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Finding the Balance: State Fiscal Sustainability and Local Government Fiscal Challenges

May 05, 2024
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Should Illinois Eliminate the State Grocery Tax?

April 04, 2024
The state of Illinois imposes a “Retailer’s Occupation Tax” (ROT), or sales tax, of 6.25% on general merchandise and 1% on qualifying food, drugs, and medical appliances.1 The 1% tax is charged on most food items for,home consumption, or “food at home” (FAH) and is often referred to as a “grocery tax.” The state grocery tax plays a role in local government finance because a portion of state receipts are passed through to municipalities. Illinois is among 13 states that impose a grocery tax.
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Working from Home in Illinois: Who Can and Does?

February 02, 2024
The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a once-in-a-lifetime disruption of interpersonal activities.  Attendance at in-person gatherings, whether for school, work, family, or even worship, was either restricted or prohibited altogether. Today, many societal functions such as education, entertainment, worship, and travel have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, many commercial activities—especially white-collar office jobs—remain online or are now “hybrid” (i.e., with both remote and in-person options). This shift from working at office buildings or other job sites to one’s own home (WFH) in some sectors of the economy disrupted labor markets and remains an enduring societal reminder of the pandemic.
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Eviction Expectations in the Aftermath of the Pandemic Moratoria

December 12, 2023
As national, state, and city moratoria on eviction expired in 2021, many predicted an ensuing housing crisis, maybe especially severe for non-white renters. Census Bureau survey data from 2020 through 2023, however, reveal little evidence of that expected chaos. Non-white renters remain more likely to be in arrears than their white counterparts, but the proportions of renters behind on payment have been falling for all groups. Anxiety about near-term eviction among renters, nationally, and in three midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri), is broadly similar across racial groups, and has fallen gradually as the moratoria recede into history.
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Geographic Differences in the Mortality Burden of the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 09, 2023
This study examines how the mortality burden of the Covid-19 pandemic varied across US states during the time period April 2020 through December 2022. The disparities were substantial, with figures ranging from 318 years of life lost (YLL) per 10,000 population in New York to 1,285 YLL per 10,000 population in New Mexico. Illinois experienced a loss of 588 YLL per 10,000, situating it within the bottom third of states in terms of total loss of life. Overall, Southern and Western states exhibited the highest YLL, while Northeastern states, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest exhibited the lowest YLL. States that voted for the 2020 Republican presidential candidate experienced greater losses. This loss of life will have multifaceted implications for public finances.
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What Happened to Illinois’ Open Data Movement?

September 09, 2023
Under Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois passed the Open Operating Standards Act (Public Act 98-627) which established policy for the state government's open data portal. Effective in 2014, the act states: "Public data sets that are made available on the Internet by agencies shall be accessible through a single web portal that is linked to data.illinois.gov or any successor website." Illinois thereby formally prioritized open data as a state policy. The main web portal, data.illinois.gov, was established to make accessible state government agencies' numerous datasets in a single location. Several other states in the country have also initiated open-data efforts in recent years. The importance of open data and reproducible research has been described in past IGPA reports but this report focuses on Illinois specifically: What is the current state of…
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Addressing Barriers to Homelessness Data in Illinois

June 06, 2023
While long-term trends in homelessness rates have been in decline, rates started to increase in 2015. In Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker signed an executive order in 2021 establishing an Interagency Task Force on Homelessness with the goal of achieving Functional Zero homelessness state-wide. One of the major hurdles state governments face in addressing homelessness is a lack of current and accurate data reporting. This is not because the data do not exist—some exist—but more so because the data are not shared well or even formatted in a way that facilitates sharing.
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The Impact of COVID on Illinois’ Licensed Child Care Capacity

April 04, 2023
Affordable, high-quality child care is often difficult for parents to find. Illinois is no exception. Child Care Aware reports that the average monthly price of full-time child care was $821 per child in child care or 15% of the median household income for a family with children under 6 in 2020. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that access and affordability issues long pre-date COVID and are due to “generations of underinvestment in the care economy. This Policy Spotlight on child care assesses the impact of COVID on child care capacity in Illinois.
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Recovering from a COVID (Spending) Fever

