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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:11pm
Mon Jun 27

Illinois Expands Reach Of Summer Meal Programs, But 686,000 Kids Still Missing Out

More low-income Illinois children are participating in summer meal programs, but there are still nearly 686,000 eligible kids missing out, a new report shows.

About 112,000 low-income Illinois children received summer meals on a daily basis last July, according to the report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger group.

That figure represents a 4.7 percent increase from July 2014, when about 107,000 low-income Illinois children accessed summer meal programs each day.

While advocates are pleased by the 4.7 percent increase, they point out that summer meals are reaching only one in seven low-income Illinois children who need them.

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
7:15pm
Thu Jun 23

Illinois Immigration Reform Advocates Vow To Press On After Supreme Court's Split Vote On Executive Orders (VIDEO)

The U.S. Supreme Court announced a 4-4 split on the case challenging President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration reform and Illinois advocates are expressing their dismay as they plan to press their efforts forward.

The deadlock vote means the president's November 2014 orders to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and install the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) have been blocked for the time being.

The programs would have deferred deportation for three years for undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders, while also expanding protections for people who were brought to the U.S. as minors and were not covered by the original DACA program. More than 4 million immigrants would have benefited from the orders, 280,000 people living in Illinois.

"This ruling is deeply frustrating and disappointing for all immigrant communities," said Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights CEO Lawrence Benito.  "Instead of being able to move forward with our lives and contributing further to our entire community, immigrants remain vulnerable to the knock on the door that could separate them from their families and from the lives they have made in this country."

Quick Hit
by Op-Ed
5:01pm
Tue Jun 21

Op-Ed: Choice Is A Right We All Must Defend

The following is written by Oren Jacobson, executive director and co-founder of Men4Choice, "an organization that serves as a point of entry for young men to join the fight to protect and expand women's reproductive rights and make choice a voting issue for men."

In November 2010, Tea Party-aligned politicians swept into office at all levels of government under the guise of reducing government influence in our daily lives. That promise was quickly broken by many of those elected, who have since seemed more interested in using the authority of the state to severely limit access to reproductive health services and marginalize the women who make use of them. During the last 6 years, we have actually seen as many anti-choice pieces of legislation adopted by the states as the previous 15 years combined. In 2015, at least one piece of legislation was filed per day that would strip women of their basic rights.

These efforts aren't simply about preventing abortions, though. They are actually designed to make it harder to access basic health care and contraceptive services. For example, Planned Parenthood's abortion services make up roughly three percent of the organization's work, but that hasn't stopped anti-choice legislators from pushing to defund this vital organization that helps millions across the country receive affordable, critical healthcare.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:12pm
Fri Jun 17

Former Old Country Buffet Workers Sue Over Sudden Layoffs At Chicago Restaurant

Former workers of a now-closed Old Country Buffet in Chicago are suing for back pay compensation after the restaurant abruptly shut down in early March.

Four former employees of the shuttered Old Country Buffet, located at 6125 N. Lincoln Ave., filed a federal lawsuit in April against the restaurant's operator, Texas-based Food Management Partners.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, alleges the company failed to notify employees about the layoffs 60 days before closing the restaurant on March 7. Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, a 60-day layoff notice is required when a business closing will result in the loss of 50 or more job positions that required more than 20 hours a week. 

At the now-closed Old Country Buffet on Lincoln Avenue, there were 57 employees who worked more than 20 hours a week, according to the lawsuit.  

"A number of the people who worked there were employed for over ten years," said Carolyn Morales with Arise Chicago, a worker center assisting the laid off Old Country Buffet workers. "This is not high school students' part-time job. This is people's profession."

Quick Hit
by Michael Joyce
5:53pm
Mon Jun 13

Group Of Chicago Aldermen Commit To Supporting Public Schools As Illinois Budget Crisis Drags On

Frustrated teachers and parents called on local Chicago aldermen to stand up and make individual commitments of support to public school teachers and students during the ongoing budget crisis on Saturday. 

At the State of Chicago Public Schools Summit, community organizer and former aldermanic candidate Jhatayn "Jay" Travis was addressing the aldermen when a voice from the crowd demanded the aldermen stand up, state their names, and specifically answer two questions: will they work on local revenue solutions in the city council to help Chicago public schools, and will they demand progressive revenue funding from Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers?

The audience swelled with cheers as the aldermen took the floor.

Speaking to the crowd, Ald. John Arena (45th) said he is already working towards the issues brought up at the summit, but needs cooperation from the state to see results.

"We need help from Springfield to make some of these ideas go forward," said Arena. "Just because we're in the council, it doesn't mean we have the authority to do some of these things. So we need to work together to bring pressure and put some of these ideas forward, and voters have to support it."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:29pm
Fri Jun 10

Federal Funding Saves Illinois Pediatric AIDS Prevention Group From Closure

HIV-positive mothers and their unborn babies are benefiting from an 11th-hour infusion of federal funding that saved an Illinois nonprofit from closing due to the state budget impasse.

Anne Statton, executive director of the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (PACPI), said approximately $500,000 in available federal funds was released to the organization by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The funds will cover outstanding invoices for contracted services PACPI performed between July 2015 and March 2016, Statton said.

PACPI, which works to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmissions, depends on IDPH for about 85 percent of its funding. Currently, the organization has state contracts that collectively total about $845,000.

Without the federal funding, PACPI would have been forced to shut down in October.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:55pm
Thu Jun 9

Chicago's Southeast Siders Secure Petcoke Victory, Detail Next Steps In Campaign

Chicago's far Southeast Side residents are applauding progress in their campaign against petcoke storage in their community, but say they aren't done fighting for a complete city ban on the oil refining byproduct.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday morning, members of the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke said they secured a major victory now that, under a city order, a company storing petcoke in their community can no longer have uncovered outdoor piles of the material.

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
5:26pm
Thu Jun 9

Number Of Chicago Public Schools With High Lead Levels Ticks Up To 12

High lead levels have been found in the drinking water at 11 additional Chicago public schools, according to new reports.

After a pilot program found high levels of lead in three water fountains at Tanner Elementary on the city's South Side last month, Chicago Public Schools officials announced plans to test the water at every school in the district.

The district is currently testing water at schools built prior to 1986 as those sites are more likely to have lead service lines. The district is also testing the water at schools with prekindergarten programs. Water in Chicago schools had not been previously tested for the heavy metal before the discovery at Tanner Elementary.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:22pm
Tue Jun 7

Former Illinois Governor Calls For Compromise In Springfield As Budget Impasse Continues

With the state budget stalemate nearing the one-year mark, former Illinois Republican Gov. Jim Edgar made a plea Tuesday for "civility," "compromise" and "compassion" in Springfield.

Speaking in Chicago, Edgar said the "best public policy comes out of compromise," explaining that "you can't get things done if you're not willing to meet your adversaries halfway."

"We ought to have checks and balances, but we shouldn't have shouting matches," he added at the "Illinois: Vision for the Future" event, hosted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform at the Standard Club.

Edgar, who became governor in 1991 and served two terms, said Illinois is currently in the "worst shape" he seen over the 50 years he's been around state government.

"We have so many people out there hurting because government's not solving the problem," he stressed. 

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