Wednesday, April 08, 2009
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Area agency looking at how to use federal stimulus money

Community Action Partnership explains what funds will do for area

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[April 08, 2009]  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the stimulus plan, is in the process of funneling money into individual states. The money is coming in through a variety of state agencies. The most recent announcement of funds for the state of Illinois is coming out of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

RestaurantAngela Stoltzenburg, executive director of Community Action Partnership of Central Illinois, and Kathy Shepherd, community services program director, hosted an open forum discussion Friday afternoon to announce and discuss planned uses for a special $400,000 grant they will be receiving under the act.

Stoltzenburg explained that DCEO has not yet set the specific rules for how the money can be spent, but the lion's share will go to individuals and families who meet income eligibility, and the money must be expended by Sept. 30, 2010.

There will be $40,000 off the top going to the small-business loan program offered by Community Action Partnership. This program offers loans up to 49 percent of the total needed for a business startup or upgrades to a current business, with 51 percent coming from a commercial loan or existing capital. For every $20,000 lent out, the borrower must hire one eligible low-income person.


Stoltzenburg says that there is currently about $120,000 available to loan out. Anyone interested in finding out more about the program should call the Community Action Partnership and talk to Kathy Inman, the agency's fiscal officer.

Community Action Partnership of Central Illinois serves a six-county region consisting of DeWitt, Fulton, Logan, Mason, Menard and Piatt counties. Stoltzenburg says that the intent is to divide the remainder of the money among the six counties, which would equate to each county receiving $60,000 in stimulus funding.

Perhaps the most important point to make now is that the funds will be distributed according to a different income guideline than used by other programs offered by the Community Action Partnership. This money will go to anyone who is within 200 percent of poverty level.

Stoltzenburg explained that other community service benefits are issued according to 125 percent of the poverty level, which means a qualifying household of two would need to make $1,500 a month or less. The new guidelines will raise that figure to $2,428 per month.

This is going to enlarge the current client pool. "There are a lot of people who at 200 percent of poverty have needed the help in the past but haven't been able to get it," she explained.

While DCEO hasn't published any guidelines for spending this money and there is no release date for the funds, Community Action agencies are being told to be ready with a plan.

Currently the Community Action Partnership's plan includes most of what is already offered through the agency's community services program but to a higher income group.

Shepherd said that one new project they are hoping to add on a very small scale, with perhaps only 10 clients, is a job training and certification program, using up to $4,000 per person. The funds would go to educate workers in a new skill and assist in getting them whatever certifications that new skill might require.

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She stressed that this would be for folks who have recently been involuntarily laid off, and she stressed this isn't for people who have quit working, perhaps years ago. Shepherd added that the clients would be eligible for this only after exhausting all other means of assistance, such as grants and student loans.

Another new program could be prescription assistance, up to $50 per person. Stoltzenburg said that with the cost of pharmaceuticals today, $50 isn't much money, but with some area pharmacies offering $4 generics, it will still be beneficial to some.

In addition to the $400,000 stimulus grant, the agency's weatherization program will receive a big boost in funds over the next two years.

In the past, the weatherization program has been able to serve about 80 to 90 clients per year. The increase in funds also comes with new income guidelines of 200 percent of poverty level and will allow for about 400 homes to be weatherized over the two-year time frame.

When discussion from the floor was requested, Keith Snyder, Lincoln mayoral candidate, and Logan County Board member Bill Martin discussed whether the loan program might be of benefit in the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership's business incubator project.

Stoltzenburg said that she had talked to development partnership director Joel Smiley in the past about the loan program in general but not about its use with the incubator. She added she'd be happy to go back to him and see how the two programs might be able to work together.


In the interest of transparency, Community Action will continue to keep the community informed of developments in this stimulus grant as they become available.

To learn more about the programs of the Community Action Partnership of Central Illinois, visit or call 217-732-2159.


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