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URBANA – Nearly 1.7 million Illinoisans, or 13.3 percent of the state's population, live in poverty.
In Champaign County, the number is far higher: 21.3 percent. Next door, in Vermilion County, nearly a quarter of the residents are considered poor, living on $24,000 or less for a family of four.
Champaign native Miesha Jones spends the $315 a month she receives in federal food assistance benefits at Sam's Club.
Jones, the single mother of a 3-year-old daughter, usually takes her monthly shopping trip to the bulk shopping club or, on occasion, Wal-Mart.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – SNAP – benefits are provided through an electronic card system, much like a debit card.
They can be used to buy most food or food products, including fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets across Illinois.
Other foods that SNAP benefits can buy include:
By DANIEL PETRELLA and PAM G. DEMPSEY
URBANA – The Champaign County Board took the first step Tuesday toward allowing residents of the Wilber Heights neighborhood to rebuild or make substantial improvements to their properties.
Wilber Heights has proved attractive to businesses because of its lower property taxes and lower traffic congestion. Because Wilber Heights is in an unincorporated area, city property taxes are not assessed.
A Champaign County zoning official plans to propose regulatory changes for the Wilber Heights neighborhood that will combat the deterioration of residential properties.
1928: Wilber Heights developed as a single-family residential development. No zoning in place when homes are built.
1973: County zoning ordinance takes effect; Wilber Heights zoning is split between light industry and heavy industry. Homes become nonconforming and limits are placed on renovation and rehabilitation.
Every Saturday, for 20 weeks, 46 men and women reported to the Physical Plant Service Building on the University of Illinois campus at 7:30 a.m. and worked until 3:30 p.m. Some stayed afterward to continue working; a few even showed up early for the same reason.