As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).
Despite bad news, some accomplishments in the past year
We have all heard the bad news out of Springfield on an almost daily basis: budget standoff, credit downgrades, the unpaid bill backlog. But there has also been some good news to report from the past months. While we still have a lot of work to do, there have also been some successes.
This year’s education budget provides a record level of funding for K-12 education, and avoids “proration” for the first time in seven years. Updated technology and more efficient procedures in the managing of state agencies stand to save taxpayers millions. The state also saves money through reforms to the EDGE tax credit to ensure that it is only provided for actual job creation and not for special deals. New fraud reduction efforts in the unemployment insurance program have been implemented to stop improper claims. These and other reforms are helping each day to make state government work better and smarter, and at less cost to taxpayers.
New I-Refi program will help some underwater homeowners
The new I-Refi program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home itself is worth. Called “underwater mortgages,” these financial instruments are the targets of the initiative. Starting August 1, eligible homeowners will be invited to apply for the “Hardest Hit” program. Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount of unpaid equity remaining on their mortgages. A mortgage financing data tracker, CoreLogic, reports that approximately 14% of all Illinois home mortgages are currently underwater.
The Illinois program is backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding. It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home. Applicants to the program, which is targeted towards modest and middle-class homes, will be granted a maximum of $50,000 in debt-reduction assistance. The assistance will be credited towards the debt owed on a new, private-sector 30-year mortgage. A list of 25 participating mortgage-finance lenders has been compiled by IHDA. These firms will refinance the homes of participating mortgagors at market rates.
To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000. Despite being underwater, they must have been current on making mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months; and must live in the home. Eligibility is determined by a sliding scale keyed towards the number of persons in the household and the location of the household. The maximum purchase price of the home is also one of the variables used to gauge overall potential eligibility for admission to the program.
New job opportunity for unemployed Illinoisans
Illinois Job Link is a resume-posting platform operated by the Department of Employment Security (IDES) that is open to persons seeking employment in Illinois. Under a new policy which went into effect last week, persons filing for unemployment benefits after being laid off are going to be asked to fill out and post their resumes on Illinois Job Link as a condition of completing their application for benefits.
IDES is aware that some of the people who need to file for benefits will have questions about how to complete the JobLink process and complete a resume. In past years, nearly 60% of Illinois unemployment benefit filings did not include a work history or resume, despite the importance of these documents to potential employers. IDES believes that linking JobLink resume filing with unemployment benefits will speed up the hiring of unemployed persons who may have work experience and credentials of which they are not fully aware, and will reduce unemployment by increasing publicly posted information about the Illinois residents who are motivated to find a job.
Price of gas on the decline in Illinois
The price of gas has been falling in Illinois since mid-June. In Illinois, the price of gasohol – the most-commonly-used motor fuel – declined seven cents last week. The price pattern differed from the usual pattern in which gas prices typically spike upward in summer months.
Despite the good news, gas price monitor GasBuddy continued to warn Illinois motorists that Illinois gasoline is priced higher than the pump values charged in states that border Illinois. Missouri motor fuel was a particularly good value last week, with the Show Me state benefitting from access to both shale oil from Western states and conventional crude oil pumped outside the U.S. Much of the oil burned in Illinois, Missouri and other Midwest states is produced abroad or from the Gulf of Mexico, and brought up the Mississippi River by tanker barge.
Attorney General is Illinois’ chief legal officer
The Illinois Attorney General serves as the lawyer for the state of Illinois and represents the state and state agencies in civil litigation. In addition, the office operates a consumer protection division which investigates claims such as identity theft, product safety and protection against scams.
Illinois’ current Attorney General is Lisa Madigan, who took office in 2003. In addition to the services above, the office runs other programs such as the Illinois’ Crime Victims’ Compensation Bureau and the Violent Crime Victims’ Assistance Program.