According to a new survey, most American workers say they don't feel they have enough money for a comfortable retirement. In the latest Country Financial Security Index, about 80% of Americans have some fears about what their retirement years will look like. Among the top concerns - not being able to afford medical or long term care expenses, and running out of money altogether. Financial planner Troy Frerichs says that those fears may certainly be legitimate, because most people close to retirement age are only saving about 5% of their income.
"Most financial planners out there will say 10 to 15 percent of your income is a good goal. So, there's a disconnect between what's actually being saved right now and probably what's going to be needed. You know, we have a savings problem right now."
-Troy Frerichs, Financial Planner
About 60% of current retirees surveyed said that they don't have enough money to pay for the activities they enjoy. Frerichs suggests anyone worries about these issues should either speak with a financial planner or start saving a portion of every paycheck. More than half of current retirees said they're still working part-time, and about one in four isn't happy about it. While even the best-laid plans can go awry, Frerichs says preparing for retirement sooner in life rather than later is key.
"Once you get into the retirement picture, there's not a lot of things that you do control. We worry about the economy, we worry about what's going on in Washington. But what you do have control over is your paycheck - and what, in particular, you do with that paycheck - whether you spend it or whether you save it."
-Troy Frerichs, Financial Planner
Not all the survey results skewed toward the negative. The poll also found that despite their fears, a majority of American workers believe their retirement will allow for greater flexibility in their lives.
The Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center at the McDonough District Hospital has received yet another donation; this time from the State Bank of Industry. The bank has pledged a very generous $21,000 toward the Women's Center, bringing them ever closer to their goal. For the generosity, the State Bank of Industry will be recognized as Partner level of the MDH Business Honor Roll giving club.
A new bill could have a serious impact on local Western Illinois University, which is already being barraged by the ongoing budget impasse. Senate Bill 2314 is currently being debated on in the Illinois House of Representatives, and if passed it would bring the State Employee Group Insurance Plan into compliance with the Affordable Care Act. What's currently differing is the definition of a full-time employee. According to the Affordable Care Act, at least 95% of employees who are eligible must be offered healthcare coverage by the State and Universities, or a penalty would be imposed starting in July. This could put WIU on the hook for about $3.9 million, and it would also affect institutions like Northern, Eastern, and Southern Illinois Universities as well as Illinois State and Chicago State University. If passed, this legislation would expand the eligibility of SEGIP, ensuring that Universities are able to meet the threshold, and thus, avoid fines. The bill passed unanimously through the Senate, and is currently awaiting a vote in the House.
The Noon Rotary Club of Macomb has presented a check for $1,000 to the Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center at the McDonough District Hospital. Prior to this gift, Rotary had also donated $10,000 to the Westervelt Home at MDH, and are recognized as members of the Golden Apple Society. The Women's Center will become a beautiful and functional facility for women in the area, with an imaging center, updated suites, and the latest technology.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported the first bird to test positive for West Nile virus in Illinois for 2016 in Arcola Township in Douglas County. Zika virus is the main "news-worthy" headline at the moment, but IDPH warns that West Nile is something we see every year, and as always, it can be dangerous. Residents are advised to take precautions by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around your home. No human cases have yet been reported this year, but 77 were reported throughout the state in 2015. Additional info can be found HERE.
With summer on the way, many will soon be taking to Illinois' lakes and rivers to cool off and have fun. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Public Health would like to advise residents to use caution when doing so, and to be on the lookout for blue-green algae blooms. A bloom is an instance of rapid algae growth, and blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in lakes and streams. Some blue-green algae may produce toxic chemicals that can cause adverse health effects in people and pets, depending on the length and type of exposure. Avoid contact with water that:
-looks like spilled green or blue-green paint
-has surface scum, mats or films
-is discolored or has green-colored streaks
-has greenish globs suspended in the water, below the surface
If you or a pet comes into contact with contaminated water, rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible. Activities near, but not in a lake or river, are not affected and should be safe. With all activities, make sure to wash your hands before eating if you have any contact with lake water or shore debris. For more info on algae blooms and summer safety, click HERE.
The Illinois budget impasse continues to roll on, but legislators in Springfield are finally, once again, passing around budget proposals and seemingly making headway. However, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger says that the way they're going about it is all wrong. In a statement, she said that the only thing more irresponsible than allowing our state to operate without a budget, would be to pass one that only digs us deeper into debt. As of right now, Illinois has more than $7 Billion in unpaid bills and payment delays are running about 6 weeks behind. If the newly proposed budget plan is passed, our bills would surge up to $15 Billion, and payments would be delayed by an unprecedented 8 to 9 months. Representative Don Moffitt said that the House Democrats were totally focused on passing this spending plan, and really refused to discuss it at all.
"I'm troubled by the process that occurred today, in really not allowing enough transparency, sunshine, discussion on the budget. If you're going to create more of a deficit, or ask for a huge tax increase, you want to make sure that there's been plenty of sunlight on it, and that the people, the tax payers have a chance to get all the questions answered. That was denied today."
With the funding for education in limbo all over the state, one group of WIU students decided to take matters into their own hands. The Western Illinois University chapter of the Music Teachers National Association recently held a "Practice-A-Thon," where participants gathered throughout the day, practiced and performed, and sought out pledges. In total, nearly $1,500 was raised, and all of the profits will be donated to the K-6 public school music programs in Macomb. Macomb's music teachers have expressed their gratitude toward the WIU students, and say that the money will be going toward the purchase of classroom instruments.
The Macomb Heritage Days Committee has announced the Grand Marshalls for the 2016 Heritage Days Parade. Two prominent women in the area will be sharing the honor this year, for the parade on Saturday, June 25th.
The first honoree is Ruth Parks, a life-long learner and teacher who went to Taylorville High School and received her master's in education from WIU. Ruth was the choral director at Macomb High School for 24 years, and after she retired, she formed the Spoon River College Singing Seniors, which lasted for 25 years under her direction.
The second woman being honored is Lorraine Epperson, a lifelong McDonough County resident, with 2 degrees from WIU, who has taught business all over the area; Virginia, Blandinsville, Bardolph, Macomb and more. After her teaching tenure, she also served as the Guidance Director at the Macomb High School for 20 years. Lorraine continues to be involved with WIU and with the local community.
Ruth Parks and Lorraine Epperson will both serve as co-Grand Marshall for the 2016 Heritage Days Parade, which will kick off at 10am on Saturday, June 25th.
Four Quincy residents were arrested on Monday after agents of the West Central Illinois Task Force noticed suspected drug activity near the area of 5th and Locust in Quincy. Amanda Brown was arrested for Possession of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Delivery of a Look Alike Substance. Bobby Wofford, Melinda Cox, and Susan Vasterling were also arrested, all on the charge of Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine. Records indicate that Cox has been brought in on meth charges in 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2011. She is also currently out on bond for a meth case that is due to be sentenced in July. Brown also has a history, having been sentenced to probation in 2007 for meth precursor. All suspects have been lodged in the Adams County Jail, and all are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The task force was assisted in this investigation by the Adams County Sheriffs K-9 Unit, and the Quincy Police Department's Street Crimes Unit.
On Friday, May 20th, at around 3pm, there was a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of IL Route 336 and McDonough County Road 600E. A silver Buick was driving southbound on McDonough County Road 600E, stopped at the stop sign, and then began entering the intersection, driving into the path of a second car, a Ford Focus. The oncoming vehicle struck the Buick on the driver's side, and both came to rest at the center of the intersection. The driver of the Buick, 73-year-old Jean Danielson of Colchester, and one of the passengers of the Focus, 88-year-old Eilleen Rampley of Sutter we both air-lifted to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, and both later died as a result of their injuries. The driver of the second car, as well as one juvenile passenger each from both vehicles were transported to the McDonough District Hospital with minor injuries. All seatbelts were worn, and an investigation into the accident is still ongoing.
HyVee, Inc. has announced a voluntary recall of six trail mix products due to a possible contamination with Listeria Monocytogenes. The recall is due to a supplier having potential contaminated sunflower kernels, and while no illnesses have been reported in connection with this product, out of caution, HyVee has chosen to recall these products -
According to the Illinois Poison Center, more and more young children in Illinois are being unintentionally poisoned by the liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes. Last year alone, the Center received more than 80 calls dealing with children under the age of six who had been exposed to the liquid. Danny Chun with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association says that one reason for the quick uptick in calls may be young children mimicking parents who smoke. While that's nothing new, these e-cigarettes are proving to be trickier, and many adult users seem unaware of the serious health risks posed to kids.
"Children exposed to liquid nicotine are more than 5 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, and 2 and a half times more likely to have a severe medical outcome, than children exposed to traditional cigarettes."
