by Lesley R. Chinn
The U.S. Labor Department just added 162,000 jobs in March but the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent.
These numbers come right before the Illinois Department of Employment Security is scheduled to release its unemployment figures for March on April 15.
Illinois’ current unemployment rate from February stands at 11.4 percent, which is higher than the national average. “The rate clearly reflects the national breath of the national recession, which has put a stubborn hold on unemployment,” said IDES spokesman Greg Rivara.
The percentage was a slight increase from January’s rate at 11.2 percent. However, Rivara said the monthly increases in Illinois appear to be slowing down. “The slowing job loss is potentially a positive, but we need a few more months of data to [assess] where Illinois is in recovery,” Rivara said.
Currently as of February 2010, the IDES reported that 758,100 unemployed people in Illinois. Data provided by the IDES showed that the state had a total of more than 5.6 million non-farm jobs, which was down from 192,200 from the same month a year ago. Nearly every sector experienced a hit, except for educational and health services, which showed a gain of 14,900 jobs from last year. Manufacturing jobs were down 55,300; professional and business services were down 36,300 and construction jobs were down 35,400 since February 2009. Since the recession began in December 2007, the nation has lost 8.4 million jobs. At that time, Illinois has lost 403,600 jobs.
Meanwhile, IDES data showed that Lake County had an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent in January; followed by Cook County with an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent in January; Kane County and Will County tied at 12.3 percent; and DuPage with an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent.
The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment, regardless if they are eligible for unemployment insurance. “If an individual has not taken the steps to improve their skills since 2007 they are going to be ill-prepared to re-enter the workforce in 2010,” Rivera contends.
By Shanita Bigelow
The Illinois Disaster Assistance Program awarded Cook County a $10.3 million grant to aid individuals, families and business impacted by the severe weather and floods of fall 2008. These funds are available for property repairs and mold remediation, but will more directly provide support for health and social services.
From September 13 to October 5, 2008, severe weather conditions stemming from Hurricane Ike dropped over 10 inches of rain, causing major flooding throughout Cook County and other parts of Illinois. Then, Governor Rod Blagojevich declared six other counties, DuPage, DeKalb, Kane, Will, Grundy and LaSalle, as state disaster areas. Despite inclusion in the Presidential Federal Disaster Declarations, prompting assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), those programs didn’t deal with many of the health and social service needs of the residents of Cook County, according the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. As such, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided this additional funding via the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program.
“We are pleased to announce this additional funding, which will help thousands of Cook County residents recover from devastating storms and flooding of 2008, especially in the midst of the current economic and housing crises that many of our residents are also facing,” Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said in a press release.
The Cook County Disaster Grant (CCDG) is being handled by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Only Cook County residents (homeowners, families, businesses, non-profits, health and emergency service providers, etc.) can apply for assistance. Grants will not be allocated to residents as a means of reimbursement for expenses incurred and paid for home repairs or health care.
Awards will not be granted through FEMA, but for those who previously applied for assistance through FEMA, the FEMA ID will aid in processing the application. The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management insist that previously applying through FEMA is not required and will not guarantee an award or disqualify applicants.
Information sessions, where residents can learn more about the grant, how to qualify and apply, will be held throughout Cook County.
Affected residents can obtain the application and more information on the CCDG website (www.cookcountydisastergrant.org). To apply, download and print the application and submit it by fax to 312-603-9883, or call the CCDG hotline (312-603-7600).
Upcoming Information Sessions:
Saturday, April 24 at 9:30 am in the Harwood Heights Village Hall (7300 W. Wilson Ave.)
Monday, May 3 at 6 pm in the Des Plaines Public Library (1501 Ellinwood Street)
Saturday, May 8 at 9:30 am in Park Ridge City Hall (505 Butler Place)
by Lesley R. Chinn
Education and economic empowerment go hand-in-hand and that was the focus of a spring summit hosted last Thursday by the Chicago Urban League at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
The Urban League gathered together economic, education, business leaders, and concerned citizens to discuss how working together, the city and region can advocate for quality education for children, return more people to the workforce, and secure more business opportunities for minority-owned companies. The summit was presented by National City, now part of PNC.
PNC, which was previously known as the Pittsburgh National Corporation, began as the Pittsburgh Trust and Savings Company in 1852 before it merged with the Philadelphia-based Provident National Corporation in 1982.
The summit began with a State of Urban Chicago address by interim president/CEO Herman Brewer who said that while the collapse of the financial system has had a devastating impact on minority communities, they may never recover if action isn’t taken to help improve conditions. “Some neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago have become modern day tragedies born out of the disappearance of education and economic opportunity. This harsh reality brings us here to participate in dialogue and find tangible solutions to alleviate the suffering, and improve the fortunes of everyone,” Brewer said.
As the Chicago Urban League’s education funding lawsuit progresses, Brewer unveiled the organization’s new education policy recommendations. The publication—Opportunity Compact: Education 2010: A New Blueprint for Communities and Schools—calls on the state’s public education funding structure to be targeted to support four priorities. They include increasing expectations for students; ensuring schools get quality teachers and learning; family engagement in learning, and ensuring quality early childhood education.
After the “State of Urban Chicago” address, a CEO roundtable and breakout sessions were held to discuss strengthening the link between a quality education and economic empowerment and to address challenges in school funding, barriers to minority participation in professional services, and the job outlook for 2010 and beyond.
When Census Bureau Director Robert Groves noted last week that some areas are lagging behind the rest of the country in mailing back their 2010 Census forms, it was bad news for Chicago and underrepresented communities.