March 03, 2023
When the state of Illinois’ 2022 fiscal year ended on June 30, 2022, the state and the nation had endured more than 27 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a plethora of health, societal, and economic challenges, Illinois emerged from this period in its strongest fiscal position in more than two decades. This fortuitous result was in part due to the exceptional generosity of federal aid but also was attributable to surges in economic activity and own source tax revenue. State spending also rose but much more slowly than revenue. The net result was the first substantially positive fiscal balance since 1998. While this good news may be cause to celebrate, we caution that Illinois’ fiscal situation remains tenuous and is likely to require diligence and restraint to remain healthy…
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Assessing Illinois’ Fiscal Future After an Influx of Federal Funds

March 03, 2023
As the U.S. continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, state governments are faced with the challenge of prudent fiscal management considering the pandemic’s uncertain course into the near future. However, as reported elsewhere, states' revenues have largely fared better than expected at the pandemic’s onset. Illinois is no exception. Unprecedented federal stimulus and other measures have helped boost Illinois’ revenues beyond initial projections in 2021. Nominal revenue across all funds rose to $91.4 billion in 2021. Total expenditures rose to $92.3 billion in 2021. The temporary influx of federal funds and the pandemic driven increase in yearly expenditures and revenues makes it difficult to fully capture the change in Illinois’ long term fiscal health. Both spending and revenues have increased significantly beyond their long-term trends. This…
Read More

Replenish, Replace, Repair: How Illinois is Using its ARPA Aid

January 01, 2023
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the United States found themselves grappling with a public health crisis while simultaneously experiencing sharp declines in revenue collections. For the State of Illinois, this situation was especially challenging as it had little in reserve funds and billions in backlogged bills. Illinois’ fiscal challenges had been building for years, and so the fiscal effects of the pandemic compounded the state’s financial predicament. In this article, we focus on the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) program, which set aside $350 billion inflexible federal aid to states, counties, cities, Tribal governments, territories, and the District of Columbia. Under that program, Illinois’ state government was allocated $8.1 billion in federal aid that state lawmakers have a relatively broad level of…
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Race and Eviction During the Pandemic

October 10, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic altered almost all aspects of life, including judicial proceedings. In response to the need for social distancing to keep users of the justice system safe, courts rapidly instituted unprecedented public health precautions that participants in the court system described as chaotic.1 Courts delayed and deferred cases. They also undertook a period of experimentation with remote and virtual operations. Few if any areas of law were untouched, but landlord-tenant law was especially disrupted. Early in the pandemic, some states and then the federal government put in place broad moratoria on (most) evictions, so that a large class of legal cases was indefinitely put on hold. This Policy Spotlight reviews novel national survey data of attorneys, judges and other court personnel, as well as individuals who had courts experiences…
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Why does Illinois’ Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund have a large deficit?

August 08, 2022
The economic disruption brought about by Covid and stay-at-home orders led to an unprecedented rise in unemployment and extreme fiscal stress on states’ unemployment insurance (UI) trust funds. Although this happened in nearly all U.S. states, Illinois is one of only a few states that emerged with a very large—more than $4 billion—net deficit in the fund. Through this analysis, we seek to understand Illinois’ experience and draw lessons about policy going forward. We begin by providing some background about the UI system and its financing.
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Carbon Tax Revenues Can be Used to Help Those Who Lose

June 06, 2022
Climate change is not only causing heatwaves and sea level rise but also increasing the frequency and severity of floods, droughts, and forest wildfires. Illinois is not immune to these climate damages.  
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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on State Court Proceedings

May 05, 2022
This Policy Spotlight was created through a partnership with the National Center for State Courts. The authors examine the ways COVID-19 mitigation policies affected state courts during the pandemic and highlight areas where changes intended to keep courts functioning led to uneven access. The report draws its findings from surveys and focus groups that included litigants, lawyers, judges and court personnel. It is the first in a series from IGPA that will explore how COVID-19 affected access to justice during the pandemic, and it comes as Illinois and other states evaluate the impact of the pandemic and consider how court proceedings may operate in the future.
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The Earth Isn’t Flat, and Neither is Illinois’ — or Any Other State’s — Income Tax

April 04, 2022
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Was Illinois Debt Disproportionately Penalized by the Market During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