-Danny Chun, Illinois Health & Hospital Assoc.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made final a new rule that allows the agency to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. In 2014, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure requiring that all liquid nicotine containers be childproof. Even so, Chun says that the problem continues to grow as e-cigarettes become more popular.
"The Illinois Poison Center has seen the number of calls concerning young children and e-cigarettes more than triple since 2013."
-Danny Chun, Illinois Health & Hospital Assoc.
The Center says parents should consider not using tobacco products around small children, and treating e-cigarettes and liquid refills like any other hazardous product - storing them securely, and in places hard for children to reach.
McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker is asking for the public's help in solving some recent acts of vandalism involving spray paint. Earlier this week, both the Church of Latter Day Saint on Adam's Street and a farm building northwest of Good Hope were vandalized with spray paint. The Sheriff is concerned that the vandals are planning on targeting more property, and is encouraging anybody with information to come forward. The Macomb Area Crime Stoppers are offering up $1,000 for information leading to the apprehension of the person(s) responsible for the damage. To submit a tip, you can call 1-800-222-TIPS, or speak with the Sheriff's office.
We're currently in the middle of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and a group of Illinois moms is asking lawmakers to help improve our state's air quality. May is a peak month of activity for asthma and allergy sufferers, and the rate of asthma in Illinois is 13% higher than the national average. Concerned parents say that as the climate gets hotter, local air pollution and other irritants will trigger more asthma attacks in children. Kelly Nichols with the group "Moms Clean Air Force Illinois" says enacting the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, which would limit carbon pollution, is one way to also benefit asthma sufferers.
"The reduction in carbon emissions, I feel, has a huge impact on climate change - and the worse climate change gets, the more erratic the weather gets and the worse asthma and allergy gets."
-Kelly Nichols, Moms Clean Air Force Illinois
Last month, 12 Illinois counties got failing grades for high ozone pollution from the American Lung Association. Health experts say that while carbon emissions and ground-level ozone are not known to cause asthma, they are certainly triggers for asthma attacks. Nichols argues that the larger the investment made into renewable energy sources now, the easier the transition will be to pulling our state back into cleaner air.
"You can't buy clean air, even if you live in a great neighborhood. So, it's something that everyone in Illinois needs to be aware of. Just because it seems OK, doesn't necessarily mean that it is."
-Kelly Nichols, Moms Clean Air Force Illinois
Senate Bill 1485 - The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill - was introduced last year, and is currently being considered by state lawmakers.
Genesis Garden has partnered with the USDA, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Macomb Summer Lunches Coalition in order to be able to bring daily meals to all area children this summer. The meals will be served at the First Presbyterian Church of Macomb from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm every weekday, Monday-Friday.
Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill today that would allow Chicago-based energy giant Exelon to mandate a surcharge on electric bills statewide. Many opponents, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and AARP Illinois, are calling this a taxpayer bailout of one of the country's most profitable energy companies. Julie Vahling, a spokesperson for AARP Illinois, says that as the bill is written now, it would cause higher rates for energy customers and could put a financial burden on seniors who are living on fixed incomes.
"For the aging population, oftentimes utility costs are some of the highest percentages of where household income goes."
-Julie Vahling, AARP Illinois
Exelon's northern Illinois affiliate ComEd argues that the new so-called "demand rate" charges are needed to keep at least three of its downstate power plants from shutting down. Vahling counter argues that these plants would be kept open via federal rules if they're deemed essential to the state's power grid. If lawmakers do choose to approve the new demand rate structure, it could leave many customers without a concrete idea of what they're paying for.
"There is no technology in a household right now that allows a consumer to monitor what their demand is. So, it's basically saying, 'Well, we're going to charge you for something that you can't really see or monitor on your own in real time.'"
-Julie Vahling, AARP Illinois
Exelon says that it could start closing a plant in Clinton as soon as this fall if it sees no relief from Springfield. the state's Senate Energy Committee is expected to discuss the rate-increase bill this afternoon.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HB 4167, an amendment that would fully fund MAP grants for state universities. Passed by a margin of 68 to 45, the bill is a popular one among constituents, but it may not be all that it seems to be. Unlike the stopgap funding that was recently instituted, this measure has no stream of revenue attached to it, and as such, has no tangible funding. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says that this new bill is a lie to students and their families, and he says that they deserve better.
