By Niya K. Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation
The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up its spring session this past Friday evening/Saturday morning (depending on if you think of the glass half full or empty). Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) worked on several legislative initiatives to best support people experiencing homelessness. With fiscal concerns fueled by an unexpected drop in projected revenue, the budgeteers were a bit more cautious in allocating funding to new and additional services.
Increased funding for housing and homelessness
This year Chicago Coalition for the Homeless asked for additional funding for four line-items. These line-items directly address housing security including homelessness prevention, homeless youth, permanent supportive housing, and emergency and transitional housing. Service providers struggle with the hard decisions around making cuts to services and turning people and families away when there isn’t enough space or funding to provide them with help. In addition, CCH asked for an increase in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant program.
In the Governor’s proposed budget, he laid the way for his plan to end homelessness in Illinois under the new initiative Home Illinois. The program has $85 million in new money to support homeless services. After budget negotiation these funds will be allocated as follows: $40.7 million to support Emergency and Transition Housing, $10.8 million to Homelessness Prevention Programming, $6 million to Permanent Supportive Housing, and $3 million for Homeless Youth Programming.
The plan also includes funds for asylum seekers, as well as federal funds for rapid rehousing, eviction support, triage shelters, and pilot programs. We are excited about the additional funding opportunities for providers and the people and communities they serve.
New legislation to support students experiencing homelessness and returning citizens
Alongside advocating for additional funds, CCH successfully passed legislation that will remove structural barriers and provide additional supports to people impacted by homelessness.
HB 3116: Learning to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
For students experiencing housing insecurity, school is often the only place where things are stable for homeless students. Schools are required to provide services and assistance to students who are experiencing housing insecurity, but sometimes students aren’t aware that help is available and sometimes teachers are unsure of how to identify or provide aid to these students. Helping these students remain enrolled and engaged is critical for their futures. House Bill 3116 (Rep. Katie Stuart and Sen. Karina Villa) will require all school personnel to complete a training to help them identify and know the supports for these students.
SB 1367: Public Housing Access Bill (PHAB)
CCH worked in collaboration with Cabrini Green Legal Aid on Senate Bill 1367 (Sen. Christopher Belt and Rep. Lilian Jimenez). In 2020 our organizations successfully worked on the Public Housing Access Bill (PHAB) creating standards for Illinois Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to make sure returning citizens have access to public housing. It created a standardization for the criminal background screening process, improved equity, and access to affordable housing for individuals with records. To provide additional clarity and provide greater access, SB 1367 shortened the look-back periods, expands public housing to any program that receives federal funding and provides applicants with an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances before being denied due to their background. This legislation also clarifies data collection.
Small increase to TANF grant amount
Our advocacy resulted in a small increase to TANF cash assistance program, but not to the level families need. We asked for a 20% increase, to move the cash assistance from 30% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), where the support has been for the last six years, to 50%. The Governor’s Office requested an increase to 40%, and the final budget implementation bill increased the assistance by 5%, to 35% FPL. With the federal government looking to put more restrictions and barriers in the way of families receiving TANF in their compromise over the debt ceiling, making sure that we are providing families with an increased grant amount will be a continued goal at CCH.
Partnership and collaboration are key to our shared success
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless would like to thank our partners in this work, alongside the advocates who worked with us this year. This includes the sponsors listed above as well as Representative Michelle Mussman and Senator Adriane Johnson, who carried the housing budget ask legislation, Representative Will Guzzardi, chair of the Housing Committee, Senator Robert Peters and Senator Sara Feigenholtz for their advocacy for the Homeless Youth line-item, and Leader Elgie Sims and Leader Jehan Gordan-Booth the chief budgeteers in both chambers.
If you would like to learn more about what CCH was advocating for in Springfield this session, please visit our State Legislation page.