Poverty Commission February 9 - Meeting Minutes

Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security

February 9, 2022


WebEx Video Conference


Commission Members in Attendance: Evelyn Diaz, Representative of an anti-poverty organization focusing on urban and suburban poverty; Dr. Mark Eichenlaub, Representative of an organization that advocates for equity and equality in education; Kate Maehr, Representative of a statewide anti-hunger organization; 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; Pastor Jason McKinnies, Representative of a statewide faith-based organization that provides direct social services in Illinois; 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; Honorable Joy V. Cunningham, Member of the Judiciary; 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

Guests: N/A


  • Co-chair Evelyn Diaz welcomed the commission members and guests, informing everybody that IDHS' legislative team is working to fill the position of Co-Chair. Amy Susan Brown has recently left CRIS Healthy Aging Center and accepted a position at the department of Aging and can no longer serve on the Commission. We are happy for her and wish her luck in her next pursuit. IDHS is working with the House Minority staff to appoint a replacement as quickly as possible. Everyone will be informed when the replacement is appointed. She informed everybody that Secretary Grace Hou is in attendance and will give the opening remarks. Co-chair Diaz also mentioned that she and Administrator Dana Kelly will be tag teaming all throughout the presentation but moving forward, once the Plan is in place, there will be more engagement from the committees thru committee meetings and reports.
  • Co-chair Diaz outlined the objectives of the meeting:
    1. Set out timeline and plan for execution of Strategic Plan
    2. Review and approve Executive Summary
    3. Review and approve Strategic Plan Outline
    4. Review and provide feedback on measurement and implementation approach
    5. Set next steps for Strategic Plan Development

Opening Remarks

  • Secretary Grace Hou stated her appreciation for all the attendees of the meeting. She mentioned that they worked during the veto session for the leaders to give more time to spend on listening sessions, to get information and lessons from other states and things that are working here in Illinois to be the building blocks for the Strategic Plan. She emphasized that the extra time given was well worth it.
  • Secretary also expressed her gratitude to Co-chair Diaz and the rest of the working committee members for the initial work that they have done on the Strategic Plan, which contains the principles, as outlined in the commissions or originating legislation, around economic opportunity, equity and battling against systemic racism.
  • Secretary also mentioned that the Plan focuses on deep poverty which is the main objective laid out in the legislation. She shared the objectives of the legislation:
    1. Addressing barriers to benefits housing and employment for those who live in extreme poverty in our State;
    2. Strengthening and expanding social safety net programming to support individuals who are falling through the crack; and
    3. Ensuring that those who are in crisis do not fall into deep poverty.
  • Finally, Secretary encouraged the attendees to provide feedback and critique to the Plan and stated that she is looking forward to the month of March when the Commission files the report and present it to the Governor's Office and members of the general assembly as well as to the constituency of the State, and to begin the process of implementing the strategies that the members have outlined.

Roll Call

Administrator Kelly took roll call and declared quorum.

Approval of December 9, 2021 Meeting Minutes

Justice Cunningham moved for the approval of the minutes seconded by Dr. Charles Mantorio.


Administrator Kelly announced once again the required trainings for the Commission members - the Ethics Training and the Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Training. She reminded the members that the log in information are the same and she can send it anytime. Member Dr. Mark Eichenlaub suggested for Administrator Kelly to resend to everybody and Administrator Kelly will do so.