"They deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know that this bill, if it passes, will sit in the back of the line of the $7.5 Billion of bills that we currently can't pay. This money's not going to get to those students who are in need of this money, and the families who want their children to be able to stay in college or attend college."
-Jim Durkin, Illinois Representative
Representative Norine Hammond from Macomb is among those who did not vote to pass this bill, which will now head to the Senate to be voted on.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that new, updated drivers licenses and state ID cards, as well as a new process for obtaining them, will soon be coming to the state. When this new policy is in effect, you will go to the Drivers Services facilities as per usual, take the tests that you need to, and have your photo taken. However, after that, you're existing license or ID will have a whole punched in it to nullify it, and you will be given a temporary paper license, good for 45 days. The state will then run fraud and security checks, and will mail out the newly redesigned ID cards within 15 business days. These changes will meet the REAL ID requirements that were recently put into place by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, allowing these updated IDs to be used in airports, as the current ones will be ineligible as of January 22nd, 2018. Fees associated with these new IDs will not change, and they are expected to roll out statewide by the end of July.
Pumo Insurance Agency, Inc. has pledged $5,000 to the McDonough District Hospital's Women's Center. This gift will go toward the purchase of a new bed in one of the new OB/GYN suites. Pumo Insurance is being recognized at Builder level in the MDH Business Honor Roll giving club. The Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center will provide updated suites and facilities, as well as an imaging center for women in the local community.
Yesterday, a number of Macomb residents, WIU students, and educators gathered at Chandler Park and marched to Representative Norine Hammond's office to demand that she put the community first, and stand up to Governor Bruce Rauner. Many among these protesters say that Rauner is essentially holding the funding for higher education hostage, and that Rep. Hammond is going right along with him. Following the march, a number of these activists walked the streets of Macomb to discuss the importance of WIU's connection to the community, and of properly funding the future. There was a similar event held in Charleston yesterday that targeted Eastern Illinois University's financial future. The hashtags #FullyFundWIU , #FullyFundEIU , and #FundOurFuture were used on social media to showcase the event and raise awareness, and you can find pictures and stories by searching for them on Facebook or Twitter.
Hy-Vee Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of it's frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice for all locations due to possible contamination with Listeria Monocytogenes. Listeria Monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometime fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. The potential for contamination was discovered after a supplier for Hy-Vee announced various food recalls, and these items in particular faced a potential threat. However, to date no illnesses have been reported in connection with either product. Anybody who has purchased either one of these frozen rices between the dates of July 24th and May 12th should discard it or return it to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund.
Wading through the paperwork involved in getting government help to pay for child care can be overwhelming to already overworked parents. The Center for American Progress has taken a look at just how difficult it can be, and has released a report detailing the struggles of low-income families trying to navigate an underfunded child-care support system. The study is called "Jumping Through Hoops and Set Up to Fail." Its author, Judith Warner, says that as child-care costs keep rising, quality pre-K and after-school programs are out of reach for many working families.
"You have to file a degree of paperwork that goes far beyond all those permission forms you normally file just for school. And if things go wrong, your child loses a stable, good place in child care that brings them so many advantages."
-Judith Warner, Center for American Progress
The report takes a state-by-state look at child-care costs. In Illinois, the figure is more than $22,000 a year for parents with an infant and a four-year old. Warner says that often means having to look at cost over quality when it comes to caring for your child. She adds that parents who qualify for assistance with child-care expenses often aren't given a whole lot of help to navigate the complex system.
"You're dependent on people who may or may not lose your paperwork, and may or may not want to help you. We are setting children up for lives of difficulty when we don't meet their most basic needs from the start."
-Judith Warner, Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress report makes some recommendations - including less paperwork for parents and increased funding for child-care programs overall. Last fall, the group also proposed a "High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit," worth up to $14,000 per child, based on family income. The money would be paid directly to a child-care provider chosen by the parents.
This Saturday, May 14th, the National Association of Letter Carriers will be holding their annual "Stamp Out Hunger" event to benefit local organizations. Anthony Sparrow with USPS in Macomb says that this event has done a lot of good work throughout the past years.
"It is a national program that we put on every year. Last year, we collected almost 71 million pounds of food nationally. So, it's a really good program, and it's really easy to participate in."
-Anthony Sparrow, USPS
This event is extremely useful in pointing out the big issue that Illinois still has when it comes to food. One in seven people throughout the state continue to struggle with hunger, and this event not only goes to help these people directly, but it also raises awareness to the cause. Elise Foster with the National Association of Letter Carriers in Springfield says that her and her fellow letter carriers are happy to be working this weekend, and to be a part of the food drive.
