Illinois poverty needs government attention

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

At a university where we are privileged with the opportunity to receive a higher education, where we have a campus home to go back to and several other University resources at our fingertips, sometimes it’s hard for us students to put a face to poverty in Champaign-Urbana. But if you step off campus, away from the shiny Illini merchandise store windows and outside of the seemingly unpoppable campus bubble, you’ll notice some of the 40,000 community members that live in poverty everyday. 

A recent study by the Heartland Alliance program found that Illinois is suffering from the lowest poverty rates it’s seen since 1960, which stand just below 15 percent. What is more worrisome is that Champaign County was added to its watch list and it’s not alone. Currently, 42 counties in Illinois need to be monitored and four require immediate corrective action. 

With staggering numbers such as these, it is clear that something needs to be done about the issue of poverty in our community and our state.

Last week, the community came together to raise $96,135 to alleviate homelessness, many times a closely related side effect of poverty. The event is called One Winter Night and it is where hundreds of students and community members spend the night in cardboard boxes experiencing a simulation of extreme poverty first hand. 

The efforts made by C-U at Home, who hosted the event One Winter Night, as well as by community members and students was inspiring. Yet, we know eventually that money will run out before all of those in need in our county are helped.

What we need is something bigger. We need local and state governments to acknowledge the harsh effects that are plaguing a significant percent of the population in our county, and we need direct action to combat this problem.

During his State of the State address given on Feb. 4, Governor Bruce Rauner spoke about raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. While that raise may help many, his plan aims to give installments of 25 cents each year. But what we need is more immediate change. 

While Rauner may have plans for the middle class, it is not clear how he hopes to help our state’s poorest. While we applaud the valiant efforts of our community to lend a hand to their neighbors, the growing state-wide issue of poverty needs to be adequately addressed by the government.