We believe that progress toward economic and racial justice can happen at the state level.
In 2019, the Shriver Center boldly moved forward with legislation in our home state to expand opportunities for more people, support families, and ultimately make for #StrongerCommunities. Learn more about the bills we championed this legislative session:
Providing Hot Meals for the Hungry
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance to 1.8 million Illinoisans who would otherwise go hungry. But this crucial support only allows for the purchase of food that can be made at home. This restriction limits effective access to the program for recipients who do not have a place to prepare or store food, and for those who may have barriers to using their kitchens safely. As such, thousands of SNAP recipients who are elderly, disabled, or experiencing homelessness are prevented from accessing hot, nutritious food that every human being deserves and needs to stay healthy. The Hot Meals for Hungry Illinoisans Act would bring Illinois in line with four other states who’ve implemented common-sense laws which make it possible for these SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase hot meals at grocery stores and restaurants which have opted in to the program. UPDATE: Both chambers of the General Assembly passed the Hot Meals for Hungry Illinoisans Act. Please thank them.
Setting Student Survivors & Student Parents Up for Success
Students who are parents, expecting parents, or survivors of sexual or domestic violence need support from schools so they can stay safe and succeed academically. But across the state, K-12 schools do not have clear policies or accommodations in place to support students who have experienced sexual or domestic violence, or those who are in school while expecting a child or caring for a child. As a consequence, many students are being failed by the very institutions that are meant to prepare them academically and set them up for future success.
The Ensuring Success in School Law would ensure that every Illinois elementary and secondary school has student-centered, trauma-informed policies and accommodations in place to support those students who grapple with the challenges that accompany trauma or teenage pregnancy and parenthood by themselves. When every student in Illinois can get a quality education—no matter their circumstances—all of our communities reap the rewards. UPDATE: The Illinois Senate passed this measure. It's currently in the House.
Investing in Our Youngest Children
Early Intervention ensures that infants and toddlers receive a range of developmental and social-emotional services, including speech and language, occupational and physical therapies, and social work services, that they need be able to thrive throughout the rest of their lives. Early intervention specialists provide these crucial services to children and their families from all income levels and in all counties across the state. But the Illinois government has not increased the reimbursement rates for these providers in 11 years, though the state’s caseloads have been steadily climbing as more families seek out the services their children need. If passed, the Early Intervention Specialist Pay Increase bill would implement overdue reimbursement rate increases for providers over the next three years. This would support improved recruitment of specialists, help reduce staff burnout and turnover, and benefit families across Illinois.
Advocating for True Freedom & Opportunity After Prison
In Illinois today, more than 2,300 people who have served their complete prison sentences remain without true freedom because they were ordered to wear an electronic monitor as a condition of their mandatory supervised release (MSR). For returning citizens, electronic monitoring turns their homes into satellite prison. The MSR Re-entry Freedom Act would end the current practice for people in Illinois who have already completed their prison sentences. While electronic monitoring costs Illinois an estimated $6.5 million a year, there is no evidence that it makes communities safer or reduces recidivism. Instead, the arbitrary use of this ‘satellite prison’ makes it difficult for returning citizens in our state to find jobs, take care of their families, and re-acclimate to society. By passing this bill, Illinois would expand freedom and opportunity for thousands of people seeking to become self-sufficient and play a part in strengthening our communities. Help us ensure the MSR Re-entry Freedom Act's passage by contacting your state senators. UPDATE: The Illinois Legislature passed a separate bill related to electronic monitoring. HB386 would make Illinois the first state in the country that requires its agencies to annually report how they use electronic monitoring.
Making Home a Safe Place for Immigrants
Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home—unfortunately, a person’s immigration status can leave them vulnerable to being mistreated when living in rental housing. The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act would make such discrimination illegal in Illinois. It would prohibit landlords from harassing, threatening, or evicting tenants based on any perceived immigration or citizenship status. In the event that landlords carry out such discriminatory actions, tenants would also be eligible to take civil action without fear of reprisal due to their immigration status. By passing this bill, Illinois would become a better place for families to live and, in a time of rising xenophobia and bigotry, stand as a nation-wide leader in affirming that everyone has the right to fair housing. UPDATE: Both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly approved the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act. Please send your lawmakers a short email thanking them for making our state fairer.
Advancing Women & Their Families
Women are the primary or co-breadwinners in more than 60 percent of Illinois families. Yet, when taken as an average, women in the state are paid just 79 cents for every dollar white men earn. That gap in wages is even worse for Black women, Latinas, and other women of color. For households headed by single mothers, the consequences of this inequity are made even more stark and children in such households are more likely to be in poverty.
It’s clear Illinois needs to take major steps to ensure women in the state can get equal pay for equal work. The No Salary History Bill would strengthen the Illinois Equal Pay Act and do just that, by preventing employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary history. When employers base women’s wages on what they made in the past, it perpetuates pay inequity and leaves not only those women, but also their families at a disadvantage. A person’s salary should be based on the requirements of the job and their qualifications, which is why more than a dozen states across the country have passed similar bans on salary history questions. It’s time for Illinois to do the same. UPDATE: The No Salary History Bill passed through both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. Please thank your lawmakers if they voted yes.
Also in Illinois:
We are advocating for legislation that strengthens protections for consumers, keeps children from losing access to critical supports because of sanctions, makes workplaces fairer for low-income workers, improves the Medicaid enrollment process, and more.
You can help us secure passage for these measures by signing up to take action with the Shriver Center.
With partners in our national networks in states across the country, we are:
- Equipping advocates on the ground to combat the use of criminal fines and fees that needlessly ensnare people of color and low-income people in the criminal legal system and undermine their economic stability;
- Advancing race equity in advocacy organizations through deepened learning, leadership, and collaboration rooted in an understanding of structural racism and implicit bias;
- Working to ensure immigrant communities can access public benefits and services and not have their status compromised for doing so;
- Ensuring the fair housing rights of people with criminal records.