Rural Illinois

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois is in a precarious position when it comes to the 2020 census. The count determines congressional representation, and the state is at risk for losing up to two seats.

Central and southern Illinois appear most vulnerable to losing a congressional seat, which is why it’s especially important to make sure everyone participates, according to Anita Banerji, director of the Democracy Initiative with Forefront Illinois. The Chicago-based civic engagement nonprofit has been working to ensure an accurate count.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Small internet service providers in Illinois are optimistic after the farm bill – which President Trump recently signed – included more money for expanding high-speed internet access in sparsely populated areas.

The law earmarks $350 million annually for loans and grants for broadband projects. That’s on top of $600 million set aside earlier this year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Re-Connect program.

Jaclyn Driscoll / NPR Illinois

A recent study completed by the Illinois Rural Health Summit Planning Committee found that 1.5 million Illinoisans who live in rural parts of Illinois struggle to maintain "healthy, active, and productives lives." 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for forty years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explains, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Farm towns in Illinois could get access to high-speed internet with the help of new federal funding.

Nine companies are getting nearly $100 million from the Federal Communications Commission to bring internet access to small towns in the state.

The commission this week announced the subsidies, which are funded from a service fee on most internet and phone bills.

Wisper ISP, based in Mascoutah, Illinois, was awarded the largest grant, $35 million, to connect nearly 9,000 homes and businesses in southern Illinois.

Photo by Tom Zittergruen on Unsplash

Farm towns in Illinois have been shrinking for decades, and the trend doesn’t show signs of reversing.

By 2025, rural counties with populations of less than 10,000 people will see 7.4 percent of their residents leave, while counties with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 will lose 5.4 percent. That’s according to projections from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Beth Martinez and her brother Ben Bloom
Courtesy Beth Martinez

The national conversation around gun violence generally centers around mass shootings, school shootings and gang activity. These problems need to be addressed, but may overshadow the largest group affected: suicide victims.


Illinois Issues: The Rural Exodus

Aug 10, 2017
Chumlee 10 / Flickr

Analysis: What should be done to respond to loss of rural population?

Illinois Issues: No Place To Call Home - Pt. 2

Dec 3, 2015
David Wilson

The second installment of a three-part series on homelessness looks at how the problem plagues Illinoisans in the state’s rural reaches, too

Dr. John Warner Hospital in Clinton stopped dispatching ambulances at the end of 2012.

“The hospital decided to get out of the ambulance business because we were losing just under $600,000 a year on the operation,” says Earl Sheehy, chief executive officer of the city-owned medical facility. “It was difficult. There were a lot of emotions involved and all that.” But he says the hospital could no longer bear the financial drain. “The community can have a better ambulance service, and the hospital can be stronger without having to sustain the ambulance service.”

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Birds of a feather flock together. This adage rings true for businesses in city centers. But it’s not necessarily the case in rural areas, where companies with similar interests don’t congregate naturally.

Unlike in Chicago, where some industries are magnets for suppliers or distributors, entrepreneurs tend to consider other factors when deciding to locate in less populated areas, including proximity to a waterway or highway, or access to a labor base. This certainly is true in the vast reaches of southern Illinois.