Public Comment

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

Review of Strategic Plan Workplan - Execution Logistics

  • Administrator Kelly brought the attention of everybody to the workplan attached in the meeting invite. The workplan contains deadlines and notes and the person drafting the Plan as well as elements that will be included in the Commission Report.
  • On the presentation, Administrator Kelly showed the basic sections of the Plan -
    1. Introduction materials that hopefully will include a letter from the Governor, letter from the Commission Chair and two Co-Chairs;
    2. Executive Summary, a draft of which is also attached in the meeting invite and will be discussed in the meeting;
    3. Who we are and where we are going - the Commission's Vision, Mission and Goals that were set by the Intergenerational Poverty Act;
    4. State of Poverty in Illinois - the impacts of poverty and the types of programs that work to combat deep poverty that will guide the Commission in choosing strategies;
    5. Strategic Plan - the actual elements of the Plan and supporting evidences on why particular strategies were chosen;
    6. Measuring our success;
    7. Implementation;
    8. Conclusion; and
    9. Appendix - Administrator Kelly is finalizing a report document from the listening sessions that will be the appendix to the Plan as well as some related data.
  • Administrator Kelly said that the final draft of the Plan, still in Word format will be provided to the Commission on March 9th for the members to review and provide initial comments that can be integrated. By March 18th, the draft of the Plan with the final design from the designer with all the edits incorporated will be provided to the Commission. And in the week of March 28th, a meeting will be scheduled for the final approval of the Plan. Administrator Kelly stressed the importance of high attendance during the meeting so everybody can vote and celebrate the completion of the Plan.
  • Member Jennifer Groce asked how much time they will have to review the draft, whether if it was from March 1st to March 9th. Administrator Kelly said that members will have nine days, from March 9th to March 18th to review and provide feedback to the Plan but it is preferred to get the full revisions by March 18th. She added that any edits can still be incorporated after March 18th since the final vote will be during the last week of March.
  • Member Jennifer Groce asked whether the timeframe of review, from March 9th to 18th is appropriate considering that during the listening sessions, the representatives indicated to the participating stakeholders who had opinions that the representatives will go back to them and get their inputs and feedbacks. She asked whether the timeframe for review should happen at a later time. Administrator Kelly said that she can have a more or less complete outline of the Strategic Plan sooner and that they would really be comfortable if members share the outline of the approach instead of the whole plan. Co-Chair Diaz supported Administrator Kelly's answer and emphasized that the time for sharing is now. She said that the four to five pages summary is actually the heart of the Plan that contains all the strategies that she thinks the members will want to take back and get feedback on from their stakeholders, because by March 9th, what the members will get is a complete report with a lot of texts to read and will not be helpful when getting community input. She added that it will be extremely helpful at this stage for the members to raise their questions on the information that will be presented today before they take it back to their constituencies. Administrator Kelly also added that this is also the stage to think about whether there are other stakeholders that need to be involved in the Plan.

Strategy Outline Review and Discussion

  • Co-Chair Diaz provided an overview of the presentation and mentioned that there will be 10 slides that she and Administrator Kelly will present including the content of the plan and strategies where she hoped to get feedback on. She mentioned that the members should have received a copy of the Working Strategy Outline which acts as an Executive Summary for the Plan. She advised the members to open the document because it is more detailed that what is shown on the slides. She added that the members will have an opportunity to review the document over the next week and provide some targeted edits suggestions, or any other sort of feedback in more detail. She recommended that if they have wording changes, they can submit it in writing. Finally, Co-Chair Diaz said she will start by laying the foundation and Administrator Kelly will walk through the specific strategies.
  • Co-Chair Diaz started by saying that this plan has been informed by an extensive stakeholder engagement process, including our listening sessions input from agencies across the state, DHS advocates and all the Commission members. She shared that she is particularly happy to be part of a small group of commission members who have been meeting every other week to review. On the other hand, Administrator Kelly has been pulling all of this information together and providing some guidance and feedback to shape the final product.
  • The underlying vision for the Commission is to end the intergenerational transmission of poverty by addressing root causes of economic insecurity, racial disparities, and other contributing social, economic and cultural factors. The Commission has also been handed very explicit goals as part of the intergenerational poverty act which is to reduce deep poverty in this State by 50% by 2026; eliminate child poverty in Illinois by 2031; and eliminate all poverty in Illinois by 2036. Given the 15-year timeline for achieving all three goals, this initial strategic plan is going to be targeting the firstfive5 years, and it's going to be focused on reducing the number of those who are living in deep poverty by 50.
  • As of 2020, there were roughly 1.42 million Illinoisans living in poverty, meaning their household income falls below 100% of the federal poverty line. All of those living in poverty, 630,000 or 44% of people living in poverty, live in deep poverty that means their income is less than 50% of the federal poverty line. So, reducing deep poverty in Illinois by 50% would mean providing targeted supports that lift at least 315,000 Illinoisans. from less than 50% the federal poverty line to greater than 50% of the federal poverty line.
  • The next slide shows the 2020 federal poverty thresholds listed by household size and income. An average family of three in the US living in extreme poverty has an annual income of $2,500 or less and as you can see, we did some math to figure out that if we have an average household size in Illinois, we need to lift 315,000 people out of poverty and we know that it would cost us somewhere between $1.2 and 2.5 billion to actually do that.
  • On the next slide we get to look at what deep poverty looks like. Administrator Kelly will provide a copy of the chart because it is a little hard to read. People who live in deep poverty do not have access to full employment and many of them are high risk and very hard to reach and support. Chronic and persistent poverty is characterized by multiple serious challenges, including addiction, homelessness, disability, chronic illness, unreliable childcare, and criminal records - all that can stand in the way of stable work and housing and other steppingstones to economic mobility. Half of those in deep poverty are under 25 years of age and more than a 3rd are single mothers and their children. 3% of all children and 15% of black children spend at least half of their childhoods living in deep poverty. Those who are black or Hispanic are more likely to be in deep poverty with poverty rates of 10.8 and 7.6% respectively and those who are white and non-Hispanic or Asian are at least likely to live in deep poverty with poverty rates of 4.1 and 5.2%. Three quarters of adults in deep poverty have not worked in the past year. And so you can see that deep poverty people who are living in deep poverty, just face really challenging conditions and barriers. And so the strategies that we have to employ to reach them, have to be quite targeted and specific to meet them where they are.
  • Administrator Kelly will talk about how we propose to go about improving the lives of those who are living in extreme poverty, what are the specific strategies.
  • Administrator Kelly opened by pointing out that in the groundwork that was laid out by Co-Chair Diaz, it is particularly noteworthy to say that it is the number of young people that make up this group (of people living in poverty) and in particular children and making sure that the Commission is crafting policies to really meet their needs. The Commission has talked about looking at this in several different ways but what Administrator Kelly has put together is a set of five different strategic pillars with some elements or strategies included underneath them.
  • The first strategic pillar is ensuring Illinois is best in the nation for raising families. This is something the Governor has talked about a lot in his tenure. The first tactic is expanding access and eligibility for early intervention, home visiting and the State Childcare Assistance Program; second is exploring methods for tax credit support for families raising children, especially in light of the fact that the, child tax credit has expired; third is expansions and improvements to free and reduced school breakfast and lunch, many of which have been achieved during COVID but we want to ensure that those improvements are kept and that we further improve upon that, and lastly, increasing participation in WIC by improving accessibility. We know that there's more that we can do to enroll those that are eligible in WIC services that aren't currently taking advantage of those services and I think there's some targeted strategies that have also been identified by the Hunger Commission for doing. So the last two bullets are really closely aligned with the work of the Hunger commission and we will be championing them together moving forward.
  • The next slide is stabilizing homes and communities. This is really looking at both how we lift people out of deep poverty but also, how do we keep people from falling into deep poverty. And so, the first bullet here is addressing homelessness and housing affordability and accessibility. I did want to mention that we are working with the Homelessness Task Force, I will note that our new State Homelessness Chief is Christine Haley, we are working very closely together to make sure our reports align, but our recommendations include increasing permanent supportive housing stock and subsidy such as voucher access, continuing to invest in rental assistance of an eviction supports, including legal supports, investing in homelessness prevention programs, and stabilizing and improving housing stock for disabled and older adults. Supporting the crisis care continuum is really, especially looking at the work that's been done in our Division of Mental Health to set up support for those experiencing crisis, particularly mental health or substance use crisis, and getting them the help that they need so that they don't fall into deep poverty. Also, support for crisis housing fall into this category as well. And then addressing trauma associated with deep and persistent poverty. We know that studies show that deep poverty itself can cause trauma that is persistent among children in families and so we want to look at ways that we can address that at its root. There's some great interventions that have already been launched by the State in terms of violence prevention through the Reimagine Public Safety Act that I think we can lift up and continue to invest in. And then again about investing in mental health and substance use resources specifically for youth who have experienced trauma as well.
