New CJC Report: The Hidden Cost of Ventra

Ventra Report CoverTogether, social service providers in Chicago spend over $1,000,000 on Ventra cards and tickets every month to offer transit assistance to their program participants. But Ventra is costly and burdensome to providers. That’s why CJC has spent more than two years working with our members to make sure that the Ventra system meets their needs.

We first sat down with CTA in 2013 to discuss Ventra. In 2014, we released a report with modest recommendations for change. But after several meetings and over 2 years of waiting for improvements, we found that service providers continue to face the same challenges they did in 2013.

Click here to read and share the new report:

The Hidden Cost of Ventra:

The Impact of the Ventra Fare System on Chicago Social Service Providers

This report includes findings from our most recent survey and recommendations from community organizations for improving Ventra.

Highlights include:

  • Bulk orders, which typically exist for efficiency, are inefficient and inconvenient. Ventra uses outdated paper order forms and checks, rather than online stores with credit card payment options.
  • 63% of respondents report long wait times to receive bulk orders of tickets or cards—some as long as 2 months.
  • Without better bulk order options, providers resort to spending hours at Ventra vending machines, buying hundreds of tickets in increments of 8–which is the maximum number of tickets sold per transaction.
  • Cubic (the private contractor that operates Ventra) is collecting a 50 cent fee on paper tickets—earning over $280,000 yearly from providers. That could buy 112,000 more rides if the fee were waived.

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Persistent Wage Gap Invisible to Most

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlights the contradiction that 70% of U.S. employees (78% of men; 60% of women) believe that men and women are paid equally at their company, while government data 1BLS 2014 shows that women’s full-time weekly earnings are, on average, 82.5 percent of men’s.

This fact is not due to occupational segregation. A gap exists across all age groups, education levels and a wide variety of industries. 2See info graphic for examples The median weekly full-time pay of a female lawyer is 83 percent that of a male lawyer; female education administrators earn 81.4 percent of men with the same title; women computer programmers make 86.6 percent as much as their male counterparts.

What Does this Gap Look Like?

According to the National Women’s Law Center, a woman who works full time over a 40-year period loses about $435,000 in lifetime income, which translates to lower income from Social Security and pensions, and lower savings.

The Push Towards Pay Transparency

The taboo of talking about one’s pay remains strong, findings report nearly 73% of workers feeling uncomfortable talking about their salaries.

To boost transparency, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission at the end of January proposed requiring employers with at least 100 employees to report pay data to identify disparities and potential discrimination so that the public can see aggregate pay for job groups across industries and by gender, race and ethnicity.

Technology is helping! Here are some resources working towards pay transparency:

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What Local Business Leaders Can Learn from the Laquan McDonald Murder Case

Reposted with permission from Chicago United. Bold added for emphasis. Chicago United

As CEO of Chicago United, I join the local community in its deep disturbance and outrage around the police video depicting the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, released November 24. While much attention has been called to the misuse of force exhibited by numerous police officers nationwide, particularly toward young African-American males; other important failures of leadership, lack of transparency and unchecked bias in perception, required deeper exploration.

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) received 18 misconduct complaints against Van Dyke throughout his 14-year career; however, no disciplinary action was ever taken against the officer, according to a University of Chicago database. Eight complaints alleged excessive force, two involved the use of a firearm in addition to the McDonald shooting, and many complaints cited the policeman’s use of racial slurs. Local law enforcement’s inaction around multiple citizen complaints set the stage for difficult police community relations. The misrepresentations of what occurred on the night of the shooting and the withholding of the incriminating video evidence for more than a year – allowing Van Dyke to assume a desk position and remain on the city’s taxpayer-funded payroll – causes frustration and mistrust.

We know now that a district manager for the Burger King less than a block away from the shooting reported four to five police officers entered the restaurant shortly after the incident, without a warrant, and asked to view the fast food chain’s security surveillance footage. The crew members on duty obliged the officers’ request and gave them the password to access the equipment. The next day, an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) also viewed the Burger King security footage and discovered 86 minutes of the video, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., was missing. Laquan McDonald was killed at approximately 9:50 p.m. The Cook County State’s Attorney  addressed the missing footage stating, “Forensic testing was done on the Burger King surveillance system to determine if anyone tampered with the evidence and the testing did not reveal any such evidence.”

