CCH’s 2021 state legislative agenda, explained

This spring the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is advocating for a number of statewide measures in Springfield that would help remove barriers for people experiencing and at risk of homelessness. CCH policy and organizing staff, along with our grassroots leaders, are currently leading efforts to pass three bills that will impact college students experiencing homelessness, extremely low-income families and children, and people with criminal legal system involvement, including returning citizens.   

CCH is advocating for the following legislation:  

SB190: College accessibility for students experiencing homelessness 

A study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that 29% of young adults experiencing homelessness are enrolled in college or another educational program.  

SB190 would create a HOUSE (Housing and Opportunities that are Useful for Students’ Excellence) liaison at Illinois colleges and universities to provide support and resources to students experiencing homelessness. The bill also requires institutions that have on-campus housing to prioritize placement for homeless students, including during school breaks. 

  • Sponsors: Sen. Glowiak Hilton (chief sponsor), Sen. Pacione-Zayas, Sen. Bennet, Sen. Peters (chief co-sponsors) 
  • SB190 Fact Sheet 

HB88: Continued Punishment: Repeal the TANF drug ban 

In 1996, Congress passed legislation that bans individuals with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for life—unless their state legislature opts out. Research shows that this policy has negatively impacted 18,800 people between 1996 and 2011, disproportionately harming Black, Indigenous, and women of color and their children. People reentering the community already face often insurmountable barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities. The TANF drug felony ban is yet another barrier to reunite families.  

HB88 would remove the eligibility restriction that bars people with drug-related felony convictions from receiving TANF, restoring justice for an estimated 7,400 people who have served their time and yet remain barred from assistance.  

  • Sponsors: Rep. Flowers (chief sponsor) 
  • Partners:  Heartland Alliance, Shriver Center on Poverty Law 
  • HB88 Fact Sheet

Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI) Legislation 

In partnership with Cabrini Green Legal Aid and Community Renewal Society 

SB995: The Accurate Backgrounds from Law Enforcement (ABLE) Act 

Illinois provides little regulation on information included in criminal background checks across the state. As a consequence, criminal background checks often contain incorrect and incomplete data. When employers and landlords rely on inaccurate background checks to make decisions, qualified applicants may be unfairly denied. 

SB995 would require employers and landlords to use criminal background reports issued by the Illinois State Police to ensure accurate information is used to make a fair decision. It would also require that any background check used to make adverse employment or tenancy decisions must be no more than 90 days old. It would also prevent employers and landlords from charging individuals for background checks unless that individual is offered and accepts employment or signs a lease/tenancy agreement. 

State Budget Advocacy 

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP) includes $63 million for homelessness assistance and $7.5 billion in general relief funds. Under ARP, ‎every county, city, village, and township will receive funding support. While CCH appreciates these federal funds coming down the pipeline, we also recognize that we must continue to advocate to fully fund homeless and housing line items so that programs throughout the state can continue to provide services to address the increased need for housing support caused by the pandemic.   

CCH will work alongside the Responsible Budget Coalition to advocate with the General Assembly to propose progressive revenue options that adequately fund services to ensure that every person and family in need receives necessary resources. 

CCH is also supporting the following legislation: 

HB648: The Rental Housing Support Program Act provides rental assistance to extremely low-income households, earning at or below 30% of local area median income (AMI). HB648 would allow people earning up to 35% of AMI to stay in the program, keeping still-vulnerable families from losing their housing. Those above 35% of AMI would start a 12-month transition period out of the program. Another program change acknowledges current good faith practices in terms of making efforts to provide rental homes with a range of bedroom sizes. 

HB2775Currently, landlords in areas without protections can legally deny housing to individuals simply because they choose not to accept the applicant’s legal form of income. And now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable workers such as those in the service industry have seen increases in the rate of source of income discrimination because their profession is viewed as unstable. HB2275 would protect all Illinois residents from source of income discrimination. 

HB2877 would create the COVID-19 Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program Act. This bill addresses the housing crisis caused by the pandemic by creating protective measures for renters, homeowners, and landlords and expanding provisions for sealing eviction records. 

HB3100 aims to address implicit bias by requiring training and education to help mandated reporters make better-informed decisions around making calls to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) hotline. These trainings could also prevent children and their families from unnecessary traumatization. 

HB3878: The Rental Housing Support Program, created in 2005, is funded through a $9 state fee to record real-estate-related transactions. HB3878 would increase the fee to $18, allowing the program to significantly expand the number of people served. There has been no increase in the fee since the creation of the program, while rental costs have steadily gone up for extremely low-income households. The increased fee will make a dramatic improvement in the lives of the additional people that receive a rental subsidy, while still remaining a minimal cost to the parties paying the fee. 

HB3949 would amend the Department of Public Health Powers and Duties Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois, ensuring that homeless service providers qualify for the same priority benefits afforded to health care organizations and frontline workers by the State, including federal COVID-19 relief funding, personal protective equipment, and vaccinations.  

SB449 supports student success by ensuring students who are survivors of domestic, sexual, or gender-based violence have support on campus.   

SB506: The Victims of Trafficking, Torture and Other Serious Crimes (VTTC) program provides benefits for up to one year while the survivor prepares their visa or asylum application. Survivors remain eligible for benefits as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements for the program. SB506 would remove the program termination date and extend VTTC so that survivors can continue to receive life-saving assistance.  

SB655 would repeal an Illinois law that criminalizes people living with HIV. 

SB1707 would create the Housing is Recovery Pilot Program within the Division of Mental Health of the Department of Human Services. This program would support people with mental illness and substance use disorders through bridge rental subsidies paired with services, providing recovery and stability while preventing unnecessary institutionalization. The program would align with Medicaid when possible to maximize federal matching dollars. 

SB2138Illinois schools have frequently taken a punitive approach in responding to chronic truancy, often pushing children out of school rather than providing solutions. SB2138 would require a more supportive approach, centering students and families and providing additional resources and supports.  

For more information on CCH’s 2021 legislative agenda, contact Niya K. Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation.