Latest Statements

The ELEVATE Act Seeks to Reduce Barriers to Employment

Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

At Heartland Alliance, we believe every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. For over two decades we’ve worked at the intersection of practice, policy, and research to advance bold solutions that ensure that everyone who wants to work has access to employment opportunities.

We know that the labor market excludes many people who want to work and who can and do work when offered employment opportunities and support. Even when the economy is healthy, millions of individuals struggle to get and keep work due to structural barriers that prevent access to employment and economic opportunity. That’s why we’re applauding Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Davis (D IL-13), who have introduced the Economic Ladders to End Volatility and Advance Training to Employment (ELEVATE) Act.

The ELEVATE Act would create a new, federally funded national subsidized employment program. The program aims to address both cyclical and structural unemployment by increasing federal funds for communities to implement subsidized employment in times of high unemployment or in areas where there is concentrated unemployment, even when the economy is doing well. The program would target individuals who face structural barriers to employment—including people with a criminal record and individuals experiencing homelessness.

The ELEVATE Act represents an important piece of legislation that is needed to advance the national conversation on ensuring that every person, regardless of the barriers they face, has equitable access to employment and economic opportunity.

We urge you to contact your members of Congress to voice your support and ask them to co-sponsor the ELEVATE Act. You can dial the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your member of Congress.

In the months ahead, other similar proposals may be introduced. What many of these proposals have in common is the belief that the federal government has a responsibility to play stronger a role in ensuring that everyone who wants to work has access to the labor market and that principles of equity and opportunity are upheld for all.

In that spirit, our teams will be releasing a set of principles and recommendations drawn from our experience and partnerships in communities. Our ideas seek to ensure that these bold proposals operationalize access to employment for all by striving for equitable access and outcomes.

You can get a sense of where we’re heading by checking out these two earlier blog posts:


The FIRST STEP Act is Just That: a First Step

December 19, 2018 —At Heartland Alliance, we believe that our justice system should value human dignity, rehabilitation, and restorative justice for all. Alongside people with lived experience of justice involvement and a myriad of partners, our teams have advanced sweeping and principled criminal justice reform in Illinois that reflects strong support for reforms across the system.

With the U.S. Senate passage of the FIRST STEP Act last night, it is evident that bipartisan national support for criminal justice reform is strong. While we welcome certain provisions in the bill—including the reduction of mandatory minimum sentencing for certain felony drug convictions, the restriction of juvenile solitary confinement, and the end of shackling of pregnant prisoners—we believe that several elements in the FIRST STEP Act will have widespread negative consequences. Assuming this legislation is enacted, we encourage Congress to be even bolder in future reform efforts to truly reflect the national consensus around reforming the criminal justice system and dismantling its impacts on the lives of individuals and communities—the majority of which are individuals and communities of color.  

We share with other organizations significant concerns about key provisions in the bill that are likely to deepen racial inequity within the justice system. Specifically, the law calls for the use of risk assessment tools—which are known to be racially biased—to determine who is eligible for in-prison programming or early release. The law also expands the use of electronic monitoring of people who are found to be eligible for early release. Electronic monitoring expands the reach of the criminal justice system, normalizes surveillance, and makes it difficult if not impossible for people to go about their daily lives. Moreover, people subject to electronic monitoring may be responsible for the cost of their monitoring devices, shifting the cost of incarceration from the government to directly impacted individuals. This would put an additional financial burden on individuals who are likely already struggling to make ends meet while benefitting wealthy private entities. Finally, due to carve outs in the law, many people will simply be excluded from earning time credits to put toward early release. These carve outs are likely to disproportionately impact people of color, further perpetuating inequity in the justice system.  

The FIRST STEP Act offers an incremental approach to justice reform, but in order to achieve true reform, we need transformative approaches rooted in human rights principles.

We applaud the bipartisan champions in Congress and the advocacy community who tirelessly fought to improve the FIRST STEP Act, and we recognize the uphill battles that the legislation faced at every turn.

