This electronic newsletter is an opportunity for you to learn more about what we’ve accomplished in Illinois government, and how you can get involved. Whether it’s volunteering in a Serve Illinois volunteer project, receiving state services, or learning about new laws and programs, I want to ensure that you know what’s happening in your government.
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Illinois Hardest Hit
The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) is currently taking applications from homeowners who have been hit by the economy. The initiative, named Illinois Hardest Hit Program began last year as Governor Quinn worked to improve the lives of Illinois residents. The program offers mortgage assistance to those who are struggling with income loss due to unemployment or underemployment. Visit www.illinoishardesthit.org for more information.
Governor Quinn continues to work with legislators on the need for comprehensive pension reform. Governor Quinn’s plan stabilizes the state’s pension systems for the men and women who have faithfully contributed to the systems, while eliminating the unfunded liability and providing tens of billions of dollars in savings to taxpayers. The rising costs associated with the current payment structure continue to be the biggest threat to education, public safety and protecting our most vulnerable residents. Governor Quinn is currently working on a grassroots campaign to mobilize everyone in Illinois on the need for pension reform now.
New Transportation Center
On September 21, Governor Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider broke ground on a new multimodal transportation center in downtown Joliet. The project begins a complete overhaul of a key stop on the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail line. The $42 million project, which includes a $32 million commitment from Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, will create 400 construction jobs while improving safety and serving as a catalyst for future transit-oriented development. The center is anticipated to be complete by 2015.
On September 23, Governor Quinn kicked off a trade mission to Brazil in an effort to increase economic opportunities between Illinois and Brazil. During the six-day mission, Governor Quinn met with key business, education and agricultural leaders to strengthen Illinois exports, foster education and boost tourism. With Illinois already leading the Midwest in exports, the trade mission helped to advance Governor Quinn’s agenda to aggressively pursue international trade and create jobs in Illinois. In 2011, Illinois exports to Brazil totaled $2.55 billion, up 24 percent from the previous year, making Brazil the state’s fifth-largest export market. Illinois is the fourth-largest exporter to Brazil in the U.S. Visit www.illinoisbiz.biz for more information.
On September 15, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois exports to Mexico in the first half of 2012 topped $3 billion, a 13.7 percent increase. Mexico has played a key role in Illinois’ rise in exports with 20 percent growth in 2010 and 34 percent growth in 2011. The Mexican-origin population living and working in Illinois is also an important component in the commercial investment relationship that generates economic benefits to both Illinois and Mexico. Illinois continues to rank first in the Midwest for exports and was the sixth-largest exporting state in 2011. Visit www.illinoisbiz.biz for more information.
On September 18, Governor Quinn signed a new executive order to further increase transparency and accountability in government by establishing a new state Open Operating Standard. The order encourages state agencies and local governments across Illinois to increase the amount of raw data they share with each other, businesses, academic institutions, and the general public. The State of Illinois Open Data site, Data.Illinois.Gov is a searchable clearinghouse of information from state agencies that is helping inform residents about the operation of state government and encouraging the creative use of state information, including the development of applications for mobile devices that can be built around the data. The site, which was launched in June 2011, now contains more than 6,400 data sets.
On September 20, Governor Quinn and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) urged college students and their families to pay attention to fire safety in student housing. Parents and students who may be signing apartment leases or who have moved into college dorms need to identify emergency exits and make sure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed and in working order. As part of Campus Fire Safety Month, Governor Quinn also proclaimed September 22 as “LOOK UP! Pay It Forward” Day. For more information about “Look Up!” contact Jessica Blackford at Jessica.Blackford@illinois.gov.
Recycling and Food Composting
On September 14, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced two grant opportunities to assist local governments, for-profit and non-for-profit businesses, and organizations, with their recycling and composting efforts. Entities with traditional recycling projects may apply for funding through the Illinois Recycling Grants Program. Projects involving the composting of food scraps may be eligible for funding through the Food Scrap Composting Grants Program. Applications are due November 19 and may be downloaded at www.illinoisrecycles.com. For information on the Illinois Recycling Grants Program, contact David Ross at (217) 782-7887 or at David.Ross@illinois.gov. For information on the Food Composting application, contact David E. Smith at (217) 785-2006 or at David.E.Smith@illinois.gov.
2012 Rain Barrel Design Competition
On September 24, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) launched its 2012 Rain Barrel Design Competition to educate students on storm water management and green initiatives. Eligible students from 3rd to 12th grade may enter creative artwork at participating schools across Illinois. In November, 50 designs will be selected as winners and those schools will each receive a rain barrel. Each school is allowed one submission in each age group and it must be made through the school’s principal or art teacher. Designs must be submitted to IDOT by October 29. For more information, call Steve Massey, Sustainable Practices Manager of IDOT, at (815) 434-8414 or e-mail Steve.Massey@illinois.gov.