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October 16, 2020



To help Illinois residents and families meet their basic food needs, University of Illinois Extension launched a new Illinois community food map that allows individuals to search by Illinois zip code for all food resources in that area. Find options in your area at: https://eat-move-save.extension.illinois.edu/. “Our map takes a whole community approach, mapping all helpful food resources, not only food pantries and summer meal sites,” says Caitlin Kownacki, SNAP-Ed Extension specialist with Illinois Nutrition Education Programs. Residents who count on SNAP (LINK) and other nutrition assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, typically search multiple websites to find the resources they need. The comprehensive new Illinois community food map combines all resources in one geolocation mapping tool, making it convenient for those with limited access to transportation. Households seeking food support will be able to search specific areas for the nearest grocery stores, food retailers, farmers markets, and roadside farm stands that accept SNAP (LINK), WIC, or senior food benefits. Illinois SNAP and WIC offices, where individuals can sign up to receive benefits, are included in search results.



The National Main Street Center (NMSC) and Brookings’s Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking looked at how place impacts small business survival. The researchers expected that in urban commercial corridors, small businesses’ proximity to one another could help them weather the pandemic by providing sufficient market density to draw customers from surrounding neighborhoods, facilitate takeout and delivery services, and use the public realm around them to adapt business operations. Regardless of location, small business owners reported acute economic hardship, with many drawing on personal savings, retirement accounts, and personal assets to cover their operating costs through the crisis. But the study also found some variation in small business owner experience, indicating the promise of proximity and density in facilitating recovery. In nearly every circumstance, small businesses in older commercial corridors and Main Streets—with proximity to other businesses, resources, and amenities—were more likely to leverage their physical location to withstand the crisis than businesses in other locations. Small businesses near residential buildings and outdoor space reported their own distinct place-based advantages. The benefits of place and proximity held across urban and rural areas alike.



Scientists at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have developed a transparent wood material that may be the window of tomorrow. Researchers found that transparent wood has the potential to outperform glass currently used in construction in nearly every way. Their findings were published in the Journal of Advanced Functional Materials in their paper, “A Clear, Strong, and Thermally Insulated Transparent Wood for Energy Efficient Windows.” While glass is the most common material used in window construction, it comes with a costly economic and ecological price. Heat easily transfers through glass, especially single pane, and amounts to higher energy bills when it escapes during cold weather and pours in when it’s warm. Glass production in construction also comes with a heavy carbon footprint. Transparent wood is created when wood from the fast-growing, low-density balsa tree is treated to a room temperature, oxidizing bath that bleaches it of nearly all visibility. The wood is then penetrated with a synthetic polymer called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), creating a product that is virtually transparent, and more durable and lighter than glass. It can withstand much stronger impacts than glass and, unlike glass, it bends or splinters instead of shattering. It is approximately five times more thermally efficient than glass, cutting energy costs. It is made from a sustainable, renewable resource with low carbon emissions.



On Thursday, October 29 at Noon CT, Illinois Extension will host a local government education webinar, Budget Structures, Taxes, and Strategies (with findings from the Volcker Alliance State Budgeting Study)Dr. Awri Kriz, University of Illinois Springfield Research Scholar with Illinois Institute for Public Finance, will present municipal budget data from the State Comptroller’s local government data warehouse from 2010 to 2019. Dr. Kriz will address financial condition, debt levels, and revenue and expenditure structures, and will explain how to balance municipal budgets using city profiles and literature. Dr. Yonghong Wu, Professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois Chicago, will discuss how municipal property and sales taxes will be affected by the pandemic, explore the volatility of property and sales taxes during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and discuss how the two broad-based taxes are likely to perform during and after the current pandemic. Dr. Beverly Bunch, Professor of Public Administration at University of Illinois Springfield, will describe the Volcker Alliance’s Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting study and discuss how the study may provide useful strategies for local governments facing fiscal challenges. Register Here.




October 22 - Workforce Investment Opportunity Areas and Offerings in Illinois

October 29 - Budget Structures, Taxes, and Strategies (with findings from the Volcker Alliance State Budgeting Study)

November 10 - The 2020 Presidential and Congressional Elections: Rural America’s Impact and Stake


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