These factors, combined, continue to generate further distrust of Chicago’s law enforcement officers and city officials.  Understanding these factors provide real life, real time, context to a recent CNN and Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,951 Americans across the country which revealed roughly half of the respondents (49%) say racism is “a big problem” in society today. It is important to note, of the respondents sharing this viewpoint, 66 percent were African-American, 64 percent Hispanic and 43 percent, White. Conversely, approximately 30 percent of White respondents reported racism in our society is either a small problem or a non-issue. The study exposes a misalignment related to perceptions of race and racism existing in predominately White communities compared to those of color.

Chicago United urges the local business community to view this incident, the community’s response, and CNN’s revealing poll data as an opportunity to reexamine its internal practices/policies in addressing employee concerns related to suspected workplace discrimination. Understandably, most minority employees are hesitant to pull the proverbial “race card” with their employer.  Racial insensitivities or issues are often presented in race-neutral terms such as an uncomfortable or hostile working environment; exclusive and/or dismissive coworkers; or feeling disrespected or, worse, unseen by managers and senior leadership.  When the gap in how minorities and Whites perceive racism, as revealed in the CNN poll, is considered, it can be understood how managers and human resources personnel might mistakenly dismiss racial discrimination claims made by minority professionals as unwarranted leaving issues undocumented.  This inaction further disrupts a workplace that may be experiencing undisclosed racial tension.

As a community of business leaders stewarding the city’s top businesses and corporations, it is important to understand how human behavior and reactions are influenced by those in power. In the McDonald case, many members of the community are left feeling victimized, unheard, and, at times, dehumanized.

Two vital requirements of leadership can be learned from this heartbreaking and tragic chain of events.  First, to obtain trust, it is essential to provide transparency in investigations of and responses to difficult situations.  Second, it is imperative to exhibit true concern for the human condition. We can learn to take active steps toward a respectful, responsive, and inclusive business environment.

While not all racial discrimination allegations are valid, all should be considered and documented to identify any trends and help evaluate whether a divisive workplace is being bred covertly. As we all know, leadership and accountability starts at the top and trickles down an organization’s structure, ultimately impacting those with the least amount of power.

Please continue to keep Chicago and its entire community in your thoughts and prayers as we work to resolve these complex issues

Gloria Castillo

President & CEO

Chicago United

The 1968 riots that followed the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prompted top business leaders to discuss solutions to local economic instability and racial unrest thereby launching Chicago United.

For 40 years, Chicago United has maintained the dialogue among multiracial senior leadership driving corporate and minority-owned businesses, civic, and nonprofit leadership in the common goal of a creating a stronger social and economic climate for all races.

Original article can be found here. 

Skills Catch 22

Immigration and WIOA Graphic

As is the case for many social service agencies in Illinois, many immigrant-serving agencies are finding the need for services is greater than their capacity to serve.

A survey of 200 immigrant-serving organizations reveals important gaps in access to adult education and workforce services—both of which are essential for effective immigration integration efforts. Lack of access to these services can lead to significant economic consequences for both documented and undocumented immigrants.

Many federal immigration policy proposals require immigrant applicants to attain credentials before they are eligible for programs. Legislation like the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minos Act (DREAM Act) require young people to have a high school diploma or GED as well as having them be enrolled in or have completed a 2-4 years degree or military service. The survey highlights the fact that individuals who are undocumented, especially young undocumented immigrants/Dreamers, are unable to obtain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) benefits due to a lack of capacity in the nation’s adult education system –20% of respondents stated they could not find GED classes or other resources to fit their needs to qualify for DACA; 40% stated they were encountering political barriers preventing them from pursuing their educational goals. In addition, the DREAM Act does not allow middle-skill occupational training as allowable educational pathway—middle-skill certificates which can offer pathways to gainful employment and education opportunities for many individuals.

This limited access to skill development services not only impedes individuals in their personal goals, it serves as a systemic roadblock to all undocumented residents trying to follow the legal pathway to residency, citizenship and ultimately the authorization to work. These gaps cannot be fixed after unauthorized individuals obtain legal status because this gap in access to skill development services hampers efforts to obtain legal status—access to these recourses cannot be given after a person is granted legal status, when access to these same resources actively forms barriers in obtaining legal status.

This scarcity of development opportunities also affects documented individuals and immigrants authorized to work, reducing their economic payoff. Of individuals who are DACA recipients, 33% stated they had difficulties accessing education and training they were eligible for—leaving many unable to fully contribute to their communities and their local economy. Close to 1 million immigrant professionals in the United States have degrees from abroad but are stuck in low-wage, low-skills jobs. Of agencies surveyed who serve immigrant professionals, 75% indicated the need for more and improved services such as higher-level English classes and 78% see a need for bridge coursework to fill small gaps in immigrants’ academic resumes.