We remain mindful, however, of the great distance left on the path to justice and the realization of human rights for ALL. In partnership with you, our teams will continue to advance bold reforms toward a truly just justice system.

In solidarity,

Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division


Court Ruling Striking Down the Affordable Care Act is Misguided and Cruel – But Doesn’t Change Open Enrollment 2019

This statement is cross posted from Protect Our Care Illinois

December 15, 2018 —US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor made a decision on Friday to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the case Texas v. United States. This lawsuit threatens access to healthcare, quality of coverage, and financial protections for millions of people and their families.

This ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for healthcare, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans. The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. During the midterm elections, the American people forcefully rejected efforts to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act. Yet, the Trump Administration has made it clear that their priority is attacking access to critically-needed health care, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and insurance for young people. Now, conservative courts are cowardly following suit.

While Protect Our Care Illinois is deeply disappointed in yesterday’s cruel and poorly reasoned decision by a judge in Texas, we want to share a few important points about its real impact:

  1. The ACA is still the law of land. Medicaid expansion, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and the Health Insurance Marketplace remain intact. 
  2. This ruling does not take effect immediately and is being appealed. This is a lower court decision and national and state advocates are ready to appeal. 
  3. This decision does not impact the open enrollment period happening right now. As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated today “the recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.”

This means that your healthcare coverage and financial protections are not currently affected. So, you should continue to see your doctor when you need to. Those who haven’t done so already can enroll in a marketplace health plan today, December 15th, the last day of open enrollment.

Friday’s misguided ruling will not deter us: we will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being of Illinoisans and all Americans. Protect Our Care Illinois urges Texas and the coalition of challengers to work to reduce the number of uninsured families across our country instead of playing politics and trying to dismantle existing funding that makes coverage affordable and overturning critical consumer protections.

From the start, legal experts, across the political spectrum have questioned the merits of this case, and we firmly believe the appeals court will agree and reverse this decision based on weak legal arguments and the devastating impact it will have on the 20 million Americans benefiting from the ACA, including those in Illinois. We encourage you to resist this latest sabotage attempt and enroll in a comprehensive ACA insurance plan today.


New ‘Public Charge Rule’ Will Harm Families and Communities While Obstructing Legal Immigration

October 8, 2018 — Heartland Alliance denounces the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to expand the definition of ‘public charge’ that would deny thousands of otherwise eligible immigrants a chance to build a life in the United States. Immigration officials use the ‘public charge’ test to determine whether an immigrant is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence but this test has historically been narrow in scope. The Administration’s move to expand this definition is nothing more than a vicious, thinly veiled move to limit legal immigration, punish those living in poverty, and stoke fear and confusion in immigrant communities.

“All individuals, whether immigrants or native born, should have access to benefits they are otherwise eligible for to feed their families, stay healthy, and provide safe shelter. It is cruel and inhumane to revoke an immigrant’s opportunity for permanent residency on account of their legal use of public benefits – and an injustice to penalize families on the tenuous grounds of likely future use of these benefits. This rule will essentially outlaw immigration by people with lower incomes and build an invisible wall around our country that will keep out and reject many aspiring immigrants of color,” said Evelyn Diaz, President of Heartland Alliance. “Many U.S. families access public benefits during times of crisis and go on to achieve economic success later in their lives. And immigrants are no different. This is yet another blatant attempt by this Administration to reduce legal immigration, the bedrock of this country, and we will oppose it at every turn.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking outlining the new rule instructs immigration officials to consider past use—or likely future use—of Medicaid, Medicare part D low-income support, SNAP, housing assistance, government-funded long-term care, or cash assistance to their determination if someone is a ‘public charge.’ Being deemed a ‘public charge’ could lead to the denial of a visa application, including a nonimmigrant visa or a green card to become a legal permanent resident.

