Working Group Minutes - 04/22/21

Interagency Working Group on Poverty and Economic Insecurity

April 22nd, 2021; 3:00pm

Members in Attendance:

Illinois Department of Human Services - Chairperson, Secretary Grace Hou

Illinois Department of Labor - Director, Michael D. Kleinik

Illinois Department of Public Health - Assistant Director, Amaal V.E. Tokars

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity - Deputy Director Office of Policy Development, Planning & Research, Jason Horwitz

Illinois Department of Aging - Director, Paula A. Basta, M.Div.

Illinois Department of Agriculture - Deputy Director, Kristi Jones

Illinois Department of Corrections - Chief of Women and Family Services, Tangenise Porter

Illinois Housing Development Authority - Deputy Director for Strategic Planning and Reporting, Traci Sanders

Illinois Governor's Office of Management and Budget - Deputy Director, Marc Staley

Members Absent:

Illinois State Board of Education - State Superintendent, Carmen Ayala

Illinois Department of Employment Security - Labor Market Information Director, George W. Putnam

Illinois Housing Development Authority - Special Initiatives Manager, Megan Spitz

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services - Jenny Aguirre, Administrator Strategic Vendor Relationships

Guests in Attendance:

Illinois Department of Human Services - Senior Public Service Administrator, Dana Kelly

Illinois Department of Human Services - Director of Strategy, Equity and Transformation, Caronina Grimble

Illinois Department of Human Services - COVID Manager for Immigrant and Refugee Services, Ruth Lopez-McCarthy

Illinois Department on Aging - Deputy Director, Lora McCurdy

Illinois Department on Aging - Senior Policy Analyst, Amy Lulich

Governor's Office of Management and Budget - General Counsel, Bob Steere

Governor's Office of Management and Budget - Deputy General Counsel, Kristina Dion

Heartland Alliance - Legislative Advocacy Director, Kimberley Drew

Greater Chicago Food Depository - State Engagement and Policy Innovation Lead, Colleen Burns

University of Chicago Poverty Lab - Senior Portfolio Manager, Misuzu Schexnider

Illinois Student Assistance Commission - Chief Information Officer, Ramnath Cidambi

Illinois Governor's Office of Management and Budget - Deputy Director, Marc Staley

Illinois Governor's Office of Management and Budget - Budget Manager, Emily Howerton

Shriver Center on Poverty Law - Director of Economic Justice, Jeremy Noam Rosen

I. Welcome & Introductions (10 mins)

IDHS Secretary and Chairperson of the Interagency Working Group on Poverty and Economic Insecurity Grace B. Hou started the meeting at 3:00 PM and opened with discussion of the recent events in Chicago and Minneapolis. Secretary Hou asked for ways in which agencies and individuals are working to promote justice and equity in their current roles.

II. Public Comment (5 mins)

* None received.

III. Approval of Meeting Minutes (5 mins)

  • September 17, 2020: Unanimously approved.
  • July 30, 2021: Unanimously approved.
  • January 14, 2021: Unanimously approved.

IV. American Rescue Plan Act Overview & Impacts (30 mins)

Jeremy Noam Rosen from the Shriver Center on Law and Poverty and Kim Drew from Heartland Alliance provided an overview on the American Rescue Plan Act and its impact on the State of Illinois.

