The first $50 million of the $420 million dedicated to statewide broadband Internet expansion was released during the week, along with information about how to apply for the grants.
I am honored to represent rural and downstate Illinois as a member of the Broadband Advisory Council. Funding for new and improved infrastructure will give more residents access to high-speed Internet, provide better e-learning opportunities for schools, and boost telehealth programs in areas that do not have easy access to specialized medical facilities and doctors. We are providing resources to give our communities, our farmers and our local businesses access to the technology they need to compete in today’s economy.
Applicants for the grant are anticipated to include Internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments.
Grant responses for the first round of funding can be submitted through April 3, with up to $5 million available per project. Interested applicants can find more information about the Notice of Funding Opportunity at https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/AboutDCEO/GATA/Pages/2366-1333.aspx.
The Rebuild Illinois capital plan has slated $420 million toward broadband expansion — $400 million for the grant program and $20 million to strengthen the Illinois Century Network. The matching requirements in the grant program will leverage state funds to attract at least an additional $400 million from Internet service providers.
Legislation eliminates FOID card
Those wanting to purchase firearms would no longer need to possess a FOID card under legislation introduced recently. Filed on Feb. 4, Senate Bill 2535 would repeal the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Act, which supporters of the bill say is outdated and redundant.
The FOID Act was created in 1968 as a way to identify people who were eligible to own firearms as part of a public-safety initiative in Illinois to meet the requirements of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. However, with updated technology allowing for the use of instant background checks, the bill’s sponsors say the FOID card serves no real purpose.
While Senate Bill 2535 would eliminate the need for a person to own a FOID card, it would not change any of the other requirements for purchasing a firearm. Those who buy a firearm would still need to undergo strict federal background checks at the time of purchase.
Take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credit
Tax season has begun as federal and state W-2 forms arrive in the mail, but according to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), thousands of eligible taxpayers fail to claim both the Illinois Earned Income Credit (EIC) and the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Anyone eligible for the federal EITC automatically qualifies for the Illinois EIC, which is a refundable tax credit worth up to 18 percent of a taxpayer’s federal claim. However, IDOR says nearly 20,000 Illinoisans claimed a federal EITC credit without also claiming the state EIC, leaving more than $5 million unclaimed.
To be eligible for the tax credit programs, taxpayers must meet certain income and residency qualifications and file a tax return, even if they do not owe any tax or are not required to file. To find out if your family qualifies for the credit, visit the Internal Revenue Service’s EITC Assistant at https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit/use-the-eitc-assistant.
Help pick coolest things made in Illinois
Residents are being asked to help determine the “coolest thing made in Illinois.”
IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler wants to showcase the wide range of items made in the state. He said most people don’t realize what all is made in Illinois.
“We have to attract the next generation of workers to Illinois,” Denzler said. “By showing the products and companies that are here, hopefully we can also help provide that next pipeline of workers.”
Nominate a product for the “coolest thing made in Illinois” at https://makersmadnessil.com/.
Manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of Illinois’ gross domestic product and a $304 billion economic output — the largest of any industry in the state, according to the IMA. More than 592,000 people are employed in manufacturing.