As Illinois Legislators return to Springfield for the lame duck session, we are looking ahead to the 2013 legislative session. 1 in 4 Illinois households are asset poor and 1 in 2 households of color are asset poor â€“ meaning they don’t have enough savings to support themselves during times of financial hardship. We believe that all people deserve access to the tools they need to build financially secure lives and in 2013 we will be working to make this a reality. In the New Year we will advocate with partners across the state on the following asset building issues:
- Children’s Savings Accounts: Kids with a savings account in their name are six times more likely to go to college â€“ even when controlling for other variables like income and educational attainment of their parents. We believe that every child should have access to a college savings account. That’s why, over the next year, we will work to make the Illinois 529 Bright Start Program more accessible to students and parents. Barriers currently exist that prevent many lower-income families from accessing this effective college savings vehicle. Learn more about ways to address these barriers and make the program more accessible.
- Retirement Savings: All workers should be able to retire with dignity. Unfortunately, over half of private-sector workers in Illinois do not have access to an employment-based retirement savings account. In 2013 we will introduce legislation that will create an Automatic IRA program in Illinois. Learn more about the retirement savings gap in Illinois and how this program will address a growing challenge.
- Asset Limits: Families in Illinois seeking assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program cannot own more than $2000 in assets. This policy forces families to spend down retirement savings or college savings in order to make ends meet. Families that are required to limit their savings cannot achieve economic self-sufficiency or build financially secure futures. Six states have eliminated asset limits on TANF. In 2013, IABG will advocate for Illinois to follow suite.
- Consumer Protections: Payday and auto title lenders continue to strip wealth from communities across the state. In addition, dangerous and unclear financial products continue to enter the marketplace while thousands of our residents remain under or unbanked. In 2013 we will work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and community leaders to advocate for increased consumer protections and access to safe banking and lending products.
- Credit Building: Credit scores have an impact on a person’s ability to access a loan, housing, insurance, and, often times, employment. Credit building is asset building. In 2013, IABG and the Social IMPACT Research Center will release a report on credit score disparities in Illinois and what it says about the growing racial wealth gap. To better contextualize some of the data, we will be working with communities across the state to highlight relevant experiences with credit scores and credit building. We hope this work can inform our policy agenda moving forward.
We look forward to working with you over in 2013 to implement these wealth building strategies. Keep your eyes open over the next couple of months. You will hear from us about ways that you can engage in these campaigns.