Youth Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Chicago tackles youth unemployment as it wrestles with its consequences, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, September 1, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Margo Strotter, who runs a busy sandwich shop in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, makes it a point to hire people with ‘blemishes.’  But young people? She sighs and shakes her head.  They often lack ‘the fundamental stuff’ — arriving on time, ironing their shirts, communicating well, taking direction — she said. She doesn’t have time to train workers in the basics, and worries she’s not alone.  ‘We are going to wind up with a whole group of people in their 40s and 50s who can’t function,’ said Strotter, owner of Ain’t She Sweet Cafe.  As Chicago tackles what some have termed a crisis of youth joblessness, it must reckon with the consequences of a failure to invest in its low-income neighborhoods and the people who live there. There aren’t enough jobs, and the young people vying for them are frequently woefully unprepared because of gaps in their schooling and upbringing. The system has pushed them to the back of the hiring line…”

Unemployment Benefits – Illinois

State: No unemployment benefits without posting resume, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, July 13, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “People filing for unemployment insurance in Illinois will no longer be able to receive benefits unless they post a resume to the state’s job search site.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced it is stepping up enforcement of an existing legal requirement that individuals actively seek employment to be eligible for unemployment benefits…”

Summer Meal Programs

Efforts to feed thousands of low-income children barely make a dent in child hunger, By Elisa Crouch, July 24, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “More than 1.1 million children in Missouri and Illinois qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. But when school’s out, the vast majority of them go hungry. It’s a problem that has prompted a number of school districts, public libraries and social service agencies to set up summer feeding sites so that children can be guaranteed at least one or two meals a day. Thousands of children have benefited…”

Medicaid Expansion – Illinois

In Illinois, Medicaid expansion sign-ups double predictions, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), July 20, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Illinois is among a dozen states where the number of new enrollees surpassed projections for the expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health law. While the surge in sign-ups lifts the number of insured people, it has also stoked worries about the future cost to taxpayers.  Illinois and Cook County eventually will have to bear 10 percent of the cost of expanding the safety-net insurance program for the poor. The federal government agreed to pay all costs for the expansion through 2016, but it will begin lowering its share in 2017.  More than twice as many Illinois residents have enrolled under the expansion than was projected by former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. It expected 298,000 people to sign up in 2015, but 623,000 newly eligible Illinoisans enrolled by the end of June. Sign-ups have outstripped forecasts in at least a dozen states, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press…”

Kids Count Report – Illinois

  • Report: About 1 in 4 Rock Island County kids living in poverty, By Deirdre Baker, March 6, 2015, Quad-City Times: “An annual report that shows about 1 of every 4 Rock Island County children living in poverty stoked the ire of some area officials Thursday.  According to Illinois Kids Count 2015, child poverty rates in the state remain higher than levels measured before the Great Recession that began during the previous decade and are much higher than in 2000…”
  • Child poverty rising in DeKalb County, survey says, By Katie Dahlstrom, March 5, 2015, Daily Chronicle: “The number of DeKalb County children living in poverty nearly tripled from 1999 to 2012, child advocates said in a report released Thursday. Nearly 24 percent of DeKalb County children lived in poverty in 2012, the 2015 Illinois Kids Count Survey released by Voices for Illinois Children showed. The county is part of a growing trend in Illinois that is pushing poverty rates higher outside of the city of Chicago, said Director of Research Larry Joseph…”

Child Care Subsidies – Illinois

Money for Illinois child care subsidies is running dry, By Nancy Cambria, February 25, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “For more than two decades, the Leslie Bates Davis Neighborhood House’s early childhood center has beat back the effects of poverty on young children in this ailing city.  The center operates in a once abandoned grocery store amid boarded-up businesses and crumbling sidewalks with the promise of the Gateway Arch in view from its parking lot.  With the help of federal and state funds as well as fundraising, it has grown in size, quality and staffing to host a Head Start program and earn national accreditation.  It serves nearly 150 children from some of the nation’s poorest households — with parents who count on the center to provide more than mere baby-sitting.  ‘They know how important it is their children get early education so they are ready for school,’ said Stephanie Rhodes, a vice president with Leslie Bates Davis in charge of child care.  As of this month, however, all of the progress made by the center and many others in Illinois is at risk…”

State Minimum Wages

Small business in Illinois, four other states, divided over minimum wage votes, By Joyce M. Rosenberg (AP), October 29, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Workers in five states, including Illinois, could get a raise after Election Day. Some small business owners say raising the minimum wage will pressure their companies, forcing them to cut employees’ hours or jobs. Others say it’s the right thing to do for workers and the economy. In addition to Illinois, minimum wage referendums are on Tuesday’s ballots in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, where minimums range from $6.25 to $8.25 an hour. Some small business owners say raising the minimum wage will force them to cut employees’ hours or jobs. Higher minimums were already approved this year in 10 states, the District of Columbia and Seattle…”

Medicaid Enrollees

Cook County releases 1st snapshot of new Medicaid patients, By Peter Frost, June 2, 2014, Chicago Tribune: “New data released in May offer the first look at the health, habits and demographics of about 100,000 new enrollees in Cook County’s expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. The picture it paints is bleak. More than half the new patients covered by Cook County’s Medicaid expansion program haven’t seen a doctor in the past 12 months. Eighty-five percent of them are unable to obtain needed medications. Nearly one-fourth have spent time in a hospital in the past six months and an additional 1 in 5 are worried about finding a place to stay in the near future. They suffer from heart disease, high cholesterol. . .”

Kids Count Report – Illinois

  • Group: Number of children in poverty up 43 percent in five years, By Debra Pressey, March 6, 2014, Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette: “The number of kids living in poverty in Champaign County grew by nearly 43 percent in five years, according to a new report released Thursday by the statewide organization Voices for Illinois Children. The annual Kids Count report, released Thursday, found 23.4 percent of Champaign County children were living at or below the poverty line in 2011, compared to 16.7 percent in 2006…”
  • Latest ‘Kids Count’ report a mixed bag, By Tobias Wall, March 6, 2014, State Journal-Register: “A report released Thursday shows Illinois has made some progress when it comes to its children’s health, but minority and low-income children are still at higher risk. According to the Illinois Kids Count 2014 report published by Voices for Illinois Children, fewer kids are uninsured, and overall infant mortality and teen death rates have continued trending downward. But the report also found that minority infants are more likely to be born at lower birth weights, infant mortality rates are higher among minorities, and overall child poverty rates in the state have risen…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Families feel the pangs of SNAP cuts, By Lolly Bowean, Juan Perez Jr. and Vikki Ortiz Healy, November 10, 2013, Chicago Tribune: “It wasn’t until years after Amy Jezler lost her job at the Salvation Army and her family lost their south suburban home to foreclosure that money got so tight she had to resort to signing up for food stamps. And even then, it was difficult to visit the Family Community Resource Center in Blue Island and ask for help, Jezler said. ‘I was always taught to do it on your own,’ the Park Forest resident said. ‘I was getting to the point where it was harder and harder. (I had) to make the decision: Do I pay bills this month, or do I eat?’ For a year and a half, Jezler has collected $193 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help feed her husband, who has been in and out of work, and her 10-year-old daughter, she said. But on Thursday, she learned her food stamp benefits had been slashed by $30…”
  • Should Oregon pay $1.5 million to put photos on food stamps, welfare cards? Lawmakers consider fraud reduction options, By Yuxing Zheng, November 14, 2013, The Oregonian: “It would cost Oregon at least $1.5 million in the first year and about $930,000 annually after that to put photographs of cardholders on the Oregon Trail cards used by food stamps and welfare recipients. That’s the estimate recently heard by lawmakers on an interim legislative work group considering methods of reducing public assistance fraud. A May audit from the Secretary of State’s office found that hundreds of Oregonians who were deceased, incarcerated, or won the lottery benefited from one of three public assistance programs intended for low-income individuals…”

Kids Count Report – Illinois

  • Group says child poverty on the rise, By Debra Pressey, February 14, 2013, Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette: “More than one in five Champaign County kids were living in poverty in 2011, according to the new Kids Count report released this morning. The county’s child poverty rate nearly doubled in 12 years, growing from 12 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2011. The child poverty rate in Vermilion County also grew in that same time span, from 19 percent to 35 percent. Done each year by the nonprofit, non-partisan Voices for Illinois Children, Kids Count takes a look at the health and well-being of children in the state…”
  • Kids Count: Economics at root of children’s issues in Illinois, By Deirdre Cox Baker, February 15, 2013, Quad-City Times: “The future of children in Illinois was a common worry Thursday as a group of professionals gathered in the Quad-Cities to announce the Illinois Kids Count 2013 findings…”
  • Kids Count report presents grim findings, By Pam Adams, February 14, 2013, Peoria Journal Star: “Illinois is a national leader in early childhood education, but state funding for pre-school programs has been cut substantially since 2010. The state has one of the lowest percentages of uninsured children in the nation, but childhood poverty rates keep increasing in the Tri-County Area…”

