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Rex Robinson

Rex Robinson is a staff writer for The Times Weekly. He can be reached at rex@thetimesweekly.com or at (708) 254-1539.



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Black, brown people may be hardest hit as Pandemic Unemployment ends

Federal unemployment programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, came to an end on Sept. 4. All those on unemployment will now receive $300 less in weekly benefits and experts said it will likely hurt Black and brown workers the hardest. Enhanced UI benefits disproportionately support Black and brown workers who have historically been left behind in recoveries. According to Lindsay Owens, executive director for Groundwork Collaborative, “the historic inequities in the labor market will be laid even more bare” after Monday’s benefits cutoff. After Labor Day, roughly 7.5 million people lost key pandemic-era unemployment benefits established by the March 2020 CARES Act. Dr. Rakeen Mabud, chief economist at Groundwork, reacted to the impending unemployment cliff with the following statement:

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Joliet moves a step closer to securing the city’s new water source

An important piece of the puzzle moved into place recently to assist Joliet in getting Lake Michigan Water. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) issued an order granting the City of Joliet a Lake Michigan Water Allocation Permit. This permit allows Joliet to begin using Lake Michigan water as its source of supply in 2030 and establishes annual allocation amounts through the year 2050. Receipt of the Allocation Permit is a major milestone in Joliet’s Alternative Water Source Program created to provide a sustainable, reliable, and high-quality water supply for the community by 2030.

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Legislation reduces mandatory minimums in juvenile justice system

Justice and protection for youth in Illinois is the main thrust of new legislation adopted recently by Governor JB Pritzker. Pritzker recently signed the Procedural Justice for Youth Act, reforming the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s operations and policies to advance equity, reduce mandatory minimums, and end the use of isolation and room confinement as punishment for youth. “Our Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is continuing its transformational work to build a system that nurtures our young people, supports their growth, and fosters a successful return to a welcoming community,” Pritzker said. “I’m proud to sign the Procedural Justice for Youth Act into law to advance this critical mission as we leave the punitive models of the past behind and reimagine our juvenile justice system. I want to thank IDJJ Director Heidi Mueller for her leadership and the sponsoring lawmakers Sen. Connor and Rep. Slaughter for passing this vital legislation.”

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Residents in uproar after Joliet Prison party cancelled

Organizers of a block party event planned for this past weekend at the Old Joliet Prison found themselves at odds with Joliet City officials after the city abruptly cancelled the event at the last minute. The Block Party was scheduled from noon until 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8, and was to be hosted by the Collins Street Neighborhood Council, Latin Economic Development Association along with the Joliet Area Historical Museum and feature Mexican music, Hip Hop, food vendors and other activities. On Saturday, more than 2,500 people attended the Big Bash at the Old Joliet Prison event that include live music and other activities. City officials put the brakes on the Sunday event in the 11th hour. “They weren’t going to pay for anything and wanted the city to cover costs of police, generators, porta-potties… etc…” Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said in a text message to The Times Weekly. The Collins Street Neighborhood Council hosted an unscheduled meeting later Sunday where members questioned the cancellation of the Joliet Block Party, which they said had been planned since 2019.

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Protection assistance for people facing eviction

Illinois scrambled over the weekend to prevent millions of people from being evicted as a federal eviction moratorium expired Saturday. In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker has extended the moratorium until the end of August and that is giving renters a bit more time. Mike Petry, a landlord who owns both rental and retail properties in Joliet, told The Times Weekly, evictions have not been a real problem with his tenants during the pandemic. “I’m not filing on anybody,” he said. Petry has one tenant who pays market rate for a unit in one of his buildings in downtown Joliet who applied for rental assistant with the State of Illinois and the state is “processing his request.” He also has about nine tenants who rent at his Louis Joliet property where he has 60 Section 8/HUD/Income limitation units. Only about nine of those tenants have sought rental assistance through the state and about six of them have already received those funds, according to Petry, who has been a landlord in Joliet for the past 18 years. “I really don’t think there are that many landlords who are not getting their money,” Petry said. However, according to according to Kathy Hoffmeyer, Public Affairs Specialist with the Will County Sheriff’s Department, the agency responsible for issuing evictions said, other landlords in Will County are seeking evictions.

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Local organizations mobilize to help more Black residents get vaccinated

Health officials in Will County are working to get more African Americans vaccinated as numbers continue to dangerously remain low, putting them at a high risk for contracting COVID-19. According to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, only 8.75 percent (30,351) of African Americans in Will County have been fully vaccinated. Compared to other groups, the numbers among African Americans are dangerously low, putting them at a high risk for contracting COVID-19. More than 61 percent (212,049) of Whites in Will County are fully vaccinated. The numbers for Hispanics in Will County are also low at 13.4 percent (46,424). The rolling seven-day positivity rate increased to 5.3 percent on Tuesday, moving the entire county to a higher risk category and a call for mask wearing indoors. Officials from the Will County Health Department are working to convince the African American community about the safety of the vaccines and has been hosting town hall meetings to get the word out.

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Boost pay for auto mechanics

Government is apparently intervening to ensure fair wages for a certain sector of blue- collar workers. Building on efforts to protect hardworking families, Gov. JB Pritzker signed House Bill 3940 into law, ensuring that automobile mechanics at dealerships are paid fairly for their skilled labor. “When we prioritize middle-class families by making sure they’re paid fairly, we build a stronger state,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “All work deserves fair compensation, and I’m proud that the bill I’m signing ensures automobile mechanics are compensated fairly for the critical skilled labor they provide.” Currently, auto-mechanics who work for car dealerships that provide warranty repairs are not compensated fairly for their skilled labor. This legislation ensures that auto-mechanics are paid for the actual time and labor it takes to repair vehicles that are under warranty.

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Accessible park for people with special needs

A new park has opened in New Lenox that is designed to be accessible to those with special needs. State Senators Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) and Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort) attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Leigh Park in New Lenox Thursday. “Leigh Park is a collaboration of grants, park district money and fundraising efforts over the past few years,” Joyce said. “This park will enable Will County residents to better enjoy time outside, providing a gathering place for people to come and talk and enjoy and walk and kids play.”

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Local Crest Hill couple charged for breaching Capitol

Joliet Rainbow PUSH president gets candid about charges

A Crest Hill couple appeared before a U.S. District Court judge on Monday after being arrested on charges connected to breaching the Capitol building during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. John Schubert Jr., 71, and his wife, Amy Schubert, 61, were charged separately with restricted and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to court documents, they knowingly entered or remained in a restricted building and grounds without lawful authority and were further charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Both were charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Fitzpatrick. The couple was charged after the FBI received an anonymous tip submitted in early March about a video posted on YouTube that included footage of people in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. One of the individuals seen on the video was a woman, later identified as Amy Shubert, who was wearing a black jacket and on the back of the jacket, it read “Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local Union 422 Joliet IL,” according to court records.

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City’s push to decrease units in Evergreen Terrace

Work on turning around the former housing complex seen as an eyesore to many former and some current Joliet city officials continues. The former Evergreen Terrace low-income housing complex is now known as River walk Homes, in the 300 block of North Broadway Street and is managed by Holsten Management. Nikkitta McCoy, senior development manager for Holsten, recently gave an update to the city council on the status of the redevelopment project. She said in the past five years, Holsten has reached a 97 percent occupancy rate at the development and a food pantry under construction at the site is scheduled to open later this year. The plan is to reduce the number of units from 365 to 177 and buildings at the site and make improvements, according to McCoy. “Holsten was asked in 2010 to come aboard and do an analysis of the project,” McCoy recalled, adding that Holsten now have the project completed in 2025 and once the buildings to the south of the property are demolished that land will then be returned to the city.

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