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The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation is hosting a naming contest for participation by eligible Illinois young adults. Current members of three groups -- Illinois 4-H, Illinois FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the Illinois Junior Horsemen's Council -- are eligible to submit naming ideas. The Foundation will accept naming ideas through Friday, December 14. A winner will be announced on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

The century-old centerpiece of the Illinois State Fairgrounds, an oval arena with Illinois-style clerestory windows, is being re-roofed and partly rebuilt. The Coliseum was temporarily closed to the public in 2016. The building’s original ceiling beams, which were part of the first generation of steel-building technology when the Coliseum rose in 1901, have reached the end of their useful life. The project is being funded with donations of $7.5 million from the private sector. When rebuilt, the Coliseum will resume its role as a place to show horses in saddle and in harness.

Click HERE for more information on the naming contest.

The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity's Office of Community Assistance announced today that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin scheduling appointments and accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities beginning October 1, 2018.

Customers must bring all required documentation when applying for assistance including:

• Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day income period beginning with the date of the application.

• A copy of their current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly).

• A copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information.

• Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members.

• Proof that their household received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD); or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Disconnected households and families with children ages 5 or under (includes all children who are not yet 6 years old, that is, up to 5 years and 364 days) can begin applying for LIHEAP assistance beginning November 1, 2018. Individuals not eligible for priority enrollment can apply beginning December 1, 2018. LIHEAP applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis until May 31, 2019 or until funding is exhausted.

LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,518; a two-person household up to $2,058; a family of three can earn up to $2,598; and a family of four can earn up to $3,138. Benefits are paid directly to energy vendors on behalf of eligible households. The exception is households whose heating costs are included in their rent.

For a complete listing of LIHEAP's local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to www.liheapIllinois.com or call the LIHEAP toll-free hotline at 1-877-411-WARM (9276).
State Representative Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville) announced that the governor signed into law House Bill 4253 on Tuesday that will now allow the body that appointed a trustee in a water district may also remove that trustee for misconduct, official misconduct, or neglect of office.

“I am pleased that this bill has become law,” said Rep. Brad Halbrook, a member of the Government Transparency Committee. “This is one of those instances where someone could be appointed but there was no legal mechanism to remove them if they were not doing their job or it was discovered they had lost the public trust because of misconduct.”

This law creates more accountability in the 98 public water districts in Illinois. It is a response to a water district trustee who made a profit of more than $14,000 on contracts between his business and the water district board on which he sits, despite being prohibited from having any direct or indirect interest in any contract or work of the district.

This law becomes effective immediately.
State Rep. Brad Halbrook is pleased to announce that the Small Firefighting and Ambulance Service Equipment Grants announced this week include $108,424.25 for communities in his district. Tolono Fire Protection District in Champaign County will receive $18,300; Fairmount Fire Department in Vermilion County will receive $14,640; and in Shelby County, the Windsor Area Ambulance Service will receive $23,800, Windsor Fire Protection District will receive $25,908, and the Findlay Fire Protection District will be receiving $25,076.25.

“This Small Equipment Grant Program is an important funding source for our rural communities,” said Rep. Brad Halbrook. “When the tax base is smaller than in the big cities, it is a bigger challenge to afford the equipment used by fire and ambulance services. These grants are truly life savers for our area.”

One hundred fire departments and nonprofit ambulance services across the state received grants for the purchase of safety equipment, protective clothing, breathing apparatus and other needed tools. The money for this grant comes from the Fire Prevention Fund. The grants total $2.2 million, with each recipient receiving up to $26,000.

“This year we had over 400 fire departments from across the state apply for a grant,” State Fire Marshall Matt Perez said. “The requests for grants totaled over $9 million. We had $2.2 million in funds to award and we ensured that the neediest stations across the state received the money to ensure the safety of the men and women that protect their cities. It is imperative that we continue to find ways to aid the men and women that respond first in a disaster and always put the lives of others before their own.”

This year, research conducted by the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Research Center led OSFM to evaluate new needs. The research on cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks faced by firefighters prompted the inclusion of gear washers as acceptable purchases in this year’s grant application cycle.

Most Illinois fire departments, fire protection districts, township fire departments, and stand-alone, nonprofit ambulance service providers were eligible to apply. All fire department, fire protection district and township fire department applicants were required to have participated in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) for a minimum of two years prior to applying.

State Representative Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville) opposes the two new gun restriction bills signed into law on Monday. These pieces of legislation put additional regulations on Second Amendment rights. Rep. Halbrook opposed both bills when they came before the Illinois House for consideration.

The first piece of legislation, House Bill 2354 would allow family members to get court approval to remove firearms from other family members they claim could hurt someone or themselves.

“Can you imagine the numbers of people who could have the government sweep in to take your guns just because of a temporary argument between a husband and wife or between brothers,” said Rep. Halbrook. “I did not support HB 2354 because the bill unfairly limits due process and could potentially make criminals out of law abiding citizens.”

The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 3256 establishes a ’72-hour waiting period’ while background checks are performed on gun purchasers.

Rep. Halbrook said “the 72-hour waiting period bill is yet another example of Chicago Democrats playing to the extreme anti-gun people with more bureaucracy.” Halbrook added, “this legislation is an attack on our rural Illinois communities and will harm gun dealers and gun and knife trade shows. I am committed to continue to work to protect our constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights.”

Rep. Halbrook pictured with Paris Hospital representatives at
this year's health care and hospital lobby day. 
Recently it was announced that the federal government has approved the state’s plan to protect safety net and rural hospitals while ensuring continued federal support for quality healthcare to more than three million Illinoisans.

"I supported Senate Bill 1773 to help our rural hospitals keep their doors open in many of the communities I represent," said Rep. Brad Halbrook. 

The plan was created with Senate Bill 1773, bipartisan legislation that the governor signed in March. It ensures the state will continue to receive federal matching funds to offer services for Medicaid beneficiaries through the Hospital Assessment Program, which brings in $3.5 billion annually. The new program takes effect July 1.

Legislators worked with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to redesign the program, create a more equitable reimbursement process, and ensure more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

“The Department is pleased that the federal government has approved this plan, which will mean that dollars follow services for Medicaid patients more closely,” said Teresa Hursey, Interim Director of HFS. “The new program reflects the reality that healthcare delivery has changed dramatically over the last ten years, and it draws down as much federal revenue as we believe is permissible.”

Prior to the new program, the state used old data sets, which were sometimes based on care that was provided as far back as 2005, to reimburse hospitals for Medicaid services. The new model applies updated data and also ensures that more of the reimbursements are based on actual services hospitals provide.

It also dedicates more than $260 million to help hospitals transform their operations to better serve their communities, such as offering more urgent and outpatient care.