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Family Economic Security

Strong families help to ensure children realize their full potential. However, children’s health and well-being are compromised when families face challenges in providing for basic needs like good nutrition, a safe place to live, and health insurance. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to struggle in school, and they are more likely to experience behavioral, social, and emotional problems than their peers. The child poverty rate in Illinois jumped from 16.6 percent in 2007 to 19.4 percent in 2010, leaving one in five Illinois children living in poverty. Child poverty is projected to continue to increase even as the economy recovers from the Great Recession. Voices for Illinois Children focuses on policy strategies that help families achieve economic security.

Issue Areas

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):  The federal EITC is designed to encourage and reward work as well as to offset federal payroll and income taxes. The primary beneficiaries are low-income families with families with children. In 2010, the federal EITC lifted an estimated 120,000 Illinois children above the poverty level. Voices is a leader and convener of the “Make Work Pay” coalition, which was instrumental in creating the state EITC in Illinois. In 2011, Voices successfully advocated for a significant increase in the state EITC, from 5 to 10 percent of the federal EITC.

Child Tax Credit (CTC):  The federal Child Tax Credit is designed to offset the cost of raising children. Eligible low- and middle-income families receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child. The CTC has a long history of bipartisan support and has been expanded during economically challenging times. The CTC is also an effective anti-poverty tool. Illinois has no state-level CTC, making every dollar of the federal credit especially important.

Child Care Assistance:  The Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides access to child care services for low-income working families. CCAP serves two important roles. It’s a significant job support for parents, and it offers developmental opportunities for children. High-quality child care services can enhance children’s early learning skills, as well as healthy social and emotional development. Families participating in CCAP make co-payments on a sliding scale based on family size, income, and number of children in care. Unfortunately, the state budget crisis has resulted in stricter income eligibility limits and higher required copayments. To help support low-income, working families, we must ensure that child care assistance is available, affordable, and accessible. 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):  TANF income assistance provides financial assistance to children and families in greatest need. In Illinois, the maximum monthly benefit for a family of three is $432, which is equivalent to less than 30 percent of poverty level. The average monthly number of Illinois children receiving TANF benefits has increased sharply during the recession—from about 47,500 in 2008 to almost 73,000 in 2011. TANF can protect children from falling into deep poverty, and with the economic hardship caused by the recession, advocacy efforts to enhance this safety net for families is critically important.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):  Formerly known as “food stamps,” SNAP is funded primarily by the federal government and administered by the states. The income eligibility limit is 130 percent of poverty level. Aside from unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program in providing additional assistance during a recession. In 2011, more than 820,000 Illinois children received SNAP benefits, including 270,000 under age 5.  SNAP is one of our most effective safety-net programs; in 2010, SNAP moved about 85,000 Illinois children above the federal poverty level.

A Fairer State Income Tax:  Illinois is one of only a handful of states where individual income tax rates do not vary based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay. This unfair tax system harms children in low-income families whose parents have less to make ends meet, harming children’s ability to grow up healthy and reach their full potential. To create a fairer tax, where those with higher incomes pay higher rates and those with lower incomes pay lower rates, Voices for Illinois Children has joined “A Better Illinois.” To learn more, visit ABetterIllinois.org.

For more information

Contact the Family Economic Security team

David Lloyd, Director, Fiscal Policy Center (312) 516-5557 
Larry Joseph, Director of Research (312) 516-5556
Lisa Christensen Gee, Policy Analyst, Fiscal Policy Center (312) 516-5579
Kelley Talbot, Assistant Director of Policy Advocacy (Child Care Assistance) (312) 516-5572