Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security Agenda & Minutes - 06/07/21

Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security

June 7, 2021


WebEx Video Conference


Commission Members in Attendance:

Senator Kimberly A. Lightford, Member of General Assembly; Senator Dale Fowler, Member of General Assembly; Representative Jeff Keicher, Member of General Assembly; Honorable Joy V. Cunningham, Member of Judiciary; Evelyn Diaz, Representative of an anti-poverty organization focusing on urban and suburban poverty; Amy Susan Brown, Representative of an anti-poverty organization focusing on rural poverty; Channyn Lynne Parker, Individual who has experienced deep poverty; Angela Curran, Representative of an organization that advocates for health care access, affordability and availability; Audra Wilson, Representative of an organization that advocates for children and youth; Dr. Charles A. Montorio, Representative of an organization that advocates for individuals with disabilities; Juan Manuel Calderon, Representative of a an organization that advocates for immigrants; Jennifer Groce, Representative of an organization that advocates for economic security for women; Kenneth D. Grunke, Representative of an organization that advocates for older adults; Al Llorens, Representative of school districts in this State; Pam Davidson, Representative of county governments in this State.

Administrators in Attendance:

Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services;

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


Robin Fretwell Wilson, Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and Jason

Mazzone, Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introductions/Opening Remarks

Evelyn Diaz welcomed members to the second meeting of the Illinois Commission on Poverty

Elimination and economic security. Mentioned that we will be focusing on the work the commission

will be engaging in the next 6 months- namely holding public listening sessions to inform our

strategic plan and formulation and approval of the Commission's strategic plan- Due in November


Amy Susan Brown outlined objectives:

o Inform Commission members about Listening Sessions planned over the summer- encourage

participation and assistance in publicizing.

  • Inform Commission members about the Strategic Planning Process.
  • Gather input to guide direction of strategic plan.
  • Set next steps for strategic plan development.

Started with a round of introductions. To get to know members and the work being done we want

everyone to announce themselves with their name, organization, and one aspirational goal you have

for the work you engage in for the remainder of 2021.

Approval of December 2, 2020 Meeting Minutes

Motion by Joy Cunningham, seconded by Charles Montorio.

Roll call vote; Yes, approved

Consideration of Potential Rules Governing Public Comment

Roll Call Vote; Motion to approve rules; Co-chair Diaz: Motion to allow no more than 3 minutes for

public comment; Motion by Evelyn Diaz seconded by Pam Davidson; Passed

Administrator Kelly took roll call.

Co-chair Brown opened the floor for public comment; none received. No written comment received

in advance.

Poverty Commission - Listening Session Overview and Feedback

Co-chair Brown introduced Secretary Grace B. Hou, Illinois Department of Human Services to

provide an overview of the listening session series that is planned for the State, summer into fall.

The Commission discussed details of the June 10th and June 29th Listening Sessions. 7 total

Commission Listening Sessions are scheduled with the first being June 10th, 6-8pm. Goals of the

session are to understand communities, learn needs from different communities (rural/urban) and

address potential problems.

Secretary Hou and Administrator Kelly gave an overview of the remaining listening sessions and

content. June 10th session will be held on the Westside of Chicago (Senator Lightford- black

community). June 29th session will be held on the Westside of Chicago (Calderon- Latino

community). July/August sessions have the possibility to be held in-person. No geographical

restrictions on who can attend.

Secretary Hou opened the floor for any feedback, comments, and questions.

How you can help:

Plan a session; Help IDHS connect to community partners who might be interested; share events with

your networks; attend session.

The survey is anonymous and will be available in Spanish. Sessions will have an interpreter and be

closed caption; Community members on the ground will start sessions to set the tone; Groups will be

broken into smaller breakout rooms for conversations: How can we make these more interactive?

How can we get people out?

Overview of Strategic Planning Process

Co-chair Diaz introduced Administrator Kelly to give an overview of the Strategic Planning Process.

Administrator Kelly shared the direction of the strategic planning process which is to be complete by

November 2021.

How can we get people to show up? Not being restrictive of zoning (anyone can attend); Making it

specific to the community and having community partners in attendance; stipends for participants.