Heartland Alliance has served immigrants coming to Chicago looking for a better life for 130 years. Immigration makes our nation stronger—it always has—and these unending attacks on immigrant families must stop now.

Visit our resource page to learn more and take action to #ProtectFamilies.


Keeping Children Safe – Our Statement

Heartland Alliance does not agree with separating children from their parents at the border. It is our moral obligation to keep children safe while they are in our care. Children and families who arrive at our borders are seeking safety. They are fleeing violence and unrest in their home countries. Heartland Alliance stands with them. And we ask you to stand with us. As a 130 year-old human rights organization, Heartland Alliance provides safety and services to those who are most vulnerable including refugees, asylees, immigrants, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable populations.

Read Heartland Alliance’s full statement


 36 Illinois Groups Support New Payday Loan Protections

3/27/2018— Joint Statement from Woodstock Institute, Heartland Alliance, Shriver Center, Illinois PIRG

Thirty-six Illinois organizations declared their support for national payday lending protections released last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A letter signed by the groups to all Illinois Members of Congress condemns the March 22 introduction of Senate Joint Resolution 56 by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Graham’s legislation is the companion to House Joint Resolution 122, sponsored by 36 U.S. House members. Both H.J. Res. 122 and S.J. Res. 56 would repeal the Consumer Bureau’s historic rule on payday and title lending. The rule was created to protect borrowers from falling prey to the payday debt trap, a cycle of continuous re-borrowing by consumers who are unable to pay off the loan.  

The payday lending debt trap is a harsh reality for many Illinois payday loan borrowers, the majority of whom make less than $30,000 per year. Research shows four of every five loans are re-borrowed within the month; and as a result, Illinoisans pay over half a billion dollars per year in fees.

“The Consumer Bureau’s payday loan rule takes a crucial step forward by requiring lenders to make loans only to borrowers who can afford to repay. Today, Illinois organizations are sending a strong message to Congress that we support strong payday loan protections, and that we want fair, affordable loans – not payday and title loans with triple-digit interest rates that trap Illinoisans in a cycle of debt,” said Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate with Heartland Alliance.

“Access to fair, affordable credit is particularly important for low-income and working consumers, who often need it to weather emergencies or make investments that lead to opportunities at upward mobility,” said Kevin Herrera, Legal Impact Network Staff Attorney at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “But far too many payday lenders in Illinois and throughout the country prey on consumers in their most desperate times, snaring them in vicious cycles of 300-plus percent interest debt traps that ultimately drive them deeper into financial trouble.”

“Payday loans specifically target lower-income families who are least able to afford to repay the loans. We urge Congress to protect these vulnerable consumers by issuing strong support for the Consumer Bureau’s rule,” said Abe Scarr, Executive Director at Illinois PIRG.

“Any attempt to repeal the Consumer Bureau’s payday protections is an assault against the country’s most vulnerable people,” said Woodstock Institute President Dory Rand. “These protections require lenders to determine that borrowers can actually repay the loan in full and on time. We stand with the 35 other Illinois organizations who will fight to stop the payday lending debt trap.”

See Our Senate Letter 

See Our House Letter

View the Fact Sheet


Act Now to Support Health Centers!

12/14/2017— Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are front-line sources of health care for millions of people who struggle to afford care or live in neighborhoods with limited medical resources. In Illinois, they serve about 1.3 million Illinoisans and employ over 7,500 people across the state. If Congress doesn’t act now, these community health centers will lose most of their funding, leaving many Illinoisans without quality health care.

As our leaders in Washington were consumed with other high-profile battles, they allowed the Health Center Fund that supports these health centers to quietly expire on September 30, 2017. There is bi-partisan support for the Health Center Fund, but Congress has thus far let extending funding fall through the cracks. Time is running out.

We need you to call your members of Congress NOW at 202-224-3121 and demand that they extend the Health Center Fund in the year-end funding bill they are currently negotiating.

