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Illinois is among the first states in the nation to pass retirement savings legislation in the form of Secure Choice. With the implementation of Secure Choice, workers in Illinois at qualifying businesses without access to an employment-based retirement plan will be automatically enrolled in a retirement savings program. An estimated 1.3 million Illinoisans who currently do not have access to workplace retirement plans will be potentially impacted by Secure Choice. As Illinois moves toward Secure Choice implementation, however, there are a number of key questions that should be answered to help ensure that the program is addressing barriers to participation, especially among low-income workers, women, immigrants, and workers of color. This research is aimed at better understanding these barriers.
Chicago is currently facing a devastating surge in lethal violence in addition to staggering rates of poverty across Illinois. Policymakers and community leaders are struggling with finding short- and long-term solutions to stem the violence and allow neighborhoods to heal. In the meantime, communities are fearing for their own safety and grieving over lost parents, children, friends, and leaders every day. The stakes forgetting the solutions right could not be higher. Poverty and violence often intersect, feed one another, and share root causes. Neighborhoods with high levels of violence are also characterized by high levels of poverty, lack of adequate public services and educational opportunity, poorer health outcomes, asset and income inequality, and more. The underlying socioeconomic conditions in these neighborhoods perpetuate both violence and poverty. Furthermore, trauma can result from both violence and poverty. Unaddressed trauma worsens quality of life, makes it hard to rise out of poverty by posing barriers to success at school and work, and raises the likelihood of aggressive behavior. In this way, untreated trauma—coupled with easy gun availability and other factors—feeds the cycle of poverty and violence.
Resigned to the Process: Barriers to Accessing and Maintaining TANF among Low-Income Families with Young Children in IllinoisOctober 7, 2022
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash payments to help extremely low-income families gain stability and achieve self-sufficiency. Emerging research suggests that TANF policies, including eligibility requirements and sanction procedures, create barriers to accessing and maintaining TANF benefits that disproportionally impact certain families based on their race.The Social IMPACT Research Center (IMPACT) at Heartland Alliance was awarded a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to explore barriers to enrolling in TANF among families with young children in Illinois. The project was implemented in partnership with the Chicago Coalitionfor the Homeless (CCH), and a research advisory board (RAB) of grassroots leaders in Chicago who have direct experience receiving TANF.
Executive Summary - Resigned to the Process: Barriers to Accessing and Maintaining TANF among Low-Income Families with Young Children in IllinoisOctober 7, 2022
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash payments to help extremely low-income families gain stability and achieve self-sufficiency. Emerging research suggests that TANF policies, includingeligibility requirements and sanction procedures, createbarriers to accessing and maintaining TANF benefits that disproportionally impact certain families based on their race.The Social IMPACT Research Center (IMPACT) at HeartlandAlliance was awarded a grant from the Robert Wood JohnsonFoundation (RWJF) to explore barriers to enrolling in TANF among families with young children in Illinois. The project was implemented in partnership with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), and a research advisory board (RAB) of grassroots leaders in Chicago who have direct experience receiving TANF.
In recent years, there has been a surge in Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs being planned and launched in Midwest communities by state and local governments, community foundations, and nonprofit organizations. This is no accident. Since 2017, Heartland Alliance has led targeted efforts to promote the spread of CSA programs in the Midwest through a collaborative regional approach.This report documents the development of the Midwest CSA Consortium, outlines the growth of CSAs in the region since the start of the Consortium in January 2017 through the end of 2020, and spotlights the diversity and variation in CSA programs throughout the region.
Never Fully Free: The Scale and Impact of Permanent Punishments on People with Criminal Records in IllinoisJune 29, 2020
This first-of-its-kind study confirms that more than 3.3 million people in Illinois could be impacted by permanent punishments as a result of prior "criminal justice system" involvement, which is more accurately referred to as the "criminal legal system" given the well-documented inequities that bring into question whether the system actually brings justice to people who come into contact with it."Never Fully Free: The Scale and Impact of Permanent Punishments on People with Criminal Records in Illinois," lifts up that permanent punishments are the numerous laws and barriers aimed at people with records that limit their human rights and restrict access to the crucial resources needed to re-build their lives, such as employment, housing, and education. The report recommends a broad dismantling of permanent punishments, so that those who have been involved with the criminal legal system have the opportunity to fully participate in society.The data illustrates the dramatic number of people who may be living with the stigma and limitations of a criminal record in Illinois. Since the advent of mass incarceration in 1979, there are an estimated 3.3 million adults who have been arrested or convicted of a crime in Illinois. Under current laws, these individuals have limited rights even after their criminal legal system involvement has ended. In fact, the report uncovered a vast web of 1,189 laws in Illinois that punish people with criminal records, often indefinitely.
In Illinois, nearly 5 million adults, 50% of the population, are estimated to have an arrest or conviction record. Housing is foundational for employment success, family stability, and overall well-being. Unfortunately, criminal history checks are a typical part of the housing application processes, and many people with records are declined housing opportunities they would otherwise be a good fit for, but for the criminal record. Our goal for Win-Win was to develop user-friendly guidance about the use of criminal records in screening and housing applicants, and to provide recommendations that housing providers can adopt and adapt, in whole or in part, to increase housing opportunities for people with criminal records.
In 2009, the Illinois General Assembly created a bipartisan task force to explore a CSA program in the state. The task force recommended that a savings account should be opened automatically at birth for every child born in Illinois, using the Bright Start Direct College Savings Program as the savings vehicle.This report examines what it will take to make these recommendations a reality. To better understand the Bright Start program and how to make it an effective savings tool for all families, we look at how Illinoisans are currently using Bright Start, and explore the challenges low-income families and families of color face in using Bright Start to save for college. We also examine how a CSA program could impact the racial wealth gap in Illinois. Finally, we make policy recommendations for the design and implementation of a CSA program to help Illinois families save for higher education.
Poverty rates are two to three times higher for Illinoisans of color, and people of color fare far worse on nearly every measure of well-being. In the latest of its annual reports on poverty, "Racism's Toll," Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center lays bare the moral, human, and economic cost of the deep inequities in the state and calls out public policies that have and are actively creating these racial inequities.
Elections are coming in November, and one hot election issues is raising the minimum wage. Illinois voters will see a ballot initiative that asks about increasing the minimum wage from Illinois's current $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour. We got to wondering, if Illinois raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour starting January 1, 2015, who exactly would get a raise? We turned to the Economic Policy Institute for help crunching the numbers, and this Data Matters explores what we learned about who would become a "raised worker."
It has been 6 years since the State of Illinois formed the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty to help reduce poverty throughout Illinois. In 2010 the Commission issued its recommended strategy in Building a Pathway to Dignity & Work and has since been monitoring Illinois's progress toward the goal of cutting extreme poverty in half. In this 2014 Annual Report, the Commission provides an analysis of progress toward that goal over the past year and recommendations for 2015.
This report examines an important aspect of economic racial disparity -- disparity in credit scores. The relationship between credit scores and minority presence illustrates a clear racial disparity in credit in Illinois. Though many related factors help to explain some variability in credit scores, even when controlling for them, racial differences in credit persist.Having a credit score is important for gaining access to things like education, better jobs, homeownership -- the very things that feed financial and social opportunity. While credit disparities exist in large measure due to the same historic policies that have limited access to broader financial opportunities for minorities, credit scores are particularly important to consider because they also impact individuals' future financial opportunities.In effect, credit scores can create a trap, one that minorities are more likely to fall into, thereby feeding the continued growth of income and wealth disparities.
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