As the state's unemployment rate continues to climb,
researchers from the Heartland Alliance's Mid-America Institute on
Poverty (MAIP) say that an increasing number of Illinois households are now
teetering on the brink of poverty.
With 25 percent of the country's ...
As the state's unemployment rate continues to climb, researchers from the Heartland Alliance's Mid-America Institute on Poverty (MAIP) say that an increasing number of Illinois households are now teetering on the brink of poverty.
With 25 percent of the country's workers earning meager wages, it's no surprise that one-fifth of all workers are only a job loss away from impoverishment, as the Chicago-based nonprofit reports. What's perhaps most alarming about MAIP's findings is the toll that such a spike could have on the Midwest, where the poverty rate has grown four times as fast as the rest of the nation over the past eight years.
With that in mind, the Illinois legislature formed the Commission on the Eradication of Poverty last spring. The Heartland Alliance hopes their new research helps the commission quantify the problem and then get at the root causes. Some key findings from the report:
- Nine out of every 10 black and 1 out of every 2 white American adults (age 20 and up) who live out a normal lifespan (defined as to age 75) will at some point experience poverty;
- About 1 in 3 black males, 1 in 6 Hispanic males and 1 in 17 white males are expected to go to prison during their lifetimes;
- Across the United States, median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers fell in 2006, for the third year in a row;
- Almost half (49.3%) of poverty spells begin when the household experiences a decline in earnings.
The way to go about fixing the problem -- 13 percent of Illinois residents currently lives under the poverty line -- is strengthening programs that are proven to alleviate it, Heartland policy director Gina Guillemette says.
Heartland is calling on the governor to begin by signing an appropriations bill that would stave off major cuts to child welfare and other social services. That bill has been sitting on Blagojevich's desk since October 6 while these safety net services remain in limbo.
Other recommendations include improving technology so people can apply for food stamps, cash or medical assistance on-line and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. Passing a capital bill would also replace lost jobs and generate money for affordable housing.
"The state needs to make investments in making sure that the access to programs isn't the barrier," Guillemette said. "And we need to help the lowest-wage workers to keep more of their earnings."