IFB staff participate in the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) to convey impacts of COVID-19 on our members in the areas of health care, rural development, technology and workforce advancement.
Millions funneled through Illinois’ Digital Equity Formula Grant program to help with remote learning
Over 470 school districts throughout the state are receive grant funding to help students with remote learning.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has carved out $80 million to help improve remote learning and bridge the digital divide among Illinois’ students. This program, called The Digital Equity Formula Grant program is being used to provide students with the technology and connectivity they need to access remote learning this Fall and beyond.
School districts can use the grant to purchase devices and improve connectivity or cover remote-learning purchases made since March 13. To be considered for reimbursement and additional funding, districts will be required to submit an application and quarterly expenditure reports.
An updated and complete list of eligible applicants and allocations available at on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website: https://www.isbe.net/Documents/FY21- Digital-Equity-Allocations-WEB.pdf
Second Installment Property Tax Payments are Due: Late Payment Penalty’s Might Apply
In most counties, the second installment for payment of property taxes is due. However, like many things in 2020, familiar processes have been adjusted to address hardships created by COVID-19. First Installment options for property tax payments were an example of relief efforts offered in several counties. However, with the second installment now due, property owners need to know the local process and possible penalties.
Close to half the counties across the state offered some type or property tax relief with the first installment. This relief came in the form of waiving late fees and interest payments. A few counties have approved similar relief options for the second installment - extending payment dates by 45 to 90 days. Many counties have not.
With so much variation across the state, it’s important to know if local relief options are being offered. It is also important to make the distinction between the first installment due dates and second installment due dates. Taxpayers might think the earlier waiver will also be applied to the second installment – likely not the case. In many counties, there has been no relief for the second installment. In that case, property owners will likely be assessed penalties for late payment.
If a second installment waiver is offered, it will only apply to taxpayers who make direct payments to the county. It will not apply to taxpayers who include monthly tax payments through an escrow account.
Relaxed Open Meetings Act Requirements for Local Units of Government
Due to public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments are postponing non-essential meetings and implementing procedures for “hosting” those meeting considered essential. Opportunities to hold these essential meetings have been made possible under the gubernatorial disaster proclamation and Executive Order which, in part, relaxes meeting requirements under the Open Meetings Act (OMA).
The OMA is one of Illinois’ sunshine laws that ensures meetings, actions, and deliberations of public bodies, including local units of government, are conducted openly, accommodate public attendance, and allow for public comment.
The OMA also requires a quorum of the members of a public body be physically present at the meeting location.
To limit public gatherings and violations to the OMA the current Executive Order encourages local governments to postpone business when possible, including non-essential meetings.
When a until of local government determines it must hold a meeting, the Executive Order suspends the requirements for public, in-person attendance and the presents of a “physical quorum” by allowing for remote participation.
Under the Executive Order local governments must still find ways for these remote meeting to be accessible to the public and press. They must also provide opportunity for public comment.
These “virtual” meetings can employ a combination of video, audio and telephonic access. Local governments can also consider taking public comments by email or written submission. Those comments can then be read at the public meeting.
Where possible, local governments should also provide frequent updates on their website and consider outreach through social media.
Putting these measures in place creates opportunities for local governments to move forward during this challenging public health emergency while still maintaining a degree of transparency and public involvement.