WASHINGTON - February 24, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the Iowa Community Development LC will receive a $35 million tax credit allocation under the Treasury Department's New Markets Tax Credit Program.

The Iowa Community Development LC will use the 2010 New Markets Tax Credit allocation to offer financing with below-market interest rate and flexible terms to support and incentivize businesses to locate or expand in Iowa.

"This allocation will help encourage investment and spur economic activity in Iowa," Grassley said.

The Treasury Department selects firms to receive an allocation of tax credits through the New Markets Tax Credit Program.  This program permits taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments in designated community development entities.  Substantially all of the qualified equity investments must be used to provide investments in low-income communities.



DATE:                  February 24, 2011

Last week the U.S House of Representatives approved a budget for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 that would drastically cut funding for programs that help working families, such as child care subsidies for low-income families and a wide range of education programs.  

"Working families in Iowa and around the country are sitting around their kitchen tables and wondering how to balance the struggles of child care and access to a quality education with busy schedules and a tough economy," said Harkin.  "For low-income Iowans, those struggles are multiplied.  There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to invest in the programs that grow our future, while creating and maintaining jobs."

Cuts to specific programs that would affect Iowans include :

Head Start: The House plan would cut over $1 billion from the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive early childhood services?education, nutrition, health, social, and emotional development?to nearly one million low-income children and their families.  This would eliminate those services for about 218,000 children and their families next year (an almost 25 percent reduction), close 16,000 Head Start classrooms, and lay off 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants and related staff. 
  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: There are 18 Head Start grantees in Iowa providing early childhood services to over 7,000 low-income children and their families.  The House plan would eliminate those services for about 1,800 children next year, close 100 classrooms, and lay off 400 teachers and related staff. A map of the Iowa Head Start centers can be found here.

Child Care: The House plan would cut $39 million nationally from the Child Care and Development Block Grant, just as child care funding provided in the 2009 Recovery Act is coming to an end.  The grant program provides subsidies to low-income working families to help pay for the cost of child care, as well as funds to improve the quality of care.  The House plan would eliminate subsidies for about 165,000 low-income children, significantly reducing the availability and affordability of quality child care for low-income families.  These are families that are working, or in some cases looking for work, and that depend on those subsidies to do so.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: The House plan would eliminate child care subsidies for over 1,500 low-income Iowa families next year.

Afterschool Programs: The House plan would cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program by $100 million, which would eliminate before- and after-school services, summer enrichment programs, and similar services for an estimated 100,000 students across the country.  Such programs provide a safe environment and extended learning opportunities for students, and make it easier for parents to work.  Funding is targeted to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $500,000 in funding, denying more than 500 students an opportunity to benefit from safe and productive learning environments after school and other extended learning opportunities.

Title I Grants: The House plan cuts Title I education funding by nearly $700 million, meaning 2,400 schools serving one million disadvantaged students could lose funding, and approximately 10,000 teachers and aides could lose their jobs.  Title I funding is the foundation of federal support for elementary and secondary education and provides a flexible source of funding that can be used to support extended learning opportunities for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $4.5 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

School Improvement Grants: The House plan cuts school improvement grant funding by nearly $337 million.  These funds are targeted by states to their lowest performing schools.  These funds may be used by schools to provide extended learning time for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $1.7 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

Harkin's full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

For a compilation of all outreach pieces on this issue, please click here

Discover a unique style of learning!  Rivermont Collegiate will host a No Erasers! First Grade Open House Wednesday, March 2nd at 6:30 p.m. Interested families are invited to a presentation and conversation with First Grade Teacher Kathy Topalian about Rivermont's "No Erasers" approach, where students learn from their errors.  This informal setting is the perfect opportunity to watch your child interact with "Mrs. T" and learn more about the Rivermont philosophy!  Families are also invited to tour the Rivermont campus with Cindy Murray, Director of Admissions, who will be on hand to answer questions about Rivermont's philosophy, values, programs, and facilities.

Rivermont Collegiate provides an academically rigorous yet nurturing environment, where students develop skills and attitudes that provide the foundation for future learning.  Our gifted faculty provides students with the tools to pursue knowledge independently and take intellectual and artistic risks, while small class sizes ensure each child receives direction and feedback.  Come explore our approach!

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or Tuesday's No Erasers! First Grade Open House, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org.  This event is free and open to the public.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement regarding today's quarterly forecast for U.S. agricultural exports, which are expected to reach a record $135.5 billion in fiscal year 2011:

"Today's quarterly forecast shows that U.S. agriculture continues to be on track for its best export year ever in fiscal year 2011, eclipsing the previous record set in 2008 by more than $20 billion. Compared to fiscal year 2010, export value is expected to grow 25 percent and volume by 10 percent.

"Furthermore, the agricultural trade surplus is expected to reach a record $47.5 billion, far surpassing the previous record of $36 billion set in 2008.

"Agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot in these trying economic times. The first quarter of fiscal year 2011 was the highest-grossing quarter ever for U.S. agricultural exports.

"Our export success is a testament to the productivity of our farmers and ranchers and underscores the quality and value of U.S. farm and food products. Agriculture also continues to play an important role in support of President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

"Today's numbers are more good news not just for farmers and ranchers and the businesses and communities that support them, but for our nation's economy as a whole. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports generates an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity and supports 8,000 jobs."

Losing sleep over selecting a college major?  For many students preparing for college, this is a daunting task.  How can one be sure to make the right decision?  How does a student balance their interests, strengths, and dreams?  What resources are available for guidance?  Rivermont Collegiate invites all Quad City students and their families to attend College Night at Rivermont on Thursday, March 3rd from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Guest speaker Eric Rowell, Director of Career Development at Augustana College, will provide advice to students preparing for college.  Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to get professional recommendations and feedback on selecting a college major and minor, charting your college path, and discovering resources available for guidance.  Bring questions!  This event is free and open to the public.

Rivermont Collegiate is the Quad Cities' only independent, nonsectarian, multicultural college prep school for students in preschool through twelfth grade.  At Rivermont, college counseling begins in the ninth grade and encourages students to explore a variety of college opportunities.  Counseling is custom built to each student and limitless, offering specialized attention throughout the often complicated application process.  100% of Rivermont graduates are accepted to 4 year colleges and universities and over 90% earn renewable college merit scholarships.

This event will be held in the Joseph Bettendorf Mansion on the Rivermont campus, located at 1821 Sunset Drive, directly off 18th Street behind K&K Hardware in Bettendorf.

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or Thursday's College Night, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org.

Fresh Art. Fresh Soup.

DUBUQUE, IA. - The spring installment of Art Gumbo, a quarterly soup dinner that supports local art projects with community-supported micro-funding, is scheduled for Thursday, March 24, 6-8 p.m. at the Dubuque Museum of Art, 701 S. Locust Street.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, issued the comment below about the Obama administration's announcement today that it no longer will defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Today's decision is clearly based more on politics than the law because numerous federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Given the substantial record in the courts and the administration's acknowledgement that arguments can be made to defend the law, it's hard to see how the announcement isn't simply a roundabout expression by the President of support for same-sex marriage, which he said during the campaign that he opposed.  I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress, which President Clinton signed into law, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and preventing states from being forced to honor the decisions of other state courts."

Units from Springfield, Paris, North Riverside, Chicago, Scott Air Force Base, Rock Falls and Fort Sheridan Supported War Efforts in Kuwait

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/23/2011)(readMedia)-- Twenty years ago troops were mobilized and ground combat operations marked the beginning and the end of the Gulf War Feb. 23, 1991 in the deserts of Kuwait. Capt. Brad Sinkler of Sullivan, commander of the 1544th Transportation Company in 1990 was one of those Soldiers.

"It was a surprise," said Sinkler. "August 2 Saddam had invaded Kuwait. We'd heard some rumblings and were following the news. My operations sergeant said we had a pretty good chance to get called up ... and a week later we got the call."

The war lasted only 100 hours after months of U.S. military forces, both active and reserve components, preparation to meet with heavy resistance from the Iraqi forces that invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Twenty days after the invasion of Kuwait, President George Bush authorized the mobilization of National Guard and Reserve units to support combat operations in Kuwait.

With the mobilization of reserve components, the Illinois National Guard supplied 11 units and roughly 1,400 Soldiers and Airmen to support Operation Desert Storm.

The 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, the 1544th Transportation Company in Paris, the former 108th Medical Battalion in Chicago, the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls, the 233rd Military Police Company in Springfield, the 126th Air Refueling Wing and two of its subordinated squadrons all based in Scott Air Force Base, the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group in Peoria and the 933rd Military Police Company in Fort Sheridan were deployed to support the combat efforts in Kuwait.

The first Illinois National Guard unit mobilized was the 1244th Transportation Company on Sept. 20, 1990; the 1544th Transportation Company followed one week later.

The 1544th went to Fort Campbell, Ky., a few days later and was in Saudi Arabia Nov. 6, 1990.

"We were nervous," said Sinkler. "We didn't know what to expect, how long we were going to be gone. It was just a new experience. We just listened to what the people in the states were telling us and making sure our families was taken care of. We just went through the process and didn't really know how to feel."

Sinkler said once in Kuwait the Soldiers of the 1544th were still uncertain of what they would do out in the Kuwaiti desert. They later found it would be what they do best: take to the roads transporting cargo.

The 1544th conducted transportation missions and moved supplies and people throughout the country. They traveled of more than 750,000 miles with no accidents.

"My biggest fear was losing one of my Soldiers," said Sinkler. "I made sure we did things as safely as we could, made sure the Soldiers were getting the sleep they needed and that they conducted the proper maintenance on their vehicles."

Life in the deserts of Kuwait was a drastically different experience for many of the Soldiers, said Sinkler.

"We really didn't have the things the Soldiers have today," Sinkler said. "We had a TV, but we couldn't pick up (American Forces Network TV). The only way we could watch anything is if we had a VHS player and VHS tapes. Nobody had a laptop or Internet. Back then it was mainly just mail and maybe once a week a telephone call."

A few of Soldiers in 1544th were Vietnam veterans, said Sinkler. He said the veterans had the experience to take care of fellow Soldiers who had never been in a combat.

This was the first major combat operation U.S. forces had participated in since Vietnam, but Desert Storm was not viewed in the same controversy.

"The support we had back home was just overwhelming," said Sinkler. "Really, our nation hadn't experienced war to that level since Vietnam. It was humbling and we knew that no matter the outcome, we were going to have the support of the American people."

Since initial operations moved so fast, Sinkler said, specific details of the mission were had to come by.

"We were in the moment, we didn't know how the operation was going, we were just doing our job," said Sinkler. "We were calling home and talking to our families and they were telling us what they

were seeing on CNN. My wife told me about things that were going on in Kuwait that I had no idea about."

The passing months culminated into ground warfare Feb. 23, 1991 with a cease fire between U.S. and Iraqi forces March 3. After roughly four months in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, combat operation had halted. As quickly as it began, Soldiers returned home.

"I'm glad it ended when it did or it was going to be a real challenge to keep the ground forces resupplied because they were moving so fast," said Sinkler. "In the month of March we sustained the forward units and were just waiting for our turn to go to the port and go home."

It was good just to go over and help the people of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, said Sinkler.

"It was being part of something that was bigger than you," he said. "It had national importance; it was a part of history in the making and something we can look back on and say 'I was there.' It was an experience that gives you a greater appreciation for our nation and what it stands for."

WHAT: Julie Schocker of New Liberty has been selected as a winner in America's Farmers Grow Communities program, which gives farmers the opportunity to win $2,500 for their favorite local nonprofit organizations. The donations are available through the Monsanto Fund. Schocker has designated the Dixon Memorial Park to receive the award in Scott County.

WHO: Dixon Memorial Park Board members, Julie Schocker, and a Monsanto representative will participate in a check presentation ceremony. Media are invited to attend the check presentation. Interview and photo opportunities available.

WHEN: 2/28/2011 at 6:30pm

WHERE: Dixon Fire Station, 306 Davenport St., Dixon, IA

ONSITE CONTACT: Maria Jacobsen- 563-357-7532

Overview: In more than 1,200 eligible counties, farmers can win $2,500 for their favorite community non-profit.  The Monsanto Fund expects to invest more than $3 million in local communities. America's Farmers Grow Communities is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund to highlight the important contributions farmers make every day to our society by helping them grow their local communities. To date, more than 60,000 farmers participated in the program, which is designed to benefit nonprofit groups such as ag youth, schools and other civic organizations. For more information and to see a full list of winners, visit www.growcommunities.com.


New Law Protects Illinois' Retailers and Low-Income Communities

CHICAGO - February 23, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and representatives from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to sign legislation that will strengthen the state's efforts to combat organized retail crime.

"Supporting Illinois businesses is key to our long-term economic growth," Governor Quinn said. "This important new law will help protect retailers and communities throughout Illinois from the economically damaging practices of organized retail crime."

Organized retail crime occurs when an individual, group or gang illegally obtains retail merchandise through theft and fraud in substantial quantities. House Bill 6460 will expand law enforcement's ability to charge and prosecute offenders of organized retail crime.

Under the new law, prosecutors will be able to seek forfeiture of assets of those convicted of organized retail crime. The forfeiture of assets represents a major legislative step forward in providing financial disincentive to organizers and participants of organized retail crime.

Across the country, the retail industry loses an estimated $30 billion a year to this practice. Additionally, it is estimated that the state of Illinois lost $77 million in tax dollars not collected in 2010 as a result of these thefts, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

Organized retail crime puts residents throughout Illinois at risk. Through organized retail crime, stores in low-income communities can end up stocking stolen merchandise, such as over-the-counter medication and baby formula, whose product temperature and caretaking needs have not been satisfied. The crimes also drive up prices for all merchandise.

"This legislation represents a great step forward in preventing the abuse of Illinois businesses by individuals who target them for theft," said Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago). "At the same time, this legislation provides a brighter future for those who seek to rehabilitate after committing crimes. This is a bill about a successful Illinois economy - successful businesses and successful job-seekers."

"Retail theft causes price increases for everyone. Therefore, the perpetrator must learn their lesson and pay their debt to society. Once the perpetrator has paid their debt to society, re-entry into the world of work and good citizenship should be our goal," said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago). "I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work on this important legislation."

House Bill 6460 also allows individuals who have completed supervision for retail theft to have their convictions expunged after two years, rather than five. This offers ex-offenders greater opportunity to successfully seek employment. The new law takes effect June 1.