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Preservation of 5% tax key for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Tue, Jun 17, 2014

Preservation of the 5% state income tax rate as revenue for human services is foremost on the agenda of a group that includes the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) as the Illinois General Assembly works toward its May 31 adjournment.

Without legislative action this session, the tax rate will revert to 3.75 percent on January 1, which could mean a loss of $6 billion revenue in FY 2015 and FY 2016. The result would be “devastating cuts to critical safety net programs,” according to a fact sheet compiled by CCH, Housing Action Illinois, Heartland Alliance, the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County and the Chicago Alliance.

If the 5% tax rate expires, homeless services would be cut an additional $7 million on top of earlier cuts of $10 million, officials say.

Advocates would like to see homeless services increased instead:
$2.3 million more (up to $30.1 million) for supportive housing services, which currently assist 13,000 highly vulnerable people who also receive primary and mental healthcare, substance abuse services, employment and life skills counseling.
$2 million more (up to $6 million) for homeless prevention funding. This one-time assistance for rent or utilities has prevented 87 percent of recipients from entering the shelter system.
Restoration of $3 million for homeless education services such as transportation, tutoring, outreach and social services.
Retention of $4.6 million for homeless youth programs such as outreach, emergency shelter and longer-term housing for unaccompanied youth.
Retention of $9.3 million for emergency and transitional housing: comprehensive shelter services for 40,000 adults and children annually.

Despite this amount, there are still 45,000 turn aways statewide every year.
During the ONE Northside convention May 4, Gov. Pat Quinn stood by the 5% tax and his budget, which also protects schools from cuts. Republicans, on the other hand, argue that lowering the tax rate would help the state’s economy, according to the Daily Herald.

A partial restoration of $1.5 million for homeless education services “is to me the biggest victory we have accomplished this session,” said CCH Public Policy Specialist Jennifer Cushman. Since this line item was last funded in FY2009, the number of homeless students statewide has risen from 26,688 to 54,892, a 109 percent increase, according to CCH.

Homeless education funding can mean more social workers to identify youth and enroll them in school. It can also fund supports such as tutoring, summer school and preschool access, as well as coordination with community agencies to provide health, housing or employment.

Funds would go to 35 districts statewide. Chicago has the highest number of homeless students, 18,669; followed by Rockford with 1,589; Madison County with 1,111; and Peoria (769); Kane County (694); Springfield (674) and Granite City (552).

The group of human services providers calls for a “fair tax system,” which would also “close corporate loopholes” and create an income tax graduated according to income: higher income people paying more than those who earn less. This graduated tax could raise $2.4 billion, they say.

CCH is also seeking passage of legislation that would allow unaccompanied minors to consent to their own health care. It is backing a campaign led by Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and Heartland Alliance to create funding for survivors of sex trafficking and another effort to gradually raise the minimum hourly wage to $10.65 statewide.

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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