Poverty Rate – Illinois

  • Report: 1 in 3 Illinoisans living in, near poverty, Associated Press, January 16, 2013, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “One-third of Illinois residents are living in or near poverty, more than during the depths of the Great Recession, according to a new report that suggests the trend is not slowing and that state budget cuts have exacerbated the problem. Almost 1.9 million Illinoisans, or 15 percent, live in poverty, up from 12 percent when the recession began in late 2007. An additional 2.2 million, or 18 percent, are close to the poverty level, compared with 16.2 percent in 2007, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Chicago-based Social IMPACT Research Center…”
  • 1 in 5 in suburbs in or near poverty, By Jamie Sotonoff, January 16, 2013, Daily Herald: “Carolyn Schutz has a college degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, plus decades of experience as a teacher and a business manager. She actively searches for full-time work, but the 66-year-old Wheaton woman has been able to land only a part-time administrative job that pays $8.25 an hour. Her monthly take-home pay is around $350, she said. It’s made basic necessities, like the furnished room she rents and gas for her car, almost impossible to afford, despite government assistance and help from suburban charities…”

States and Medicaid Expansion – Montana, Illinois

  • News analysis: Medicaid expansion answers hard to come by, By Mike Dennison, September 9, 2012, Helena Independent Record: “When Gov. Brian Schweitzer submits his farewell state budget in November, he’ll spell out how Montana should expand Medicaid in 2014 to provide health coverage for another 50,000 of our lower-income fellow citizens – or maybe not. Schweitzer, whose final term in office ends Dec. 31, isn’t saying whether he wants to expand Medicaid in Montana, as allowed and bankrolled by the federal health-reform law. In a recent interview, the Democratic governor said his administration wants to know the ground rules for the expansion, such as whether Montana can make some adjustments and still get federal financing…”
  • Medicaid moratorium could hamper Illinois action on federal health law, By Doug Finke and Chris Wetterich, September 8, 2012, State Journal-Register: “Medicaid changes approved by Illinois lawmakers to rein in the skyrocketing cost of the program may have another effect. They could make it more difficult for the state to implement the federal Affordable Care Act. Along with sweeping changes to eligibility standards, rate reductions, program elimination and other cost-containment measures, lawmakers approved a four-year moratorium on expansion of Illinois’ Medicaid program. Coupled with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, some lawmakers believe the General Assembly will have to suspend or repeal the moratorium if there is going to be an expansion of Medicaid rolls that results from the ACA…”

States and Medicaid Cuts

  • Medicaid drug restrictions thus far seen as bitter pill for patients, providers, By Monique Garcia and Bonnie Miller, July 25, 2012, Chicago Tribune: “To illustrate the early problems the state is having as it makes large-scale cuts to its Medicaid program, consider the new limit on prescription drugs. For the most part, low-income people used to be able to get an unlimited number of prescriptions filled. Now there’s a maximum of four a month. That’s a problem for mental health patients who may take a cocktail of six or seven drugs a day, from psychotropic medicines to control mood and behavior to prescriptions to suppress unwanted side effects. While the new law allows for doctors to write more than four prescriptions a month for those who need it, they must get prior approval – a process health care professionals say the state has yet to detail and is ill-equipped to handle…”
  • 13 states aim to limit Medicaid, By Phil Galewitz and Matthew Fleming, July 22, 2012, USA Today: “Thirteen states are moving to cut Medicaid by reducing benefits, paying health providers less or tightening eligibility, even as the federal government prepares to expand the insurance program for the poor to to as many as 17 million more people. States routinely trim the program as tough times drive up enrollment and costs. But the latest reductions – which follow more extensive cuts last year – threaten to limit access to care for some of its 60 million recipients…”
  • Doctors: Limiting Medicaid prescriptions adds risk, By Phil Galewitz, July 22, 2012, USA Today: “Illinois Medicaid recipients have been limited to four prescription drugs as the state becomes the latest to cap how many medicines it will cover in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. Doctors fear the state’s cost-cutting move could harm patients, who have to get state permission to go beyond the limit…”

Medicaid Cuts – Illinois

Clock now ticking on Medicaid cut-off, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), June 11, 2012, Peoria Journal Star: “More than 25,000 working parents in Illinois stand to lose their state-provided health coverage on July 1 – and most of them don’t know it yet. State officials will eliminate their coverage in just three weeks as part of the $2.7 billion package of cuts and taxes the Legislature passed in May in an effort to save Illinois’ Medicaid program from possible collapse. But with the clock ticking, the state has just sent out notices to the Medicaid families who will be affected once Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill, as he has promised to do…”

