As always, you can contact me via webform at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
This month we mark Child Abuse Prevention Month. While this is a top priority all year round, this month gives us an opportunity to highlight some of the resources available to help spot the signs of child abuse and neglect and ways to take action. Each year in Illinois, 125,000 kids are abused or neglected. It is estimated that as many as one in five Illinois kids will be abused before they turn 18. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has identified the six protective factors that can help ensure that children are raised in a healthy environment.
These factors include 1) promoting nurturing bonds between children, parents and caregivers; 2) ensuring effective, appropriate and research-based child discipline; 3) strengthening parental resilience to stress; 4) developing emotional and social skills in children; 5) supporting parenting through social connections and friends and family; and 6) connecting families to community resources.
The state of Illinois has established a child abuse hotline, 1-800-25-ABUSE, where people can turn for help. This hotline can take abuse reports, but can also help connect Illinoisans with resources and services to help children. In the four years this hotline has been active, it has received more than one million calls. DCFS also provides information about how to tell if a child is being abused, and what you can do to help.
Unemployment up slightly in March
Illinois' unemployment rate moved up slightly in March, increasing by a tenth of a point in the latest report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). IDES reports that the state's unemployment rate now stands at 4.4%, up from 4.3% in February. This is due in part to a loss of 2800 jobs according to figures compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by IDES.
Some sectors of the economy saw improvement in March; namely manufacturing (up 1400 jobs), financial activities (1400) and leisure & hospitality (1200). The losses occurred in the fields of professional and business services (down 4200 jobs), trade, transportation and utilities (-3000) and construction (-1600). Overall, Illinois' unemployment rate is 0.6% higher than the national rate, which stands at 3.8%. IDES reports that there are now 284,400 unemployed workers in Illinois, an increase of 1.3% over the same month last year.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,926,863,813 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.9 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
U of I health care forum
I was glad to be part of a panel discussion on health care with Margaret Foran Vaughn, Sinead Rice Madigan and a group of University of Illinois Health Care Policy Graduate students. I appreciated the opportunity to talk about a number of thoughts and issues around the future of health care policy for our state. This is going to continue to be a major issue for policymakers for many years to come. It was a great discussion and I am thankful for the invitation.
IDOT distributing trees to schools statewide
In honor of Earth Day, which was on Monday, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) distributed more than 5000 trees to local schools throughout the state this week. IDOT administers the "Trees to Schools" program each year to help replace trees which are lost to construction or maintenance.
The schools can plant the seedlings at their facilities or see that they are planted elsewhere as part of an educational effort to make students aware of the importance of trees. IDOT advises that a tree produces enough oxygen in a season for 10 humans to consume for an entire year. They play an important role in removing carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with oxygen, and provide shade, protection against soil erosion and make a home for many species of animals.
IDOT received the trees free of charge through the Living Lands and Waters Million Trees Project. This program dates back to 2009, and IDOT estimates that it has helped distribute around 50,000 seedlings.
Did You Know?
Organ music was first heard during a ballgame at Wrigley Field on April 26, 1941. It was the first time that music had been added to the sounds of major league baseball. Ballpark organ music proved so popular among fans that instead of the one-time stunt that it was intended to be, it spread to ballparks around the world and became a mainstay which continues to this day.