Advocating for Policy Change
In pursuit of our goal to close the Chicago region’s racial and ethnic wealth gap, we are activating our resources and working collaboratively with partners across the nonprofit, civic and business sectors, as well as with our donors, to tackle this multifaceted issue.
However, the racial and ethnic wealth gap is a systemic issue that cannot be solved by programmatic interventions alone. It was caused by discriminatory policies and systems that intentionally excluded Black and Latinx communities from accumulating wealth and reinforced economic disparities over time. Closing the wealth gap will require policy reforms to help us achieve our vision of a thriving, equitable, and connected Chicago region.
Our Commitment to Policy & Advocacy
The Trust supports nonprofit organizations engaged in policy research, advocacy, and community organizing and using our voice and platform to engage directly in policy and advocacy efforts. In alignment with our strategic plan, we have identified policy areas we believe will contribute to wealth-building for Black and Latinx families and communities. We know our entire region will benefit when everyone has the opportunity to meet their economic potential.
We will thoughtfully and strategically determine the best way for the Trust to use our voice for each issue we take on, be it joining a coalition, taking a public stance, or urging lawmaker action. We have developed an approach to advocating for policy change to bring about the systemic reforms needed to build a truly equitable region.
Our Top Policy Priorities
We have prioritized three issues where we believe our advocacy can bring about policy solutions aligned with our strategic objectives and our charitable mission. Over time, we expect our policy priorities will shift as progress is made, the political landscape shifts, and additional opportunities emerge that will help us advance our work.
Equitable Economic Recovery
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Black and Latinx individuals, small businesses, nonprofits, and communities. Our local, state, and federal governments have responded with critical aid packages and regulatory reforms to meet the needs of communities, families, and individuals across the country. At the Trust, we are committed to advocating for communities hardest hit by the pandemic, be it from high infection rates, job losses, wage decreases, or business closures. As more aid reaches our region, we’ll continue monitoring the dissemination of resources and advocate for local budgets and interventions that will achieve an equitable recovery.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of most well-studied and proven federal programs to keep working families out of poverty. The Trust has put expansion of the federal and state EITC at the top of our policy agenda. With COVID-19 leaving millions of people with reduced wages, the American Rescue Plan Act temporarily expanded the EITC’s eligibility requirements and value. At the state level, legislation has been introduced to extend the Illinois Earned Income Credit (EIC) to a wider group of working taxpayers, including individual tax ID numbers (ITIN) and unpaid caregivers unable to enter the workforce due to caring obligations for loved ones. Learn more about the Trust’s efforts to support EITC expansion.
Donor Advised Funds and Other Charitable Policies
Donor advised funds (DAFs) are important charitable vehicles that allow donors to streamline and optimize charitable giving, helping them meet their philanthropic goals. They are also integral to the Trust’s ability to achieve our vision of a thriving, equitable, and connected Chicago region. Because the funds are already earmarked for charity, they can be mobilized quickly and easily when donors want to increase their giving. The surge of giving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of DAFs in addressing urgent needs. We are tracking proposed regulatory and legislative changes to DAFs and engaging in ongoing dialogues with our donors, fellow community foundations, policymakers, and grant recipients on how best to encourage giving and respond to the enormous needs of our communities.
Additional Policy Areas of Focus
We have identified additional policy topics where we can meaningfully engage in thoughtful, informed policy innovation and development. These topics include areas where we believe additional groundwork must be laid to advance policy and systems change. To lay this groundwork, we are supporting research, hosting convenings, and providing grant support for coalition-building, policy innovation, and development. Some examples of these topics and the work we are doing include:
Improve Access to Affordable Home Lending
The Trust is looking at how policy reforms can improve lending opportunities that build wealth in Black and Latinx communities, including strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), appraisal reform, and other issues. You can read the Trust’s recent comment letter submitted with other funders on proposed rules regarding the CRA here.
Reduce Predatory Lending Practices
The Trust is looking at how policy reforms can reduce predatory lending practices and increase availability of affordable small-dollar loan products for Black and Latinx communities. We have grant support to organizations including the Woodstock Institute and Heartland Alliance that have contributed to the recent passage of the Anti-Predatory Lending Act in the Illinois. We have also supported a New America Chicago Fellow to work with the coalition to identify alternatives to high-interest payday and title lenders.
Secure Vacant and Underutilized Properties
The Trust is working with partners to improve systems that secure vacant, abandoned, and underutilized properties as community assets in Black and Latinx communities. We supported recent research by the Center for Municipal Finance on the Cook County Tax Scavenger Sale that highlights challenges with the process.
The Trust and our partners are looking into how to enhance public safety through policing and criminal justice reforms. Last fall, the Trust and Illinois Justice Project co-hosted a four-part dialogue series on police accountability and reform in Chicago, The Past, Present and Future of Policing in Chicago. Read our top takeaways from the series.