Below is information on various initiatives the Governor's Rural Affairs Council is working on.
Lt. Governor Simon and the Governor's Rural Affairs Council have been focused on increasing access to local foods as a way to promote healthier eating and spur economic development. Despite Illinois' vast agricultural resources, less than 5 percent of the $48 billion Illinois citizens spend annually on food is spent to purchase food from Illinois. In her first year in office Simon also urged passage of Senate Bill 840, which allows for small family farms to more readily participate in local food markets by removing barriers to food entrepreneurship such as the requirement that vendors can only sell foods made in commercial kitchens.
Illinois EBT Wireless Project
Lt. Governor Simon recently announced that up to in addition to Illinois farmers' markets, direct market farmers are eligible to receive free wireless machines that accept debit, credit and Link cards thanks to a grant partnership between her office, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Simon has announced
that 41 markets are eligible to participate in the program and applications will continue to be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The program will reimburse farmers’ markets up to $1,200 for the purchase of a wireless Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machine and fees for activation and wireless service. To see a list of the markets eligible to participate, along with the farmers' markets and direct-marketing farmers that are already SNAP-certified click here. To apply for the Illinois EBT Wireless Project click here
or call 217-524-9129.
Emergency Medical Services
Lt. Governor Simon and the Governor's Rural Affairs Council have focused attention on the need to improve emergency medical services (EMS) in rural areas and recognize EMS as a necessary and critical component to any local health system. Since Illinois does not fund EMS through a single, central source, rural EMS providers rely upon a mix of local property or sales taxes, state grants and reimbursement from private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. Some providers even rely upon local fundraising efforts.
Because rural EMS providers serve smaller populations with a lower tax base, many providers rely upon volunteer EMS personnel. Simon has advocated for greater use of online training for EMS personnel working to remain certified. Emergency medical technicians (EMT) are required to complete at least 120 hours of continuing education every four years to maintain their license. This can become a burdensome expense for volunteer EMTs who must take unpaid time off from their regular jobs and may have to travel long distances to remain qualified.
Simon sent recommendations to the House EMS Task Force, a 24-member legislative panel charged with making recommendations to improve EMS services across Illinois. Her recommendations included expanded online training opportunities, identification of a consistent funding stream for EMS providers, inclusion of EMS representatives on the Medicaid Advisory Committee and creation of a multi-year licenses for ambulances and non-transport vehicles.
In November 2012, the House of Representative’s Task Force on EMS Funding released their final report with recommendations. You can view the full report here.
Illinois Main Street Program
Lt. Governor Simon serves as the ambassador of the Illinois Main Street Program, which is administered by the Office of Regional Economic Development at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The program is governed by the Illinois Main Street Act (Public Act 097-0573). The program offers its designated communities technical assistance and training in how to revitalize traditional downtowns, neighborhood business districts, and urban corridors.
Illinois Main Street is part of the National Main Street Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center. Nationally, Main Street programs attract $27 of local investment for every $1 spent, according to data from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.