Black Caucus Celebrates Signing of Historic Reforms to Advance Economic Access, Equity and Oppor.
CHICAGO — As Illinois works to build an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a slate of reforms spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) to expand economic access, equity and opportunity.
“These measures are a major step forward not only for the residents of underserved and disadvantaged communities, but the state as a whole,” ILBC Joint Caucus Chairperson state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, said. “This package will help give a pathway to opportunity for Illinoisans who have had obstacles in their path due to systemic problems facing communities including disinvestment and racism.”
“Our nation’s systems were designed to keep Black people from owning businesses, buying homes and fostering economically prosperous communities. To achieve real equity in Illinois, we must dismantle these systems and rebuild them in a way that gives African Americans the chance to succeed,” Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, D-Maywood, said. “This package of legislation is a critical step toward leveling the playing field and empowering Black Illinoisans to rise to their full potential as entrepreneurs, homeowners, company executives and more.”
“Just as it is with redlining, with bias in insurance rates, and with the ongoing disparity in home lending, this is not just about financial ethics. It’s about racial justice,” state Senator Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, said. “There is a growing understanding among Illinoisans that these financial systems target people of color and entrench racial poverty. When we have honest, hard conversations, we can topple barriers.” “It’s a victory for all of Illinois when we can come together to increase opportunities for the people of our state, especially those that have historically been left behind and faced discrimination, “state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford said. “Helping ensure that all Illinoisans and Illinois businesses have a path to prosperity is critical to securing the future of our state and the success of our families.”
“Encouraging the success of minority workers and businesses starts with pushing for equality in the workforce and in government contracting,” state Sen. Christopher Belt, D- Centreville, said. “A diverse business community makes our economy richer and stronger. When we break down barriers to economic access, equity and opportunity, it isn’t just minorities that get a boost—the whole state benefits.” “These measures take major strides towards creating the equity we need for state contractors and Black-owned and minority businesses. These businesses are fully capable of doing the job yet for too long they’ve been denied the opportunity,” state Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, said. “Looking forward, I will continue to work together with my colleagues to ensure that state government utilizes the service of Black businesses and other local businesses in state contracts.”
“For too long African American entrepreneurs and prospective small business owners have been denied access to the capital necessary to create jobs and provide services and products to local communities,” state Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields, said. “The disparity studies conducted under this legislation will help provide guidance to the legislature as we continue our work to remedy historic discrimination against African Americans and ensure economic opportunity for all people in Illinois.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the work of the Black Caucus in shepherding these critical measures into law to help lift up Illinoisans who have been left behind for generations,” ILBC House Chairperson state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, said. “The push for equitable solutions to the economic problems faced by African Americans and disadvantaged Illinois begins here, but it does not stop here. As the work to create a better future for Illinois families continues, ensuring that the promise of economic access, equity and opportunity is met for all families will be a top priority for the Black Caucus.” Measures enacted into law today by Pritzker include:
Senate Bill 1480, which lowers barriers for reentry into the workforce for people with criminal records by requiring employers to make individual assessments of job candidates, institutes state-based data collection of race and gender information for companies required to file such reports with the federal government and requires companies to certify compliance with equal pay laws. Senate Bill 1608, which works to increase investments in underserved communities by ensuring that financial institutions chartered in Illinois engage in fair banking and lending practices. It also allows the state to invest funds in community banks and local financial institutions, includes a series of programs to provide grant funding for small business technology firms and leverage federal small business grants, and increases state investments in local businesses owned by minorities, women and people with disabilities.
Senate Bill 1792, which addresses predatory lending by capping the annual interest rate for payday loans at 36%. This measure also creates the Cannabis Equity Commission to ensure equity goals are being met in the Illinois cannabis industry and requires the state to conduct racial and economic disparity studies on the beauty supply industry and farm ownership and operations within Illinois. Senate Bill 1980, which requires independent review of the criminal record of applicants to public housing agencies and sets criteria for denying a housing application based on a criminal record.