Illinois Public Media News
Restoration Urban Ministries in Champaign has survived another financial crisis. Financial officer Judy Stoll says Ameren has dropped its threat to cut off the homeless shelter's electricity --- now that they've caught up with their bill.
"Because of the generous outpouring of the community and the churches and private donations", says Stoll, "we have been able to get caught up with Ameren. and I actually paid the last of the Ameren bill off on Monday. We're also trying to get some of the other utility bills caught up".
Stoll says more than 25-thousand dollars has come to Restoration Urban Ministries since last month, when residents of the shelter came to a Champaign City Council meeting to ask for help --- and Ameren warned of a power cutoff if bills weren't paid. First amendment issues prevent the city of Champaign from giving money to the faith-based shelter. But Stoll says contributions are still coming in from the public. She says that helps make up for a 30-to-40 percent dip in donations to Restoration earlier this year.
The organization currently shelters about 91 people in a former motel on Champaign's northwest side, and provides them with life skills classes to help them get back on their feet.
Stoll says supporters of Restoration Urban Ministries are launching their own efforts to keep the donations coming in. Those efforts include a Facebook page, titled "Help Save Restoration Ministries". Pastor Vincent Elam is hosting the page, and asking 25-thousand people to give a dollar each to help out.
Unemployment has risen in all 12 Illinois metropolitan areas.
Figures released by the state Thursday show the highest jobless rate in June was 14 percent, in the Rockford metro area. That's up from 13.4 percent in May and more than 5 percentage points higher than last June.
Local jobless figures were released one week after the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced the statewide unemployment rate hit a 26-year high 10.3 percent.
Besides Rockford, other metro areas with unemployment rates above 10 percent in June were Chicago-Naperville-Joliet at 11.3 percent, Danville at 10.9 percent, Decatur at 11.3 percent and the Kankakee-Bradley at 11.1 percent.
Here's a look at rates for June and May:<
Metro area June Rate MayRate
Bloomington-Normal: 6.7 6.0
Champaign-Urbana: 7.8 6.7
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet: 11.3 10.7
Danville: 10.9 10.1
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island 7.6 6.9
Decatur: 11.3 10.0
Kankakee-Bradley: 11.1 10.6
Lake-Kenosha: 9.2 8.7
Peoria: 9.6 8.9
Rockford: 14.0 13.4
Springfield: 6.9 6.3
St. Louis (Ill. area): 9.0 8.2
Source: Illinois Department of Employment Security
Action Tuesday by the U-S Energy Department gives a green light to action at the FutureGen site near Mattoon. So says Angela Griffin, president of the economic development group Coles Together.
The Energy Department issues a formal Record of Decision which formally approves FutureGen's goals, objectives and potential environmental impacts. Griffin says before, the FutureGen Alliance could only work on the experimental clean coal project in general terms. Now, she says they can focus directly on conditions at the Mattoon site.
"They can do some very site-specific engineering and design work, which will then lead to some very specific cost estimates which are needed to get at the final cost of the plant.," Griffith said. "This allows them to do some work here, it allows them do some further subsurface characterization of the site, to verify what we already believe is the case, to spend some money at our site in a way that they weren't able to do before today."
The FutureGen project aims to build an experimental coal gasification plant that cuts down on carbon emissions by burying them underground. The project depends on both federal funding and money from the energy industry. The Bush Administration had pulled away from the project, citing rising cost estimates. But FutureGen found new support under the Obama administration.
State Senator Dan Rutherford is making it official --- he's running for state treasurer.
The Pontiac Republican is holding press conferences around the state Monday to announce his candidacy. But he's already posted his statement on his YouTube page.
Rutherford blames Democrats for Illinois' financial mess, including high taxes in Chicago and Cook County, and the push by the governor and state Senate Democrats to raise the state income tax."I believe it's time", says Rutherford in his YouTube statement, "that the chief financial officer of the state of Illinois stand up and articulate those types of concerns and problems, and show that there has to be a rational path to follow."
Rutherford says the best solution to Illinois' financial troubles is job creation --- and he promises to push a job creation policy as treasurer.
Rutherford also used his campaign announcement to take a swipe at the current treasurer, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. He cited the purchase by the treasurer's office of a 26-thousand dollar hybrid SUV, using money from the Bright Start college education savings program, and said it's something he would never allow as state treasurer. Giannoulias is expected to run for Senate next year, not treasurer. But his chief of staff, former lawmaker Robin Kelly, is a possible Democratic choice for the officer.
Rutherford is an executive with the ServiceMaster Company, and a state senator since 2002. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, and say that, plus his business experience, will help him be an effective treasurer.
Illinois is leading the nation in bank failures so far this year, and a banking group warns that more failures are likely.
Regulators say the state's top ranking is largely because Illinois has more banks than any other state.
Illinois has seen 12 banks fail in 2009. The next highest is Georgia with nine failures and then California with six. Six of the Illinois failures came last week with the shut down of six banks owned by a single company, including Danvulle's First National Bank and John Warner Bank in Clinton.
