CHICAGO -- U.S. Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Ill., has introduced legislation intended to help East St. Louis and other depressed communities get the most federal money that they can.

This bill has one major purpose -- using every federal resource available to help communities like East St. Louis become viable again," Costello said in a press release. "Restoring a climate of stability to East St. Louis and other depressed citites is essential to the entire economic growth of this area."

Costello said that federal grant funds often go unused because communities do not apply for them. to provide distressed cities with guidance in tapping federal programs. Costello's measure would create a task force of representatives from four federal agencies that have direct responsibility for the public health and economic welfare of small communities.

"As we have seen with East St. Louis, many small communities lack the resources and exprienced personnel needed to apply for grants and other assistance," Costello said. "It essential and cost-effective to have federal officials work with these small towns in a cooperative way to bring them back to life."

The bill tragets communities with populations from 5,000 to 50,000. Under the measure, a city must have three or more of the following five characteristics to be considered depressed: * an unemployment rate of 12% or greater. * a violent crime rate of 5% or greater. * no municipal health facility. * median annual household income of less than $15,000. * substantial environmental waste problems.

The bill is pending before the House Government Operations Committee and does not have a sponsor in the Senate yet, according to Brian Lott, Costello's spokesman.

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