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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

New Housing Assistance Available For 61016 Residents

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There’s a new housing rental assistance program available in areas around Cherry Valley.

 

 

 

 

The Community Action Agency announced housing assistance funds are available to those who experienced hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic. $69,000 dollars will go to residents in the 61016 zip code for immediate use, which the state health department has deemed as especially impacted by the pandemic. 

 

Chris Greenwood from the Community Action Agency said that eligibility is pretty straightforward.

 

"So if they were affected by COVID-19, loss of income, or hours were reduced if they lost a job or reduce their income, they would be eligible to receive some services through us,” Greenwood said.

 

Financial assistance is limited to six months and is determined on a case-by-case basis. Greenwood says that service workers who have experienced job loss, or industrialworkers who have seen hours shortened, may be eligible for the emergency housing assistance.  

 

Greenwood said residents of Winnebago and Boone counties who live outside of the 61016 zip code may still be eligible for emergency housing assistance from the CARES Act. But Greenwood says that there is already a long waiting list.

 

To check eligibility to receive assistance, call the Community Action Agency at 779-348-7582. 

 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms