SWCD funds released; disaster assistance application deadline approaching

Soil and Water District Funding released

Soil and water districts, as well as county fairs, agriculture societies and the University of Illinois Extension will be receiving $16 million in state funds which were released last Friday. The funds come from the current year state budget and will serve the important programs these agencies operate. I was honored to join the Governor, Illinois’ Secretary of Agriculture and legislators from both parties at the announcement on a farm near Springfield.

In total, Soil and Water Conservation Districts will receive $6 million in funds to help with their mission of ensuring that Illinois soil and water resources are sustainable for future generations. All 92 county fairs in Illinois will receive funding as well, to the tune of about $5 million. These funds will go toward facility rehabilitation and the operations of the county fairs. A few weeks ago I told you about the study which showed the important financial impact which county fairs have on Illinois. This additional funding can only help to protect those jobs and keep these important annual events going.

Lastly, the University of Illinois Extension stands to collect $5 million for its programs, which serve more than 1.5 million Illinoisans with such tasks as workforce preparedness, food safety and economic development. I am glad we were able to see these funds released in time for the summer fair season.

Deadline approaching for disaster assistance applications
The deadline to apply for disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration following the February flood is July 6. Low interest loans for businesses and homeowners are available to help with eligible damages from the flooding.

Businesses may use these loans for such purposes as repairing or replacing damage to machinery or equipment, inventory or real estate. Homeowners and renters may apply for loans for damaged or destroyed real estate and for personal property. More information about the loans, including interest rates and terms can be found at www.disasterloan.sba.gov.

We are making further efforts to assist those who have incurred losses from the flooding. The new state budget, which takes effect on July 1, includes a tax credit for residents who suffered flood damages earlier this year. The tax credit applies to eligible taxpayers with flood-damaged property in Iroquois, Vermilion or Kankakee counties. More information about the Natural Disaster Income Tax Credit; including further eligibility standards and contact information for those with questions; is available from the Illinois Department of Revenue. There will be updated information coming soon.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,236,470,370 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Illinois unemployment rate continues to decline
The Illinois Department of Employment Security has announced that the unemployment rate has continued its gradual slide, declining by 0.1 percentage point to 4.3 percent in May. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 8,600 jobs, according to preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by IDES. The job gain figure for April was revised down slightly from its initial report to show a smaller gain during that month.

Job growth stabilized during the three months from March to May, with an average monthly gain of 4,600 jobs during that period. That figure is similar to the 6-month average monthly gain of 4,500 jobs between December and May.

The state’s unemployment rate remains higher than the figure for nation as a whole during May, which dropped to 3.8 percent. One year ago, Illinois’ unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent. The last time Illinois’ jobless rate was 4.3 percent was in September 2006.

Meningitis vaccination push begins
With the approach of the college fall semester, public health officials are encouraging incoming freshmen to get vaccinated for meningitis B. The contagious neurological illness is a concern on college campuses here in America and around the world. Public health experts at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that those at particular risk of contracting the disease include adolescents and young adults aged 16 through 23. The CDC is trying to raise awareness of the disease and the fact that the meningitis vaccine administered to children and adolescents can also be administered to young adults.

Did You Know?
President Herbert Hoover came to Springfield to dedicate Lincoln’s Tomb on June 17, 1931. Lincoln had been buried in several different tombs over the years in Springfield, partly out of security concerns after a failed attempt to steal his body in 1876. After a number of constructions and renovations, the current final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and three of their four sons was finally completed in 1931.