The consequences will be dire if Congress does not extend FQHC funding:

• Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans will not get needed care

• Nine million fewer patients will get care nationwide

• 2,800 sites will close

• 50,000 people will lose their jobs

Congress will be trying to pass a funding bill to keep the government running by December 22. This is the last chance to extend FQHC funding before clinics are forced to cut services and staff at the start of the 2018 grant year. It is not enough for our Congressional leaders to say they support funding, they need to act now.

Call all three of your members of Congress TODAY at 202-224-3121 and make sure we protect the health care our communities depend on!


Tell Your Senators to VOTE NO to a Tax Plan that Hurts Low and Middle Income Americans!

Earlier this month the House passed their version of a tax overhaul bill which, if enacted, would benefit corporations and those who make the most at the expense of programs and services that benefit low and middle-income people. Yesterday, the Senate cleared a procedural hurdle that will bring this bill to a vote as early as later this week.
Fair tax and revenue structures are critical for supporting investments in programs that address poverty and inequity and promote opportunity. These are moral decisions with human consequences. This tax plan, however, all but guarantees that vital programs and services—like Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and education—will be cut. Each day Heartland Alliance sees the extraordinary importance of these programs in the lives of people experiencing poverty and inequity.

We need to speak out NOW and urge our Senators to oppose this ill-conceived tax plan. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and demand that your Senators oppose this bill and any bill that balloons the deficit, attacks the Affordable Care Act, and makes low and middle-income individuals pay for tax cuts for wealthy corporations and those that have the
These tax bills take us backwards in the fight to address poverty and inequity. Together, they would:

• Increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion or more, foreshadowing deep cuts to anti-poverty programs – perhaps even as early as next year.
• Increase the uninsured by 13 million, increasing average premiums by over $1,000, and create more instability in the health insurance market by repealing the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
• Permanently increase taxes for middle-class and other households in the years to come in order to pay for tax breaks for wealthy corporations and others who have the most.
This plan does not pave a path of safety, stability and opportunity for America.Stripping resources from low and middle income Americans to benefit the wealthiest among us will drive inequity and increase hardship. We must stand against this tax plan.

Please, call your Senators TODAY at 202-224-3121 and urge them to oppose the tax plan and demand that they fight to protect the programs and services that keep our communities strong!


Illinois Passes Student Loan Bill of Rights

11/8/2017— Last night, with a vote of 98-16, the Illinois House voted to override the Governor’s veto of SB1351, the Student Loan Bill of Rights! The law, which goes into effect at the end of 2018, protects thousands of Illinois students seeking an education.

“We applaud the Illinois General Assembly for overriding the Governor’s veto and supporting Illinois students and their families. By passing the Student Loan Bill of Rights, Illinois has taken meaningful action to address the growing student loan crisis, rein in the abuses of student loan servicers, and help borrowers successfully repay their loans and build financial security,” says Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate at Heartland Alliance. “Students of color are disproportionately affected by the student loan crisis, making this law an important step towards greater racial equity in Illinois.”

We are grateful to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Senator Biss, and Representative Guzzardi for their leadership on the bill and their commitment to strong consumer protections for student loan borrowers.

The protections under the new law are aimed at stopping the abuses of the student loan servicing industry that make it more difficult for borrowers to repay their loans. The Student Loan Bill of Rights ensures that students receive accurate billing statements, timely notification about payment plan deadlines, information about all of the repayment options available to them, and more. The bill also provides oversight and licensing of loan servicers in Illinois and establishes a Student Loan Ombudsman as a resource for borrowers.

We cannot thank you enough for your support! Because of dedicated legislators, our amazing advocacy partners, and YOU, Illinois students are better positioned to succeed.


This Tax Plan Does Not Pave a Path of Safety, Stability and Opportunity

 11/3/2017 — Yesterday, Congressional House Republicans unveiled a sweeping $1.51 trillion bill that rewrites the tax code, The Tax Cut and Jobs Act. By all measures, the bill benefits the wealthiest individuals in our nation at the expense of critical programs and services that benefit low and middle-income people. Each day we see the extraordinary importance of these programs in the lives of the people Heartland Alliance, and our partners, serve.

Fair tax and revenue structures are critical for supporting investments in programs that address poverty and inequity and promote opportunity.These are moral decisions with human consequences. Yet, this tax plan signals that this administration does not value supporting the needs of low to middle-income people by all but guaranteeing that vital programs and services — like Medicaid and education will be cut — while prioritizing tax cuts the wealthiest in the country.

This plan does not pave a path of safety, stability and opportunity for America. We will continue to uphold the needs and rights of middle and low-income people and fight against plans like this that erode vital programs.

Learn more and take action.
 Contact us with questions.


Heartland Alliance Celebrates Senate Defeat of ACA Repeal

Heartland Alliance believes that everyone deserves quality, affordable health care. After relentless attempts to strip millions of Americans of health coverage, we celebrate the announcement that the U.S. Senate will not call the Graham-Cassidy Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill for a vote. We urge Senators now to turn to bipartisan solutions to strengthen our health care system and provide equitable and affordable health care for all.

The pressure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been fierce, but our advocacy and commitment to protecting the health and well-being of our neighbors has once again proven stronger than those who wish to roll back the ACA. We want to thank all who called, wrote letters, attended rallies, and protested against the dismantling of our healthcare system. Concerned residents in Illinois and across the country should rejoice and know that millions of Americans have health coverage today thanks to their efforts.

While we have survived yet another challenge, the struggle to realize a health care system that works for everyone is not nearly over. The insurance markets are unstable thanks to repeated efforts at repeal and other actions by the administration such as the refusal to commit to paying federal subsidies to insurers, slashing the ACA’s outreach and marketing budgets, and curtailing this year’s open enrollment period. These counterproductive actions only serve to harm families, drive up premiums and continue to stoke calls for drastic change.

Instead, members of Congress should continue bipartisan negotiations aimed at resolving the instability caused in recent months. Bipartisan groups of Governors, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives have all issued proposals that would provide certainty to insurance markets and reduce premiums for families. We implore our elected officials to return to these proposals and reject further repeal efforts.

So today, we urge you both to take a moment to celebrate yet remain vigilant. Your efforts have taken our country a step towards ending poverty and providing health care to all. And as we celebrate, know that our next fight is waiting for us. We will continue until we fulfill our nation’s promise to provide everyone – regardless of their background or situation – the health care they need for themselves and their families to thrive.


We Stand with Dreamers and will Defend DACA

9/8/2017 —The Trump Administration announced its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Though this announcement was expected, we are nonetheless outraged and continue to stand unified and in strong support of our affected colleagues, participants, and community members. Please see below for more on this issue from Heartland Alliance’s President, Evelyn Diaz.

“Heartland Alliance believes society is better for everyone when all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We stand with the 800,000 young adults who may lose their protections due to President Trump’s decision. Because of DACA, individuals were able to remain in their homes, support their families, complete their education, launch careers, and live without fear that they may suddenly be exiled. Allowing these young people to work, get a higher education, and contribute to their communities has benefitted society.

Even more painful than the economic loss, stripping away these protections dismantles the social bonds and connections that have made our entire society stronger. Young people who were once unafraid of deportation must now think twice before contacting authorities, engaging with government services, or trusting law enforcement.

Heartland Alliance serves DACA recipients every single day. We partner with them as they pursue their educational, work, housing, and other life goals. We know who these young people are and just how integral they are to our community — and we will not give up on them. We will continue to fight for immigrant families and refugees– and we will work with legislative officials and our advocate partners to find a permanent solution and create a roadmap to citizenship.

For more information about the loss of DACA protections and the services provided by Heartland Alliance and NIJC, please click here. Additionally, please support efforts to encourage Congress to defend DACA and all immigrant communities by passing legislation that protects recipients and respects the rights of all undocumented immigrants.”