Making a Difference: Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty

Aug 29, 2011

People who live in extreme poverty live below half the official poverty line. That translates into living with less than $9 per person per day for a family of three. In Illinois, one in 20 people is currently living in extreme poverty. Of these people, more than 17 percent are workers, with more than 3.5 percent working full time, year round. These are some of Illinois' most vulnerable people, and the numbers have grown in the wake of the Great Recession.

In 2008, the Illinois legislature unanimously passed a law creating the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. In the three years since, the commission has worked to reframe poverty as a human rights issue, made numerous recommendations, created new and strengthened existing champions, and increased awareness and understanding of both poverty and human rights in Illinois.

A recently released CLASP report, Poverty and Opportunity: What Difference Can a Task Force Make?, profiles Illinois' task force, as well as task forces in Colorado, Ohio and Minnesota. Illinois is one of 20 states, including D.C., which have established a state government poverty and opportunity task force. Eleven of these states have set poverty reduction targets, but Illinois is unique in being the only state to focus on extreme poverty in its target.

A cornerstone of its work has been engaging a large cross section of stakeholders to provide a variety of voices and expertise. Meetings and public hearings held throughout the state allowed committee members to gain insight into the every-day experiences of those living in poverty, as well as allowing those who would be most impacted by its recommendations to actively participate in the commission's meetings. The commission developed three "person-focused" working committees, designed to develop recommendations to address the diverse circumstances, barriers, and needs facing Illinois residents living in extreme poverty.The committees were organized around the capacity to work and sought solutions for "Living with Dignity" (for those unable to work); "Making Work Accessible (for those disconnected from the workforce); and, "Making Work Pay" (for those working yet living within extreme poverty). 

The task force's successes and challenges provide a guide for other states looking to create a strategic government body for poverty reduction. From the introduction of recommendations to reframing poverty as a human rights issue, the Illinois commission has shown that a task force can make a difference.

For more information about Illinois and the three other state task force profiles, read Poverty and Opportunity: What Difference Can a Task Force Make?

What Difference Can a Task Force Make? is part of CLASP's Poverty and Opportunity series. For a chart of all state task forces: Poverty and Opportunity: State Government Task Forces and for operational Poverty and Opportunity: State Government Task Forces' Member Composition and Operations. For a summary of task force recommendations: State Poverty Task Force Recommendations.

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