macbook EAST ST. LOUIS – To expand digital access in the Metro East, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) is urging local organizations to apply for the second round of state broadband grant funding.

“People rely on the internet. As the pandemic forced many people to work from home and participate in school remotely, access to the internet became a necessity,” Belt said. “I want to spread the word that applications are open for organizations to apply for broadband funding as we work to eliminate the digital divide.”

The Office of Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption + Digital Equity (READY) program is designed to increase access, adoption and use of high-speed internet access through the lens of digital equity and inclusion. To further these efforts across all ten economic development regions of the state, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Broadband is launching the next READY notice of funding opportunity, with another $250,000 available for grants.

The Broadband READY program is part of a comprehensive Digital Equity Package to boost broadband capacity while addressing existing broadband equity gaps. The READY program and other investments to enhance community planning and equitable implementation will complement the Connect Illinois program, a $400 million plan to deliver universal access to high-speed internet statewide.

Funding can be used to expand immediate broadband connectivity, conduct outreach and engagement to identify current digital inequities and establish next steps forward. Its aim is to create a digital inclusion ecosystem through regional collaboration among institutions of higher education, planning councils, community and economic development organizations, schools, libraries, health care and local leaders and other related stakeholders.

“In today’s world, the internet is our gateway to everything,” Belt said. “Bridging the gap to ensure people have reliable internet is essential.”

The application deadline for the second round of READY grants is Oct. 4, 2021. Visit the Illinois Office of Broadband website for information on eligibility criteria or application assistance.

Category: Press Releases



CAHOKIA – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) spent Friday afternoon reading books to children at the Cahokia Public Library to encourage students to read during the summer.

“I had a wonderful afternoon reading to kids and encouraging them to become stronger readers,” Belt said. “It’s important for children to continue learning over the summer, so they don’t lose the knowledge gained the prior school year.”

Belt is launching a summer book club to counteract summer learning loss for students during the summer months.

The summer book club requires students to read eight books of their choice during the summer break, record the names of the books and return a form to Belt’s office by Aug. 11. Senator Belt will host a pizza party for everyone who finishes reading their books. 

Book club forms are available at to download and print. Parents can also contact the district office at 618-875-1212 to have a form mailed.

“Education is a top legislative priority for me,” Belt said. “Working and ensuring kids are able to learn and grow is essential for their future.”

Category: Press Releases

Parks and Rec month EAST ST. LOUIS – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) is encouraging residents to take advantage of public parks and natural spaces in celebration of National Park and Recreation Month.

“Parks offer communities a place to gather with friends and family outdoors,” Belt said. “I hope people will take advantage of spending time outside and experiencing the nature around us during Park and Recreation Month.”

According to the National Recreation and Park Association, parks play an important role in maintaining quality of life in a community. Parks provide gathering places for members of a community to interact with each other, host public events and offer recreational programs.

Additionally, parks are a public place where people can go to keep healthy and fit. A Penn State University study showed that the length of visits to parks has a connection with reductions in stress, lowered blood pressure and perceived physical health.

Parks also offer an economic benefit to their communities by raising nearby property values and increasing revenue from tourism. Trees and other growth are also estimated to save cities money in environmental impacts and the effects of storms.

“The Metro East has a wide range of parks and trails available for residents visit,” Belt said. “It’s a great time of year to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate all nature offers.”

Visit the Metro East Park and Recreation District to find a park near in the area.

Category: Press Releases

Senator Belt

SPRINGFIELD – Students can choose whether or not to submit their ACT and SAT scores when applying to Illinois colleges and universities, thanks to a measure sponsored by State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) that was signed into law Friday.

“Standardized tests are not what universities need to rely on when accepting students,” Belt said. “This necessary transition away from test scores will benefit those students who have the capability to be accepted into Illinois’ universities, but may struggle with test anxieties.”

The new law, led by Belt and House Sponsor LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis), creates the Higher Education Fair Admissions Act, which would prohibit Illinois’ public universities from relying solely on a student’s ACT or SAT score to make an admissions decision.

Currently, a quarter of the country’s public universities do not require standardized tests scores for admittance. Notably, the University of Chicago recently saw record enrollment of first-generation, low-income and rural students after lifting its standardized test requirement.

“When it comes to admissions, we need to look at the larger picture of a student’s academic career, not just how they filled out bubbles on a single Saturday,” Greenwood said. “The ACT and SAT can serve as a barrier to college for students from underprivileged backgrounds, with a correlation between household income and test success. Overreliance on these test scores can reduce the number of otherwise qualified applicants at our universities.”

Of the 12 four-year public universities in Illinois, three – Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Western Illinois University – implemented test-optional policies before the pandemic began.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Category: Press Releases

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