With Census Day on April 1, it was no April Fool’s joke that Chicago has one of the lowest rates of mail participation. Nationally, 50 percent of households have mailed back their forms so far. But in Chicago, the mail participation rate is significantly lower, at 36 percent. In 2000, 58 percent of Chicago households returned their census form by mail. The national rate in 2000 was at 72 percent.
Returning the forms is far too important for the issue to be taken lightly. While Illinos struggles with a $13 billion fiscal deficit, the data collected on the Census gauge economic as well as societal growth and needs. A major factor in improving transportation, education, healthcare, housing, emergency services, the census is also a tool for marketing, business expansion and job opportunities. Despite being one of the shortest forms in American history, comprised of 10 questions that only take about ten minutes to answer, completing the 2010 Census, particularly for underserved communities, simply makes good sense.
Not only will it help determine the distribution of more than $400 billion in funds to local, state and tribal governments but a complete and accurate census count will ensure that your state and community get their fair share of Congressional seats and community services.
On top of that, when a person fails to return a form, a census taker has to visit every household that doesn’t send it back. That process comes at a significant cost to taxpayers while the emphasis on encouraging mail participation is a practical one.
For every percentage point increase in mail response, taxpayers will save an estimated $85 million in federal funds. Those funds would otherwise be required to send census takers to collect census responses in person from households that don’t mail them back. After the 2000 Census, the Bureau was able to return $305 million in savings to the federal Treasury because mail rates exceeded expectations. Those are results taxpayers can count on and a move the Bureau wants to repeat.
The Census Bureau is urging communities nationwide to take charge of their census mail participation rates. Since the possibility of receiving federal dollars depends on it, the only way to get your fair share of the funds is to stand up, be counted and fill out your census form.
by Lesley R. Chinn
A local Black entrepreneur said he hopes an African leader’s trip to the United States will be part of a mission to encourage more United States companies to do business in Zimbabwe.
Last Saturday, Dr. Willie Wilson introduced Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Arthur Mutambara to numerous political, community, business and religious leaders during a reception in his honor at New Covenant M.B. Church, 77th and Cottage Grove.
Wilson said he met Dr. Mutambara when he went to Zimbabwe recently to discuss a possible business opportunity through his company, Omar Medical Supplies, Inc. The company, which is based in University Park, specializes in manufacturing three billion disposable gloves annually. Some of those products have been shipped to China and now he wants to do business in Zimbabwe. “We just got a purchase order over there two weeks ago and we should be shipping a product out within the next 60 to 90 days. We’re the only the company doing business in Zimbabwe,” Wilson stated.
Relations between the United States and Zimbabwe have currently been strained over Western criticism of embattled President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe also has a 95 percent unemployment rate, according to The Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book. That figure is about 10 times higher than the United States’ unemployment rate.
“We need to go to [Zimbabwe] and create manufacturing [opportunities] to help create some jobs because the businesses over there have been taking money out of the community and not putting it back to create jobs,” Wilson stated.
In February 2009, Dr. Mutambara emerged as Deputy Prime Minister following a power-sharing arrangement in September 2008 between the Movement for Democratic Change and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) that kept Mugabe as President and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister.
Mutambara, who is an Oxford University doctoral graduate, is no stranger to Chicago after having worked from 2001 to 2003 at a management consulting firm McKinsey & Company where he provided strategic advice to senior managers and business leaders of top companies in the United States in sectors that included manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, and agriculture.
Wilson invited former U.S. Congressman Mel Reynolds (D-2) to introduce Mutambara to make his keynote address before the public. In pointing out that there are 1.2 billion individuals of African descent worldwide, Mutambara stated that “We’ll never be successful in Africa unless Africans in Chicago are doing well,” Mutambara stated.
By Lesley R. Chinn
Combating major issues such as violence was among many themes highlighted during an anti-violence summit held last Saturday at Malcolm X College.
High school students and their parents participated in a “Cease the Silence” Day of Service organized by the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). The SNMA teamed up with Rush Medical College and the Chicago Public Schools to bring attention to tackling issues impacting low-income communities.
The summit kicked off in the auditorium with a panel discussion featuring guest speakers that included Terry Peterson, director of Government Affairs at Rush University Medical Center; Michael Shields of the Chicago Public Schools; Tio Hardimon, director of CeaseFire Illinois; Judge Carl Walker; James B. Jackson, assistant superintendent of operations for the Chicago Police Department, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti; and Sue Moehn Hoen, a domestic violence specialist at the Jane Hull Addams Hull House. The speakers encouraged the students to make good life choices.
The event continued with medical students nationwide speaking with high school students overcoming challenges to become successful in the medical field and the role they can play in stopping the violence.
High school students also had the opportunity to participate in discussions and activities with Steven Jackson and Michael Nolan of R.I.T.E. (Reentry Initiative Through Entrepreneurship), the Chicago Police Department, and SNMA members. The presenters warned students about peer pressure, encouraged them to succeed, and told them to stay away from drugs, gangs, violence, and out of prison. Children ages 13 and under participated in safety presentations by the Chicago Police Department and the Berwyn Police Department.
A number of vendors were available on campus featuring groups such as the Boys and Girls Club which provided information about after-school and summer activities, job opportunities and additional anti-violence resources.
Throughout the day, students and faculty from Rush University performed health screenings for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer while the Chicago House provided HIV/AIDS tests and counseling. The National Marrow Donor Program and the University of Chicago Emergency Medicine Residency Program educated the community on the need for minority marrow donors and encouraged individuals to sign up to become donors.
While the goal of the event centered around health and anti-violence, the day also offered lots of fun and educational activities for children ages 6 and up, including Zumba dance lessons, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, an anti-violence art corner, and a nutrition and fitness boot camp.