  • So, the next one is ensuring just and equitable access to economic security programs. Something that also echoes work that we've discussed with the Hunger Commission is creating a no-wrong door approach to benefits. As you know, a lot of State benefit programs must be enrolled in separately, or in silos from one another, agency to agency. You know, we've worked at DHS to combine as many applications as we can, but it's all work in progress. So, we we're trying to identify some strategies, and even some philanthropic partnership opportunities where we can create more of a front door to benefits that will help people go to one place to evaluate what benefits that are eligible for and then be connected to enrollment. This is something that again, the Hunger Commission and the Poverty Commission will work together in championing.
  • Increasing access, uptake and value of public benefits - so this is kind of looking at things in three different ways - where do programs like the Earned Income Credit for the State, TANF, the Earned Income Tax Credit federally, SNAP, housing subsidies, SSI and SDI benefits - where are we seeing that people that are eligible are taking the benefit and why is that; what do we do need to do to increase uptake of the benefit; where are the benefits restricted in terms of different populations that can't access them and is there opportunity to expand the benefit for those populations of individuals to access the benefit; and where can the value of the benefit itself be increased to make it more impactful to families. That is really what this is and I'm working very hard to define this really well because I think this is a very important social safety net or a strategy for those living in deep poverty, who have fallen through the cracks and been unable to access benefits thus far.
  • Where access continues to be challenging, we're again, to target those that are falling through the cracks. We do propose utilizing direct cash assistance programs, either in the form of guaranteed income, or kind of stimulus to target traditionally marginalized populations and mitigate benefit cliffs. Specific populations. I know that what we're thinking through is our immigrant populations. I did speak with Christine Haley about homeless population and how these direct cash assistance programs can be targeted there. So, this is another thing we're exploring, and we'll dive into in the report. I do hope to really flush this part of the part of the plan out, first and foremost in the drafting. And so, if anybody would like to continue discussion on this, I'm hoping to get some really early drafts of this portion of the plan out very soon.
  • The fourth barrier is addressing barriers to paid work, education and advancement. So, this is really knowing that a lot of the people either don't actually have the ability to work being that a lot of them are children, many have severe health conditions, are disabled and I think, about 50 to 60,000 are over the age of 65. But for those that are eligible to work or able to work in this category, we do assume that there are a lot of barriers that are preventing consistent work at a living wage. And so we want to include strategies that support paid family leave, support access to transportation, expand broadband access and digital equity, and then focus on the populations most likely to be experiencing deep poverty. So, what are the specific barriers for immigrants that prevent them from being able to work the traditional minimum wage jobs even, rather than less consistent, less, very low paying work? What are the barriers to employment for those returning after incarceration? What are the ways that we can encourage employment for those with severe mental illness and people with disabilities? And then looking at the barriers involved with accessing shift work if you have children and other care needs in your home. And then in terms of education, it's really about enhancing barrier reduction so individuals can learn and train while still supporting their family. Many in this category could not step away from any earned income to train further. They need to make that wage for their families. So, looking at work-based learning and apprenticeship programming and supporting the utilization of barrier reduction funds which allow people to pay for things like child care or transportation to participate in job training and education.
  • Finally, the last category is support trusted community-based providers to serve the needs of those living in deep poverty. One of the big areas is recognizing that some in this category don't work because they are actually providing plenty of work in the home caring for people in their family on an unpaid basis. So, what are the opportunities to provide compensation for the unpaid labor that's occurring in the home? And looking at other areas where maybe older adults are raising grandchildren on SSI income which is not meant for children. So, it's really digging into that. And then secondly, building a strong and healthy human service workforce pipeline. So, we know that the human service workforce who is actually meeting the needs of those in deep poverty on the ground, they are spending the time to reach these hard to reach populations and frankly, especially now, the human services workforce of all varieties is definitely having staffing crises where there's just not enough staff there, not competitive enough to meet the need and so looking at ways that we can encourage people to go into the human service workforce and cultivate their work in that area further higher so that we can meet the needs of those in deep poverty. As a plus, as you know, for example, with daycare workers, a lot of daycare workers also live in poverty. They're not paid enough to live above the poverty line and so in two, we hope that bringing up the wages and the living circumstances of those who are working in the human work service workforce we're also moving some of those folks out of poverty as well.
  • Co-Chair Diaz asked the members if there were any questions or comments or if the Plan is missing anything
  • Member Dr. Charles Mantorio shared that he feels nothing is missing and that it is really a tremendous undertaking that the Commission wants to do. He thinks that the Plan captured the strategic pillars - talk to me, talk to the people I work with - and he thinks the group will talk to the community on how they want to see themselves or see others come out of poverty.
  • Member Justice Cunningham agreed with Dr. Mantorio but she said that she would also like to see something more about access to justice because poverty is a significant access to justice in the State. For example, throughout the State, many counties don't have public defenders. There are many counties that have no pre-trial services and so on. Justice Cunningham thinks that it is a huge issue in her perspective as a member of the judiciary.
  • Co-Chair Diaz thanked both members and opened the table for discussion mentioning that if anyone needs to refer to specific language, they could look at the Executive Summary.
  • Justice Cunningham commended Co-Chair Diaz and Administrator Kelly for the comprehensive draft of the Plan saying that there's a lot of meant on it and it shows that a lot of work and sweat went into it. Co-Chair Diaz shared that Administrator Kelly has been working hard and is certainly behind the scenes and that the committee that has been meeting has been also giving her really good, substantive feedback.
  • Member Pam Davidson also gave her commendations for all the hard work and everything and all the research that was done. However, she added, that as a person of labor and a person of color, she thinks that there is a need to implement something for the kids to break this several years generational of poverty, how we can train them for work skills, or to enter their work skills and especially, echoing the Justice had said about having public defenders and people that might have been incarcerated in, that might be coming out and now they don't have a job, or they don't have that such a more deep poverty. Ms. Davidson suggested that maybe we can partner up with local such as her county, the Knox County where they have very serious poverty issues and we need to address them.
  • Justice Cunningham said that some of what Pam said is embedded in some of the language that is already in the Plan. She said it might just need to be fleshed out some more or maybe be a little bit more specific. She added that one of the things she noticed about how comprehensive this working document is it can cover just about the entire waterfront of issues that we can think of, in terms of deep poverty in this State. Justice Cunningham said she sees several places in the Plan where access to justice could be included. She encouraged Pam to look at the document again, as she is going to as well, and make some suggestions as to where access justice and other kinds of considerations she has can be included.
  • Administrator Kelly said that she would very much appreciate the feedback that will come from Justice Cunningham. To Pam's point, Administrator Kelly thinks that the one area where she will flush it out is the part on addressing trauma associated with poverty. The programming that we are supporting for violence prevention, heavily relies on youth development programming as well and working with youth to employ, to engage and make sure that there are pipelines to careers for those youth as a part of the violence prevention work we're doing, but I think that will be included in in that aspect of the report. And so, I didn't want to preview something I'll talk about a little bit later, though, is we want to continue we're really focused look, Pam spoke from her experience in Knox County, which is clearly has its own nuances to things that we may experience elsewhere in the State. One of the proposals is for the Commission to continue a regional outlook on how poverty is impacting different regions across the State. I'll go into that in terms of implementation, but we want to make sure that we are integrating local perspective partnering with local government to make sure that we get policies that really meet the needs of the varying needs of those in deep poverty across the State. Member Pam Davidson expressed her gratitude.
  • Member Jennifer Groce also gave her appreciation and provided her comments. The opportunity is, as Judge Cunningham said, for this to be cross-sectional for so many of the issues that we represent here, for those facing deep poverty, that create no wrong door approach, right to benefits- And then the various categories, and the notes that you have in that section, that particularly I know we spent a lot of time in our listening session hearing about the challenges that folks we're facing and being penalized for kind of movement through without ever actually being able to get ahead. So I think that that's a really, really, really important one and again, there's more fleshing out we all can do. And then we all have categories or groups that we're here representing and so mine is women and so that is again, I want to follow up on Judge Cunningham's note of that. I can see several places and especially right in the very beginning when you noted that of those in deep poverty, the increasing percentage of those that are under 25 and those that are single women, single moms and so I think that, flushing out some of those opportunities of how we're going to help these young women and women in general as well as all of our residents are really important. So, thank you for this. I think it's outstanding and it's on us to do to do the work now to make sure that we're representing as we should be.
  • Co-Chair Diaz thanked Jennifer and read the comments in the chat -
  • Jeremy Rosen notes that one particular issue run access to justice would be exit to legal representation for defendants and eviction cases;
  • Some folks feel like the Plan is comprehensive, intentional and the broadness of the scope of issues, it covers thorough, thoughtful, diverse, and holistic summary of the pillars, a lot of opportunity to work through any one of these;
  • Kate Maehr says ditto to others, great framework, process has been really thoughtful and inclusive, and appreciate the time that we're taking to align with other bodies, like the Commission to End Hunger and that CACE group that will be presenting to, and alignment equals impact.
  • Co-Chair Diaz shared that one of the things that the Commission will be doing or at least taking a look at. We talked about at 11 of our smaller Commission Committees that is advising Administrator Kelly, we talked about, if this is the body of strategies that we're talking about, taken as a whole, can we expect that if we do all of those things, that we're going to reduce that number of people living in deep poverty to 300 by 315,000? So, kind of strategy by strategy going well, is this gonna work to do that? Right? Because it might be a good thing for us to be doing generally but if it's not actually moving the needle on that particular goal, we want this plan to be strategic. Right? And that means taking out the things that are going to require resources but won't get us to the goal and really trying to focus on the things that are going to get us to the goal. So, it's a bit of a lift, and I'm hoping maybe we can engage our university researchers to help us kind of think through, and maybe this gets into the measurement stuff but are these are these the things that are going to drive that result? Administrator Kelly said it really gets into the measurement piece and she will give an update on that.
  • Jeremy Rosen agreed that the Plan is comprehensive and also gave his comment. I think one thing you and I have talked about Dana is just the importance of, also along with the specifics of how we frame this plan in terms of what our values are as a State and why we think it's so important to have produced this Plan with all these specifics. I know I think many of us certainly find that if we do lobbying and other work with the general assembly, and just generally work to persuade people, things that leading with values and coming to agreement on those, then allows you to have some more substantive conversation afterwards about how to get there, so just wanted to highlight that as something I think will be important.
  • Justice Cunningham will send the specifics of access to justice that she mentioned to Administrator Kelly through email.
