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BUNKER HILL – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced an open application period for the second round of Connect Illinois broadband grants to improve access to quality broadband service Downstate.

Manar, who serves as a chief budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus and chairs the Senate Appropriations II Committee, played an instrumental role in this program’s inclusion in the state budget.

“We made broadband expansion a part of the Rebuild Illinois plan, because we were fully aware of the glaring gap in access to quality broadband services for many Downstaters,” Manar said. “The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on these already existing problems and made them exponentially worse.”

With 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.

“We continue to prioritize Connect Illinois because we recognize that reliable internet service is a crucial part of our impending economic recovery and will serve as a solid foundation for small business growth, successful school districts, and top tier hospitals,” Manar said.

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 can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website and will remain open through February 2021.

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BUNKER HILL – In response to the passing of former Gillespie Mayor Howard Carney, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) filed a resolution in the Illinois Senate to honor his life and service to Gillespie and Macoupin County.

A retired coal mine manager for Monterey Coal Co., Howard Carney was civic-minded with deep roots in his community. He served the City of Gillespie as an Alderman for eight years and as mayor for 20 years. He was a graduate of Gillespie High School, loved fishing and enjoyed being with his family.

“Mayor Carney’s public service was a testament to what providing for others and your community is all about,” Manar said. “While he spent 28 years dedicated to his neighbors as an official elected, anyone who knew him knows that his service to Gillespie was lifelong.”

Manar, the former mayor of Bunker Hill, said he recognizes the difficult work that local elected officials must tackle.  “Serving as mayor is a challenging task. Many times, it is a thankless job. But, Mayor Carney understood the importance of serving his community and did it for nearly three decades.  That is something we should all celebrate and recognize.”

When the Illinois Senate reconvenes, Manar will present the resolution to the full chamber. 

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GILLESPIE – The Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie has been awarded a $33,800 grant for projects that include upgrades to the museum’s exterior, structure and signage, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced Thursday.

Manar, who serves as Chair of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, was a driving force behind funding this project.

“The coal industry is part of our rich history in Macoupin County. In many ways, it made us who we are today.” Manar said. “Those stories deserve to be preserved and told to generations to come, and I’m proud to have advocated for funding these crucial renovations to the Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie in the state budget.”

The grant was awarded through the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program, made possible by Rebuild Illinois, the historic, bipartisan multi-year statewide construction program passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker in 2019.

“We opened this museum four years ago with the intention of providing a magnet for tourism in Gillespie, while also preserving the history of the coal industry in Illinois,” Ald. Dave Tucker, who serves as Chairman of the museum’s Board of Directors, said. “This grant money allows us to proceed with renovations that keep us in lock-step with the current revitalization project in downtown Gillespie, while also maintaining the museum’s status as our crown jewel.”

In all, 43 museums received a total of $22.8 million in funds. The Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is open to any museum operated by local government or located on municipally-owned land.

Manar credits the dedicated volunteers of the Coal Museum for their continued work and vision that has made the museum a success: “I want people to know that the state supports Gillespie and Macoupin County. Along with the recently announced $1 million grant to renovate Macoupin Street, I am proud to support the good thing happening in Gillespie, and I will continue to work to make sure the towns of Macoupin County get the support they need for critical projects from State government.”

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BUNKER HILL – Continuing his efforts to close the broadband gap, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced the availability of three programs to improve access to internet services Downstate.

Manar, who chairs the Senate Appropriations II Committee and serves as a lead budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democrats, has long advocated for the modernization of high-speed internet infrastructure in Downstate communities.

“High-speed internet access is going to play a monumental role in the role of the recovery of the Downstate economy, and that’s why I insisted we fund these programs in the state budget,” Manar said. “Closing the broadband gap has never been more critical.”

Today’s announcement signals applications are open for two funding opportunities. The first, Broadband READY Grants, will direct $250,000 to regional entities to increase broadband access, adoption and utilization in underserved areas. Grant awards of up to $50,000 will be used to identify current digital inequities and work with community and economic development organizations, education, and local leaders to pave a path forward. More information on this grant can be found on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website. The submission deadline is December 23, 2020.

The second, Illinois Connected Communities Grants, will invest $150,000 in local governments that seek to expand broadband within their communities. It will allow communities to apply for up to $15,000 in grants that will support community-based broadband planning and capacity building. More information for this grant can also be found on DCEO’s website. The submission deadline is January 25, 2021.

Additionally, the State will partner with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and PCs for People to dispatch digital navigators to serve communities throughout the state. Their task will be to assess residents’ needs and connect with them to resources that match their households’ lifestyles. Those interested in the digital navigator position can find more information on DCEO’s website. The submission deadline is January 11, 2021.

“The past eight months have highlighted the glaring disadvantage many Downstate communities face when it comes to reliable access to quality internet service, and those issues are not going away any time soon,” Manar said. “These meaningful investments in rural communities will finally allow us to upgrade our position within the 21st Century economy.”

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