Other ways to obtain feedback: Surveys, Targeted outreach specific to CBO; More sessions- more


Positives: allows us to understand geographical and demographical differences; we can continue to

gather feedback even after November.

Follow-ups: ongoing work to keep in touch with communities to gather additional feedback; we can

show communities that their feedback was impactful.

Steps: Gather Stakeholder input (June-ongoing); Mission Vision, Values, and Strategic Goals and

Objectives (September); Review (October); Develop Action Plan (September/October); Review and

Adopt (November).

Break Out Discussions- Strategic Plan Direction

Co-chair Diaz and Co-chair Brown led Break Out discussions through Break Out Rooms.

What do you think is the most critical challenge that Illinois faces when it comes to reducing intergenerational poverty?

A. Mistrust with Communities

i. State does not understand the perpetuation of poverty cycles

ii. Unclear financial investments/No investments in community

  1. Have a transparent and well-structured plan that includes the community.
  2. Must be more intentional of programs and plans to improve communities in

the state. People leading programs should understand the community.

B. Education

i. Lack of access to quality education for all children, especially those living in


ii. Workforce outcome studies, IDES can track IL HS Seniors by using parental data

from FAFSA

1. Findings

a. Students with parents in lowest income quintile usually stay in lowest


b. Students with parents in highest income quintile usually staying in

highest quintiles.

2. Challenge: Pushing students up the income quintile ladder

a. What are they doing?

b. Providing info to students on what kind of education they can expect

after HS

c. CPS example of plan to graduate.

d. What kind of additional programs do they need?

iii. Lack of access to same quality education as children not in poverty a major driver in

intergenerational poverty

iv. Concern about effects of online learning during pandemic and what may be needed

to catch students up.

v. Information is key

vi. Focus is on training and education (IDES).

vii. Reiterate importance of education

1. The problem of not knowing the "rules of the game".

viii. Families in poverty are in survival mode.

1. So bigger picture things (access to capital, education, etc.) get pushed to


a. Ex. FAFSA...hard to even get information to complete form.

C. Incarceration

  1. Overcoming the stigma of previous incarceration
  2. Barriers companies have for those with criminal backgrounds
  3. Ensuring those previously incarcerated are equipped with useful workforce


D. Ability to earn while you learn

  1. Large number of students must work and learn at NIU
  2. Creating these opportunities important for access

E. Case management approach

1. One on one approach can be an effective way for improving results.

F. Language Access

1. Important for immigrant population

G. There are actual obstacles to getting out of poverty, not just motivation or inspiration, that

we need to understand

H. Access to housing

I. Truly looking at people in poverty - lots of times people don't want to mention they're

hungry, going through different things. Just having that conversation. Recognizing that these

people are not lazy, not any of these other things - they are going through a bad time and

instead of a handout, they just need a hand up.

J. Increase in poverty during the pandemic, and for the first time, seeing it first-hand. Most

everywhere across the city. Understanding and recognizing that so many more people are

living in poverty, starving. It is a critical beginning to understand and recognize that it is

happening on a larger level.

K. Moving away from individual blame arguments - not character flaws, not family issues,

look at environmental and system blame issues.

Needs to be about complete acceptance, this is something that affects, not only subgroups,

but all of us. Whether it is direct or indirect - we all need to be a participant and not an


M. While talking to people about Listening Sessions, and digging into the biggest concerns, we

really need to address, economic investment in communities. In a lot of communities, not all

economic investment is the same. Having it come from the outside, example of Target, that

comes into a community, can be good, but the money doesn't necessarily stay there, the

wealth that is generated leaves the community. We need to look at solutions that generate

investment in healthcare, financial, education - investments in the people that live there,

work there, purchase their goods there, so the wealth isn't' leaving the communities.

