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Sharon Hess’ Remarks

I share my fellow speakers and Advisors accolades for this whole experience. The Attorney General inspired us with her undistracted dedication to this program, and then we proceeded to inspire and challenge each other. The review process itself was rigorous and thorough.

Juanita spoke to you about the diversity of people who will be served as a result of this award, so I would like to add a few words about the geographic diversity as well.

All of the Advisors focused their reviews and recommendations on all parts of the State. It is worth noting that Mr. Riley and several other advisors—such as those representing the Federal Reserve Bank and the National Community Stabilization Trust—regularly focus on Illinois broadly as well as other parts of the nation. But I was the only Advisor commuting from southern Illinois, so I am honored to share my unique perspective.

Like King, I also serve on the State’s Affordable Housing Task Force and, as the executive director of the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless, I am always dedicated to representing the “downstate perspective,” that of central and southern Illinois, with integrity and vigor. I agree with King’s assessment that today’s announcement from the Attorney General represents a catalytic investment in the State’s broader Comprehensive Housing Plan.

One of the tricky things in any competitive process is that you are only looking at what applications come through the door. But it is important to also reflect on the places and constituencies underrepresented because they did not generate a competitive proposal.

With this process, we did a lot of outreach to make sure agencies knew about the opportunity. We also familiarized ourselves with where the foreclosure trends are, statewide, as well as vacant and abandoned properties.

When I assess the statewide demands of foreclosures and troubled properties, I am pleased with the allocation of NFS resources as announced today.

Yes, approximately half of the resources will serve City of Chicago and suburban Cook County communities devastated by vacant and abandoned properties. This is consistent with the demand in these areas, where there is impressive nonprofit capacity. There are also a number of community revitalization and counseling awards in the collar counties and in other metro areas with high demand in places like Kane County’s Fox River Valley, East St Louis, Champaign, Bloomington, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford and Rock Island. I was heartened to see the foundation and civic partners that joined forces with housing leaders in these areas to submit competitive proposals.

I am particularly pleased that these funds are being used to expand and enhance the capacity of nonprofit service providers in central and southern IL to put my part of the state on better footing to help families and neighborhoods today, and to be ready and available to address tomorrows challenges also. There are three particular awards I would like to briefly mention:

The Illinois Assistive Technology Program will provide housing counselling services for approximately one hundred foreclosure cases per year in seven counties in central Illinois.

Together with Housing Action Illinois and NeighborWorks America, the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies will provide curriculum and training, including individualized support, to a dozen agencies in IACAA’s membership that are expanding their expertise to address local housing counselling demands throughout 50 counties in southern Illinois. IACAA will train and certify these agencies to ensure consistent quality standards for the full range of housing counselling activities needed.

And then, above and beyond the expert awards serving all grantees, you’ll note that one significant award is specifically to the Illinois Housing Development Authority. IHDA’s award is specifically to invest in downstate counselling and/or redevelopment strategies to cultivate non-profit leadership in geographies of the State lacking such stability in the housing and community development arena.

Clearly, today’s announcement represents a phenomenal investment in Illinois foreclosure response work. But it also represents some phenomenal momentum that will require a lot of hard work and follow-up. I look forward to collaborating with the Advisors and colleagues state-wide to promote the success and lasting impact of this effort.

I thank the Attorney General for this opportunity to serve on her Advisory Council.