"We are in the community every day and we see the need. So, we play a vital role in the community in that we can get the customers to give. We also get feedback from the pantries, and they look forward to every year, they want to make sure they're on the list to be the recipients of that food."
-Elise Foster, National Association of Letter Carriers.
To donate, simply leave some non-perishable food items in a bag either in or around your mailbox, and your local letter carrier will pick the food up when he or she makes their rounds. All of the food donated goes to support local causes like the Loaves and Fishes, the Salvation Army, and WIRC.
The Illinois State Police has issued a statement, warning the public to be wary of a phone scam that is currently making its way around the state. An individual may call you and claim to be associated with the "Illinois Police," "Illinois State Police," or the "ISP." The caller will then go on to ask for a donation, or attempt to convince you that there is a warrant out for your arrest, and that you need to send in money. If using caller ID, the number may say "Illinois Police," or "Illinois State Police," but this is wrong, and the number most often associated with this scam is 618-855-0185.
Know that the Illinois State Police will never call you to solicit money for any reason. Anybody who is affected by this scam is encouraged to report it to the Attorney General by calling 800-243-0618
One of Illinois' largest gas providers is on the hook for more than $18 Million over misleading statements about the costs of upgrading its aging pipe system. This comes after the former owners of Peoples Gas admitted to deceiving customers and state investigators. The company originally claimed the program in question would cost about four-and-a-half billion dollars, while the actual cost was closer to double that amount. Jim Chilsen with the watchdog Citizens Utility Board says Peoples Gas used the deceptive practice to get state regulators to approve a merger with the gas companies current owners.
"We're hoping that this settlement, which totals about $18.5 Million, that this is a warning to all utility companies; if you mislead state regulators, you're going to pay for it."
-Jim Chilsen, Citizens Utility Board
In a statement, however, the gas company's new owners, WEC Energy Group, did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, but merely said that it was focused on upgrading Chicago's natural gas infrastructure. The settlement came about after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Citizens Utility Board filed false claims petitions with state investigators. Chilsen says Peoples Gas' customers were already paying some of the highest rates in the Midwest.
"So, the big question is are the new owners of Peoples Gas, WEC Energy Group, ready to get down to business of fixing this pipe replacement program, because it's been an absolute disaster for consumers."
-Jim Chilsen, Citizens Utility Board
The companies are set to pay out $10 Million in refunds to gas customers. An additional $1 Million will be paid to reconnect low-income customers whose service was recently shut off.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that the state's organ and tissue donor registry has reached 6 million registrants as of yesterday. (5/10/16)
White says that a big portion of this is due to the success of "National Donate Life Month," a public awareness event that ran throughout the month of April.
Every year, about 300 people die waiting for a transplant in Illinois, but the state has an estimated population of 12.8 Million people, 77% of whom are eligible donors. If you would like to find out more information about donor registry, or if you'd like to register yourself, you can go to LifeGoesOn.com, call 1-800-210-2106, or visit your local Driver Services facility.
According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee passed legislation yesterday that's aimed at encouraging more sexual assault survivors to come forward. After finding troubling data that showed that a shocking amount of sexual assault victims are not reporting their crimes to Illinois authorities, Senate Bill 3096 was drafted, and passed unanimously. The bill would implement victim-centered policies and will also require law enforcement and first responders to take sexual assault response training to properly prepare for these situations. One of the bill's sponsors says that only an estimated 5 to 20% of sexual assaults are reported, and only a few of those are ever prosecuted. This bill would lay the groundwork for a victim-centered response system that should encourage more victims to come forward, and make them feel more comfortable to do so.
The McDonough District Hospital has received a $250,000 from Charlene Callison and Larry Balsamo to go toward the Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center. With this generous contribution, MDH has nearly raised a total of $3.7 Million of their $5.5 Million campaign goal. In honor of this donation, the Nursery is going to be named in honor of Charlene and her mother, Marion P. Callison. In addition, Charlene and Larry have been recognized at Diamond level of the MDH Golden Apple Society.
