Interagency Working Group on Poverty and Economic Security Agenda and Minutes - 07/30/20


July 30, 2020; 1:00 PM

WebEx Video Conference

  1. Introductions (15 mins)
    1. Name
    2. Department
    3. Reflections on Pre-Reading
      1. What aspects of America's legacy of racial inequity, economic disadvantage, and wealth inequality are most apparent during this historic pandemic? In addition to the policy recommendations included in the articles, what long-term structural changes would you recommend to eliminate the racial wealth gap?
  2. Charge of the Interagency Work (15 mins)
    1. Immediate tasks
    2. Longer-term mission/goal
    3. Commission
    4. Illinois Commission to End Hunger
  3. Presentation - UChicago Poverty Lab (30 mins)
    1. Define Poverty
    2. Data Picture of Poverty in Illinois
    3. Discussion/Questions
  4. Inventory - What is Already Happening? (20 mins)
    1. Identify and Discuss Gaps
  5. Big Ideas Generation (30 mins)
    1. Open Discussion 
  6.  Next Steps/Next Meeting (10 mins)

Meeting Minutes

Members in Attendance: Illinois Department of Human Services - Chairperson, Secretary Grace Hou; Illinois Department of Labor - Director, Michael D. Kleinik; Illinois State Board of Education - Superintendent, Carmen Ayala; Illinois Department of Public Health - Assistant Director, Dr. Amaal 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 Corrections - Chief of Women and Family Services, Tangenise Porter; Illinois Department of Agriculture - Deputy Director, Kristi Jones; Illinois Governor's Office of Management and Budget - Human Services Manager, Marc Staley

Invited Members: Illinois Department of Employment Security - Labor Market Information Director, George W. Putnam; Illinois Housing Development Authority - Special Initiatives Manager, Megan Spitz

Guests: Illinois Governor's Office - Deputy Governor, Sol Flores; Heartland Alliance - Legislative Advocacy Director, Kimberley Drew; Greater Chicago Food Depository - State Engagement and Policy Innovation Lead, Colleen Burns; University of Chicago Poverty Lab - Executive Director, Carmelo Barbaro; University of Chicago Poverty Lab - Senior Portfolio Manager, Misuzu Schexnider

Introductions (15 mins)

IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou started the meeting at 1:02 PM and introduced First Assistant Deputy Governor, Health and Human Services, Lizzy Whitehorn.

Lizzy Whitehorn greeted the working group, celebrating the launch of this critical effort to address intergenerational poverty and the systemic factors that perpetuate it. At this moment of economic uncertainty, health insecurity and frustration the importance of this working group cannot be overstated. The Governor knows and believes we must address poverty head-on with policy and action, but first, we need to acknowledge the pain that has been afflicted on communities of color. We know that a lot of the variation in family income can be traced back to historical policies that have prioritized white wealth like redlining, educational segregation, and economic disinvestment. There is now a significant wealth gap, where white families have nearly ten times the wealth of black families nationally. Repairing this damage will take thoughtful, hard work, and will require multisystem collaborative solutions; all the agencies at the table will play a critical role in this. The Intergenerational Poverty Act created this group and the Public Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security to start doing this work. It's easy to say that an Interagency Working Group needs to work in collaboration, but that can be hard to do. The Governor has been focused on this from the beginning, setting up an administration to break down silos and solve problems together. Please dig in and start doing this work. We are grateful you are here, and excited to see where this work will take us.

Secretary Hou highlighted the importance of getting to know the members of the working group. A brief introduction session was held where members and guests shared their name, organization, and reflections from shared readings.

Charge of the Interagency Work (15 mins)

Secretary Hou gave a brief introduction of the work being done to ready the Public Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security Intergenerational Poverty with the Governor's Office. The Commission and the Working Group will be mirror images of one another, working together to ensure the work is in alignment. Secretary Hou introduced Dana Kelly, Senior Policy Advisor at the Illinois Department of Human Services to talk through the tasks of the working group to begin planning and implementation.

Dana Kelly addressed the working group, laying out the information that was in The Intergenerational Poverty Act, which was included in the FY21 Budget Implementation Act, signed into law in June. The Act include three parts:

  • Create a system for tracking intergenerational poverty data. This work will intersect with the Working Group and the Commission.
  • Forms this working group of members and invited guests. The role of the working group is to utilize the collective knowledge and programs, develop new programs, and shepherd the strategic plan from the Commission.
    • End poverty by 2036; through the strategic plan from the commission
    • Work together with the commission to identify to identify policies, strategies
    • The Workgroup needs to meet no less than four times per year; it may be more in the beginning to support the early work of the group and Commission.
  • Reporting requirements: report due 09/01/20;
    • Will work with UChicago Poverty Lab to create a baseline report and gap analysis to begin to target the work of the group.
  • Details about the Commission
    • Appointments are in the process are being made; a meeting will be scheduled ASAP. The Commission will be required to meet at least once annually, hold at least six public listening sessions, and continue to work towards a strategic plan to be developed by 11/30/20.

Dana Kelly introduced Colleen Burns to talk about the elimination of hunger across the state.

Colleen Burns works with the policy team for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, supporting the work of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. Together, they have strived to learn more about what food insecurity looks like in the communities in Illinois. So far, they have performed three listening sessions, a written survey, and two briefings for the General Assembly. The feedback received through Stakeholder Engagement will be a roadmap to outline the work. The Commission will have action steps to be able to implement the road map. Please reach out to Colleen Burns at if you would like more information or have any questions.

