Springfield 2024: Big wins for racial and economic justice

In this year’s spring legislative agenda, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law advocated for progressive policies across the board that would garner real wins for individuals and families.

The Illinois House passed a $53.1 billion state budget last month over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend. We successfully pushed for a permanent child tax credit, a program that provides medical debt relief, and removal of the state grocery tax, among other important measures. We’re thankful to our lawmakers and Gov. J.B. Pritzker for enacting real change through these policies for people living in poverty.

Supporting Illinoisans through income supports

HB 4951 is a large revenue bill that among many things creates a new Illinois Child Tax Credit, tied to the existing Illinois Earned Income Credit. Along with lifting countless children out of poverty, this credit ensures that taxpayers with low and moderate income will get $50 million back when they pay taxes in 2025 and $100 million every consecutive year.

People are struggling to keep up with inflated grocery costs and put food on the table. Starting in 2026, Illinois will join the 37 other states that don’t charge a state grocery tax. The sales tax was suspended as part of Pritzker’s fiscal year 2022 budget, which saved shoppers up to an estimated $400 million.

Ensuring health care access and affordability

Everyone deserves access to affordable, comprehensive health care, regardless of their income. Illinois will implement a program to relieve $1 billion in medical debt for over 300,000 Illinoisans in just the first year. With medical debt as the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., this program will ease the burden of poverty on people with low income.

Due to the intersection of misogyny and racism, Black women often receive subpar and negligent maternal health care. The Birth Equity Bill requires private insurance companies to cover maternal services provided by midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants. Private insurance companies will be required to expand different pregnancy services, including labor, abortion, and miscarriage.

Immigration status shouldn’t determine access to basic needs like health care. The Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults and Seniors program passed with a fully funded package of $660 million, providing coverage for thousands of residents. We’re continuing to advocate for reopening enrollment and removing cost-sharing in health care coverage.

Health insurance companies can’t be allowed to limit patient care. The Healthcare Protection Act (HB 5395) reforms predatory health insurance practices around patient care, such as requiring patients to try less effective medications first or mandating prior authorizations for mental health coverage to control costs. HB 2499 bans short-term, limited-duration “junk” insurance plans, which don’t have to meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

Removing barriers and expanding access to thrive

Over 100,000 Illinoisians have suspended driver’s licenses for failure to appear in traffic court, often due to their inability to pay a fine or fee. Preventing people from having a license creates a barrier to employment and their ability to take care of themselves and their families. HB 277 eliminates the requirement that driver’s licenses be suspended when people fail to appear in court and clears all such suspensions going back five years. This bill will allow people to continue driving to work, taking their kids to school, and leading their lives — all valid reasons why someone might not be available for a court date.

Nearly a quarter of Illinoisans speak a language other than English at home. That’s why SB 3762 is so important, as it requires all state agencies to take actionable steps to improve language access for Illinoisans who don’t speak English.

Continuing our work

We’re already preparing for next year’s spring session with an ambitious agenda that will continue the fight for racial and economic justice. We will continue to advocate for protections for workers, income supports for people with low income, and expanded access to health care coverage, regardless of race, class, or gender.

We’ve been involved with the Fund Our Futures coalition to outline measures to generate revenue and focus on systemic inequalities. The coalition’s recommendations include implementing a child tax credit, prioritizing fair wages, and accessing stable employment. Read more about the coalition’s goals in our recent blog. We successfully advocated for the recently passed Pretrial Success Act as part of the state budget, which will allocate $15 million for comprehensive support services for people recently released from the carceral system.

Our advocates are still hopeful for passage of the Dignity in Pay Act, which would eliminate the subminimum wage paid to people with developmental disabilities (often as little as $2 an hour); and will support efforts to secure funding for a permanent guaranteed income program.

We’ll continue to work toward eliminating the subminimum wage for restaurant workers, creating a paid family and medical leave program, and pushing for the Protecting Innocent Families Act, which helps innocent families defend themselves against false allegations of abuse. In addition, we’ll regroup with a coalition to end the harmful “crime-free nuisance ordinances” that unfairly force people from their homes, often for circumstances out of their control.

Your help is crucial to our work. Here are ways you can use your voice to support the movement in Illinois.

More Information

Fiscal policies should ensure that all communities can thrive.

Systemic inequities and the legacy of structural racism make it harder for low-income people and people of color to achieve financial stability.

Healthcare is a human right. The high cost of care means millions of families have no access to the critical care all human beings deserve.

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