Illinois may kick families off welfare after three years

Megan Cottrell | The Chicago Reporter

What happens to a poor family when they get kicked off welfare? 3,000 Illinois families may find out as of July 1st if the state goes ahead with its proposal to cut the budget by reducing the time limit for receiving cash assistance from five years to just three. 

It's a way to save money when the state doesn't have much to spare, and Governor Pat Quinn claims it will net Illinois $15 million.

The problem? It will likely hurt the very poorest families and the most vulnerable children, ones whose parents have the hardest time finding work.

“The people most likely to be cut off are the people least likely to find employment," said Dr. LaDonna Pavetti, vice president of the family income support division at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law has been leading a coalition of advocacy groups to counter the proposal. They say a three-year time limit is too short because it doesn't allow enough time for struggling families to overcome barriers to work, like young children, needing more education or health problems.

In addition, they point to Illinois' continually high unemployment rate, which is particularly hard on people with limited skills or education.

"The projected $15 million 'savings' from this measure that will make 6,000 children destitute is not enough to make a difference in patching up Illinois’s budget but it is life-changing for the affected children," writes Shriver.

Dan Lesser, director of economic justice at Shriver, says they've been talking to lawmakers and trying to make inroads in the legislature and the governor's office.

"Since he proposed this as part his FY 2013 budget, the issue is being decided now and we should know by May 31 whether Illinois is going to shorten its lifetime limit," said Lesser.

What does life look like for families at the bottom of the welfare roll?  Read More at Chicago Muckrakers blog

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