Click the links to the right to learn how Lt. Governor Quinn and the Rural Affairs Council are tackling today's issues facing rural Illinois:
On March 13, Lt. Governors from around the nation joined with Lt. Governor Quinn to unanimously pass a resolution that urges immediate action to increase access to high-speed Internet throughout the United States.
The Resolution to Bridge the Digital Divide in America results from a shared goal of the members of the National Lt. Governors Association to ensure that every resident of the United States – from those who live in high-rise apartments in bustling cities to those who manage farms in the heartland of America – have access to high-speed Internet service.
The Governor's Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) and its member agencies are hard at work to preserve the high quality of life available in our rural communities. These efforts must be maintained so rural Illinois can keep pace with the metro regions of the state and contribute to Illinois’ economic vitality. The GRAC will continue its efforts in the areas of Technology Access, Affordable Housing, Local Economic Development, Access to Health Care, and tax fairness.
Affordable broadband service is crucial to rural Illinois. Cell phone users should be able to call 911 even in remote areas. An “e-champion” pushing for aggressive policy to expand world-class communication technology in Illinois could help local officials and business leaders keep pace with the technology demands of the 21st century. Several states, including North Carolina and Kentucky have started relatively small agencies to accomplish this mission. Concentrated efforts to designate specific rural regions for additional investments to improve communications infrastructure are warranted. These programs can stimulate private investment and build local capacity in communities across Illinois.
Many communities in rural Illinois need more affordable, elderly friendly housing. Efforts to obtain federal funds that support home construction should be pursued. Education and technical assistance should be available to rural community leaders to help them provide access to housing that meets the needs of current and in-coming residents.
Rural Illinois needs an entrepreneurial climate that fosters innovation and business growth. Identifying potential business clusters that could prosper in rural areas could go a long way in stimulating local economies. DCEO and other agencies should continue to help local business and government leaders launch economic development strategies. Ethanol plants are of special importance in rural areas because of the jobs they create and because of their byproducts. Small communities often face losing local businesses because of retirements and the fact that family members have moved away. Business succession planning programs linking younger generations to soon-to-retire business owners could help retain the rural workforce.
Access to Health Care
High quality health care, including dental care, is crucial to retaining and attracting rural residents. The growth of telemedicine and other IT technologies will expand access to specialists not previously available in rural areas. Insurance providers and state-funded programs should support legislative initiatives that increase rural access to telehealth services. Finally, the state should support a process to measure and evaluate the benefits of these services.
Poverty continues to be a serious concern in rural Illinois and efforts are needed to make sure that eligible consumers apply for and receive an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The federal EITC percentage for which residents are eligible is tied to the state EITC (5 percent). Increasing that percentage in Illinois would bring additional money to rural Illinois. Additional tax assistance site locations would help more deserving families get the financial relief they need at tax time.