Heartland Alliance Celebrates Historic Legislation that Provides Protections to Illinoisans Who Need Access to Fair Loans, Housing, Driver’s Licenses

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The Legislation Passed in Lame Duck Yesterday and Today Was Advocated for by Heartland Alliance and Its Partners, and will help everyday citizens achieve greater opportunity

Three bills dedicated to reducing barriers to opportunity for vulnerable populations have passed during the Illinois Legislature's lame duck session. The bills - which increase housing accessibility, cap rates on consumer loans, and protect citizens right to drive - await to be signed into law.

Groundbreaking reforms and protections for Illinoisans, which were part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’s agenda and advocated for by Heartland Alliance, were passed by the General Assembly in Springfield yesterday and today during the legislature’s lame duck session.

“These new laws will provide important reforms to help people who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Rachel Ruttenberg, Heartland Alliance’s Director of Policy. “The progress made by the Illinois Legislature today will lay the groundwork for how to continue to address systemic racism, and fight for equity and opportunity for all. We urge the Governor to sign these acts into law as soon as possible and we thank the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus leadership.”

Predatory Loan Prevention Act: Historic legislation will protect Illinoisans who need to take out loans. Currently, the average APR (annual percentage rate) on a payday loan is 297 percent and the average APR on a title loan is 179 percent. Once signed by the Governor, the new law will establish a 36 percent APR cap on all consumer loans in the state.

Payday and auto title lenders disproportionately target communities of color. If a person lives in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is 89.9% Black, compared with Lincoln Park, which is 4% Black, they are more than 13 times more likely to have taken out a payday loan.

This act was advocated for by our Illinois Asset Building Group, Woodstock Institute, Illinois PIRG, AARP Illinois, and a coalition of over 50 industry, government, community, and advocacy leaders.

Public Housing Access Bill: New legislation, the first in the country, will create uniform standards for the more than 100 public housing authorities across Illinois to use in the criminal background screening process so that it is more equitable. People with criminal records can now access public housing with no consideration of non-convictions, such as arrest histories, juvenile records, or expunged and sealed records. Public housing authorities can only consider criminal background 6 months from the time of application, and public housing authorities must do an individualized assessment for all applicants with criminal records.

According to our recent study, Never Fully Free: The Scale and Impact of Permanent Punishments on People with Criminal Records in Illinois, of the 1.2 million adults convicted of crimes in Illinois since 1979, nearly 35 percent are Black — a rate over two and half times as high as the percent of Illinois adults who are Black.

This bill was advocated for in partnership with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois, which includes Cabrini-Green Legal Aid, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Community Renewal Society.

License to Work Act II: This legislation ends the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid tickets related to automated camera enforcement, including red-light camera and automated speed camera tickets. It also reinstates licenses that have holds or suspensions for both unpaid traffic tickets and automated camera tickets. Transportation is critical for employment, especially for people who are struggling to make ends meet; if people cannot work, they cannot pay off their debt. This legislation will help approximately 300,000 Illinoisans right now and thousands more in the future who have driver’s license suspensions for economic reasons.

Driver’s license suspensions for unpaid automated camera tickets specifically harm Black Illinoisans the most. In fact, the top ten Illinois zip codes with the most driver’s license suspensions for unpaid automated camera tickets have between 74 and 92 percent of residents who are Black – with Chicago’s Roseland and Pullman neighborhoods at the top of the list.

This act was advocated for by Heartland Alliance through our work with the Transit Table, a coalition convened by the Chicago Jobs Council and other advocates working to eliminate transportation barriers to that keep people out of work and in poverty.

About Heartland Alliance
Heartland Alliance, one of the world’s leading anti-poverty and human rights organizations, works in communities in the U.S. and abroad to serve people experiencing homelessness, living in poverty, or seeking safety. The organization provides a comprehensive array of services and advocates for policy change in the areas of safety and justice, health and healing, and economic opportunity.

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Joseph Dutra
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