Wage Assignment Reform

Woodstock’s top legislative priority this year was the passage of SB 2804, which amends the Illinois Wage Assignment Act.  A wage assignment is a debt collection method used by non-traditional lenders – such as payday lenders — to access a borrower’s wages when the borrower defaults on a loan. With a wage assignment, a lender does not need to go to court to get permission to garnish a borrower’s wages. 

Rather, lenders send a notice directly to borrowers letting them know that the lender will be taking a portion of their wages.  Federal regulations provide that wage assignments are unlawful unless they are revocable by the borrower.  The Illinois wage assignment law was inconsistent with this requirement.  Under the prior Illinois law, to stop the wage assignment, the borrower was required to assert a “legal defense” to the debt.  SB 2804 brings Illinois law in line with federal regulations and makes it clear to borrowers that they may revoke the wage assignment if they choose. Woodstock collaborated with the Illinois Asset Building Group in achieving this victory.

Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits

HB 4633 is the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act.  The Act protects families from being victimized by life insurance companies that choose not to pay death benefits when they know or should have known that the customer has passed away.  HB 4633 closes loopholes and ensures rightful payouts when policyholders pass away.  It requires insurers to use the federal Death Master File, or DMF, to determine if a policyholder has died and if death benefits have been rightfully paid.  The DMF is administered by the Social Security Administration and contains information used to verify deaths across the nation, which is vital to fight against waste, fraud, and abuse.  State Treasurer Michael Frerichs played a leading role in passing this legislation.

Statewide Housing Plan

The Comprehensive Housing Planning Act requires Illinois to produce an annual statewide housing plan that includes, among other things, a plan for the coordination of state spending to better address affordable housing goals.  The Act has improved the way the state uses its affordable housing resources.  For example, in the first year the plan was required (2006), the Illinois Housing Development Authority used only two percent of its multi-family housing resources to create affordable rental homes for extremely low-income households. By 2014, that number had jumped to 24 percent.  SB 2271 amends the Act by extending the Act’s expiration date from June 30, 2016, to December 31, 2026.  Housing Action/Illinois led the effort to pass this legislation.

Barriers to Employment

Governor Rauner signed a number of bills that will remove employment barriers for certain individuals with criminal convictions.  HB 4360 lifts lifetime bans to employment in schools for men and women with controlled substances convictions.  In place of a lifetime ban, individuals with a controlled substance conviction would be eligible for employment in a school seven years after the end of their sentence.  HB 4515 removes low-level cannabis-related convictions (misdemeanors) from the list of disqualifying offenses for health care workers under Illinois law.  SB 42 lifts lifetime bans on professional licensure for health care professionals convicted of forcible felonies.  Instead, such professionals will become eligible for licensure three years after the end of their sentence.  After the three-year period, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will apply a 15-factor test to determine whether to issue a license.  Community Renewal Society and Heartland Alliance led the effort to pass these bills.