The State of Illinois finished 2020 ranked #1 for applcations of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), the form most students use to apply for federal and state financial aid for postsecondary education.

This was due in part to a law passe by the legislature to make FAFSA completion a high school graduation requirement. As we saw in Illinois, this action can increase the number of students who are aware of the resources available to help them afford education or training after high school. This information can also help some students decide to attempt college when they might not otherwise have done so, and it may help some students limit student loan debt and take a fuller course load to more quickly complete a degree or credential.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission already provides free college planning and financial aid workshops and one-on-one assistance for students throughout the year, but the agency is extending its outreach and supports to help address the many obstacles for students created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to meet the state’s new FAFSA Mandate.

ISAC has hosted over 750 online financial aid workshops with school partners, as well as 13 statewide virtual financial aid completion workshops since September 2020, with more scheduled in 2021. As high schools focus their efforts on remote learning and keeping connected with students, ISAC is reaching out directly to schools that previously participated in the CCE campaign and is offering the following free supports statewide:

  • Online financial aid completion workshops for students and parents. See studentportal.isac.org/events for statewide virtual events.
  • Individual assistance to students and parents in completing financial aid applications, via web conferencing, phone, text, or email. Contact your local ISACorps member for free assistance: studentportal.isac.org/isacorps. Sign up for ISAC’s free text messaging app to get college/financial aid questions answered via text: isac.org/collegeqa.
  • ISAC’s FAFSA Completion Initiative and direct outreach to students. ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative offers Illinois school districts a way to identify students who have not submitted either a FAFSA or Alternative Application. The application completion information - updated on a weekly basis - can be used by district counselors to help reach students who may need assistance or encouragement to complete an application. To support busy school counselors and with school permission, ISAC can directly reach out to and assist students who have not completed a FAFSA. Find out more at https://www.isac.org/home/fafsa/index.html 
  • Financial Aid Online Learning Module for classrooms. ISAC is developing an online learning module for schools to use as part of their remote learning curriculum, which includes a video and a learning packet.
  • QR code for outreach to students and families. To improve outreach to students and families during the pandemic, ISAC will be introducing a QR code that links to simple and accessible information for students and families about how to get free assistance with financial aid applications. ISAC is partnering with several schools to pilot a program that will affix stickers with this QR code to free and reduced meal boxes and printed learning materials. Students and families will be able to scan the QR code with their phones to access the information.
Category: Latest
IDOT is hiring for several of their seasonal roles related to snow and ice removal in Peoria, Fulton, and Tazewell Counties. IDOT will be hiring multiple people per posting. Click the links below for more details:
 
 
 
 
Note: Due to ethics regulations, Senator Koehler cannot assist in placement.
Category: Latest

Businesses and Non-Profits

Rebuild Distressed Communities

What: Rebuild Distressed Communities is a $25 million economic recovery program to support economically distressed Illinois businesses and communities that have sustained property damage due to civil unrest on or after May 25th, 2020. DCEO has partnered with two community organizations, Local Initiative Services Corporation (LISC) and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Inc. (CNI), to operate the program on behalf of DCEO. The Rebuild Distressed Communities grant program will reimburse the cost of repairs for structural damages, including repairs to storefronts and entrances, improving electrical systems, and restoring exterior work. For work yet to be completed, LISC and CNI will partner with local contractors and pay for them to perform the work.

Potential applicants: Businesses and non-profits that have sustained property damage as a result of civil unrest during protests and demonstrations on or after May 25, 2020. Businesses located in the zip codes listed here are eligible to apply.  Businesses not listed in those zip codes may still be eligible if they operate in an economically distressed area, listed here, and may apply to have their zip code included.

How Much: $25 million total. Grants will be made in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $200,000.

Due: Round 1 has closed, but Round 2 will be open in the coming weeks. In the meantime, applicants can prepare their application and receive technical assistance.

Apply: To prepare an application, click here

Wet Lab Capital Program

What: Wet labs are laboratories with specialized ventilation and utility connections to allow for research of chemicals and materials. They are critical for life sciences innovation to thrive but require large amounts of physical space and are costly to build. Available wet lab space is scarce throughout Illinois, which limits the competitiveness of the state’s life sciences sector, despite our other advantages. This grant will encourage the development of wet lab space that will be multi-tenant shared space available to incubators, corporations, university researchers, and start-ups.

Potential applicants: Likely non-profits or businesses that have experience in development of wet lab facilities, but all are eligible.

