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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:53pm
Mon Dec 9, 2013

New Report Provides Snapshot Of 'Struggling Lower-Middle Class'

More than half of the nation's working-age families with children earn $60,000 or less a year, according to a new report from the Hamilton Project that provides a snapshot of America's "struggling lower-middle class."

Out of those more than 20 million families, about 40 percent have annual incomes at or below $40,000 and a shocking 15 percent, or 5.6 million families, earn between $1 to $20,000 a year, the report showed. The majority of today's families, 76 percent, have annual incomes at $100,000 or less, while "fewer than 3 percent of families earn more than $260,000," according to the report.

The report found that 49 percent of working-age families with children have incomes below 250 percent of the 2012 federal poverty level, or $58,208 for a two-parent family with two children.

About 30 percent of families live between that 250 percent threshold and the official poverty line, which stood at $23,283 in 2012 for a two-parent family with two kids. As such, these families are considered to be the "struggling lower-middle class," the report reads, because their "proximity to the poverty line means that any unanticipated downturns in income could push them into poverty."

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
4:57pm
Thu Dec 5, 2013

Seniors Rally Against Social Security Cuts, Tell Congress Not To Balance The Budget On Their Backs (VIDEO)

With Social Security reform on the table during congressional budget talks to reduce federal spending, about a dozen protesters, most of which were retirees, gathered in downtown Chicago Thursday to call on Congress to reject proposals that “balance the budget on the backs of seniors.”

“Keep your hands off our Social Security,” chanted the protesters who, organized by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) and the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, rallied at Federal Plaza.

The protesters urged Illinois’ congressional delegates to reject any legislative proposal that boosts the retirement age above 67, increases means testing for Medicare premiums or changes cost-of-living-adjustments to a chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation formula.

“This is becoming a budgetary issue, but it’s a matter of priorities,” said Jay Lewkowitz, 65, congressional district coordinator for the NCPSSM. “Our country needs to tell Congress that taking care of an aging population and making sure our safety net stays intact is a priority for us.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:36pm
Fri Oct 25, 2013

Study: Boosting Unionization Would Help Combat Income Inequality In Illinois

Although Illinois’ economy is “tepidly growing,” workers in the state are still worse off than before the recession, labor experts at the University of Illinois say.

At 9.2 percent, Illinois’ unemployment rate is still higher than pre-recession levels, and the state’s labor-force participation rate is on the decline, according to the experts' report “The State of Working Illinois 2013: Labor in the Land of Lincoln.”

Overall, wages have been sluggish for most workers since the turn of the millennium, yet the top 1 percent in Illinois earned at least 635 percent more than the median employed worker each year. All of this has taken place as a growing number of people in Illinois have plummeted into poverty. The percentage of those living below the poverty line shot up significantly from 7.8 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2012, according to the report.

The study’s authors noted that the decline in unionization is a key reason why the state has experienced such high levels of income inequality, which can stifle economic growth. The report suggests that increasing unionization would not only be a win for workers but also for economic growth in the state.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:12pm
Mon Oct 7, 2013

Census Bureau: Poverty Rate Remains High In Illinois

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Illinois' poverty rate continued to hover near 15 percent last year.

According to the new American Community Survey data, 14.7 percent Illinoisans, or 1.85 million people, were living in poverty in 2012. That's not much of a statistical change from 2011, when 15 percent of people, or 1.88 million, were in poverty.

At the national level, the poverty rate also remained fixed last year at 15 percent, impacting some 46.5 million Americans.

"Both nationally and in Illinois, more people were working over the course of the year, and that didn't translate into decreased poverty," said Amy Terpstra, associate director of the Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:23pm
Fri Sep 13, 2013

Report: Bolstering Earned Income Tax Credit For Childless Workers Could Reduce Poverty

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income working families helps to promote work and offset the tax burden households face. But the federal aid program has some glaring problems, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The tax credit reaches few low-income childless workers, and those who are eligible see little relief from the hefty federal tax load they are forced to shoulder.

“This is the group we’re taxing deeper into poverty,” said Dan Lesser, director of economic justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

There are two pieces of legislation pending in Congress focused on combating this issue by expanding EITC to more childless workers and boosting the maximum credit from $487 to $1,350.

Samantha Tuttle, director of policy and advocacy at the Heartland Alliance, said increasing the maximum credit would make a “huge difference” in the lives of low-wage, childless workers.

“That’s a huge percentage of income for people experiencing poverty,” she said.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
10:30am
Fri Sep 6, 2013

Study: Poverty Skyrockets In Chicago Suburbs

The share of people experiencing poverty in the Chicago region was split evenly between the suburbs and the city as of 2011, a new study by the Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center shows.

The 50-50 balance is a drastic change compared to 1990, when about 66 percent of the region’s poor people lived in the city, while 34 percent lived in the suburbs.

By 2011, nearly 630,000 suburbanites were living in poverty, which is a 95 percent increase from 1990, according to the ”Poverty Matters” report. That increase far outpaced the overall 29 percent suburban population growth from 1990 to 2011. Meanwhile, the number of Chicagoans living in poverty remained about the same during that time period.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
12:02pm
Mon Jul 29, 2013

New State Coalition Calls For ‘A Better Illinois’

“A Better Illinois” is a coalition representing a diverse group of state residents and small business owners who are fed up with Illinois' fiscal problems and its “out-of-date” tax code that, they say, bogs down the middle class and hinders economic growth. Progress Illinois takes a look at what the group is calling for and ways to achieve a more fair tax system in Illinois. 

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
9:48am
Mon Jul 8, 2013

Consumer Advocates Highlight Need For Savings Account Programs For Low-Income Americans

Automatically transferring a small amount of money into a basic savings account every month is the easiest and most effective way for low- to moderate-income individuals to save money, according to a recent report by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

“It’s so very important to build up savings, even if it’s just couple hundred, and park it for emergencies,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the CFA, and author of the report, “Savings Accounts: Their Characteristics and Usefullness.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:27pm
Thu Jun 27, 2013

Housing Costs Severely Burden Millions Of Americans, Reaches A Record High

The U.S. housing recovery is gaining traction due in part to an increase in multi-family housing construction and rising home prices, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing report released Wednesday by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Despite areas of improvement, the report found that millions of American homeowners are still late on mortgage payments or owe more than what their homes are actually worth, and low-income households face continued challenges finding affordable housing.

The number of Americans shouldering severe housing cost burdens has also set a new record, according to the report.

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