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Digital, Funding Programs Boost Neighborhoods

LISC/Chicago's expertise in neighborhood redevelopment was acknowledged this summer by the award of two significant federal grants that will help community residents stay afloat in the economic mainstream.

Early in the summer, LISC/Chicago was awarded $6.8 million as a subrecipient to the City of Chicago's $7 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to increase digital access and training in five underserved neighborhoods.

The Smart Communities program will help residents and businesses in underserved areas access technology.

Later, it was announced that LISC/Chicago would receive part of a $4.2 million grant from President Obama's groundbreaking Social Innovation Fund (SIF) to expand national LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC), a program LISC/Chicago pioneered as the Centers for Working Families (CWF). (To download the RFP for the Social Innovation Fund, please click here.)

The existing 12 CWFs in Chicago help community members become more financially secure through job counseling and placement, benefits assistance, free tax preparation services and financial counseling.

"Whether it's a financial gap or the digital divide, these programs provide a bridge for people who are working hard to secure a better future for their families," said Joel Bookman, Program Director, LISC/Chicago.

Smart Communities
The Smart Communities grant will provide enhanced access to broadband technology and training, and opportunities to earn hardware and software to more than 11,000 residents and 360 small businesses and nonprofits in Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn and Englewood, with the goal of overcoming barriers to technological access that exist in many parts of the city.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, announcing the grant at a press conference at Instituto del Progreso Latino in Pilsen, said that tough times mean "we must roll up our sleeves and redouble our commitment to address the challenges of the digital divide head on."

Mayor Richard M. Daley announces a $7 million grant for the Smart Communities program, on July 30, 2010. LISC also received a $4.2 million federal Social Innovation Fund grant.

"If you want to improve the quality of life of everyone in our city, we must make sure that every citizen, especially our students coming into any school, (is) technology oriented," Daley said.

"This grant will help create a digital mindset for more than 250,000 residents in neighborhoods where technology and broadband use have trailed the national average," added Bookman."The Smart Communities program gives people the tools to create their own opportunities and is vital for moving these communities forward."

Juan Salgado, CEO of Instituto Progreso del Latino, underscored the point: "Without the Internet, it's like going to school without a book."

Centers for Working Families
LISC/Chicago will use the Social Innovation Fund resources to expand the scope and reach of 12-15 Chicago-based CWFs, including a proposed CWF at Kennedy-King College this fall.

It would be the first along the 63rd Street corridor, which borders Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Washington Park and Woodlawn. Jane Addams Hull House will operate the CWF, with support and guidance from community stakeholders, including Kennedy King College and New Communities Program (NCP) lead agencies Teamwork Englewood, NCP Woodlawn and the Washington Park Consortium.

The on-the-ground presence of NCP lead agencies makes the smooth launch of a new CWF possible, said Ricki Lowitz, LISC/Chicago Director of Economic Opportunities. "The community groups know what's happening on the ground, and what residents need."

To download the RFP for the Social Innovation Fund, please click here.

This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 2010 issue of Working Capital, LISC/Chicago's newsletter. To see the whole issue, please click here.

Posted in Civic Tech, Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Washington Park, Woodlawn

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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