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STAUNTON – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) was joined by Governor JB Pritzker at Madison Communications in Staunton to announce $50 million in funding through the Connect Illinois broadband expansion program’s second round of grants today.

“Lack of reliable access to quality internet service affects every facet of life in Downstate Illinois, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only widened the existing gap between us and the rest of the state,” Manar said. “We continue to prioritize broadband expansion in the state budget, because it is the starting point for effective remote learning, dependable telehealth care services, and growing small businesses to revitalize the downstate economy. I want to thank Governor Pritzker for his steadfast partnership in continuing to push this important issue in Springfield."

With the help of a $4.2 million broadband expansion grant to Staunton-based Madison Communications, the first round of Connect Illinois grants jumpstarted the process of providing improved access to high-speed internet for approximately 9,283 businesses, farms, households, and other institutions in Macoupin and Madison Counties. This was one of 28 projects that supported over 26,000 new or improved connections throughout the state.

The second round of Connect Illinois grants will allow for up to $5 million per project and calls for a matching component, which requires companies to dedicate funding that will accelerate the delivery of broadband investments.

“Connect Illinois is the largest and best crafted state matching grant program for broadband development in our nation’s history,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It leverages state dollars to bring federal and private dollars in, more than doubling the number of dollars getting put to work to upgrade our digital infrastructure and delivering demonstrable change to people’s lives and real opportunity for new business development and new jobs. The ability to plug in to the digital revolution revolutionized the lives and livelihoods of so many Illinoisans before COVID-19 – and the lack of fast internet access had unacceptable consequences for too many of our residents. Connect Illinois is about giving all our communities access to 21st century digital connectivity for health care, education, and economic opportunity.”

Funding for the Connect Illinois program is made possible through Rebuild Illinois, the state’s historic, bipartisan $45 billion statewide construction program, which dedicates $420 million to broadband infrastructure.

The application for this round of grants will remain open through February 2021. More information on this grant program can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website.

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DECATUR – Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton and State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) demonstrated their commitment to the success of the City of Decatur by taking an afternoon tour of several local businesses and social service centers.

Manar, who serves as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations II Committee and a lead budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus, emphasized the importance of providing support to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“Throughout the day, we saw firsthand the value provided to Decatur by the vibrant local business and social service communities, but we also saw the immense difficulty COVID-19 has caused them,” Manar said. “I’m thankful for the partnership of Lt. Gov. Stratton, who understands the need for long-term, equitable solutions in our communities.”

"I’m thrilled to be in Decatur today visiting businesses and listening to the needs of residents. It is also my goal to build engagement around the 2020 Census in order to help residents of Macon County get the representation they deserve while maximizing the dollars we get back from the federal government," Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said. "Illinois is working hard to be counted!"

Manar and Stratton made several stops throughout the day, which included dropping off food donations at the Good Samaritan Inn, holding a lunchtime roundtable discussion on the further investment of resources for Decatur’s youth at TKG’s Wing Heaven, discussing increasing access to mental health services for the Black community at Cole Counseling Services, and visiting J. Morris Enterprises, a local Black-owned business incubator. 

The day was capped off by a press conference to promote participation in the 2020 Census.

“While lawmakers will continue working diligently in the coming months to provide Decatur with the resources it needs to succeed, people in the community can do a very small thing to help as well,” Manar said. “In order for these local businesses and social service centers to continue providing their high level of service, everyone needs to take ten minutes to fill out their census. This action will decide what Decatur looks like for the next decade.”

Residents can fill out their census form at www.my2020census.gov.  

Business Interruption Grant Webinar2 To ensure businesses in 48th District with the information they need to apply for Business Interruption Grants (BIG) through the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Staate Senator Andy Manar will host an informational webinar on Wednesday, October 14 at 1:30 PM.

This webinar will be focuses on helping African-American owned businesses in Central Illinois, and in order to help reach as many business as possible, local leaders in Springfield and Decatur have been enlisted to help spread the word.

Registration is required for participants. Register and access the webinar here: https://bit.ly/34b5Eqj

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SPRINGFIELD – The Hillsboro Public Library is the recipient of a $643,186 grant from the Illinois secretary of state’s office, State Senator Andy Manar announced Friday.

The grant was awarded through the Secretary of State’s Public Library Construction Grant program, a program designed to assist community public libraries with construction costs associated with their facilities.

Hillsboro is receiving the grant thanks in part to a push from Manar, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, during last spring’s budget negotiations.

“The value a quality public library brings to rural communities cannot be overstated. Growing up and living in a small town, I know how important this is. This renovation project in the newly acquired facility will provide Hillsboro and the surrounding area with a modern library space for community members to take advantage of,” Manar said. “I’m thankful for the continued efforts of the Hillsboro public library board and Secretary of State Jesse White for their commitment to the Hillsboro community.”

Funding for Public Library Construction grants is approved by the legislature each year to ensure proper maintenance of public libraries throughout the state. Grants are awarded to public libraries in need of repairs, those that seek to improve access for those with disabilities, and those requiring repaired facilities due to damage from natural causes. Manar first met with local leaders in July 2019 to tour both the existing library facility, the new facility that requires renovation, and discuss how the state can assist in local efforts.

“As our library continues the transition to serving communities beyond Hillsboro, this project couldn’t come at a better time,” Dr. Barb Mulch, Hillsboro Public Library Board of Trustees President said. “Our facilities have been in need of renovation for some time, due to accessibility issues. I’m thrilled we are one step closer to seeing a project that will have such a huge impact on our community come to life.”

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