Toy Drive a Tremendous Success, New Leader for IL Farm Bureau

32nd District residents generously donate to Toys for Tots

When Phil Sweeney and Karena Bergendof of Toys for Tots stopped by my legislative office late last week to pick up the items donated for this year’s toy drive, they were struck by the generosity shown by this area’s residents. Our bin was overflowing with toys for kids of all ages!

Local collection campaigns are held annually in over 800 communities across all 50 states, and either a Marine, a member of a Marine Corps League Detachment, or a member of a local community organization is designated as a coordinator for each community. Once all toys are collected from drop-off locations, coordinators, with the help of local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other community agencies, distribute toys to less fortunate children.

Illinois Farm Bureau selects new president for upcoming year

Last week hundreds of Illinois farmers and county farm bureau members gathered in Chicago for the Illinois Farm Bureau’s (IFB) annual meeting. At this annual meeting, the group discusses issues relative to agriculture and the farming community and they create a policy platform.

Congratulations to Brian Duncan, an Ogle County livestock and grain farmer, who was selected at the meeting to serve as President of the Illinois Farm Bureau for 2024. Prior to his selection as IFB President, Brian served as the organization’s vice president since 2017. He also served 13 years as President of the Ogle County Farm Bureau (2004-2017) and has held positions on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Swine Advisory Committee, National Pork Producers Council Price Discovery Task Force, and the Ogle County Pork Producers board of directors.

Illinois recreational trail projects awarded $3.7 million

Two local trail systems in the 32nd District could be getting a significant facelift, thanks to the recent announcement that $3.7 million will be awarded for various recreational trail development projects across the state.

Under the program, local grant recipients can receive a reimbursement of up to 80 percent for the cost of trail projects. Grants may be awarded for land acquisition, trail construction and rehabilitation, purchase of equipment for trail development and maintenance, restoration of areas damaged by unauthorized trail use, construction of trail-related support facilities such as parking and restrooms, and educational programs.

The Illinois Greenways and Trails Council, an advisory board under the purview of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, recommended the funding for 19 designated projects to be used to help satisfy the burgeoning demand for improved trails and outdoor recreation facilities in Illinois.

Included in the list of recommended projects is a $200,000 allocation to the City of Crystal Lake for improvements to the Three Oaks Recreation Area, and a $192,200 allocation to the Land Conservancy of McHenry County for improvements to the Thompson Road Trail System.

Next phase of Illinois’ broadband expansion

As Illinois continues to work toward enhancing broadband access across the state for its residents, the Illinois Broadband Lab (IBL) is collaborating with the Illinois Office of Broadband and the University of Illinois System to take the next step in deploying $1.04 billion in federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds.

Under the BEAD Program, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and Internet service providers are allowed to challenge the accuracy of the FCC broadband map’s designation of unserved and underserved locations. The hope is that allowing these entities to challenge the map will ensure that federal resources are directed to areas where they are most needed.

Illinois plans to launch its map challenge in January 2024, subject to final approval from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Interested entities eligible for participation can now sign up for the upcoming challenge process by completing a pre-registration webform.

In preparation for the challenge, the IBL is conducting a series of webinars this December to provide assistance and insight for interested eligible entities.

Upcoming Webinar Details:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1:00-2:00 pm: BEAD Challenge Process preparations for eligible entities, covering pre-registration, types of challenges, required evidence, understanding and using FCC Fabric or the Illinois BEAD Challenge Map, speed test data collection, and best practices for documenting and aggregating challenges.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1:00-2:00 pm: A deeper dive into the information covered in the Dec. 12 session.

Participants may register for these webinars here. Additional webinars will be scheduled for early January to help guide participants on how to submit challenges to the Illinois portal before the process formally opens. Specific challenge period dates are contingent on the timing of federal approval.

Learn more about Illinois’ plans to utilize the new federal broadband funds by reviewing the Connect Illinois Five-Year Action Plan. For more information on Illinois’ proposed challenge process, click here.

Illinois launches opioid settlements website

More than $1.3 billion in the form of an opioid settlement will be headed to Illinois by 2038 because of the multi-state lawsuits against prescription opioid distributors, manufacturers, and dispensers for their misleading practices regarding opioids.

Now, the state has officially launched the “Illinois Opioid Settlements Initiative” website to provide Illinoisans with updated information about the settlement agreements. The website will publicly display for interested providers and Illinoisans details on what lawsuits have been settled, how much funding has been awarded in the settlements, how much money remains unallocated, approved abatement uses for the funding, and what organizations have been awarded funding for the state.

Additionally, the new website will serve as the location for future Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) for the distribution of funding for approved opioid abatement uses, with the first NOFO to be posted this month. The Illinois Opioid Settlements Initiative website will also include resources on implementing programs and services that have been identified in the state’s Overdose Action Plan and the Illinois Opioid Allocation Agreement.

Craig Wilcox

Want to stay up to date with Senator Wilcox?

Sign up for his E-Newsletter below: