Macomb Local News
Many families are still struggling in the wake of the Great Recession. It's a problem all around the country, but we're seeing staggering instances of this right here at home, in Illinois. A new policy brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows wide gaps in savings between white families and families of color in the state. It says that even a small federal investment in universal children's savings accounts could lead to some big long-term benefits. Beadsie Woo of the Casey Foundation also suggests making the federal "My Retirement Account" program more accessible, to set more families up for future success. 
 
"We see that those families are more self-sufficient because they have their own savings to draw on. Over time, the number of people enrolled in benefits decline."
Beadsie Woo, Annie E. Casey Foundation
 
The research shows that the racial wealth gap is growing, and that it puts children of color at a huge disadvantage. From 2010 to 2013, white families saw their net worth increase by an average of 2%, while black and Latino families saw drops of 34% and 15% respectively. Illinois has already taken some steps, such as getting rid of the savings limit for people in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Woo says other areas to work on include curbing interest rates on payday loans. The Corporation for Enterprise Development says Illinois has some of the highest interest rates in the country for these short-term loans, and Woo says nationally, payday lenders cost low-income families more than $8 Billion a year. 
 
"The typical amount borrowed from a payday lender is about $500. It is, in lots of ways, a very thin margin between what can keep a family from going into debt and being stable."
Beadsie Woo, Annie E. Casey Foundation
 
Other recommendations in the brief include increasing access to home ownership through HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program.