Presentation - UChicago Poverty Lab (30 mins)

Secretary Hou agrees with Dana, the Working Group will need to hit the ground sprinting. IDHS has been working with strong research partners in Urban Labs and Poverty Labs who have been working with IDHS for the past year. Due to their extensive research and the amount of data within their purview, UChicago will partner with this working group initially to produce the data we need for the reports, and to help guide next steps. Kelly Halberg, Scientific Director from UChicago Poverty Labs has a presentation and data picture to share with us.

Questions / Comments

  • What is the key driver for the difference in children vs. adults living in poverty? Are there more children in the households? Fewer single adults?
    • Part of it is the income cycle; persons in their twenties and thirties tend to have children in the earlier part of their careers. There are a series of factors that explain this difference.
  • Can we do a deeper dive into the poverty level of adults over the age of 65?
    • Yes - UChicago to investigate and circle back with the larger group.
  • What are the trends for the aging population?
    • For this presentation, UChicago didn't investigate the trends overtime for aging Illinoisans, but it would tend to follow this trend - especially in the wake of COVID-19.
  • Have we investigated the sociology and/or psychology behind poverty? This will be a key factor in trying to unpack and understand what is happening in these communities. Much of the work has been focused on resources - financial/social capacity, access to education, and the affect they've had on poverty.
  • We also need to consider that policy matters that greatly influence poverty - the fact that property tax influences what a school district has to offer. A person's experience in public education points to their competence in getting to higher education - it is not always directly related to income. Many policies that require us to pay into systems that support us later in life - pension - force individuals to live in poverty for the last years of their lives. Health insurance that is tied to full time employment creates disparities.
  • Based on slide 18 vs. slide eight, are we looking at unprecedented levels of poverty in Illinois that we haven't seen since 1990?
    • There are slightly different measures between the two slides, but not drastically different than one another. Slide 18 assumes there will be no further federal support - $600 additional unemployment benefit - anything that policy makers can do at the federal level to ensure this does not occur.

Inventory - What is Already Happening? (20 mins)

Secretary Hou introduced Dana Kelly to talk about the initiatives, services, and programs that are currently in place to help address poverty.

Dana Kelly addressed the group and noted the importance of doing an inventory to create a baseline. When thinking about poverty elimination, it is an enormous undertaking - dismantling structures that have been solidified in policy. Kelly created a document (attachment: Illinois Poverty Support Systems Inventory Template) to begin thinking about what may be missing. The Working Group will use this tool to help support programs more holistically - using generational approaches to target adults and children simultaneously.

How can we use this tool and share the results of the inventory?

  • For something as large and interconnected as poverty, we need agencies to have policies to guide them We allocate low income tax credits - policy is a strong force.
  • The federal Older Americans Act drives our policy. We want to know how we are going to make peoples lives better in this state. We know that older women of color are usually the poorest - what does that look like in Illinois, and how can we change it?
  • It would be helpful to look at additional datasets - older adults, employment levels for people with disabilities - what do the poverty strategies look like for those groups? One of the things we should do is explore other populations we should consider. As we return for more discussion, we will focus on those who are most marginalized and impacted by poverty. We need to take inventory, look at policies, and what exists in combination - then we can develop a strategic plan of where the state should focus on those who are furthest behind.

There was a Poverty Commission formed in 2008. Although we have reformed with this new commission, we can use the data from those annual reports. Dana Kelly will circulate as a starting point.

Big Ideas Generation (30 mins)

Secretary Hou introduced the idea of generating "Big Ideas." In order to move the needle, we need to make changes. Dana Kelly shared a document (attached: Big Ideas Brainstorm IWGP Meeting). The participants participated in a round of idea generation.

  • Financial Education - in school children learn the Pythagorean theorem - but nothing about how to have a checking account, credit card interest rate, etc. We need more financial education, it won't fix the problem, but it will help people learn their options.
  • Improve access to banking or something other than a bank.
  • Segregation and housing affordability - Chicago is the most segregated among its peer cities. Entrepreneurship and opportunities for growth for business in areas of low income. Start speaking with IDFPR about business support services - help those persons get trained on how to run a business. The last I checked this data point, less than 2% of businesses that have employees are black owned in Illinois.
  • Automatic enrollment into SNAP as persons roll off of pandemic assistance.
  • Ensuring that every returning citizen has a driver's license
  • 50+ workforce engagement/opportunities
  • Universal children's savings accounts.
    • Something like baby bonds is a big idea that could be layered onto Children's Savings Accounts
  • Studies show that black Americans have inequitable access to mortgage lending.

Home ownership is a significant way Americans can accumulate wealth and pass it on. How can we make home ownership more accessible?

  • IRAs for salaried workers
  • Segregation, not physical, but access: Electricity, Health Insurance, and Housing. Based on relative wealth - those who can afford to are paying high premiums, and those who cannot are on a program they do not want to be part of.
  • Public access to Wi-Fi
  • Generational approach that talks about the well-being of the parents. A pathway to home ownership. Creating an environment that is conducive - there are neighborhoods that don't have streetlights, public transportation, etc.
  • Growth strategies - there is a lot of research that states when inequities exist, growth strategies will not work. We need to look at the traditional approaches to economic growth if we don't have equity.
  • Expand and increase the state EITC. It is one of the best anti-poverty tools we have but lots of people are left out.
  • Decoupling health insurance from full-time employment
  • Eliminating predatory lending businesses
  • UBI

Next Steps/Next Meeting (10 mins)

Secretary Hou concluded the meeting by discussing next steps.

  • Uncover data about other populations: older adults, persons with disabilities, to ensure the Working Group has a full picture.
  • Continue to think about big ideas - give thought to policies, inventory poverty wealth, and equity.