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As it has throughout the country, COVID-19 has brought significant unemployment to Rockford and its surroundings. The city and local companies are working to combat it.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reports the area’s unemployment rate was almost 20% in May.

Winnebago County announced 54 new COVID-19 cases Monday, putting the total number of cases at 616.  Dr. Sandra Martell is with the Winnebago County Health Department. She said many of these cases were in areas of concern, such as nursing homes. 

"I want to remind the public, we anticipated more cases with more testing, and our modeling indicated this time frame would be our peak, even with social distancing practices in place," Martell said. "So we continue to monitor and watch over the next week.”

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The Mayors of DeKalb and Rockford responded to the statewide minimum wage hike that was signed into law last week. The measure will raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. 

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith worries about the effect this may have on small businesses. Smith says he would have preferred that the increase be done more incrementally. 

"I would have liked to have seen something that was written into law that mandated perhaps a one or two year step, and then let's take a look at it," he said. "You know, economies change."

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One of the main arguments Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. has made in favor of its rail project is that it would act as an economic driver for the region.  Company lawyer Mike Blaszak says construction would create a significant number of jobs.

"Those of course, would be temporary," he said, "but the construction period would last at least two years."

Once the railroad is in operation, he envisions a smaller set of permanent positions operating trains, maintaining track, and other daily functions. 

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Local governments work with a wide array of agencies and partnerships for projects within their jurisdictions.  Another organization aims to cross local boundaries for the good of all.