Experts say they were brought down by investments that went bad. All have reopened with new owners. The Illinois Bankers Association says Illinois has far more banks than any other state, so more failures are likely.
State regulators closed six Illinois banks owned by one holding company on Thursday. Banks in Danville, Clinton and four other Illinois cities have been handed over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is arranging to have them reopen Monday under new owners.
The First National Bank of Danville became the 50th FDIC-insured bank to fail this year, and the 11th in Illinois, when it was placed in receivership yesterday by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The bank will reopen Monday as part of First Financial Bank of Terre Haute.
Regulators also closed the John Warner Bank in Clinton --- it reopens Monday as part of the State Bank of Lincoln.
Other banks scheduled to reopen under new owners are the First State Bank of Winchester, Founders Bank in Worth, Rock River Bank in Oregon and the Elizabeth State Bank.
All six banks were part of the Founders Group, based in Worth, a Chicago suburb. An FDIC news release says the banks failed because they lost too much money to bad loans, including investments in collateralized debt obligations.
Two of the Founders Group's banks, in Gilman and Peotone, are NOT affected.
The FDIC says depositors will not lose any money due to the closures, and can still access their money over the weekend by ATM or debit card, or by writing checks. The federal agency has set up toll-free numbers to call for more information about the bank closures. The number for the First National Bank of Danville is 1-800-591-2817. The number for the John Warner Bank is 1-800-837-0215. The phone numbers will be operational on Friday and Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM, Sunday from 12 PM to 6 PM, and thereafter from 8 AM to 8 PM (all times CDT). More information is also available on the FDIC website, at www.fdic.gov.
The six Illinois banks --- plus one in Texas --- that were placed in receivership bring to 52 the number of FDIC-insured banks that have been closed this year.
The University of Illinois' monthly gauge of economic performance has hit its lowest point since it was established 14 years ago.
But the author of the Flash Index says the current recession still hasn't reached the depths of the early 1980's economic slowdown. Economist Fred Giertz also says there are promising signs that the recession may be approaching an end, perhaps by the end of the year. Even so, Giertz says statistics before then are bound to get slightly worse.
"Some of the things that go into the Index don't turn around very rapidly," says Giertz, "in particular, employment, which has a lot to do with the individual income tax collections. So this is not a surprise. I think the only surprise would be that it went down a little bit more than might be expected."
The U of I Flash Index measures Illinois tax proceeds to evaluate the state of the economy. With any number above 100 suggesting economic growth, the June rate checked in at only 92. That's more than two points lower than May.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has quickly signed into law a new two-year state budget that lawmakers approved just hours before the current spending plan was to expire.
Daniels signed the bill Tuesday night in his Statehouse office about an hour after the Senate adjourned. The Republican governor says the budget has some flaws but does limit spending to preserve Indiana's reserves. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 34-16 in favor of the plan, which the Democrat-led House had passed on a 62-37 vote amid impassioned debate earlier in the day.
Lawmakers had faced a midnight deadline to pass a new budget or stopgap funding measure to prevent most of state government from shutting down.
Wednesday marks the start of the new state government fiscal year. But there's no budget agreement and no indication when one might happen.
The state will keep operating for at least a while... even though it has no spending authority. Lawmakers have approved a budget that includes heavy cuts to social services, which Governor Pat Quinn announced he won't sign. It all adds up to an ongoing stalemate that threatens to drag well into the summer or longer. Quinn spoke before a joint session of the House and Senate just hours before lawmakers left the Capitol. "We must not put off decisions until later in the summer or the fall or next winter... that's not what adults do," Quinn told lawmakers in the House chamber.
Quinn is still trying for an income tax increase, but so far he lacks the votes to get it passed. A gubernatorial veto would force lawmakers back to the Capitol, but there's no timetable yet for their return. The Governor says the state has a budget deficit of more than nine billion dollars, but there's even disagreement if that's an accurate amount.
The initial groundwork has already been laid for a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis, with trains traveling 110 miles an hour.
Now the authors of a new study of even faster trains want to include Champaign on such a route. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is advocating for 220 mile an hour trains that would connect Champaign to Chicago in 45 minutes.
Association Executive Director Rick Harnish says competitors in Asia and Europe have gained an edge on their ability to compete in a global economy. He says China's trains will cover the distance of Chicago to New York down to four hours by the year 2013:
"If you could get on a train here and be in Chicago and transfer to another train and be in New York in 5 hours, you can't do that by plane today. It does have an impact," Harnish said. "We're spending more on our infrastructure than our competitors are, we're spending more per-trip, per-person than our competitors are, and we're making fewer trips than our competitors are because it's so much more expensive to travel here than over there."
Illinois is in the running to receive 8-billion dollars in federal stimulus money to begin building initial high-speed rail lines. Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn is asking lawmakers to add 400-million dollars for high-speed rail in a capital construction program. Harnish estimates the state would need to find another 10-million for a market study of the faster trains.
Illinois Senate Transportation Committee Chair Martin Sandoval says Illinois is no longer looking at theories and believes the state will make the investment.
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