Illinois Public Media News
A group representing nursing homes in Illinois says the governor's proposed budget cuts would leave many of them struggling to provide adequate care, or even to survive.
The Health Care Council of Illinois' membership is mainly privately-run nursing homes, but they accept many patients relying on Medicaid. For one home in Champaign where patients and staff rallied this morning, that amounts to 70 patients out of 118 paying for their care through Medicaid.
Governor Pat Quinn's plan to ease the state's budget deficit includes a 6% cut in Medicaid funding. Health Care Council director Pat Comstock said such a cut would further hurt a system that already provides the least nursing home assistance of any state in the nation.
"Every facility will be impacted differently, but facilities may more and more make a decision not to take Medicaid residents, and then the poorest of the poor and the frailest of the frail won't have anywhere to get services," Comstock said. "Some facilities are undoubtedly going to close."
Comstock acknowledges that state senators are considering less drastic cuts - 3-percent instead of 6-percent. But she says for each dollar nursing homes lose from the state for Medicaid patients, they lose another dollar in federal matching funds -- a total of $140 million less in reimbursements if the state follows through with its $70 million proposed reduction.
A measure in the Illinois General Assembly could loosen local health department regulations that prevent people who want to make their own food and sell it at farmers markets.
The legislation, which passed the state Senate, would allow people to sell home-baked "non potentially hazardous food," like cookies, breads, and cakes. These are goods with a lower risk and track record of a foodborne illness.
The measure also includes selling certain types of jam, jelly and fruit butter.
In Illinois, baked goods sold as part of a business have to be prepared in a kitchen that passes a state health inspection. However, there are exceptions when home-prepared goods are sold at a yard sale or during a fundraiser.
In most cases, people who want to sell their own homemade baked goods have to rent or purchase a commercially certified kitchen. Wes King, the policy coordinator with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said buying a kitchen that is up to code can cost thousands of dolars, an expense he said many people cannot manage. King said the legislation would provide a stepping-stone for small businesses to startup.
"Instead of having to invest all that money in a commercial kitchen, you can do it out of your home kitchen and sell it at farmers markets," King explained. "Ideally, if you have a really successful product, you'll then move into the level of maybe using a shared kitchen or purchasing your own commercial kitchen."
The measure could have a big impact in Urbana. Back in 2009, the Champaign Urbana Public Health District began enforcing the state's ban on homemade goods at farmers markets, like Urbana's Market at the Square. Lisa Bralts-Kelly, the director of Market at the Square, said the legislation could change that policy.
"Overall, I think it'll be a great thing for farmers markets," Bralts-Kelly said. "It'll bring us back to people being able to find special things that they can't find anywhere else. Also in an economy like this, it kind of boosts entrepreneurialism and gives people a chance to earn some additional money."
State Senator Shane Cultra (R-Onarga), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he hopes the bill changes the way local health departments in the state regulate food sales.
"There's too heavy a hand of local health departments," Cultra said. "This law does a good job of dividing food products into ones that have potential to be hazardous and ones that aren't."
The legislation requires people to have a food sanitation license, and it states that they must clearly label goods that are prepared in a home.
At least 17 other states have similar policies in place, according to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
The measure now heads to the Illinois House of Representatives.
The Carle Foundation is selling its pharmacy division to Walgreens.
The drug store's purchase of Carle RxExpress will mean four of its pharmacy locations will close in the next two months. By May 31st, Carle pharmacies on Urbana's Cunningham Avenue and Windsor Road will close, along with the location in Danville. In June, Carle's South Clinic location will consolidate with main lobby pharmacy at Carle Hospital. The remaining six will stay open under the Walgreens banner, and Carle's remaining inventory will transfer to nearby Walgreens locations.
Carle Foundation Executive Vice President John Snyder said the retail pharmacy industry has become more competitive, with new consolidations. He said Walgreens can offer discounts on generics and 90-day prescriptions that Carle can't sustain. But Snyder said consumers using Carle pharmacy locations won't see a change in service.
