April 15, 2022
As we continue to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, it is more important than ever to invest in policies and programs that dismantle barriers to opportunity and ensure equity. Black, Latino/a/x, and other people of color were disproportionately impacted by the hardships wrought by the pandemic, a reflection of long-standing inequities in employment, health care, and housing. This spring, the Shriver Center championed a legislative agenda in Illinois designed to support low-wage workers, expand access to health coverage, and secure stable housing so that all Illinoisans can thrive.
After a truncated spring legislative session, Illinois emerged with strong investments in a $46 billion FY 2023 budget that will support a more equitable recovery. The earned income credit (EIC) has been expanded and made permanent. Health coverage has been expanded to Illinois residents aged 42-54 regardless of immigration status. The legislature also acted on legislation that promotes stability and continuity of health care coverage and anti-discrimination protections that ensure individuals and families are not locked out of opportunities when securing housing solely based on their legal source of income.
We thank the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly for investing in and protecting low-income families and communities of color throughout the state. These measures, outlined below, are important toward building a more equitable, fair, and just Illinois for all.
Expansion of the Earned Income Credit
The ongoing economic impact of the pandemic, combined with rising costs and inflation, have hit low-wage workers especially hard. The expansion of eligibility for Illinois’s Earned Income Credit will help many of these workers and their families. Over 950,000 Illinoisans who are currently excluded will now be eligible for the EIC, including young adults ages 18-24 without children, older adults ages 65 and above, and immigrants who file their taxes with an individualized taxpayer identification number. This permanent expansion, which also increases the EIC credit amount to 20%, will put more money directly into Illinois’s economy and thousands of struggling workers’ pockets.
The $1.8 billion tax relief package also includes one-time cash payments to families without high incomes. Most Illinois families will receive $50 per adult and $100 per child.
Improved Access to Health Coverage
In 2020, at the height of a public health crisis that was disproportionately sickening people of color, Illinois made history by being the first in the nation to provide Medicaid look-alike coverage to older undocumented residents. This year, health coverage for immigrant adults has been expanded to cover low-income Illinois residents aged 42 and above, regardless of immigration status. This third expansion makes Illinois’s program the broadest in the country. An estimated 27,000 individuals will be eligible for enrollment slated to begin by July 1, 2022.
The Medicaid Omnibus bill also included provisions to ease financial burdens on older adults and people with disabilities who are Medicaid beneficiaries by reducing the penalty and inequitable consequences of Medicaid liens and estate recovery. The bill also permanently eliminates ongoing income reporting for people who have already been approved for Medicaid coverage, making it easier for people to retain crucial health benefits.
The newly enacted Easy Enrollment Program will encourage Medicaid enrollment by allowing taxpayers to share their income information through the tax filing process with state agencies that can determine their eligibility for no cost or low-cost health coverage. Finally, the legislature has made significant investments to the state’s mental health workforce, which is critically understaffed and has 4,000 vacant positions statewide. HB 4700 will support recruitment and retention of additional clinical staff to serve Illinoisans with mental health conditions and drive down waitlists for care.
Housing for All
Over half of Illinois households have income that comes from a source other than a job, including Housing Choice Vouchers, emergency rental assistance, social security, retirement income and public assistance. Landlords in areas without source of income protections can legally deny housing to individuals simply because they choose not to accept the applicant’s legal form of income. HB 2775 adds “source of income” to the Illinois Human Rights Act’s protection against discrimination in real estate transactions, making it a civil rights violation to refuse to consider an individual for housing solely based on their source of income.
The Shriver Center will continue to fight for important policy changes that did not advance in this legislative session, including paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers, funding for health care navigators and enrollment assisters to expand access to health care, and elimination of the long-term consequences that can hamper a tenant’s ability to secure housing by sealing eviction records.
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Our laws and policies must support people by ensuring fair work at a living wage and by providing the income supports families need to be successful.
Shelter is not only a basic human need, it is also critical to people’s ability to pursue and attain economic stability.