Durbin announces $2.2 million in earmarks for WIU
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited Macomb on Friday to formally announce $2.2 million in earmarks secured for Western Illinois University.
The earmarks include $2 million to create a permanent emergency operations center for the region on Western’s campus. It will be designed to support all-hazards prevention, protection, mitigation, and recovery efforts for west central Illinois, and across the Mississippi River into Iowa and Missouri.
Durbin said downstate Illinois has faced many challenges over the years, from floods to tornadoes, and he hopes to see two things come out of the federal government’s investment in the center.
“That we’re better prepared to deal with those challenges in a humane way and an orderly way and know in advance what we need to have in terms of resources,” Durbin said. “And secondly, that Western Illinois University, which enjoys a reputation in our state and beyond for training first responders and law enforcement and other key professionals, will have the tools at their disposal to teach the next generation to improve on what we’re doing.”
The funds will pay for renovating the former physical science library in Currens Hall into the permanent home for the operation, which is tied to Western’s law enforcement program and supported by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Durbin said he selected WIU's emergency operations center for funding out of hundreds of applications for earmarks.
He also worked with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17) to secure $200,000 for another initiative based at Western.
Those funds will allow the university’s Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs to expand efforts to combat food deserts statewide.
The IIRA program provides assistance to keep small grocery stores open and helps establish new ones in areas that struggle with food insecurity.
Durbin said it’s a unique challenge and one that Western, “more than most,” would be able to understand and address.
“Those of us who know small-town America, know rural Illinois, know what’s happening,” Durbin said. “Whether it’s hospitals or post offices or grocery stores, it’s a struggle to keep the basics available to people so they can stay in their communities.”
Durbin does not shy away from using the word “earmarks.”
“This is money that we sent to Washington that’s coming home,” he said.
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