"They have quite a bit of experience in taking over hospital pharmacies, as well as medical office building pharmacies," he said. "They don't run them like typical Walgreens stores. They do recognize there's a difference. Their plan is to run them basically as they're run now with the same hours, and hopefully the same staff."
Snyder says Walgreens has committed to hiring about 80-percent of Carle's 76 pharmacy workers, and will interview all who apply. He said other employees with the necessary skills will be offered the chance to transfer to other jobs at Carle, while remaining workers will receive a severance package. But Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffany Washington said there wasn't a specific figure, only saying that a 'large majority' or Carle RxExpress employees would still have positions at the pharmacies.
Financial terms of the sale weren't disclosed. Proceeds from the sale will go towards the purchase of new hospital facilities and equipment.
A World War II veteran who became famous as the Empire Carpet Man has died at age 89.
Empire Today spokeswoman Marlo Michalek says Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston home. A cause of death wasn't given but Michalek said he had been sick.
Hauldren was the voice of Empire carpet on television advertising in the 1970s. The ads later aired around the country in cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco. He was the company spokesperson until he died.
The company says it chose Hauldren as its on-air talent after auditioning several others for the role. Hauldren helped launch the carpet company's "588-2300" jingle.
Hauldren was the father of 6, grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of 10. He also was a singer in a barbershop quartet.
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel says no group is immune from the sweeping changes he plans to make in the city of Chicago.
Emanuel said Wednesday that means changes for non-profits and charitable organizations as well. For instance, he said he no longer wants non-profits and charitable organizations to get free city water in their facilities.
He says it's all part of his philosophy that every group needs to make some sacrifices so no one group has to sacrifice more than it should. Emanuel takes over as mayor May 16. He says nobody is in a "sacrifice-free zone."
Emanuel made his comments at an arts event in downtown Chicago. He was initially asked whether non-profits should pay property taxes. He promised to look into it and give a fuller answer later.
Henning-based Full-Fill Industries in Vermilion County plans to expand its operation thanks to $2.5 million dollars in state tax incentives, which will be administered to assist in areas such as job training, tax credits, and infrastructure improvements.
Full-Fill Industries, which is owned by the Clapp Family of Danville, produces cooking spray products.
"Family-owned businesses like Full-Fill are the backbone of our economy," Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement. "We must do what we can to give them the tools they need to grow and succeed."
The company plans to double its size by constructing three new high-speed production lines in 25,000-square-feet of new manufacturing space. In addition, it will build a 108,000 square-foot warehouse and distribution building, which will include eight new docks and additional bulk tank storage for edible oils.
Company CEO David Clapp anticipates construction will begin this summer, and wrap up within the next year and a half.
"We've been in business for a little over 10 years and this kind of news is very exciting for us," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime dream come true."
The company currently employs 94 employees, but will be able to hire an additional 150 people for various jobs including management, administrative and production positions.
Clapp adds because of the financial support from the state, the company will start producing cooking spray products for ConAgra Foods, which has relied on service from a plant in Rossville that is expected to close. That plant employs about 170 people, and Full-Fill Industries said there is a possibility it will be able to retain some of those jobs.
Chicago-based Groupon is getting some stiffer competition.
Facebook has launched a new program that's a direct challenge to Groupon.
You can add Facebook to the increasing list of web sites with products similar to Groupon. Google is also offering its own brand of daily deals sent straight to your Inbox, along with countless smaller web sites.
So can any these discount deals really put a dent in Groupon, one of the fastest-growing companies in the world?
"At the end of the day, I think it benefits Groupon as well," said Andrew Razeghi, who's with Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He said bigger companies can help promote the business as a whole.
"If you get Facebook promoting deal sites, 500 million people, it's only going to help Groupon over time," Razeghi said. "So it'll probably grow the category overall and everybody in it is going to be better off over time."
A Groupon spokeswoman would not comment for this story.
(Photo courtesy of Franco Bouly/flickr)
A longtime business partner of Clint Atkins says the Champaign developer was always objective about his business assets--but he maintained a lifelong devotion to Champaign-Urbana.