N. Revolving Dollar - experimenting with it at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center - in where we

are investing our grant dollars. Instead of investing it in gift cards to Walmart, Target,

McDs, we're buying gift cards to local small businesses in the community; investing as an

organization at local restaurants. We've seen a growth in poverty, but no investment in

community because we're not being intentional. Influx of people who aren't Illinoisans and

don't have the infrastructure. We must take a closer look at the longevity, who is registered,

are they in communities of color, who is leading them? From there, you have a start to who

isn't/is GATA certified - then you can address the concept of the revolving dollar. Who is

your work force? Work force hired in the areas to do the Human Services work, looking at a

more corporate model, this is the opportunity to decentralize.

O. Living in Knox County - much smaller area than Chicago, we see that it is the same people

finding jobs. Financial funds that trickle downstate, it is hard to develop because we don't

have the workforce to have that. The workforce isn't educated to do it - more a

manufacturing area, but manufacturing has left. Need to do something with training the

young kids out of high school to develop more IT, Technology jobs to stay in the area, help

people financially.

P. Southwest suburbs - Non-Profit provider, we're not coordinating care enough. Not being

strategic enough - how are we using dollars awarded to the community? Don't have a

community plan. Folks start branching out into different areas - food, transportation, food,

etc. - no one comes together to discuss, where we start and where we end.

Youth Engagement - if you're coming out of high school, father had access to

manufacturing job, nothing left in your community now, you're likely to leave that

community. Thinking about how to keep young people who are contributing to the

community, how do we keep them? Engagement should be focused on youth, start in HS,

area that needs attention. City - while there may be opportunities outside of a neighborhood,

traveling from the West Side to Downtown, is difficult, cannot happen for young people.

For youth, how are they using that time to contribute in the community, engage in activities

that are going to put them on the right/good footing for the future?

R. Intergenerational Connectedness/Mentoring - older adults aren't tapped in. Don't know how

to share their talents/skills with a younger generation. Soft/professional skills - present, part

of your community, etc.

S. John Deere is part of a program IJAD - right out of high school they're guaranteed a job if

they go and teach them about welding, etc. 200+ high schoolers in the past ten years have

gone. First generations of people that have jobs that are paying far above the poverty level.

What other types of good paying, union jobs are there like these?

T. Systemic things - things around a minimum wage, paying a living wage, benefits we set as a

standard for what people are given when they're employed in IL. The fact that there are still

so many people that are uninsured. Look at minimum wage, and what it is to live off of that

- even $15/hour - it's really hard. People have to make choices, and that is so hard. Need to

be continued momentum around providing a living wage.

U. People who slip through the cracks - they don't cover everyone. Immigrant populations,

they're restrictive, continues to perpetuate poverty as well. How can we expand eligibility?

V. How can we support the notion that we have a role, as a State, to support individuals that

must make those choices? There's a level of embarrassment, anxiety, confusion on how to

access. Sometimes they're not available and/or dependable. How do you get away from that

so individual feel they don't have to be dependent, but have the freedom to make decisions

for themselves?

W. Commission - grouping things into what we can do administratively to revise/expand

eligibility, adapt how we communicate to ensure there is interest/easier to enroll/participate.

What are the barriers we put up administratively that we can knock down? It is in our power

to act, not as much outside of us.

X. There are systems of poverty that we perpetuate because of how we manage our anti-poverty


Y. Staff level policy WG - analysis of benefits. You get a new job that pays you 15-20% more

than your last position. May require you to drop off SNAP, the loss in food is greater than

the amount of new money you're getting. De-incentivizing folks from getting off benefits.

Z. The problem isn't the job - the problem is that the job doesn't pay enough - doesn't have

enough benefits.

What are the tactical ideas/solutions you have for addressing those challenges?

i. Expand and fund programs, policies, and people

  1. Criminal Justice Reform
  2. Address economic investment in communities.

a. Varies; funding and investments vary, sometimes it comes from

external sources.

3. Paying a living wage

a. Benefits we set as a standard for what people are given when they are

employed in IL. Look at minimum wage, and what it is to live off that

  • even $15/hour is not enough.
    1. Accessible State services/benefits

a. Applying can be difficult because of language and technology


b. Services are not always available or dependable for Illinoisans.

i. Undocumented Immigrants

1. How can we expand benefits in the state for all?

ii. Incarcerated Individuals

1. Criminal records act as barriers, what can we do about


What commission can do

a. Group things into what we can do administratively to revise/expand

eligibility, adapt how we communicate to ensure there is

interest/easier to enroll/participate.

b. What are the barriers we put up administratively that we can knock

down? It is in our power to act, not as much outside of us.