How Much: $9 million. We anticipate awarding 1 to 4 grants.

Due: January 27th, 2021 at 5pm

Apply: Applicants can apply online here. They can submit questions on this NOFO by clicking here.

 

Downstate Local Governments

Downstate Manufacturing Training Academies

What: Illinois will establish two new innovative Manufacturing Trainings Academies that will expand opportunities for skills training, boost retention of manufacturers in downstate communities, and attract more investment by manufacturing companies throughout Illinois. These academies will offer specialized training that’s not widely available at downstate community colleges for high-demand manufacturing jobs such as machinery mechanics and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine operators and programmers.

Potential applicants: Community college districts or coalitions of community college districts in downstate Illinois.

How Much: $15 million for two grants.

Due: January 31st, 2021 at 5pm

More Info: Original press release here.

Local CURE’s Economic Support Payments Grant Program

What: This program will reimburse local governments for providing grants to businesses that have experienced interruption of business attributable to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Potential applicants: Local governments outside of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, and Kane Counties.

How Much: $15 million, but there will likely be more money added to the program next month.

Due: Applications will be evaluated every two weeks until the funding is exhausted

More Info: FAQs can be found here.

 

Broadband

Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Program (Round 2)

What: Connect Illinois will support expanded broadband connections in new communities across the state. The application for the second round of funding largely mirrors requirements of the first application – including a 50 percent match in most cases. To ensure an equal playing field, the administration has instituted an exemption allowing a lower nonstate match for project proposals concerning economically distressed communities. This program change acknowledges the difficulty of connecting the hardest-to-serve areas of Illinois, and the compounding challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, allowing underserved communities to be competitive when applying for critical infrastructure dollars.

Potential applicants: Eligible applicants include internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments.

How Much: $50 million. Up to $5 million per project.  

Due: March 1st, 2021 at 11:59 PM  

More Info: Original press release here.

Illinois Connected Communities Grant Program

What: The Illinois Connected Communities (ICC) program underwrites the cost of expert consultative services, and access to best practice curriculum, will be made available to assist with planning and progress around broadband access, adoption, and utilization.  A first round of state grant funding, combined with a philanthropic match, was directed to 12 community-based organizations in July to assist with planning to ensure access, adoption and utilization of high-speed broadband. This latest round will allow communities to apply for up to funding that will support community based broadband planning and capacity building.

Potential applicants: Local governments, libraries, schools, and various local organizations.

How Much: $150k, grant awards up to $15k.

Due: January 25th, 2021

Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption and Digital Equity (READY)

What: Broadband READY grants will direct funding to identify current digital inequities as well as next steps in creating a digital inclusion ecosystem through regional collaboration among community and economic development organizations, education, local leaders and other related stakeholders.

Potential applicants: Public hospitals, libraries, park districts, and schools, senior citizen homes, and other public and private nonprofit or for-profit agencies and organizations.

How Much: $250k, grant awards up to $50k.

Due: December 23rd, 2020 at 5pm

 

Digital Navigator Collaboration

What: Navigators will work to address the digital inclusion process – including home connectivity, devices, and digital skills. Digital navigators will assess residents’ needs and connect with them to resources that match their households’ lifestyles. These navigators can be volunteers or cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, healthcare, and more and who will offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance.

Potential applicants: Local governments; libraries; schools; churches; or similarly oriented nonprofit organizations already serving communities with low broadband adoption, including institutions of higher education.

How Much: None. Membership in the Illinois Connected Community Digital Navigator Program is a non-monetary award to eligible applicants.

Due: January 11th, 2021

Category: Latest

Earlier this week I hosted a discussion with representatives from the Social Security Administration, Illinois Department on Aging, Bradley University, CEFCU, and OLLI at Bradley University so they could provide details about the unique resources available to those transitioning into retirement.

If there's a particular agency you'd like to hear from, feel free to skip ahead to:
1:00 - Megan Forristall with Social Security Administration on Medicare
12:00 - Kelly Dehlinger with the Department on Aging on the Senior Health Insurance Program
21:00 - Dr. Amit Sinha from Bradley University on estate planning and taxes in retirement
33:25 - Eric Pilat from CEFCU on refinancing mortgages and other ways to reduce debt
43:01 - Catheryn Lawless with OLLI at Bradley University on staying educated and active within the community.

Disclaimer from the Social Security Administration: Participation in this presentation does not constitute an endorsement by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or its employees of the organizations and information and products not provided by SSA.

Category: Latest

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