The 65-year-old Atkins died early Sunday morning in Lexington, Ky., after suffering a heart attack.
Peter Fox worked with Atkins to develop the University of Illinois Business Research Park and the I-Hotel. He says Atkins' contributions to Champaign-Urbana includes the his early investment and nurturing of Hobbico, the maker and distributor of hobby products, and FlightStar, the fixed-base operator at Willard Airport.
In the case of FlightStar, Fox draws a link between Atkins and Willard Airport's long-running relationship with American Airlines.
"And because of their (FlightStar's) expertise in maintenance, they convinced American airlines to bring most of their regional jets through Champaign for service and maintenance," Fox said. "So it convinced American that--flying to and from Dallas, and then obviously to and from O'Hare--that Champaign was a great place for the planes to spend the night because they were serviced and maintained by FlightStar."
Fox also notes Atkins' contributions to University of Illinois Athletics. He says the golf course attached to Atkins' Stone Creek subdivision in Urbana helped bring the university's golf teams to new levels of excellence.
"People would look at Stone Creek and think, 'Oh it's a golf course or a housing development,'" Fox said. "But I think Clint looked at it also as a way to help the university grow and nurture men's and women's golf, which then enabled the university to attract Mike Small, the PGA Professional of the Year ... and now we've got an NCAA championship in golf."
Illini golfer Scott Langley was last year's NCAA men's golf individual champion in Division One. Fox says Atkins gift for the Atkins Tennis Center helped the Illini tennis teams in a similar fashion.
Clint Atkins is survived by his wife Susie, and three grown children--Todd, Spencer and Suzette. Todd and Spencer Atkins are now directors at The Atkins Group, the development firm that their father founded. A spokesman for
The Atkins Groups says a public visitation for Atkins will be held Wednesday from 3 to 7 pm at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 S. Prospect in Champaign. A private funeral is planned. Morgan Memorial Home in Savoy is handling funeral arrangements.
The Champaign County nursing home will begin repaying a $330,000 loan that it received from the county a few years ago.
The County Board unanimously approved a plan Thursday night requiring the nursing home to make monthly payments of $1,000 a month into its general revenue fund. County Board member Jan Anderson sits on the nursing home board, and she said the repayment plan may seem like a modest amount. But she said "it shows good faith in wanting to repay" the loan given the nursing home's current financial state.
Champaign County Board Member Alan Nudo is also part of the county's nursing home board. He said since the loan was given out, the nursing home has made a profit and seen an uptick in occupancy.
"The likelihood of us going back to the county for another loan is slight at this time, but you can't predict the future," Nudo said.
Nudo said the nursing home will start repaying the loan by the beginning of May or June.
In about a year, the Champaign County Board will review the repayment plan to determine if the $1,000 a month rate should be increased. But nursing home administrator Andrew Buffenbarger said he is not sure when the center will be in a position to pay a higher monthly fee.
"We'll just continue to evaluate it as time goes on," Buffenbarger said. "It's one of those things that we would like to get retired just as soon as possible, but naturally have to consider the needs of the home."
Buffenbarger said the nursing home is also paying off a $4 million construction loan.
Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is offering a handful of specifics about what he'll accomplish in his first months on the job.
In the first question of a 70-minute interview before an audience Wednesday night at the Field Museum, Emanuel was asked to set some benchmarks he'll no doubt be judged on later: what he will have done 100 days after taking office.
"You want to rush forward all 100 days and I haven't even gotten 100 hours in yet," Emanuel said to the interviewer, Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold. The paper endorsed Emanuel in his campaign for mayor.
Emanuel highlighted some of the things he's done in the transition, most notably key staff announcements.
Among his first moves in office, he said, will be to appoint a board to oversee economic development funds, reorganize some of city government and close what he called the "revolving door" for public employees who take jobs as lobbyists.
Emanuel on Wednesday night also mentioned something he says would not be accomplished quickly.
"I want the culture and the mindset in city government to be one of, we all...deliver a service to the people who are paying the bills," he said.
Emanuel told the audience that won't happen in 100 days - or even in a thousand.
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