(The Center Square) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois’ Department of Human Services recently created a commission to tackle poverty issues.
They announced goals in a news release for the newly formed Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security include reducing poverty in Illinois by 50% by 2026 and eliminating all poverty by 2036.
President and CEO of the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies Larry Dawson applauds the determination of officials to put concerted effort into tackling this issue.
“We have a situation that was untenable in 2019 and unconscionable in 2020,” Dawson said.
COVID-19 is the particular instigator for this renewed fight on poverty, according to the state’s news release.
Dawson said the state’s goals are aggressive, and said his agency can get behind those.
“Those kinds of guideposts, measurements, I think are strong motivators for folks in this industry to continue to collaborate, to bring creative energy towards finding strategies to have an outside effect on the poverty that a lot of these households are experiencing.”
Equity will be a focal point for the Commission's work.
An estimated one in three blacks and hispanics are projected to live in poverty thanks to the virus, according to the news release.
"The COVID crisis has revealed economic inequity and injustice that has existed within the state for a long time," said IDHS Secretary Grace Hou in a statement. “Before the pandemic, we know that 1.6 million Illinoisans lived in poverty, with 739,000 living in deep poverty. This is inexcusable, and we must address this by ending systems that perpetuate this intergenerational cycle."
Dawson said poverty is a resilient enemy of the people, but believes equal opportunities to succeed go a long way to fighting it. Ensuring a good education is part of that.
“Whether that is taking college courses, whether that is providing an apprentice with tools of the trade — those kinds of things we think are very helpful,” Dawson said.
While poverty is a multifaceted issue involving housing, healthcare and education among other things, Dawson says, they all feed into one crucial component.
“Ultimately, I think employment is the key tool for helping families get out of and stay out of poverty,” he said.