Macomb's own Danyelle Barlow, a consultant for Child and Family Connections #13 has been honored for her work at the CFC South Conference in Fairview Heights on April 27th. Barlow received the "Backstage Gem" award, recognizing her organizational and managerial skills as a Social Emotional Consultant. CFC Director Chuck Farr praised Barlow and congratulated her on her award. He says that there were many nominations for the four awards given out, and that Barlow exemplefies the Backstage Gem title perfectly. Child and Family Connections #13 is part of the range of services provided through the Regional Office of Education #26. CFC is the entry point for all referrals of children to the Illinois Early Intervention System, which provides services for infants and toddles who have delays in their development or who are at risk of developmental delays.
The Internal Revenue Service has sent out a reminder stating that more than 65,000 Illinois tax-exempt organizations have until Monday, May 16 to file a required annual return for the 2015 fiscal year. The specific form that must be filled out varies depending on the organizations financial activity. Tax-exempt organizations with average annual receipts of more than $50,000 will file Form 990, or 990-EZ depending on their receipts and assets. Smaller tax-exempt organizations whose annual receipts total up to no more than $50,000 may file an electronic notice entitled Form 990-N, which asks for only a few basic pieces of information. Those filing Forms 990 or 990-EZ may obtain an extension past the May 16th deadline, but there is no extension offered for those filling out the 990-N form. If an organization fails to file as required by the IRS for three consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status. This mandate does not include churches and church-related organizations, which are not required to file annual reports. To check your tax-exempt status, use a tool on the IRS' website HERE.
A group of Illinois urban and rural public-policy activists are holding a protest in Chicago today, to unveil what they're calling a "People and Planet First Budget." Illinois is the only state in the entire country that's operating without a budget for the current fiscal year, and this group is taking action on its own. The activist group Fair Economy Illinois argues that the state needs new revenue as vital public services continue to lose funding. Volunteer Ann Marie Cunningham says the new budget alternative that they're presenting would bring in about $23 Billion, partly from new taxes on corporations and the state's top earners.
"We have been doing 'Moral Mondays' to bring to light the fact that people are hurting, because we do not have a budget - not having enough food, not having housing."
-Ann Marie Cunningham, Fair Economy Illinois
State lawmakers are still caught up in a nearly year-long budget impasse, but a bipartisan group is currently trying to work out a compromise plan. Some of the new revenue ideas in Fair Economy Illinois' budget include what it's calling a "LaSalle Street Tax," a reference to Chicago's financial district. Cunningham says that it would raise about $12 Billion for state services by enacting a small tax on financial trades of such assets as stocks and bonds.
"You pay taxes on milk and bread, and yet there are hundreds of thousands of transactions every day at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Trade, and those exchanges are never taxed."
-Ann Marie Cunningham, Fair Economy Illinois
There are more than a few critics of this financial-transaction tax, including some economists who argue that, at worst, the idea could drive the financial industry out of the state altogether. Governor Rauner has said publicly that he will not be considering any new revenue options at all unless lawmakers agree to parts of his controversial "Turnaround Agenda," which includes business-friendly changes to union bargaining rules. Still, Cunningham argues that legislators should focus on finding new sources of funding, to shore up state colleges, healthcare, and human services.
"This is about revenue and not about cuts. The money is there, but the leaders in Springfield are not calling that money forth."
-Ann Marie Cunningham, Fair Economy Illinois
Today's "Moral Monday" protests are going on at the Federal Plaza in Chicago.
The McDonough County Real Estate Tax Bills were all mailed out on Tuesday, May 3rd. You should be receiving yours shortly, if you haven't already, but if you do not receive one in about a week's time, please contact the McDonough County Treasurer's Office at 309-833-2032, and they will make arrangements to send you a duplicate bill. If you've changes addresses and have yet to notify the Treasury, please contact the McDonough County Supervisor of Assessments Office at 309-833-5305 to update that record. The first installments of these bills are due on Friday, June 10th, and the second installments are due on Friday, September 2nd. You may pay yours at most McDonough County banks. Simply take your tax bill and tax stubs into the bank to pay. You may also pay at the Treasurer's Office, or by mailing it to them.
The Macomb Public Works Department has announced that construction work will begin on Candy Lane on Wednesday, May 11th. A sidewalk is going to be built on the East side of Candy Lane from Grant Street to the First Baptist Church property line. A timeline for this project has yet to be announced. If you have any questions or concerns, you may call the Public Works Department at 309-833-2821
The McDonough Power Cooperative has recently donated $2,000 to the Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center at the McDonough District Hospital. The women's center will provide a new nursery, modernized suites, and state of the art facilities to women in the area. This donation comes as part of the Power Cooperative's Operation Round-Up, which, in total, gave away about $4,350 to charitable organizations in the area, the others of which were Macomb Project H.O.P.E., and the Bushnell Fire Protection District. For more information on Operation Round Up, visit the community tab at www.mcdonoughpower.com
Illinois advocates for in-home healthcare workers and their clients are saying that the state's new overtime pay ban may already be harming the people who rely on those services. Governor Bruce Rauner's change to not allow overtime hours at time-and-a-half pay for home healthcare workers officially went into effect on May 1st, and we're already seeing the detrimental effects of it. Sharon Lamp, a northwestern Illinois volunteer with Access Living, has a neuromuscular condition and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. She says under the new rules, she's been forced to cut back on time spent with her personal-assistance caregiver.
"Because of the change she cannot work more than 40 hours a week for me. My existing PA is scrambling to find another part-time job, which affects my existing care. My schedule of care is now very chaotic."
-Sharon Lamp, Access Living
According to Access Living, home caregivers are already some of the lowest-paid state workers. Governor Rauner's office, however, argues the state simply cannot afford to pay for those workers' overtime hours, despite a federal ruling that requires overtime for hourly workers. Home healthcare advocates argue that Rauner is skirting the federal overtime rule by simply banning overtime work for about 24,000 personal assistants. Lamp says the changes to the Illinois Home Services Program could result in more people being placed in nursing homes - an outcome that would end up costing the state significantly more than in-home care.
"The changes are not good for people with disabilities; it actually moves us backwards in time. And the changes are not ultimately good fiscally for the state of Illinois."
With Mother's Day just around the corner, some new research took a look at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and ranked them according to how well those states support and accommodate working mothers. As it turns out, working moms in Illinois come in quite high on this list, at number 6. This report was done by a group called Wallethub, and it's entitled "Best and Worst States for Working Moms." Analyst Jill Gonzalez says that in order to work out these rankings, the group looked at a variety of state policies and found that Illinois excels in several areas.
"The higher median women's salary adjusted for cost of living at just under $41,000 a year. The gender pay gap is a little bit better than most other states. Women are making just 86 cents on the dollar compared to men."
-Jill Gonzales, Wallethub
While this is still an issue, it does beat out the national average, where women are only making about 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. But, Gonzales says that Illinois' lack of a paid family-leave policy is a big factor that's holding it back form earning a higher ranking. Other findings in the report show that there may be a political component to how working mothers are fairing in individual states. Gonzales says that politically left, or blue, states, including Illinois, tend to adopt more progressive social policies.
"We also looked at red states versus blue states and found that blue states are more friendly to working moms. Their average rank here was 21 out of 51, whereas red states came out as 31, so of course below average here, which was interesting."
-Jill Gonzales, Wallethub
The report also points out that child-care costs in Illinois make up a lower percentage of women's monthly bills compared with other states. Overall, the highest scoring state on the list was Vermont, and the state that came in last, was Nevada.
This Saturday, May 7th, Spring Lake will be opening up, completely free of charge, for all WIU students. In an effort to reduce stress before the upcoming finals week, anybody with a valid student ID from WIU can come out to Spring Lake on Saturday and use any of the park's equipment for free. Spring Lake has kayak and canoe rentals to offer, as well as hiking and biking trails, fishing spots, and of course, a lake to swim in. To find more information about Spring Lake Park, you can go to www.MacombSpringLake.com or find them on Facebook.
Speaking of Spring Lake, the Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, May 3rd, for the new cabin out at Spring Lake Park. In addition to the amenities listed above, there are also hunting spots, and campgrounds, now with free WiFi available.
The Community and Senior's Day that's put on regularly by Citizen's Bank will have their May event tomorrow (Thursday, May 5th) from 8:30am to 10:30am at Citizen's Bank on the square in Macomb. As per usual, there will be free blood pressure screening and blood sugar testing, and this month they will also be offering a free osteoporosis screening by the McDonough District Hospital.
"It is quick and a painless test that takes about 5 minutes, and it will indicate the bone mass level in your ankle. So, if you're coming in for that just make sure that they have access to your ankle easily."
-Rochelle Seaver, Citizen's Bank
That's Rochelle Seaver with Citizen's Bank. She's very excited for this upcoming event, as there's one particular aspect of it that is a rare occurrence: The AARP Safe Driving Course, which will be lead by Ken Cole.
