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Where ARRA Funds Are Being Invested



  ARRA Funds Keep Family Off Streets

The federal stimulus package provides funding to prevent people from becoming homeless during this economic recession. DCEO's Office of Community Development administers ARRA Homeless Prevention Funds via grants to 64 local governments and not-for-profit organizations outside of Cook County.

To date, more than 2,120 clients have been helped through this program, including Chad and April, a couple from Centralia. They were on the verge of being evicted in December 2009. Chad had been laid off work, and April was due with their fourth child any day.
BCMW (Bond-Clinton-Marion-Washington) Community Services used some of its ARRA Homeless Prevention funds to pay two months of the family's past due rent. This was enough to catch the family completely up and stop the process of eviction.

In addition, Chad and April had already received their low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) benefits for the year, but still had a large enough power bill that their electric was going to be shut off. BCMW was also able to utilize emergency funds through the LIHEAP program to pay their power bill and keep power on.

"I really feel that without the help and flexibility of the HPRP funds, Chad, April, and their four children would have been homeless.  These funds helped them get back on their feet," said Sarah Ford, Chad and April's BCMW Case Worker.

Statewide, DCEO has access to $19 million in Homelessness Prevention Assistance funds. Funds are being used by the local agencies to provide rental assistance, security/utility deposits, utility payments, moving cost assistance, and motel/hotel vouchers.  As of March, more than $2 million has been disbursed to offset the effects of the economic recession on the state's hardest hit families.

These ARRA dollars are not intended to fight chronic homelessness, but are for those who have lost their home or are on the verge due to recent economic circumstances beyond their control," said Lou Ann Williams, program manager in the Office of Community Development at DCEO. "Sometimes a few months rent is all someone needs to climb back from the brink."

 


Tripling the Number of Weatherized Homes

DCEO and its partners are targeting homes with the highest energy bills and the lowest incomes with more than $97 million in ARRA funds coming through DCEO’s Office of Energy Assistance this fiscal year. Over a two-year period, a total of $242 million will be spent to help Illinois families.

Thanks to the influx, the state’s network of Community Action Agencies is expected to weatherize 22,000 homes before July 2010, more than tripling the 7,000 homes weatherized last year. In addition to providing a long-term cost savings to families, weatherization efforts actually create healthier homes, sometimes even life-saving.

Eligible families must earn no more than 200% of the federal poverty level so the limits are $21,660 for an individual, $29,140 for a couple, $36,620 for a family of three and $44,100 for a family of four.


First comes a free energy audit which will determine which services are performed at no charge, such as air sealing, attic and wall insulation, furnace repairs or replacements, electric base load reduction (lighting and refrigeration) and window and door work. In Chicago, the Community and Economic Development Association has been conducting Energy Audits.
   

Nearly 17,000 Gain Skills & Work Experience through Summer Youth Program

Thanks to $53 million in ARRA funding, 16,700 Illinois youth completed true apprenticeships this summer in career pathways in our nation’s growth industries: green building; sustainable agriculture; trades such as plumbing, welding, carpentry, and masonry; customer service; and small business management. DCEO's 26 Workforce Investment Act agencies worked in concert with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Central Management Services (CMS), and Department of Agriculture (DoA).

Many youths also worked in the field of conservation and historic site maintenance, including a crew at Johnson Sauk Trail Park.  With little-to-no work experience, the youth had to learn how to work together and how to handle tools safely. And they needed a leader. Dusty Hill of Sherrard was severely wounded in Iraq, losing both hands and sustaining multiple burns. Because of his wounds, he could not go back to his former occupation as a carpenter. The Workforce Development Board of Rock Island, Henry and Mercer Counties, Inc.  (LWIA 13) asked this natural born leader to take on the youth crew. “The harder you work, the better the
reward you receive," says Dusty. The youth bonded with Dusty and consider him a role model. Despite bad weather, broken tools, and a bad poison ivy outbreak, the crew accomplished all of their work at the Park.
At the Center for Children’s Services in Danville, the average work readiness score of their youth participants rose 17 percentage points by the end of the summer. One of the major projects was the construction and management of an outdoor café. Youth learned how to build it with hot and cold running water, sewage run-off, electricity, refrigeration/freezers, as well as food preparation, cashier, and customer service stations. Youth learned about the service industry and food preparation, serving approximately 200 lunches each day from June 15 to July 31.  As Café “business partners,” youth utilized the Robert Rules of Order to manage the
restaurant and settle personnel issues. The Café project culminated in a sophisticated evening event where 300 guests were served. A youth landscaping crew also managed the gardens around the Cafe.

Thanks to ARRA, some projects are being extended up to March 31, 2010.