the road and track locations. OnMyWay allows drivers to earn money for every mile they do not text or use distracting apps while driving. The application also has a feature that can allow Illinois businesses to establish a distracted driving policy. Business owners will have the ability to offer incentives to employees who practice safe driving while providing an added layer of protection for their employees and community. 

·        Establish rules of the road for new drivers. For parents of teens or young adults, a simple yet effective step is to establish rules and expectations with loved ones before hitting the road. UScellular and Screen Sanity offer a free, customizable Smarter Start Toolkit to help aid in this process. Families can outline rules for phone usage while driving including not texting and driving and using location and driving data apps such as Life360 and GeoZilla Family Locater.

 ·        Encourage safe, responsible driving behavior from the passenger seat. Passengers also have the power to help stop distracted driving behavior. Speak up if a driver appears to be distracted and ask them to focus on driving. Help reduce distractions by recommending alternatives like offering to text or navigate on behalf of the driver. 


WIU

Western Illinois University School of Nursing proudly announces that all 27 graduates from the Nursing Class of 2023 have successfully passed the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) on their first attempt. This remarkable achievement places WIU among the top Baccalaureate Nursing programs in Illinois, with only three institutions statewide boasting a 100% passage rate.

The NCLEX, an examination administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, is a pivotal milestone for aspiring nurses, demonstrating their readiness to enter the profession. WIU's Nursing graduates not only met but exceeded the standards set by the State of Illinois and the national average.

“I am very proud of the WIU School of Nursing Class of 2023 for achieving an impressive passage rate on the NCLEX. This accomplishment is a testament to the dedication of the nursing faculty in providing quality education to their students, as well as to the diligence and hard work exhibited by the students in their exam preparation,” WIU Nursing Director Patricia Eathington said.

The School of Nursing at WIU is committed to educating future professional nurses who are clinically competent using evidence-based practice as the norm, capable of critical thinking using information and information technology to design and redesign care and care systems and ethically and legally accountable for their actions.

There is a severe shortage of nurses in the United States and worldwide. The demand for more and better health care is greater now than at any time in the past. There is a global nurse labor market that will continue to grow. Graduates can anticipate employment in several positions locally, in the state and nationwide. For those who have fluency in another language, employment abroad is possible. For those interested in the military, the Air Force, Army and Navy have excellent nursing programs.

For more information on WIU's Nursing program, visit wiu.edu/Nursing.


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