Legislative Progress for Low-Income Families

Minimum Wage Campaign
The Raise Illinois campaign to increase the state’s minimum wage has gathered momentum in recent months. Legislation is pending in both the Illinois House and Senate to raise the minimum wage: HB 3718, sponsored by State Representative Art Turner (9th District) and SB 68 by State Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th District).

It is noteworthy that lifting wages for working families continues to show strong bipartisan support. According to a statewide survey by the National Employment Law Project, over 71% of Illinois voters support raising the minimum wage.

The 400,000 minimum wage workers in our state are working hard but losing ground. The current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, or $17,160 a year for full-time workers, has lost pace with inflation and is keeping workers in poverty. Behind these workers are hundreds of thousands of other people—children, spouses, aging parents—who rely on that worker for support. In fact, 110,000 full-time Illinois workers are still living in poverty. (The federal poverty threshold for a family of three is $18,284.)

Sign the minimum wage petition if you would like to support this legislative and grassroots campaign to increase Illinois’ minimum wage from the current $8.25 per hour to $10.65 an hour over three years. Raise Illinois is led by a coalition made up of community, business, faith, and labor organizations along with minimum wage workers and supporters that are committed to fighting for a raise in the minimum wage in Illinois.

Extension of Unemployment Insurance
After months of debate and negotiation, members of the U.S. Senate reached a bi-partisan agreement to reinstate Extended Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits, retroactively to the date of its expiration in late December 2013 and continuing until the end of May 2014. As a result of this agreement, unemployment benefits could be restored to two million unemployed people if the U. S. House of Representatives adopts the Senate measure.

Both Illinois Senators, Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk, are co-sponsors of the Senate agreement. There are 5 Republican co-sponsors and 55 Democratic co-sponsors so that passage of the compromise legislation seems assured. The agreement includes a compromise resolution to the offset issue which Senator Kirk had required.

This is an important positive development on the effort to reinstate the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), but the work is not yet done. Even if this agreed legislation is enacted, new legislation would then be needed to further extend benefits beyond May. The earliest a vote could happen in the Senate is on March 24. Although there is now a path for legislation to pass the Senate, advocacy must continue to get EUC through the House.

National advocates have cited advocacy by local individuals and groups as key to this breakthrough in the U.S. Senate. A key aspect of that advocacy is a clergy letter to Senator Kirk. Signatures are still being gathered. Sign here if you are a clergy person concerned about the restoration of benefits to the long-term unemployed.