  • Ms. Groce asked if the report will include any comments on the specific resources, both human capital and financial that it's going to take to do to implement, to do some of the strategies. Administrator Kelly shared that what we do plan to do is talk through with, the Governor's Office on management and budget about what resources we really can devote and kind of quantifying what we can devote to this. And then I think it's on us as a Commission to make the recommendations for what it is we will need and I want to blend those approaches. We understand because clearly, this costs more than the Illinois is currently committed to do all of this comprehensively. We can lay out an approach because I've been working on this with researchers, asking the questions "what, how much cash assistance would you provide? What's the size of the program? How many would it serve what would be?" It's hard for me to even give them the numbers of impacted people would there be when I think we still have some groundwork to do and fleshing out what the program would look like. So, I'm going to try to strike a balance in recognizing like, I want to make the point that the State will need to make significant, meaningful investments and what kind of range those might be without necessarily getting that specific. But I do think that there is a really significant need to speak to the investment that'll be needed to get there.
  • Secretary Hou added - we've kind of been discussing how much, in detail, could we put in. One of the things I want to say is some of the strategies that are outlined are already in motion. And so there could be ways either in a compendium, or in the report itself that we can identify activities and strategies that are already underway. And there may be strategies underway that need additional resources, greater eligibility, more resources, et cetera, I think, as it relates to kind of unbudgeted items, I think that for me is it's kind of part two and that the Poverty Commission is delivering the report to the Administration. And then the Administration needs to really create an implementation plan from the report, which would probably include a lot more detail around necessary resources and not just financial but also kind of a different way of looking at services because one of the things that I realize in looking at it, it's not just about new things or more money, it's about how we approach people who are in need and make our services more available and accessible to folks.
  • Co-Chair Diaz clarified that the cost in part one is not actually the cost. It would be the cost if you put money in people's pockets tomorrow to get from point A to point B, 1 to 2 billion dollars, that's if you just solve the problem in one swoop with cash assistance. That is not what the actual strategic plan is proposing to do. We would have to kind of again line by line think through how much access and how many people would benefit and what would the cost fee be and I agree that it's part of an implementation planning process where we would really figure that.
  • Justice Cunningham said it is very important to make sure that with whatever document we finally come up with that, it's clear that the State is going to have to make a significant investment in this strategy in order to eliminate deep poverty in the State. But I do think it's unwise to give numbers because we just don't know at this point. But I think making the point that this is going to cost a significant investment, at least, you're then priming the pump and I think that that's really important.
  • Member Al Lorens asked for clarification of what has been said - we're going to make a recommendation to the Governor's Office of Budget and I would imagine that at that point, they're going to cost out the proposal and decide which one of the proponents in there, they can fund fully, if they know what that is, make a commitment to the future funding. Administrator Kelly confirmed and added that it would be that portion in which the State then turns around an implementation plan and that would be definitely in partnership with Office of Budget to look at the numbers once they've viewed the plan.
  • Jennifer Groce expressed her appreciation for the Plan and the implementation strategy, but particularly to the encouragement that this is about all of that is involved. This is a change of how we do things as well. It's the process. So, thinking that we're all in and so not just at the State level. It is down to each agency, each client, each representative working how we do these things and so I hope that we can find some language where we can make that this is really about all of us.
  • Co-Chair Diaz said she love what Jennifer said. There's these kinds of ethics and goals that would be set by the Governor and for the State but then there are this kind of all of these municipalities that have their own leadership bodies and elected officials and so, beyond just State government, there's kind of local governments. And when you say we're all in it, that includes them too and I just don't know how we get mayors, village leaders and that kind of stuff to see the value of what we're trying to do and say I want to address the people living in deep poverty in my particular jurisdiction.
  • Secretary Hou lauded the comment. Once the report is completed, it becomes a living document; taking it on the road to the mayors caucuses across the State, to the county administrators, and then maybe having the data to say- of these 630,000 people living in deep poverty, 5% live in your county or in your city because it becomes more real, and I think that this legislation in particular is special in that it was very specific. I think previous efforts have been around- let's reduce poverty, which is a lot of goal. But I think what's before this commission are very measurable metrics. And I think, we need to push that down and across the State to have mutual accountability around making this happen because it can't just be the State's responsibility because there are other branches of government that actually have touches on this issue as well.
  • Administrator Kelly also added that we could take all of these reports that we are working on together on the road as a group and kind of give tutorials to localities about what does this mean for you locally? And I think that would be a really cool way to publicize this and then we can make sure that the values of all three of those reports that will be developed are being communicated at the same time.
  • Member Kate Maehr agreed. This is what is setting this process apart from some others that we've been in. We were really thinking all the way through about the impact piece. I do think this idea of going out and directly connecting with civic leaders to talk about the impact on the ground and to do that in partnership with the community organizations that they know, that's a really powerful model. I would also say it's a great ask of all of the Commission members. I think it's easy for us to come to zoom meetings and listen to you report out on all of the great work that you've done. You are awesome. But I think you can lean on us to say "Okay, take this to your network, whether that happens to be a network of youth serving organizations, a network of legislative leaders, traditional leaders, food banks, you know, whoever your network is, take this work and hold us accountable to that." And I think that's something that's an ask that will not only drive further dissemination in a really powerful way of this work, but I think it also it gets engagement and buy in as somebody said earlier, this is all of our effort and it's all of our responsibility. And I think this is an opportunity to really make that make that case with all the Commission members.
  • Member Al Llorens gave the final comment. in order for this to be real and go beyond the vision and theory stage, to give it legs, first of all, we have to ask everyone to know their place in this. This is a system wide commitment. It's not just a bunch of us on zoom coming up with great ideas. It's a system wide commitment. In order for it to really be successful, we need the commitment of all of those entities that have been discussed.