January 01, 2022
For many, their perception of the world changed dramatically in March 2020. On March 13, President Donald Trump signed Proclamation 9994, declaring a national emergency because of the coronavirus and associated COVID-19 illness. There were just over 500 cases reported that day nationwide, with only a handful in Illinois. Just two weeks later, the nation was experiencing more than 17,000 cases per day, with Illinois accounting for about 500 of those cases. Naturally, there was much uncertainty and panicduring the early days of the pandemic about the finances of state and local governments. The question we ask in this paper is whether Illinois bond issuers paid a relatively higher price for its perceived precarious fiscal position entering the COVID-19-induced economic downturn. With such a sudden and dramatic effect on relative…
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Guarding all infants in sleep

November 11, 2021
The loss of a baby is an extremely traumatic event and has enduring effects that ripple out from parents to their extended families, friends, and co-workers. Educating parents and other infant caregivers about making infants’ sleep settings safer can help prevent these tragedies and the considerable resulting emotional despair and productivity loss. A sizable racial disparity in rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also troubles many people from a social justice perspective, spurring interest in understanding why the gap persists and how to reduce it. Although death rates from SIDS for both non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black babies fell during the back-to-sleep campaigns of the early 1990s, the gap between the two groups remains large. This is true in Illinois as well as the nation as a whole. The…
Read More

Women’s Housing Precarity During and Beyond COVID-19

July 07, 2021
COVID-19 has amplified gendered disparities in caregiving, work, and housing in the United States. This Policy Spotlight brings together the latest research and data to discuss the intersection of these disparities with regard to the anticipated eviction crisis in Illinois. Housing insecurity and potential evictions will affect thousands of Illinois single-parent households, most of whom are female-headed, and disproportionately Black and Latino. This will likely lead to a sustained crisis of financial, health, and housing fluctuation, and set back historic gains in women’s equality.The recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was signed into law in March 2021 is an important step in the right direction, as are the federal moratorium extension and federal endeavors. However, there are challenges with getting assistance to where it is needed. There is a…
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Illinois’ Fiscal Challenges: Where are we now and how do we proceed?

April 04, 2021
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Featured

Interim IGPA Director David Merriman discusses tax increment financing for Rays stadium (Tampa Bay Times)

May 05, 2024
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Finding the Balance: State Fiscal Sustainability and Local Government Fiscal Challenges

May 05, 2024
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April University of Illinois System Flash Index increases for the third month in a row

May 05, 2024
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IGPA’s Interim Director David Merriman gives analysis after Gov. Pritzker’s budget address on NPR’s The 21st Show (NPR)

February 02, 2024
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IGPA’s Interim Director David Merriman joins NPR’s The 21st Show to preview Gov. Pritzker’s budget address (NPR)

February 02, 2024
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IGPA’s Interim Director David Merriman previews Gov. Pritzker’s budget address (Chicago Tribune)

February 02, 2024
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IGPA’s Interim Director David Merriman comments on Chicago Mayor Johnson’s borrowing plan (WBEZ)

February 02, 2024
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IGPA’s Interim Director David Merriman discusses the proposed state budget (CBSNews)

February 02, 2024
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IGPA’s Beverly Bunch Warns of Fiscal Cliff for Illinois (The Center Square)

December 12, 2023
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Recovering from a COVID (Spending) Fever

March 03, 2023
When the state of Illinois’ 2022 fiscal year ended on June 30, 2022, the state and the nation had endured more than 27 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a plethora of health, societal, and economic challenges, Illinois emerged from this period in its strongest fiscal position in more than two decades. This fortuitous result was in part due to the exceptional generosity of federal aid but also was attributable to surges in economic activity and own source tax revenue. State spending also rose but much more slowly than revenue. The net result was the first substantially positive fiscal balance since 1998. While this good news may be cause to celebrate, we caution that Illinois’ fiscal situation remains tenuous and is likely to require diligence and restraint to remain healthy…
Read More

