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Latino Policy Forum Response to Illinois FY23 Passed State Budget and Legislation

By Latino Policy Forum staff

On Saturday, April 9, 2022, the Illinois General Assembly passed a $46.5 billion balanced budget for FY23. It includes a $1.8 billion tax relief package that will provide relief for Illinoisans recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and from recent inflation that has caused the cost of living to rise. It includes freezes on grocery and gas taxes, back-to-school tax relief for families and teachers, and direct checks to working families, including those who file taxes with Individual Taxation Identification Numbers (ITIN).

The legislature also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) to include a 2-percent increase of the federal EIC match and include taxpayers between 18 and 24 years of age, those over 65 years of age, and ITIN filers. The inclusion of ITIN filers in this package is a significant, historic victory for immigrant families across Illinois, making over 502,000 households that file taxes with an ITIN eligible.

The Forum is a member of the Coalition to Make the EIC Work, spearheaded by Economic Security of Illinois, which worked tirelessly for the past three years on this initiative. The Forum applauds the General Assembly for taking steps to include undocumented tax filers into the state’s tax system. Going forward, immigrant and undocumented families who file taxes with ITINs will receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, which puts direct cash into their pockets. The Forum appreciates the chief sponsors, Sen. Omar Aquino, Rep. Carol Ammons, and the many other legislative champions in both the House and Senate for carrying this initiative past the finish line. 

In 2021, the Latino Policy Forum, alongside partner coalitions Illinois Unidos and the Illinois Latino Agenda 2.0, recommended a $1.3 billion investment in the Latino community using American Rescue Plan Act 2021 (ARPA) funds in the FY23 budget. The Forum applauds the legislature for including investments in some areas that we identified as essential in the FY23 passed budget, but is disappointed that additional ARPA funds were not used to supplement the needs in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. These areas include bilingual and bicultural mental health support, capacity-building for community-based organizations impacted by the pandemic, additional workforce investments in the Latino community, and additional support for Latino-owned small businesses. The Forum looks forward to working with the various state agencies to find existing programs that can help address some of these gaps and issues.

Other significant wins for Illinois Latino families include increases to various education initiatives within early childhood, K-12, and higher education.  Maintaining the longstanding commitment to early childhood education and kindergarten readiness, the budget includes a $54.4 million increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant, $7 million to Early Intervention, and a combined estimated $1 million to home visiting programs.  The Forum applauds the General Assembly for the $350 million increase to support the K-12 Evidenced-based funding formula, which prioritizes funding districts who are the farthest from funding adequacy, which aims to equitably meet the needs of Illinois students. 

There were also big wins to higher education, with a notable increase of $122 million to the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP grants).  The state’s leading scholarship program will now be able to fund every student who applies for the program and is deemed eligible.  The Forum is also inspired by the much-needed $4.2 million increase to the Minority Teacher of Illinois Scholarship. The investment provides a critical boost to diversify the future teacher workforce, with priority given to Black male and bilingual candidates. 

Our response outlines key wins such as these, as well as missed opportunities. The Forum looks forward to our continued partnership with state lawmakers and agencies, the Governor’s office, and key partner organizations to elevate these important items. 

 

Education 

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) budget

The Latino Policy Forum affirms the Illinois State Board of Education’s vision to achieve educational equity by promoting programs, investments, and policies that elevate the strengths and diverse cultural backgrounds of each and every child. The Forum applauds the General Assembly for prioritizing investments that align with ISBE’s goals to achieve a vision of educational equity. Below are the key takeaways of the education investments:

Wins

$350M increase to the Illinois Evidence-Based Funding Formula. In 2017, the General Assembly committed to a minimum increase of $350M every fiscal year to make progress on our state adequacy figure by 2027. Priority funding is provided to Tier 1 and Tier 2 school districts.  Latino Policy Forum analysis finds that over 70 percent of the state’s Latino students are concentrated in Tier 1 and 2 districts.

$54.4M increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant ($54.38 M). This is a 10-percent increase to the block grant, which funds the state’s Preschool For All and Prevention Initiative programs to provide improved access to high-quality early childhood opportunities. This investment is especially critical given timely research out of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research examining the impact of Early childhood services on English Learners (ELs). The Consortium found that ELs receiving full-day preschool for up to two years with specialized bilingual support had better attendance, reading and math grades, and test scores, and were more likely to demonstrate English proficiency in the third grade. 


Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) budget

Supporting Illinois’ working families, especially Latinos, will result in a stronger, more resilient economy. In 2019, Governor Pritzker vowed to ensure Illinois was the best state in the nation for early childhood education and care (ECEC). While the projected cost of this re-design is estimated at $14.4 Billion, there is a long road to build investment for ECEC in Illinois. Illinois early-childhood advocates and the Right to Care campaign elevated the need to increase ECEC program investment in the FY23 budget by a minimum of 10 percent. The Forum thanks the general assembly for their continued commitment to ECEC and champions like Leader Hernandez in the state General Assembly. The Forum would like to highlight the following investment areas:

Illinois Early Care and Education:

Wins 

Missed Opportunities

$1.16M increase to Home Visiting Programs: 

  • $536,000 (5.3%) increase for Healthy Families, a voluntary home visiting program that helps new and expectant parents strengthen their families functioning and reduce their risk for child abuse and/or neglect.

  • $480,000 (7%) increase in state funding for Parents Too Soon at IDHS, newly renamed the Maternal and Child Home Visiting Program. These services provide critical at-home support services to new and growing families. 

Level Funding to the Child Care Assistance Program ($410.6M). The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides necessary support to working parents and provides resources to meet the needs of Illinois families who work weekends, rotating shifts, or unconventional hours. Future investments are needed to compensate for low staff wages. 

$7M (6.4%) increase to the Early Intervention Program, which provides services and resources for children with developmental delays. This investment restores budget cuts over FY22.

 

 

Illinois Higher Education:

The importance of higher education was elevated during the pandemic, given the critical role it plays in preparing the future workforce. While workforce issues existed prior to the pandemic, specifically in the rise of teacher vacancies, the pandemic has hampered college and career plans for students across the state. Access to higher education programs and teacher-preparation support are essential factors as the state plans to support the future workforce. This year’s FY23 budget prioritizes affordability provisions to support students as they pursue career and college plans.

Wins 

$122M increase to the Monetary Award Program ($600M new funding level). Investments in these critical programs expand opportunities for our workforce as a state. In addition to serving additional students, this increase expands the Monetary Award Program (MAP) to shorter credential programs of less than one year and to the summer term, when funding is available. The substantial increase will allow the MAP award to be granted to anyone who applies.  

$2.3M increase for the Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program ($4.2M new funding level). Increased investment enables the state to build the capacity of rising educators of color by increasing scholarship amounts from $5,000 to $7,500 per candidate and creating a set-aside for candidates seeking to become bilingual teachers.

 

Immigration

The Forum commends the Illinois General Assembly for their monumental actions in support of the immigrant community. In this legislative session, we witnessed the passing of two historic bills that strengthen the safety net of immigrant families. One expands the EIC to ITIN filers, namely those who file their taxes but do not have a Social Security Number. The other expands healthcare to Illinois residents ages 42 and older, regardless of immigration status. In addition, the General Assembly demonstrated a strong commitment to immigrant families by allocating much-needed investments to Welcoming Centers, the Access to Justice program, and the Immigrant Service Line Item. 

The Forum acknowledges and congratulates The Resurrection Project and other organizations that advocated for investments in the Access to Justice Program, as well as coalitions such as the Cost of Living Refund Coalition, which was integral to the passing of the EIC expansion, and Healthy Illinois, which was fundamental to the healthcare expansion. In addition, the Forum congratulates the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and other organizations that advocated for the passage ofthe Right to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Act. These wins are crucial as the Latino community continues to deal with the wide-ranging fallout from the pandemic.

However, the Forum is disappointed that there were no direct investments in community mental health for the immigrant community. Families have been dealing with family loss, unemployment, isolation, health issues, and housing and food insecurity, among other issues, causing an exacerbated mental health crisis. Immigrant families oftentimes face additional barriers to accessing mental health services. Providing linguistically and culturally sensitive community mental health support was one of the Forum’s key requests.

Below are summaries of some key immigration wins and missed opportunities. 

Wins 

Missed Opportunities

Welcoming Centers: $25M General Revenue allocation, and $80M ARPA allocation for a combined total of $105M for FY23.

  • This investment is critical to immigrant families who need direct assistance. There are roughly 36 organizations that serve as Illinois Welcoming Centers, providing important support and resources to immigrants, refugees, and Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals throughout Illinois.

 Immigrant Services Line Item: $38M allocation, which houses the Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP) and the New Americans Initiative (NAI).
  • ICIRR advocated for an additional $15M here, for a total of $53M, in order to continue to provide support for the growing need of the immigrant and refugee community and to maintain the COVID-19 Immigrant Family Support Project.

  • The IFRP helps immigrant families access eligible public benefits, and the NAI helps Legal Permanent Residents apply for naturalization and supports individuals renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The COVID-19 Immigrant Family Support Project provided direct cash assistance to immigrant families ineligible for federal relief and struggling to make ends meet. 

Access to Justice: Increased funding from $14M to $20M, with Westside Justice Center and The Resurrection Project each receiving $10M.

  • The Resurrection Project’s Access to Justice Program (A2J) specifically focuses on assisting immigrant families, and in the past year has been leading an eviction-prevention program in addition to the A2J immigration legal representation and education program.

 

 Expansion of healthcare coverage to low-income immigrant adults age 42 and older.

  • This state-funded, Medicaid-like program, originally for immigrants 65 and older that was expanded last year to include those 55 and older, will now include individuals of 42 years and up

 

Permanent expansion of the State Earned Income Credit (EIC) to include ITIN filers, childless individuals ages 18–24, and individuals 65 and older.

  • This expansion also includes a credit increase for all EIC-eligible tax filers, from 18 percent to 20 percent.

 
 

Passage of the Right to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings Act.

  • This bill creates a task force that will investigate the implementation of universal representation for immigrants in removal proceedings and recommend how fully covered legal representation could be implemented in the State of Illinois.

 

 

 

Housing 

Housing issues were not as central in this year’s legislative session as they were in 2021. Illinois invested heavily in housing initiatives in FY22 with the passing of the Affordable Housing Omnibus and appropriations for COVID-related emergency assistance programs. Even with less attention given to housing issues, there were still several important wins for the Forum and Forum partners, both on the legislative side and with continued investments in crucial housing programs. 

The Forum recognizes and congratulates the Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing and members like the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance and Housing Choice Partners, who led the work to get HB2775 passed and source-of-income protections extended statewide. The Forum also congratulates Housing Action Illinois and recognizes all their work leading the efforts to pass source-of-income protections and secure additional funding for affordable ousing developments across the state.  

The FY23 budget includes funding for several housing programs and helps ease the tax burden on low-and middle-income homeowners. Emergency rental assistance programs from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and IDHS received additional funding, and the homeowners assistance program that was funded in FY22 finally launched on April 11. Other important programs, like the IDHS eviction mitigation program, received reduced funding in the FY23 proposed budget. Meanwhile, additional protections for tenants still experiencing difficulty from COVID-related hardships or who depend on non-wage income were passed by the General Assembly. 

Wins 

Missed Opportunities

Property Tax Rebate: Proposed property tax rebate of 5 percent of paid property taxes (up to $300).

  • This will help ease the tax burden on all low and middle-income homeowners, including Latino homeowners who are still recovering from the pandemic and are overburdened with housing costs.

Eviction Mitigation: $10M in state funds for IDHS’s Eviction Mitigation Program, a sharp reduction from the $25M it received in FY22.

Source of Income: Passage of HB2775, which gives tenants an affirmative defense in eviction cases for non-payment of rent when the landlord refuses to participate in the application process. The bill also extends protections for non-wage source-of-income discrimination statewide. 

Homelessness: $156.5M, an increase of $5M, for homelessness prevention, emergency and transitional housing, and housing support services through IDHS.

  • The Forum welcomes the $5M increase, but additional state funding is still needed to ensure Latinos have equitable access to crucial homelessness prevention and mitigation services.  

Affordable Housing: $150M for grants and forgivable loans for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) eligible developments. 

  • There is clear intent from the bill’s main sponsor that these funds could be used for several programs, including permanent supportive and transitional housing, loan assistance for homeowners, and outreach for homelessness prevention. The IHDA’s interpretation of the legislation will ultimately determine how the funds are used.  

 

Emergency Rental Assistance:

$98M investment in IDHS’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), an increase of $6M from FY22.

  • We applaud this increased investment. The IDHS program has been successful in reaching disadvantaged and neglected communities, and increased funding should be allocated to ensure that community partners have the capacity to continue serving their communities’ emerging needs.