Measurement and Implementation

  • Administrator Kelly started the presentation by saying that in terms of measurement, the ultimate goal is to really look at this- How could each of these strategies reduce, take a total cut in that number of those in deep poverty and simultaneously are cutting the other poverty categories that we're targeting. So, hopefully many of these will also reduce children in poverty, and we can take a look at that. We know that this does not fit. It's a challenge to do this one-to-one strategy equals reduction in- especially when we're talking about- this is the 630,000 number is a measure of the federal poverty line. There's a lot of reasons why that has some limitations. One is because, benefits that we were talking about, for example, SNAP and TANF and others are not actually included in the income that is, measured on under FPL. However, there are other measures of income and poverty. For example, the supplemental poverty measure that do consider those benefits. So, I am working with UIC research and data teams right now to structure how we can explain both short- and long-term poverty reduction of these strategies utilizing either FPL or the supplemental poverty measure. I think that we are going to come up with arguments around each of them. We will also come up with maybe a small set of supplemental measures we can look at, like, overall additions and programming enrollments across the state. So this slide is to say that to the greatest degree possible, our overall guiding star metric is going to be the reduction in 630,000 individuals living in deep poverty. That's what we're going to be able to look at in five years to see that we've gotten that number down in terms of tying the strategies to that. I think when we're making our arguments, we're going to need to be a little more nuanced in our approach of which definition of poverty we use and all of that. My goal, and I told the UIC researchers this, and they know this is to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible. We want the readers and the public to understand how we're measuring ourselves. And for it to be something that seems, like that they can picture and it's not over overwhelmingly complex. So, this is what we're going for and, I will be hopefully, I can share with the Commission some updates on this via email before the actual plan is released, but you will see it in the draft plan.
  • In terms of how we're framing the implementation, this is the "what do we need to get there?" These are the things that, for each of those pillars we are going to need to do for all of those things to be successful.
  • Advancing racial and ethnic equity,
  • ensuring impactful financial investments in people, technology and systems to the point of making the point that this will cost,
  • improving data sharing and integration,
  • pursuing research partnerships to better understand poverty and the impact of poverty supports,
  • continued interagency collaboration,
  • ensure community and philanthropic collaboration, and
  • pursue continued stakeholder feedback.
  • I am going to add partnership with local governments and municipalities into this as well. This is the toolkit for getting us where we're going to be and I will be including small statements for each of this.
  • In terms of how we will organize ourselves moving forward, the proposal would be that, we take each of these pillars and we break this Commission into sub-committees based on those pillars and those sub-committees can meet at a regular cadence and report to the larger Commission meetings that are bi-annually. And so that is clearly having the staff and stuff to support things that will go into that. So, supporting research and data, supporting legislative recommendation, supporting the mechanics of it, pursuing administration initiatives and other collaborative initiatives will all be included in that. But particularly, I think that marries well with what we talked about engaging across the State and engaging locally We would like to continue a sort of a regional council looking specifically at the areas with the greatest level of deep poverty. This is a map that was produced by Heartland, showing where deep poverty is most prevalent across the state. Cook County is there but you can see in the other parts of the State where we could meet some targets. My suggestion would be to ensure that whatever mechanism we have for continued operation of the Poverty Commission really focus its efforts on maintaining regional advisory councils that can drive local efforts and then report on an annual basis into the Commission on what their needs are, and what needs to be addressed and give feedback. So that is the implementation strategy as it relates to the work we will be doing as a group going forward.
  • Co-Chair Diaz said that she likes the idea of the regional engagement and having councils in those six hotspot areas because it could be a way that there's a formal infrastructure for doing what we were talking about. Just kind of getting local buy in and contribution to the plan. It's something that seems easy that the State could support like staffing those regional councils and then saying here are the goals, here's what we want to see coming out of that particular region.

Announcements/Other Key Initiatives

  • Secretary Hou suggested to have a mini version of the meeting with some members of the general assembly who couldn't attend because of the session. She reminded to watch out for the Open Meetings Act but stressed that it's important to make sure that they are able to weigh in and engage with some Commission members. She thanked everybody who attended and participating in the discussion and for their support. Secretary is most proud of how many people the Commission have actually listened to and not only listen to but incorporated their feedback into a really strong document.
  • Secretary also shared that DHS is also the home to other kind of grand challenges as it relates to being responsible for helping the State implement- and that is not only the homelessness effort with Christine Haley, who is the new Chief Homelessness Officer; DHS also recently hired the Assistant Secretary for Firearm Violence Prevention; the Statewide Immigrant and Refugee Officer is also housed at DHS. She also mentioned that DHS work very closely with member Kate Maehr and her team, and Colleen on the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. She stressed that it's important that there is one report woven together and not have too many different reports sitting in different bookshelves or virtual bookshelves; and that there are integrated strategies that has linkages. She shared her grand vision when she just started as Secretary which was really making sure that there were kind of overlapping circles of work, not only because it's more efficient as processes but because you bring in other advocates and partners who are advocating and pushing for the same interventions, but from a different voice. She praised Co-Chair Evelyn Diaz for accepting the position and hanging in there.
  • Lastly, Secretary directed everybody to DHS' website to give them a preview of DHS' introduced budget that the Governor announced last week, and that DHS is taking questions from folks who want to learn more about our budget.

Next Steps

  • Administrator Kelly outlined the next steps for the Commission. In terms of further vetting, we do want to preview in advance some of these concepts with the Governor's Office, although this report will be submitted to them anyhow. She will revise the Executive Summary and share it to the Commission members on Monday. Also, she offered her assistance to member Jennifer Groce in bringing together her group since she is also interested in hearing their feedback.
  • Administrator Kelly shared that she will be off for the next two weeks but she will be presenting an internal rough draft to folks including Secretary and Co-Chair Diaz and to a smaller Commission group as well.
  • On March 9th, an award draft of the document will be sent to the Commission and the final design will be on March 18th.
  • The meeting for the approval of the Plan will be scheduled by Administrator Kelly in the week of March 28th.
  • She asked members to share stories that can be spotlighted in the Plan that would contain quotes on experience of poverty.
  • Co-Chair Diaz reminded Administrator Kelly to send the log in credentials for the DHS-required trainings and about Secretary Hou's suggestion to do a mini version of the meeting with some of the elected representatives who weren't able to attend today.


Member Kate Maehr moved to adjourn the meeting and member Al Llorens seconded the motion

The meeting was adjourned at 3:26pm.