Assessing Illinois’ Fiscal Future After an Influx of Federal Funds

March 03, 2023
As the U.S. continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, state governments are faced with the challenge of prudent fiscal management considering the pandemic’s uncertain course into the near future. However, as reported elsewhere, states' revenues have largely fared better than expected at the pandemic’s onset. Illinois is no exception. Unprecedented federal stimulus and other measures have helped boost Illinois’ revenues beyond initial projections in 2021. Nominal revenue across all funds rose to $91.4 billion in 2021. Total expenditures rose to $92.3 billion in 2021. The temporary influx of federal funds and the pandemic driven increase in yearly expenditures and revenues makes it difficult to fully capture the change in Illinois’ long term fiscal health. Both spending and revenues have increased significantly beyond their long-term trends. This…
Read More

February U of I Flash Index increased slightly  

March 03, 2023
Urbana – The U of I Flash Index for February 2023 increased to 103.4 from the 103.1 level in January, fueled by strong Illinois state revenues. The Illinois economy is still growing moderately after the surge of the recovery from the COVID recession.  “In what has become a repetitious summary over the last six months, the Illinois and national economies still provide no clear signals of whether a soft landing or modest recession is in store later this year.” Giertz said in fact, a third possibility has been suggested, one of no landing at all with continued modest growth. The unemployment rate remains low, inflation is moderating although not as rapidly as the Federal Reserve would like, consumer spending continues at a rapid pace, and supply bottlenecks are easing. However, the housing market is…
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January U of I Flash Index continued to decline slowly 

February 02, 2023
Urbana – The U of I Flash Index for January 2023 continued to decline slowly, falling to 103.1 from the 103.3 level in December 2022.  The lower index reading does not mean the Illinois economy is contracting because any reading above 100 indicates growth. “This extends the slow decline of the index that began in May of last year. This reflects the slowing of growth after the remarkable recovery from the steep decline during the beginning of the Covid crisis.  Illinois and the national economies are still growing but at a slower rate.” Giertz said the mixed economic signals that have characterized recent months continue to make it difficult to determine whether the slowing economy is moving toward a soft landing or a recession in 2023. On the positive side,…
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Replenish, Replace, Repair: How Illinois is Using its ARPA Aid

January 01, 2023
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the United States found themselves grappling with a public health crisis while simultaneously experiencing sharp declines in revenue collections. For the State of Illinois, this situation was especially challenging as it had little in reserve funds and billions in backlogged bills. Illinois’ fiscal challenges had been building for years, and so the fiscal effects of the pandemic compounded the state’s financial predicament. In this article, we focus on the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) program, which set aside $350 billion inflexible federal aid to states, counties, cities, Tribal governments, territories, and the District of Columbia. Under that program, Illinois’ state government was allocated $8.1 billion in federal aid that state lawmakers have a relatively broad level of…
Read More

December U of I Flash Index declined slightly 

January 01, 2023
Urbana – After a one-month reprieve, the U of I Flash Index for December continued its slow decline that began in May, falling to 103.3 compared to 103.7 for November. The lower index reading does not mean the Illinois economy is contracting because any reading above 100 indicates growth. “In retrospect, 2022 could be characterized as a year on the brink, but with no real resolution. The unanswered question is the ultimate destination for the Illinois and national economies: recession or soft landing.”  Giertz said the economic signs remain ambiguous. Quarterly GDP was down in the first two quarters of 2022 but increased in the third quarter with forecasts suggesting another increase in the fourth quarter. Employment remained strong with unemployment low compared to usual recessionary levels. Illinois’ rate was…
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November U of I Flash Index remained steady at 103.7 after seven months of decline.

December 12, 2022
Urbana – After seven months of decline, The U of I Flash Index for November remained steady at 103.7 compared to October’s reading.  “This is based on the continued strong performance of Illinois state revenues. Uncertainties about Illinois and national economies continue to be a concern. This centers on how aggressive the Federal Reserve will be in its efforts to quell inflation. As mentioned last month, the data are consistent with either a soft landing (a slowing economy without a recession) or a modest downturn.”  Giertz said the positive signs include the expectation that the Fed will not increase interest rates as much as assumed a few months ago, the partial recovery of equity markets (that are forward-looking) after their recent steep declines, and the continued strength of employment. However,…
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October U of I Flash Index declined for the seventh straight month

