Carle-backed legislation brings stability for families in need in Illinois
When Jonathan Woods, MSN, Executive Director of Community Health Initiatives, started working on the Healthy Beginnings, he had no idea that it would one day lead him to the state capital to lobby for legislation to help his patients – but it did.
“I think the experience of working with Healthy Beginnings has led to a much deeper understanding and respect for how some in our community live, the adversity they face, and the barriers they have to living a healthy life,” said Woods. “Being invited into someone’s home is an incredibly intimate opportunity and provides such a broader perspective of how someone lives, the resources they have and don’t have, as well as the support system that they have available to them.”
Carle Healthy Beginnings services is an initiative started to combat the challenges low-income families face. A major component is an in-home nursing program that works with expectant mothers and their families for the first two years of a child’s life.
“Some of the feedback that was received while employee rounding was cascaded up to leadership and it drew attention that there was a very specific need when it came to employment, benefits and how the current process de-incentivized someone from getting a job. We heard how the loss of benefits often did not translate to an equitable amount of income from the job,” said Woods.
With these clients in mind, nurses and leadership from Healthy Beginnings and members of the Carle Government Relations began working through what would eventually turn into legislation Senate Bill 3232. This work also impacted community members participating in the Carle Job Readiness and Learning Program, an eight week paid training program with the intent to provide career training with ultimately full-time employment.
The legislations intends to:
Create a 5 year demonstration program under the Illinois Public Aid Code to amplify privately funded bridge to self-sufficiency projects.
Support the self-sufficiency projects (Healthy Beginnings and the Job Readiness and Learning Program) funded by Carle Foundation.
Allow newly gained income to be disregarded for a period of 36 months, as long as participants are in the program.
Project focus areas: workforce training and healthy families.
The demonstration is capped at no more than 500 individuals at a time.
Research on the success of the program and annual reporting will be required by the entity.
Clarify that no GRF will be used for the support services of the demonstration program; and
Require the annual reports to be submitted electronically.
The group partnered with key area legislators Senator Chapin Rose, Representative Chad Hays, Senator Scott Bennett and Representative Carol Ammons to bring the legislation forward and in May it passed with bi-partisan support turning SB 3232 to Public Act 100-0806.
“The public act allows for these individuals to maintain a level of supportive benefits while the individual is engaged in seeking employment and moving towards economic self-sufficiency. The current system makes it too uncertain and vulnerable to fall into a state of crisis when any financial need arises. I believe that by investing in individuals through this public act and the work of either Healthy Beginnings or the Job Readiness and Learning Program, we can assist individuals to truly reach self-sufficiency and not be so vulnerable to slip back into a state of dependency on benefits,” said Woods.