Hospitals and Charity Care – Illinois

Legislation defines charity care for hospitals, By Peter Frost, May 29, 2012, Chicago Tribune: “Not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois facing the specter of paying millions in property taxes were granted a reprieve Tuesday when the state Senate passed legislation that will allow hospitals to apply a much broader definition for what qualifies as charity care. The legislation, embedded in a bill that seeks to raise about $700 million for the state’s underfunded Medicaid program through a $1-per-pack cigarette tax, sets a clear formula for how much free care and services hospitals must provide to qualify for tax breaks, ending nearly 10 years of wrangling on the issue. It requires that hospitals provide an equal or greater amount of free or discounted services to low-income patients each year than their annual estimated property tax liability to qualify for an exemption…”

State Medicaid Cuts – Illinois

  • Legislature OKs Medicaid cuts; no vote yet on cigarette tax, By Doug Finke and Chris Wetterich, May 24, 2012, State Journal-Register: “The Illinois House and Senate on Thursday passed pieces of a Medicaid overhaul, including legislation slashing $1.6 billion from the program. Gov. Pat Quinn praised legislators but said their work won’t be complete until they pass a $1-per-pack cigarette tax. ‘Raising the price of cigarettes is also sound health policy. Smoking-related conditions are a significant burden on our Medicaid system, and this measure will improve the health of our people and reduce future Medicaid costs,’ he said in a statement. The House voted 94-22 and the Senate voted 44-13 to adopt the cuts in Senate Bill 2840, which range from outright elimination of some programs – like Illinois Cares Rx, a prescription drug assistance program for seniors – to taking extra steps to ensure that those receiving aid are entitled to it. The bill now heads to Quinn’s desk…”
  • Illinois Legislature passes $1.6 billion in Medicaid cuts, By Ray Long and Alissa Groeninger, May 25, 2012, Chicago Tribune: “Hundreds of thousands of poor Illinoisans would lose health coverage, prescription drug discounts for seniors would be dropped and dental care for adults would be greatly curtailed as part of $1.6 billion in budget cuts lawmakers approved Thursday. The major Medicaid reductions ignited anger in some lawmakers who say the cutbacks will jeopardize the lives of the state’s most vulnerable residents. ‘I don’t know where it’s written in the law that this has to be balanced on the backs of poor people, on the backs of seniors, on the backs of the aged, blind and disabled,’ said Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago. But supporters argued failure to approve the bill could lead to cuts throughout state government and result in the collapse of the entire Medicaid system…”

State Medicaid Cuts – Illinois

Quinn’s Medicaid bill makes nearly $1.4B in cuts, Associated Press, May 21, 2012, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Illinois moved closer to drastic Medicaid cuts Monday with proposed legislation that could excise nearly $1.4 billion from the state’s program by shrinking benefits, such as regular adult dental care, and cutting payments to most hospitals and nursing homes. The measure, backed by Gov. Pat Quinn, falls short of the $2.7 billion in cuts that Quinn originally said would be needed to prevent the health care program for the poor and disabled from collapsing…”

State Minimum Wage – Illinois

Higher minimum wage to be subject for negotiations, By Doug Finke, May 16, 2012, State Journal-Register: “Illinois’ minimum wage would climb to more than $10 an hour by 2015 and then be indexed to inflation under a bill sent to the state Senate Wednesday. However, it is unclear if the measure will come to a vote before lawmakers conclude their work this spring. Sponsoring Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said she still wants to negotiate with business interests who oppose the increase and groups pushing for it. The Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour…”

Child Care Subsidies – Illinois

  • State budget crisis threatens funding for day-care providers, families, By Dean Olsen, May 2, 2012, Galesburg Register-Mail: “A new wrinkle in Illinois’ budget crisis unfolded Wednesday when Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration said it has begun to delay payments to more than 40,000 child-care providers. The move could threaten the fragile budgets of many providers and the family finances of more than 85,000 low-income parents who receive state-subsidized child-care services. The delays could mean no more subsidy payments to many child-care providers until July 1, said Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services…”
  • Illinois child care subsidies at risk; legislators search for funding, By Melissa Westphal, May 3, 2012, Rockford Register Star: “Child care services for low-income families could be in jeopardy unless Illinois legislators can scramble to find additional funds needed for a state-subsidized program. Day care providers were hit with the bad news this week when state leaders told them Illinois has essentially run out of money to pay for the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income, working families find and pay for child care so parents can maintain their employment. Families share in the cost of the services on a sliding scale based on family size, income and number of children in care…”