"We cover a lot of aspects of driving; it's like a defensive driving course. But we cover a lot of subjects, and the end result is you get a certificate to take to your insurance company and get a discount on your auto insurance, good for 3 years."
-Ken Cole, AARP
The safe driving course will begin promptly at 8:30 with the rest of the Community and Senior's Day events, but will run a bit later, going until about 4:30pm. There is a cost for this specific event to cover the workbooks and materials. AARP members may take this one-day course for $15, and non-members can take it for $20.
This week, May 1st through the 7th, is known all across the country as "Drinking Water Week." One of our most precious, and certainly most utilized natural resources, water is in everything we consume. Despite what you may think, there is no such thing as naturally pure water. While many bodies of water may be safe for consumption, all sources of natural water contain some impurities. As it flows, it picks up, dissolves, and or absorbs the substances that it touches. This week is dedicated to recognizing the immense importance of having clean drinking water, and utilizing it responsibly. During this week, the McDonough County Groundwater Protection Education Committee (MCGPEC) will be handing out free private water supply test kits. If you're a McDonough County resident and you own property that is served by a private well, you're eligible to come out and receive one of these test kits, free of charge. It will screen for coliform bacteria and nitrates, common indicators of water pollution. It's recommended that you test your water once a year, and immediately following a well or distribution system repair. The MCGPEC will be distributing these test kits at the Macomb Farm King today (5/3) from noon to 5pm, and tomorrow (5/4) from 8am to noon. You may also pick up water test kits from the McDonough County Health Department now through May 5th from 7:30am to noon.
The City of Macomb, along with Pella Corporation, will be holding a re-dedication ceremony to unveil the newly refurbished War of 1812 memorial in Chandler Park. This Saturday, May 7th, you're invited to come out and see the ceremony, beginning at 11am. Pella Corporation, who had previously worked on a sidewalk extension for the memorial, as well as landscaping work around it, undertook the refurbishing project in honor of their 90th anniversary.
The memorial is in memory of two of our area's namesakes: General Alexander Macomb and Commodore Thomas McDonough. It also is dedicated as a memorial to other veterans of the War of 1812, and was officially dedicated back in 1914. John Finn, the Plant Manager for Pella said that it was an honor to have been given the opportunity to work on this project, and that the entire team was excited to be able to highlight an important part of history with their work. Macomb Mayor Mike Inman thanked them for their hard work during the refurbishment.
Every year, people throughout the country celebrate a "National Day of Prayer" in early May, and this year, Macomb is putting on their own event in honor of it. The first ever Community Prayer Breakfast will be on Thursday, May 5th at the Spoon River College Outreach Center, beginning at 8am. There will be breakfast of course, as well as music performances, and anybody is welcome to come out. As Alene Rueschel says, this is less about religion and more about bringing people together.
"And, we're looking forward to, again, same kind of thing, we're going to put our differences aside and concentrate on all that is good that makes Macomb such a wonderful place to live."
Tickets for this event are $15 per person, or $100 for a table of 8. You can make reservations by calling 309-331-5224.
New research shows that only a fraction of a percent of juvenile arrest records in Illinois get expunged, which could be a public safety risk. Juvenile justice advocates say heavy-handed state laws make it nearly impossible for young people to erase a record through the state's expungement process. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission has released a report that shows that for every 1,000 juvenile arrests, only three records are ever destroyed, and the truly daunting thing is that this number includes arrests that didn't even lead to a conviction. Carolyn Frazier, a lawyer and professor with the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, says those records are also shared with employers and landlords.
"This widespread sharing of juvenile records harms individuals with records and jeopardizes the public safety by creating obstacles to employment, housing, and education."
-Carolyn Frazier, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
The commission recommends several changes that state lawmakers could make, including getting rid of expungement fees, which can sometimes cost more than $300 per arrest. Commission chair George Timberlake says changes like that would fall in line with recent state laws that will reduce the number of kids in prison and set up community rehabilitation services.
"But Illinois' treatment of juvenile records is clearly out of step with those principles. And we need to revise our weak confidentiality and restrictive expungement laws that have become barriers to rehabilitation of young lives and a threat to the safety of our communities."
Other suggestions include making the sealing and expunging of these records automatic, a move that's already been adopted in 12 other states. As that information may already indicate, the report notes that Illinois is falling behind many other states on this matter, many of whom criminalize the improper sharing of juvenile records.