Legislature called back to Springfield; Federal disaster aid on the way

Legislature called back for one-day session next week

The House and Senate will be back in session for what is scheduled to be a one-day session next Tuesday, August 31. The special session was called to make changes to the redistricting maps which were signed into law in June. The release of official Census data on August 12 revealed that the partisan maps were far out of balance: districts which are required by law to be equal in population instead had disparities of as much as 30,000 people. The appropriate thing to do now would be to convene the Legislative Redistricting Commission in accordance with our state Constitution, and adopt a fair, non-partisan map.

There has been talk about consideration of an energy bill, though no final language of that legislation has been revealed just yet. We also need to enact a new Congressional district map sometime soon. As always in Springfield, there is the chance for something completely unexpected to be brought up for a quick vote. I will keep you posted as we learn more. In the meantime: stay tuned. When the House convenes at noon you can follow along at https://www.ilga.gov/houseaudvid.asp.

Federal aid approved; MARC helps local residents find assistance following flood

On Monday the federal Small Business Administration approved disaster assistance for Ford County and all neighboring counties following the flooding which struck on August 12.

Three types of low-interest loans are available: physical disaster loans, economic injury disaster loans and home disaster loans. Physical disaster loans help businesses repair or replace disaster-damaged property. Economic injury disaster loans are targeted to small businesses, agricultural cooperatives and private non-profits to meet expenses that they cannot meet due to the disaster. Home disaster loans go to renters and homeowners to help them with disaster-damaged property. Up to $200,000 in home disaster loans are available to applicants for real estate repairs or replacement, and up to $40,000 in loans are available per applicant for personal property repair or replacement. The deadline to apply for physical disaster and home disaster loans is October 22. The deadline for economic injury disaster loans is May 23, 2022.

Find more information here, or by visiting the Disaster Loan Outreach Center at the Gibson City Fire Department. That center is located at 115 S. Lawrence Street and will be open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be in operation until September 9.

Last weekend more than 20 state and local agencies came together in Gibson City to host a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) to provide local residents with information on resources available to assist them in the wake of the flooding which struck the community earlier this month. It was a long day, but a good one, as many local residents were able to get some assistance in putting their lives back together after what they have been through.

There are many people to thank for the way they listened, comforted and pledged to work together to assist. Not only were our local government agencies and non-profits represented, but many state agencies and organizations who came from as far as two or three hours away to help out. It will be a long road to recovery for those who lost so much in the flooding, but our community took a big step forward with this event. Thanks to all who attended and helped out.

We appreciate and are grateful for all the support from friends and neighbors, businesses, civic groups and volunteers from around the area who have helped the citizens of Gibson City get back on their feet.

COVID cases once again on the rise in Illinois, mask mandate returns

After a dramatic fall early in the summer, the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has once again been on the rise for a few weeks now. The new and highly-contagious Delta variant has been responsible for most of the recent positive tests here and elsewhere in the nation. Nearly every county in the state has been classified by the Department of Public Health as a “high transmission” area, and the 7-day rolling average of case positivity has moved back above 5%. More than 23,000 Illinoisans have died of some form of COVID-19, with more than 2500 others suspected.

On Thursday Governor Pritzker announced that he is re-imposing the state’s indoor mask mandate for all Illinoisans over the age of 2. The Governor’s announcement additionally included a requirement for all educators to either get vaccinated or be regularly tested for COVID. Some colleges, including the University of Illinois, already had a vaccine requirement in place for students and faculty.

Leader Jim Durkin wrote to Governor Pritzker on Thursday on behalf of the House Republican caucus once again calling for an end to government-by-executive order. He asked the Governor to “make your experts available to the General Assembly so that we can examine their data and plans, review the results of your many previous mandates and together plot a course of action that will work.”

The time for one-man rule using executive orders is long over: under our state Constitution the General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government, and our local elected officials, educators and public health leaders have an important role to play as well. Our response should be a cooperative approach which involves legislators and local officials and gives them the chance to review the data and then work together to move our state forward. Click here to sign our petition in support of restoring local control.

For the latest information from the Department of Public Health (IDPH) on the continuing outbreak in Illinois, please click here. IDPH continues to recommend that everyone over the age of 12 get vaccinated. To find a vaccine location, click here or contact your local health department.

Local students win ‘Cream of the Crop’ photo contest

Caroline and Nolan Lee of Wellington each won first place honors in the Illinois State Treasurer’s ‘Cream of the Crop’ agricultural photo contest. Caroline won in the age 8-10 category and Nolan in the 11-14 category. You can see their photographs, as well as the other winning entries on the Treasurer’s office’s Cream of the Crop winners’ website.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,846,185,052 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.5 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

More news from around the state

U of I scientists work to protect Illinoisans from tick-borne illnesses

Bill signed to help equip Illinois school buses with S.A.F.E. Gates

IDOT launching massive construction project on I-57 and I-74

Illinois EPA announces one-day household hazardous waste collection events

State drops ‘Do Not Eat’ advisory for Illinois River fish

Gibson City soldier from World War II accounted for after 77 years