In 2020, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law is focused on advancing bold, transformative policies.
February 19, 2020
In 2020, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law is focused on advancing bold, transformative policies that build on the momentum of progressive change at the local, state, and national level and continues to close the gaps in equity and justice for low-income families and communities in Chicago, across Illinois, and the nation.
Fiscal policies should ensure that all communities can thrive. Illinois’ current tax system is unfair for middle and lower-income families – taxing everyone at the same rate, regardless of income. A Fair Tax can drive economic and racial justice in Illinois. A Fair Tax system in Illinois will help address our state’s budget crisis, provide additional tax credits for Illinois families, and provide funds for vital services that lift people and families out of poverty.
Even before passing the Fair Tax, we can help over-taxed low income workers get a cost of living refund by expanding the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit to include 18-24 year old childless adults and all immigrants who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This proposal would help fight back against the Trump Administration’s cuts to SNAP and its numerous anti-immigrant policies.
Positioning Illinois as a national leader in policies that support working families, paid family and medical leave would create a statewide insurance program that allows employees to take paid time off for parental leave or to take care of themselves or a family member with a serious medical condition, among other reasons. Low-wage workers generally lack paid family and medical leave, which hinders their right to work and be protected from unemployment. The lack of paid leave disproportionately affects low-income women and their families. Women with no access to paid family and medical leave are more likely to lose income, and lack of paid leave can also limit a child’s health and development.
Transportation is critical for employment and opportunity, and when licenses are taken away from workers, we all lose — job seekers, families, employers and the taxpayers paying to enforce counterproductive policies. By suspending licenses for unpaid red-light camera tickets Illinois takes away people’s ability to get to and from work. Ending driver’s license suspension for unpaid red-light camera tickets follows up on the License to Work legislation passed in 2019 and eliminates the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid red-light camera tickets.
Reforming the Criminal Legal System
Once people have served their time, they should be free. In Illinois, people who have served their time are immediately placed on electronic monitoring home detention. By ending electronic monitoring for people who have served their time we can increase their ability to attain employment, reconnect with family, contribute to their communities, and rebuild their lives.
A person’s freedom should not depend on their access to money. The use of money bonds in the Illinois court system means that access to money becomes the deciding factor in determining whether someone remains in jail before the outcome of their case. Pretrial incarceration threatens the economic stability of not only the incarcerated person, but their family. Ending money bond by reducing pre-trial incarceration would prohibit the use of money bonds so that no one in Illinois will be incarcerated before they go to trial simply because they cannot afford to pay a certain amount of money.
Felony convictions have lasting consequences that affect people’s lives well after their sentences are complete, including through creating barriers to housing, education, and employment. In Illinois all drug possession offenses (except for cannabis) are classified as felonies—even if someone is found with mere residue. By reclassifying small quantity drug possession from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor, Illinois would be in line with 17 other states which have such a law.
Advocating for Affordable Healthcare for All
Everyone deserves access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare no matter their income, race, gender, or where they’re from. Expanding access to healthcare is critical to keeping communities in Illinois healthy and making our state fiscally strong. Our Healthy Illinois campaign seeks to provide health coverage for low-income residents in Illinois, regardless of their immigration status.
The high cost of prescription drugs means many families have no access to the lifesaving and sustaining drugs they need to stay healthy. By ensuring the affordability of prescription drugs, Illinois can create an independent body with the authority to evaluate expensive drugs and recommend appropriate methods for addressing costs, including setting upper limits on what Illinoisans would pay.
Protecting Renters and Promoting and Preserving Affordable Housing
All people should have the right to a safe, stable home to build better futures for themselves and their families — and be protected from housing discrimination. Under current law, an eviction record is generally publicly available, even years after it was filed. Having an eviction court filing on your record can be a serious obstacle to finding housing. By sealing a broader category of eviction records, the new law would promote more equitable access to housing and increase the chance families can secure safe, decent, and affordable housing.
One of our nation’s key supplies of affordable housing — public housing — is at a crisis point in this country, with a dire backlog of more than $70 billion in capital funds needed to repair and maintain it. Federal action is required to improve the conditions in public housing and preserve it for the long term.
Violence directly contributes to housing instability and homelessness in this country. The 2020 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will ensure that survivors do not have to choose between their housing and their safety.