  • The Act includes $7.5 billion to the State, and $5.5 billion to counties and cities through 2024.
  • A significant portion of these funds will be used to repay existing obligations, while some funds will be used for equitable recovery efforts.
  • Housing: The Act includes $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers for peoplke who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Act also includes $5 billion for HOME program dollars with flexible uses to prevent and end homelessness. A main focus right now is reducing barriers to access these funds specifically allocated for housing. Flexibility and coordination will be critical in the successful execution of these dollars.
  • Pandemic Emergency Assistance / Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Illinois will receive approximately $20 million for these efforts. This includes non-recurrent cash payments to families.
  • Nutrition Assistance: The Act continues the 15% boost from previous years through 9/2021, continues Pandemic Economic Benefit Transfer (PEBT) through the pandemic and school re-openings, and importantly this also includes $60 million for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administrative costs which can be used to fund improved customer services as well as through technology (through a mobile app, for example).
  • Childcare: The Act includes $500 million for additional childcare assistance and $800 million to help childcare providers stay in business. Additional guidance for this funding is expected this spring.
  • Healthcare: The Act includes an increase to Affordable Care Act premium tax credits, including additional funds for COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
  • Education: There is significant education funding included in the Act, from K-12 to higher education, with a specific focus on financial aid support.
  • Economic Impact Payments:
    • The Act includes $1,400 in direct cash assistance per person and $1,400 per dependent.
    • This differs from previous versions of direct cash payment, as people who support adult dependents now qualify for additional stimulus money, and a dependent can be any age to qualify.
    • People with social security number who are married to someone without a social security number are eligible.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    • The maximum EITC for workers without children will be nearly tripled and the income range to qualify will increase to $21,000.
    • Workers without children age 10-24 and 65+ will be newly eligible.
    • Illinois' EITC, Earned Income Credit (EIC) is 18% of the federal credit and follows federal eligibility so this expansion will also extend to the State EIC.
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
    • This credit increased from $2,000 to $3,000 per child (and $3,600 for children under 6).
    • Children in poverty is estimated to be reduced by 40% - but it is important to keep in mind that these provisions are not permanent, they are one year expansions.
    • Over 2.5 million children will directly receive benefit from this expansion.
    • The Act also expands the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). The maximum size is increased to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children (an increase from $1,050 and $2,100, respectively).
  • Discussion:
    • IDHS is working on educational material around these benefits.
    • If we were to fully maximize these benefits, how would this impact childhood poverty in Illinois? There is currently a request in to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities for this information. Also a matrix is included in the attachments for the meeting invite with additional material on this topic.
    • The Interagency Working Group developed a one-pager that outlines how to access some of these benefits that the group will circulate. The group hopes it is a resource that will be used to ensure that federal dollars are leveraged to assist in this time of need. It will need to be updated as we continue to learn more. The group is also working on a Spanish translation and hope to have it ready for distribution within a week.

V. Poverty Commission Update

  • The group's Strategic Plan is due November 2021. The Commission will be holding six public hearings to inform this plan. There will be one session per month, starting in June.
    • The sessions will be virtual, but they will still be localized, tailored to the community, and reflective of the community. We want those with lived experience at the table.
    • Kick off session: West Side of Chicago in early June. We will partner with Senator Lightford and Reverend Walter Jones of West Side Community Stakeholders group. This session will focus on the Black community on the West Side.
    • Session two will be on the West Side of Chicago, and will focus on the Latinx community. This will be in late June. The tentative schedule for the remaining sessions is as follows:
  • July: Peoria County
  • August: South Chicago, South Suburbs
  • September: DeKalb County
  • October: Champaign County
    • We are aligning poverty rates, geographic diversity, and racial and ethnic diversity with the locations of sessions. We are reaching out to community groups in all of these areas to partner with us as the leaders of their communities. We are also looking at subject matter diversity throughout the sessions.
    • There was no feedback or questions shared.

VI. Working Group Progress & Other Updates (20 mins)

  • The group has engaged in the following areas:
    • EITC Project: This will be ready in early summer.
    • Benefit Cliff Calculator: Working with UChicago on this effort. When your income rises and you fall of a certain benefit, what impact does this have? When does the consequence of this outweigh the additional earned income? They are building a policy memo around this topic to analyze policy changes that could flatten these benefit cliffs so that people are not penalized. The end goal is to present proposals to the group that might spur legislation sometime in September.
    • Hunger Commission: They have released their roadmap, which includes recommendations around technology, collaboration, and innovation. They will be doing deep dive webinars to walk through the recommendations. The first one will focus on technology, next week on April 28th.
    • Eviction: DHS is working closely with IHDA and Department of Commerce on eviction mitigation and homelessness prevention supports for individuals and families over the last year. They are preparing to launch part two of their rental assistance program. They are trying to work with families and individuals as far upstream as possible so that people don't end up in eviction court. They are prioritizing legal services, case management, and mediation to ensure settlements for rental payments. They hope to make a larger announcement in the coming weeks. They are also expecting an influx of ARPA funds for this program.
    • Workforce Collaboration and Exchange with Leader Lightford: This is still in discussion, but part of the legislation that passed in January's session included the requirement that agencies perform a workforce consolidation study that is due by May 1st. The timeline is short, but it has started a conversation on how to improve programming and make it accessible to the average user. This conversation is ongoing.
    • There was no feedback or questions shared.

VII. Next Steps / Next Meeting / Adjournment (5 mins)

The meeting was adjourned at 4:18 PM by Amaal Tokars and seconded by Jason Horwitz.