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Illinois Poverty

Illinois Poverty: 983,744 Chicago region residents now living in poverty, new report says

(Chicago, IL) – September 30, 2010. Chicago’s poorest residents have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn, according to a new report released yesterday by the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance, prompting concern from Chicago lawmakers.

In its 2010 Report on Illinois Poverty, the 10th annual comprehensive analysis of poverty indicators in Illinois, the group found 983,744 Chicago region residents, or 11.8% the region’s population, were living in poverty in 2008. The report says that in the City of Chicago 20.6% of its residents were living in poverty.

Heartland Alliance’s 20.6% poverty rate for Chicago is up from the 19.6% recorded in 1999 by the U.S. Census bureau. The U.S. poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2%.

An additional 15.2%—more than 1.2 million people—were on shaky financial ground with incomes between the poverty line and twice the poverty line, the report says.

“Our communities are in the throes of dealing with job losses and foreclosures,” said State Representative William Burns (D-Chicago).

The report includes other new data that indicate a protracted crisis for Chicago families and communities:

  • In the Chicago region, there has been net negative job flow from 2008 to 2009, with the area losing 113,579 jobs, representing 88% of the state’s total job loss.
  • In the Chicago region there were 41,602 foreclosure filings in the second half of 2009, compared to 31,679 in the second half of 2008.
  • In the Chicago region, 429,428 residents lived in extreme poverty in 2008 on an annual income of less than half of the poverty line which was less than $11,000 a year for a family of four
  • In the Chicago region, 52% residents in extreme poverty are not expected to work. This includes children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The deepening poverty crisis requires a response the State of Illinois, Burns says.

“State leaders must work to ensure that our families are able to weather this crisis and that our workers have training and educational opportunities to be prepared when the job picture improves,” said Burns.

The State of Illinois, however, may be able to offer little help. The is Illinois budget is $13 billion and Illinois owes state vendors, such as human services organizations that help the poor, approximately $4.7 billion in overdue bills, stretching back six and seven months.

“Illinois is broke and will be hard pressed to provide sustantial help in the immediate future,” said House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who also represents the north side of Chicago.

“But we must continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens and neighbors. Our budget priorities must be focused on the elderly, the ill, and children threatened by poverty. It is a moral obligation.”

Governor Pat Quinn, who has cut more than $3 billion from the state budget in the last 18 months, has pushed an income tax increase to avoid deeper cuts to human services, but lawmakers in the Illinois House have balked. State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Quinn’s general election opponent, has vowed not to raise taxes, and, instead plans to cut the Illinois budget by another 10% across-the-board.

Given that Brady holds a big and steady lead in the polls, he will likely defeat Quinn, setting the stage for additional human service cuts which will likely fall primarily on the expanding ranks of Illinois’ poor.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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