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Study: Illinois Single Moms Hit Especially Hard by Recession

September 26, 2011

CHICAGO - U.S. census figures indicate 25 million women in America live below the poverty line - more than the population of Texas. Women in Illinois are no exception, especially those trying to raise their children alone.

A new report by Voices for Illinois Children says nearly 40 percent of Illinois families headed by single mothers live in poverty, and the number needing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grew by 68 percent last year.

Chicago Alderman Deborah Graham can empathize. She says 16 years ago, after leaving a bad marriage, she and her two daughters lived in a homeless shelter for eight months.

"Nobody wants to put before another person, 'Well, I really can't afford to feed my children.' 'I need education.'"

Graham describes life in a homeless shelter as extremely difficult.

"I did it by working in the daytime, going to school at night, and I made some huge sacrifices. And public assistance helped me through those tough times."

Graham says that there's no way she would have been able to pay for child care for two daughters while she was working part-time and going to school.

"Today I'm a much better person. They provided the services, child care programs. I'm very hopeful that we will find the funding to maintain these various programs."

Some say entitlement program costs must be brought under control to balance state and federal budgets. But Graham says without assistance, she would never have been able to finish school and support her family on her own.

According to the study, a single mother of two in Illinois today would have to use nearly half her income to place just one of her children in child care so she could continue to work. The study recommends that the state allow women who must leave the workforce to care for their children to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The 10-page report, "Women's Economic Security in Illinois - The Impact of the Recession on Single Mothers," is available at http://tinyurl.com/3ml7zwx.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL