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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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Illinois Budget Impasse Forces Program Closures
DES PLAINES, IL (, January 19, 2016 - Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), the largest statewide provider of social services, today announced program closures and staff cuts throughout Illinois due to the state's inability to pass a budget for the past seven months.

In a release, Mark A. Stutrud, LSSI President and CEO, said, "The state's budget deadlock has severely challenged LSSI's ability to provide services to those in need. Over the past months, LSSI has relied on a bank line of credit and available resources from our foundation to compensate for the state's inability to pay its bills. Currently, we are owed more than $6 million by the state for services delivered. After seven months, we can no longer provide services for which we aren't being paid."

The seven-month-long-and-counting budget impasse forced the organization to cut back programs and restructure services as LSSI seeks to bolster resources for the 149-year-old faith-based nonprofit's continued viability. In consultation with LSSI's Board of Directors and an independent advisory group, LSSI created a plan to restructure its services and shore up resources for the viability and continuation of the organization.

In all, over 30 programs are closing, and more than 750 positions are being eliminated, or 43 percent of LSSI's total employees. As a result of these closures, approximately 4,700 people will no longer be receiving services from LSSI.

The programs that saw the largest cuts were those helping seniors, including home care. Programs eliminated were case management for seniors, adult protective services, and LSSI's Adult Day Care Center in Moline. Although LSSI is receiving some payment through Medicaid, the organization has been accruing several hundred thousand dollars a month in unpaid bills for home care services since July 2015, when the state's budget cycle normally would have begun.

LSSI also has not received payment for programs reimbursed through the state's general revenue fund and other state agencies. These include residential rehabilitation for adult drug and alcohol treatment in Chicago and Elgin, community counseling services, and prisoner and family programs at several locations.

Fraud Prevention Measures to Delay Tax Refunds in 2016
SPRINGFIELD, IL (, January 10, 2016 - The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) has reported that they do not anticipate releasing Individual Income Tax refunds for the 2016 tax filing season until March 1, 2016.

The decision comes as fraud prevention efforts from last year's tax season illustrate the positive impact that additional delays and scrutiny have had in combating tax return fraud and identity theft. IDOR is reminding taxpayers that filing tax returns electronically and requesting direct deposit into a checking or savings account is still the fastest way to receive a refund.

"Fraud prevention measures implemented by the Department of Revenue during last year's tax season resulted in an overall savings of nearly $5 million that would have, otherwise, been paid," said Connie Beard, IDOR Director. "Our new security protocols proved very beneficial in detecting and stopping fraudulently filed returns last year, and we are continuing to enhance our fraud detection efforts this year. By delaying tax refunds by just a few weeks, we'll be able to better detect attempts at identity theft and ensure taxpayer refunds do not fall needlessly into the hands of criminals."

For electronic returns filed prior to March 1, 2016, IDOR anticipates refunds will be issued within two to three weeks from the March 1, 2016 date. For electronic returns submitted error-free on or after March 1, 2016, IDOR anticipates refunds will be issued within two to three weeks from the date the return was submitted.

Tax refunds are not subject to budgetary appropriation by the Illinois General Assembly and are, therefore, not impacted by the current budget impasse.

For the most up-to-date information, forms, schedules, and instructions for the 2016 Illinois Income Tax Filing season, please visit IDOR's website at:

Eagle Watching Around Alton and Grafton
ALTON, IL (, December 27, 2015 - Just 25 miles north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, Alton, Ill., has become a winter home to the eagles.

Before dawn breaks on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, the eagles begin to soar over the Mississippi River. From late December through mid-February, all around Alton is all about eagles with guided eagle watching tours and events offered every weekend and during the week.

In order to celebrate their return, the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau will be kicking off the season with the Alton-Audubon Eagle Festival on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Audubon Center at Riverlands as well as in Downtown Alton.

Every Saturday in January, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors can meet a live eagle at the Alton Visitor's Center, located at 200 Piasa Street, and learn more about this beautiful bird of prey from a professional handler. Demonstrations are free. While at the Visitor's Center, eagle enthusiasts can also pick up a free Eagle Watcher's Guide, area information, and restaurant and lodging options.

For visitors interested in their own eagle adventure, the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway provides the best eagle viewing in the entire St. Louis region every day of the week. The prime eagle viewing times are from sunrise to 11 a.m. and again as the sun sets on the river, particularly from the Locks & Dam in Alton to Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton.

Most eagle watchers plan to stay the day in Alton watching the eagles in the early morning hours, breaking for lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in the region and spending the afternoon browsing the dozens of specialty and antique shops in Grafton and Alton.

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