November 11, 2022
Urbana – The U of I Flash Index for October fell again to 103.7 compared to the 104.1 reading in September. This marks the seventh straight month of decline since the Index reached a post-recession peak of 106.1 in March of this year. The lower index reading does not mean the Illinois economy is contracting because any reading above 100 indicates growth. “This is a clear slowing of the Illinois economy, but it must be remembered that the 100-level is the dividing line between growth and decline. The obvious question is whether the U. S. and Illinois economies are heading for a recession. So far, the results are consistent both with a soft-landing (a slowing without a decline) and a recession with the probability of a recession increasing somewhat.”  Giertz…
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IGPA’s Don Fullerton discusses how the Inflation Reduction Act will affect US environmental policy (Illinois Newsroom)

August 08, 2022
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IGPA report cited in article about Illinois unemployment (Capitol Fax)

August 08, 2022
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New report from IGPA shows potential reasons why the unemployment trust fund in Illinois has a large deficit.

August 08, 2022
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Featured

The Opioid Epidemic Meets the COVID-19 Pandemic (Forum)

April 04, 2021
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IGPA’s Robin Wilson discusses her work on laws banning pelvic exams on anesthetized women without prior consent (Route Fifty)

February 02, 2020
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James Swartz discusses his research, which found that the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion didn’t increase opioid deaths (WILL Radio)

October 10, 2019
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IGPA’s Robert Kaestner discusses impact of new California smoking-age law (PBS Newshour)

June 06, 2016
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Featured

Guarding all infants in sleep

November 11, 2021
The loss of a baby is an extremely traumatic event and has enduring effects that ripple out from parents to their extended families, friends, and co-workers. Educating parents and other infant caregivers about making infants’ sleep settings safer can help prevent these tragedies and the considerable resulting emotional despair and productivity loss. A sizable racial disparity in rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also troubles many people from a social justice perspective, spurring interest in understanding why the gap persists and how to reduce it. Although death rates from SIDS for both non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black babies fell during the back-to-sleep campaigns of the early 1990s, the gap between the two groups remains large. This is true in Illinois as well as the nation as a whole. The…
Read More

IGPA’s Elizabeth Powers discusses reopening schools and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the economic prospects of women who have young children (The Christian Science Monitor)

July 07, 2021
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Professor Elizabeth Powers discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on working mothers (Illinois Times)

June 06, 2021
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IGPA Senior Scholar Elizabeth T. Powers discusses COVID-19’s impact on women at work (NPR Illinois)

April 04, 2021
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Ongoing Expert Advice on Pandemic Policies

September 09, 2020
Policy, understanding and expectations are not in line with what infectious disease experts know—we are in the first mile of a marathon.
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Children at Risk: Ensuring Child Safety During the Pandemic

May 05, 2020
     
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Featured

IGPA’s Ruby Mendenhall Discusses NAACP ACT-SO (WCIA Champaign)

April 04, 2024
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IGPA’s Robin Wilson on the legal implications of Dobbs (FIR Podcast Network)

July 07, 2022
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IGPA’s Mazzone and Wilson: Illinois should prep for influx of out-of-state abortion seekers (Op-ed) (Chicago Tribune)

May 05, 2022
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IGPA’s Ruby Mendenhall on the state of racial inequality in the U.S. (ClevelandFed)

February 02, 2022
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Women’s Housing Precarity During and Beyond COVID-19

July 07, 2021
COVID-19 has amplified gendered disparities in caregiving, work, and housing in the United States. This Policy Spotlight brings together the latest research and data to discuss the intersection of these disparities with regard to the anticipated eviction crisis in Illinois. Housing insecurity and potential evictions will affect thousands of Illinois single-parent households, most of whom are female-headed, and disproportionately Black and Latino. This will likely lead to a sustained crisis of financial, health, and housing fluctuation, and set back historic gains in women’s equality.The recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was signed into law in March 2021 is an important step in the right direction, as are the federal moratorium extension and federal endeavors. However, there are challenges with getting assistance to where it is needed. There is a…
Read More

Mitigating Housing Instability During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 03, 2021
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Does crop insurance impact water use?

June 06, 2018
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February 13, 2024 - February 13, 2024

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November 7, 2023 - November 7, 2023

IGPA Faculty Coffee – Jonathan Coppess
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