$490M investment for the Illinois Rental Payment Program (ILRPP) program through IHDA.

 

 

Other Areas 

Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program

The Forum applauds the FY23 investment of $125M in R3 Grants, which provide resources to organizations in communities impacted by economic disinvestment, violence, and damage caused by the war on drugs. This is an increase of $50M from FY22. The Forum will continue working with the R3 board to advocate that these funds are equitably distributed to communities in need, to facilitate equitable inclusion of Latino-serving organizations in this grant process, and to better serve the Latino community through this program.

 

Latino-Owned Small Businesses

Funds to support Latino small businesses to continue to recover from the pandemic are woefully limited in the State's FY23 budget. An additional $1M is required to enable the Illinois Latino Small Business Partnership to continue to provide bilingual, culturally-sensitive technical assistance to the more than 180,000 Latino small businesses in Illinois. The Partnership, powered by the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC), includes organizations serving key local communities with sizable numbers of Latino businesses including Aurora, Joliet, Elgin, Waukegan, Cicero, Berwyn, and others. IHCC has been allocated $500,000 in the approved budget, a mere one-third of the original request. Additional ARPA funds to assist underserved Latino small businesses is an important step to achieve ARPA's stated goal of deploying resources fairly and equitably to support the communities that have been most affected by the pandemic.


Health Equity

Illinois Unidos, a statewide network of medical and health organizations and professionals, elected and appointed officials, and community-based organizations, and a Latino Policy Forum partner, is encouraged by the administration’s investments and commitments to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic created unprecedented strain in our community,  and on Latino families and essential workers.  

Latinos and other communities of color throughout Illinois continue to be disproportionately devastated by COVIID-19. Illinois Unidos appreciates Gov. Pritzker and the General Assembly’s forward-thinking budget allocations to address significant health disparities and to advance health equity throughout the state. 

However, statewide workplace measures are needed to address the health and safety of low-wage, essential workers, and undocumented workers. Workplace safety and health protocols will ensure that workers do not experience risks that disrupt their ability to work and provide for their families.


Wins 

Missed Opportunities

An investment of $2.5M to support the credentialing process of promotoras de salud (community health workers) through IDPH. Promotoras are community-embedded sources of health information and often the primary source families trust and rely on for health resources and medical or clinic referrals. They remain essential to the post-pandemic recovery process, particularly since a dangerously high number of Latino families lack any type of health insurance coverage. Furthermore, the state’s long-term investment in community health workers, including promotoras and doulas, creates an employment pathway and economic opportunity for women (who make up the majority of community health workers), while also addressing health care delivery gaps in communities of color. 

Legislation was tabled that would ensure accurate data on the number of essential workers impacted by COVID-19, their long-term health, the impact on the state’s workforce, and proactive measures to ensure a vibrant and strong state workforce.

 

Inclusion of undocumented workers ages 42–54 and ongoing support to low-income, undocumented seniors lacking health coverage.

During the next session, legislators will have the opportunity to consider SB1593 (Workplace COVID-19 Safety Committees Act), which addresses the safety and health of essential workers by establishing safety committees in workplaces. 

A budget allocation to address mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual and developmental disability needs. The FY23 budget allocation shows an increase of $170M in this category over that of FY22. These resources are vital as families and communities continue to recover from the pandemic. Latino families continue to experience uncertainty about the future; anxiety and depression; and physical, psychological, and emotional trauma as they try to recover from the deaths of loved ones or caring for family members recovering from COVID-19, job loss, and social disconnection. The multigenerational nature of Latino families (e.g., grandparents or other elderly family members who reside with family members) also created emotional and mental trauma as children experienced the death of family members. Accessible and affordable mental health services are pivotal for individual healing and community recovery.

 

Expansion of Medicaid for undocument individuals, and specifically for those between the ages of 42 and 54, and continued support to low-income, undocumented seniors without health coverage.

 

 

Analysis for this response was written by Erika Méndez, Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, Edwin Ortiz Reyes, Roberto Valdez Jr., Vanessa Peña, José Marco-Paredes, Sarah Cartagena, Rosario Hernandez, and Sylvia Puente of the Latino Policy Forum, with additional analysis from Esther Nieves, Alejandra Ibañez, and Roberto Cornelio.

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