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February 7, 2020



Governor JB Pritzker announced that the state is releasing $50 million in funding for the first round of matching grants of Connect Illinois, the state’s $420 million statewide broadband expansion. “We’re beginning to deliver on an ambitious 4-year plan to deliver broadband to homes, businesses and community institutions like hospitals and libraries in every corner of the state,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I want to be clear: This isn’t about a person’s ability to check Facebook. This is about a small business owner having the tools she needs to reach new customers. This is about an elderly couple’s ability to get access to medical experts anywhere in the nation even if they live in a rural community. This is about giving children the ability to research their homework assignments online. In short, this is about the right of all our communities to access health care, education, and economic opportunity.” Applicants are required to provide at least 50% of non-state funding, effectively doubling the size of the nation’s largest state competitive grant program to expand high-speed internet. Applicants are anticipated to include internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments. Grant responses for the initial $50 million round of funding can be submitted through Friday, April 3, 2020. Up to $5 million per project will be available during the first round, and subsequent rounds will follow over the course of the next several years. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is available online at: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/AboutDCEO/GATA/Pages/2366-1333.aspx. Connect Illinois is centered around three main outcomes: education, telehealth and economic development. It aims to provide universal access to basic broadband for homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions by 2024. 



The 31st Annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference, "Keeping Rural Illinois an Exciting Place to Live and Work" will highlight current efforts to realize the full potential of rural Illinois. The conference will be held February 26-27, 2020, at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 701 E Adams Springfield, with the Governor's Rural Affairs Council and Rural Partners. Robin Hanna, program manager for the IIRA's Rural Economic Technical Assistance Center (RETAC), will be joined by a panel of state and federal agency representatives to provide an update on economic development program funding in Illinois. This double session is scheduled for February 27. Representatives from the leading state and federal agencies will describe recent program changes affecting funding opportunities and requirements. Agencies represented include the US Department of Commerce, Illinois Humanities Council, USDA Rural Development, Office of the Illinois Treasurer, USDA Rural Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Finance Authority, and Illinois Housing Development Authority.



In the 2010 Census, nearly 1 million children (4.6% of children under the age of 5) were not counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Counting young children will be vitally important in the 2020 Census because population statistics are used by local, state, and federal lawmakers to determine how to spend billions of dollars in federal and state funds annually over the next 10 years. Much of that money funds programs that directly affect children, including nutrition assistance, Head Start, special education, foster care, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and housing assistance to help a child’s family. Local decisions are driven by changes in population, and often by the growth in the number of children. A new school may be needed because of increased births in one area but the school might not be built if all newborns and toddlers – future schoolchildren – are not counted. Karen Deaver, program manager for the 2020 Census undercount of young children effort and chair of the Census Bureau’s Undercount of Young Children Task Force, said the Census Bureau is working in coordination with public and private partners and educators to ensure all children are counted in 2020. “We recognize that this is a persistent problem and it’s a growing problem,” she said. The Census Bureau is working to educate the public that young children should be counted if they live and sleep in a home most of the time. A newborn should be counted if he or she was born on or before April 1, 2020.



Join us on February 20 at Noon CST for Using a “Stress Testing” Approach to Measuring the Fiscal Sustainability of Local Governments, featuring Kenneth A. Kriz, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Dr. Kriz conducts research focusing on subnational debt policy and administration, public pension fund management, government financial risk management, economic and revenue forecasting, and behavioral public finance. Dr. Kriz is a frequent presenter at public economics and public budgeting and financial management, and has consulted with several public and nonprofit organizations, including large municipalities, on financial and economic matters. As measuring the fiscal sustainability of local governments is an important component of understanding the threats that they face in delivering public services, a common approach is using a handful of (mostly financial) indicators are chosen in a more or less ad hoc manner. What results is only a partial understanding of the fiscal challenges facing a jurisdiction, with little predictive power. We take a different path and build on the work of the Federal Reserve Bank and other central banks in building “stress testing” models. The model is based on a full simulation of the economic and financial condition of a jurisdiction. The results will allow officials to not only get an early warning about future financial stress but to better understand the forces creating the stress.



February 13 (Small Farms Webinar) - Updates on Industrial Hemp in Illinois 

February 20 (LGE Webinar) - Using a “Stress Testing” Approach to Measuring the Fiscal Sustainability of Local Governments

February 20 (Small Farms Webinar) - Soil Organic Matters

February 26-27 (Springfield) - Annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference 

February 27 (Small Farms Webinar) - Saturated Media Extract

March 1 (Deadline) - Illinois 2020 Conservation Achievement Scholarship

March 3-4 (Springfield, IL) - RTAC Conference

March 5 (Small Farms Webinar) - Selling through Food Hubs and Co-ops: A Growers Perspective

March 12 (Small Farms Webinar) - Getting Started in Drip Irrigation

March 20 (Small Farms Webinar) - The Basics for Goats and Sheep


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