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Published: 1 year 3 weeks ago

A Champaign County Board member will push this week for a rule requiring that county restaurants post their sanitary ratings as based on their health inspection scores.

Board member Stan James, who serves as liaison to the county’s board of health, said he wants the rating of each establishment to be in a conspicuous place.   “I still believe there ought to be some sort of signage that people can see,” James said.   He said restaurants should at least be required to post signs listing the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s contact information where customers can easily see them.    We reported last week that local diners have no easy way of knowing how sanitary local restaurants are. (Click here to read the full story and to view an interactive map of restaurants that have failed inspections.)   Unlike many other counties and cities in central Illinois and across the country, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District...
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Published: 1 year 4 weeks ago

This week CU-CitizenAccess.org and Illinois Public Media explore and discuss restaurant inspections in Central Illinois - the process of health inspections and the usefulness of keeping the public informed of inspectors’ findings.

(See CU-CitizenAccess.org coverage here and Illinois Public Media coverage here) 

The number of people employed in Champaign County full-service restaurants was 3,430 people in the third quarter of 2010 , according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The restaurant industry is a high turnover industry, which provides ample jobs. Yet wages on average are low.

In Champaign County, turnover in full-service restaurants for the third quarter of 2010 was nearly 18 percent and average monthly earnings was about $1,300. For new hires, the average monthly earnings was about $950, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Average monthly earnings in all industries overall in...

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Published: 1 year 5 weeks ago

After a Champaign police officer shot and killed 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington in October 2009 during what was mistakenly believed to be an attempted break-in, I set out to write a story for CU-CitizenAccess about the way the police departments in Champaign and Urbana handle complaints residents lodge against their officers.

Problems soon arouse because the police departments would not release public records relating to the complaints, including the completed complaint forms, notes or internal reports on complaint investigations, and police incident reports connected to the complaints, among other documents. Their refusal to release records ended up becoming the story.

The cities cited provisions in the law that they believed allowed them to withhold the documents to protect the privacy of the individuals making the complaints and the officers against whom unfounded complaints were filed.

After Urbana denied our Freedom of Information request, I filed a...

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Published: 1 year 6 weeks ago

According to a tip from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, the Map The Meal Gap project updated its numbers to include food insecurity among children. (Click on the link above to explore area-wide statistics) 

In Champaign County, one in five children is food insecure. In Vermilion County, one in three children is food insecure.

Food insecurity means "lack of access to enough food for an active health life" and "uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A household may not be food insecure all the time but may experience times of food insecurity.

For children, lack of adequate food and nutrition could impact their school performance and cognitive development.

Households were asked the following questions as part of a survey to help determine food insecurity (Read the full report of the project's data methods here): 

ASKED OF ALL HOUSEHOLDS...

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Published: 1 year 7 weeks ago

One out of every five children in the U.S. was living in poverty in 2009, according to a report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The group's annual Kids Count Data Book tracks the well-being of children at the national, state and local levels. While observing improvements nationally in some areas -- such as the infant mortality rate and child death rate -- the report notes that childhood poverty has increased in recent years.

Nationwide, 17 percent of children lived below the federal poverty line in 2000. That was up to 20 percent in 2009, the most recent year for which estimates are available. (The federal poverty line was $21,756 for a family of four in 2009.)

"Overall improvements in child well-being that began in the late 1990s stalled in the first part of the current decade with family economic well being declining in the wake of the current recession," according to the foundation.

Illinois has seen similar growth in...

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Published: 1 year 8 weeks ago

While the number of students enrolled in Champaign-Urbana public schools have stayed about the same, the number who are eligible for a free or reduced lunch program increased between 2005 and 2011.

The National School Lunch Program provides subsidies to schools to help provide low-cost, nutrional food to eligible students.

Eligibility depends on income.

According to the guidelines:  Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four is $28,655; 185 percent is $40,793) 

In 2005, 42 percent of Champaign-Urbana's students were eligible for the free and reduced lunch school program. For the 2010-2011 school year...

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Published: 1 year 9 weeks ago

New census data released Thursday show that the number of gay and lesbian couples in Champaign County has soared during the past decade, outstripping the increase of more than 40 percent statewide since 2000.

The number of same-sex unmarried households in Champaign County increased 59 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to census data. In all, there were 572 same-sex households in Champaign County in 2010, compared to 359 in 2000.

The number of households with two male partners increased 72 percent, while the number of lesbian households rose 51 percent.

This is the reverse of the statewide trend. Throughout Illinois, the number of female couples increased 53 percent, and the number of male couples increased 32 percent.

Other East Central Illinois counties also saw increases in the number of same-sex households.

Vermilion County saw a 33 percent increase overall, with 16 percent more male couples and 48 percent more female couples.

There...

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Published: 1 year 10 weeks ago

With discussion ongoing this week about the plight of residents at Joann Dorsey Homes and Dunbar Court (see story here) and the trouble they're experiencing finding new places to live, here's a look at how the federal government has set fair market rents in Champaign and Vermilion counties since 2005:

Click on the graphic below to see fair market rents for different apartment sizes. The rent rates are determined by a number of factors and include an average of several areas in the counties.

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Published: 1 year 11 weeks ago

In a report released earlier this week, the Heritage Foundation calls into question the way the federal government defines who is poor.

In talking points that accompany the report, the conservative think tank states: "The typical poor household, as defined by the government, has a car and air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there are children, especially boys, the family has a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation."

The report argues that the poverty statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau distort the public discourse about the lives of poor Americans.

When members of the general public think about the poor, the report states, they envision the homeless and those battling extreme hunger. But, according to the report, most poor Americans have enough food to eat and are adequately housed.

In addition, the Heritage Foundation says that census figures undercount the economic...

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Published: 1 year 12 weeks ago

Congress has to decide if they should raise the U.S. debt ceiling before Aug. 2, the last day the U.S. Treasury will be able to pay its bills without additional loans, according to the Washington Post.

Analysts have said that if a plan is not in place by the deadline, then the government will be unable to make good on several obligations, including social security checks, food stamp benefits and student loans.

This threat has some Champaign residents who rely on government assistance worried -as public assistance, social security checks and food stamp benefits are their only source of income. 

An estimated 1,000 Champaign county households receive an average of $4,000 a year in public assistance income, according to the Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey. 

In 2010, Champaign county residents spent about $35 million in food stamp benefits, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Use the graph below...

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