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August 16, 2000

Ryan Announces Illinois Child Poverty Among the Lowest in the Nation

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today highlighted the results of a study that shows Illinois' child poverty rates to be among the five lowest in the nation.

The study, which was conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), shows that Illinois has consistently reduced child poverty rates, primarily between 1993 and 1998. The NCCP identifies and promotes strategies that reduce the number of young children living in poverty in the United States.

"This study shows that Illinois has reduced the number of children living in poverty by 100,000 cases," Ryan said. "That's equal to the population of a medium sized city. The key to Illinois' success is a belief that children are always better off when parents are working."

The NCCP study, Child Poverty in the States: Levels and Trends from 1979 to 1998, separated long-term child poverty trends into two periods. The first period was from 1979 to 1993, where the national child poverty rate increased from 16.2 percent to 22.5 percent, and from 1993 to 1998, where the national child poverty rate decreased by 17 percent. In both cases, Illinois had one of the lowest child poverty rates in the nation.

"Since 1993 Illinois has reduced its child poverty rates by thirty percent," said Department of Human Services Secretary Linda ReneƩ Baker. "The Governor and the Department have always believed that the goal is not to simply cancel people from the caseload, it is to help people find jobs so they can earn enough money to no longer need assistance."

The belief that children are better off when a responsible guardian is working drove the Department of Human Services (DHS) to modify its Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) program. For example, in Illinois, it is now policy to keep a TANF case for a family of three open until that family's income has reached 99 percent of the poverty level. DHS also changed the way it handles its casework and instituted performance measures to better track its caseload.

"Programs such as Work Pays, along with support systems which include subsidized childcare, transportation, food stamps and continued medical benefits have helped to produce these impressive results. These supports play an integral role in helping families become self-sufficient. These numbers show that Illinois is serious about reform and is dedicated to providing people the tools they need to improve themselves," added Secretary Baker.

The Work Pays program is a system of budgeting earned income for families receiving TANF by providing financial incentives for clients to get a job and become self-sufficient. Under work Pays, in addition to the earnings received from working, clients may still qualify for assistance.

For example, a mother with two children receives an maximum TANF payment of $377 a month. If she goes to work, her payment of $377 is reduced by $1 for every $3 earned until she reaches three times her original TANF grant.

For a copy of the study visit the NCCP's website at cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/.


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