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Illinois lawmakers lay out their plans to fight poverty

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(The Center Square) – Illinois is in the top 10 for states with the most residents living under the poverty line, leading members of both parties to call for changes.

Numbers from World Population Review show that Illinois has more residents living in poverty than most other states. The national poverty rate, or those earning less than $14,580, is 11.5% and according to World Population Review, Illinois has nearly 1.5 million people, or 12.1% of the state’s population, living in poverty.

Illinois is one of three Midwestern states in the top ten.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, explained some reasons for the increased poverty, which he said included a lack of support.

“It starts with making sure people have access to employment,” Ford told The Center Square. “First, you have to make sure you have a strong business climate that can hire people. We need to be business friendly and have opportunities for people to work.”

State Rep. Marty McLaughlin, R-Barrington Hills, said poor government policies can be blamed.

“Poor policies are creating opportunity deserts in Illinois, especially for those in poverty. Government incentivizing younger workers not to enter the workforce delays their development and their ability to move up the economic ladder,” McLaughlin said. “Receiving a paycheck and learning skills that can be built upon as a person moves forward in their jobs, careers, or trades is key to moving up the economic ladder.”

Chicago Public Schools costs taxpayers about $28,000 per student. The state average is around $16,000, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Several schools in the city have yet to have a single student who can read or do math at grade level, which has both lawmakers calling for alternatives to college.

“We also need to expand teaching trades and occupations at high school and particularly junior colleges as one way to make sure those in poverty can move into and beyond the middle class,” McLaughlin said. “I speak from experience.”

Ford agreed with McLaughlin’s plan on trade schools being an option for many in Illinois.

“Most of the time, people who are born into poverty will stay in poverty for the rest of their lives if they are not provided an opportunity to go into a trade or a higher education degree,” Ford said.

Illinois is listed as the 7th state in the nation in terms of most residents currently living under the poverty line. California finished first. Ohio and Michigan were the only other Midwestern states in the top ten.

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