6. Policy

a. Staff level policy WG - analysis of benefits. You get a new job that

pays you 15-20% more than your last position. May require you to

drop off SNAP, the loss in food is greater than the amount of new

money you're getting. De-incentivizing folks from getting off


7. Understand the systems of need.

a. How do we as communities recognize these. And these various parts

of puzzle.

  1. Taking advantage on ports of entry
  2. Great opportunity to provide not only those resources (like food at a food

bank), but to provide resources for other parts of the system they may be

struggling with, or "the game", like education.

10. More wholistic and should be in a language that is accessible to them

b. Addressing obstacles of previous incarceration has on entry into job market

c. Educate employers

i. Employers are desperate for employees

ii. Overcome stigma previous incarceration

iii. Recent study 3 million people in Illinois have a criminal background of some sort

d. Provide workforce support

e. Opportunity for Commission to create specific proposals to help reduce this barrier.

III. Expungement process

a. Some who would benefit from process have no idea what it is of if they are eligible

i. Those that do can struggle to identify where to start in the process, or with acquiring

the appropriate resources needed to complete the process (attorneys, etc.)

b. Immigrants are unable to expunge record until finished with the immigration process

c. Immigration

i. Guilty pleas

ii. Even for minor offense when immigrants plead guilty, major negative consequences

on immigration process for them

iii. Another obstacle, especially for younger immigrants

iv. DACA coordinator at NIU

d. Connector on multiple issues of those "rules of the game"

e. Points of entry - broadening how we provide information wherever they are

IV. Invest in Pre-K

1. Early education is crucial

ii. 2-year degrees, offer opportunities past 2-year degrees

1. Lack of workforce in less populated counties (Knoxville County). Workforce

does not have skills needed for jobs in the area which forces some to move


2. There is a need for technical training for youth and young adults so that they

can get better paying jobs.

3. Jobs, summer or after school opportunities for youth

a. Engagement should be focused on youth, start in HS, area that needs

attention. Engage them in activities that are going to help them with

their future.

4. Look at disproportionate impacts of poverty.

a. women and children are at a disadvantage.

b. Poverty being tied with race, name it and call it out to dismantle it.

i. Immigration Status: How can we expand eligibility for


c. Monumental/Historical: undoing centuries of inequities sounds nearly


5. Policy

a. Staff level policy WG - analysis of benefits. You get a new job that

pays you 15-20% more than your last position. May require you to

drop off SNAP, the loss in food is greater than the amount of new

money you're getting. De-incentivizing folks from getting off


Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs (University of Illinois System)

Co-chair Diaz introduced Director Robin Fretwell Wilson and Professor Jason Mazzone.

Overview of policy research areas that can contribute to Illinois Poverty Commission strategic

planning process.

A. Illinois schools can assist with research and help decision making, data

i. Child abuse and neglect

ii. Childcare

iii. Teacher shortage due to COVID

iv. Revenue

B. Access to Justice during Covid-19

v. Looking at changes in courts during covid and how individuals are getting justice

vi. Remote court: efficiency of it, virtual justice and the expansion of it

vii. Downside: inaccessible due

C. Compelling stories from Illinois residents on their experience throughout the pandemic to

lack of technology or inability to use technology (cost, language disability barrier)

viii. Digital divides

Announcements: Key Initiatives

Illinois Housing Help Roll Out; American Rescue Plan Act - Implementation; Administrator Kelly

will reach out to Commission members via email with announcements.

Close and Next Steps

Co-chair Diaz turned it over to Co-chair Brown to announce next steps. Co-chair Brown reminded

Commission members to notify Administrator Kelly if you or your staff want to assist with


Motion to adjourn by Joy Cunningham, Second by Al Llorens

The meeting was adjourned at 2:58pm.