When local adult education systems lack the resources to provide training for these credentials, immigrants, and our local economies miss out on important economic opportunities. The absence of immigrants in the workforce could impede the nation’s ability to maintain current productivity 1National Skills Coalition, “Missing in Action”, pp. 2. The fact that credential requirements and poor policy are so out of step with economic trends highlights the ways application fees and paperwork are put ahead of educational, citizenship, and employment pathways for unauthorized youth and adults.

Moving forward, we need to advocate for policies that support demand-driven training and lead to middle-skill credentials so that policy changes can effectively address the middle-skill gap in the labor market. Policy makers need to break the Catch-22 that limits pathways to federal benefits (Citizenship, DACA program, WIOA funded programs) with credential requirements that are most accessible once already in these programs.  As a state, Illinois should pursue authentic stakeholder engagement (including immigration and adult education/ELL stakeholders), and engage in authentic unified planning with these stakeholders or risk missing out on the benefits of immigrant communities fully participating in the workforce.

Find a full report from the National Skills Coalition here.

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7 Takeaways From the 2014 Poverty Report

Last month the U.S Census Bureau released a new report on the income and poverty in the United States, as well as information on other important health and income trends. Here’s what you need to know:

  • There is strong evidence that health reform is dramatically reducing the ranks of uninsured individual—2014 is the largest single-year drop on record.1New Census Data Show Historic Health Coverage Gains, Though Disappointing Results on Poverty and Income. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities by Robert Greenstein on stagnant poverty rates and the importance of safety nets.
  • Poverty remained statistically unchanged at 14.8% or 46.7 million people… Median income remained statistically unchanged for the third straight year…Without safety nets, the picture would have been much worse.”2New Census Data Show Historic Health Coverage Gains, Though Disappointing Results on Poverty and Income. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities by Robert Greenstein on stagnant poverty rates and the importance of safety net. 3Without Government Safety Net Programs, Millions More Would Be in Poverty. Another report by the Economic Policy Institute on the importance of safety nets.

Safety nets

  • This new data shows that (with the exception of non-Hispanic white households) median household incomes were not statistically different from 2013. As a result, no progress was made in closing the black-white income gap between 2013 and 2014—the median black household has just 59 cents for every dollar of white median household income. The Hispanic-white income gap narrowed from 66 to 71 cents on the dollar. Weak income growth between 2013 and 2014 also leaves real median household incomes for all groups well below their 2007 levels. Between 2007 and 2014, median household incomes declined by 10.5 percent (-$4,137) for African Americans, 0.7 percent (-$294) for Latinos, 7.2 percent (-$4,662) for whites, and 8.8 percent (-$7,158) for Asians. 4New Census Data Show No Progress in Closing Stubborn Racial Income Gaps. A report from the Economic Policy Institute which provides a snapshot of the current economic issues affecting America’s largest racial groups.

  • Income growth rates are not keeping up with the rising cost of housing—this gap disproportionately affects low-income households, which are more likely to rent, putting them at higher risk of homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding.5 New Census Data Show Rising Rents, Weak Income Growth. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the fact that incomes have not kept pace with rental costs.

Rent Low, Housing High chart

  • The primary driving force behind the slow recovery of pre-recession income levels has been stagnant wage growth—there has been a lack of any real wage growth in the United States for the past decade. Stagnant wages, eroding labor standards, and growing inequality prevent the poverty rate from falling faster. 6Income Stagnation in 2014 Shows the Economy Is Not Working for Most Families. This report from the Economic Policy Institute illustrates the lack of any real wage growth in the United States for the past decade. 73 Things You May Have Missed in the New Poverty, Income, and Inequality Data. This report from the Center for American Progress covers why the poverty rate isn’t falling faster and on the positive effects social insurance and social assistance have on poverty and inequality.

  • In the United States, economic insecurity is a commonplace experience—and the population having this experience is not a stagnant group of people. Even though low-income young adults today are more educated than their counterparts a decade ago raising the minimum wage and enacting basic labor standards will be key steps toward combating growing inequality and ensuring that economic growth translates into sustained poverty reduction. 83 Things You May Have Missed in the New Poverty, Income, and Inequality Data. This report from the Center for American Progress covers why the poverty rate isn’t falling faster and on the positive effects social insurance and social assistance have on poverty and inequality.

Economic Insecurity remains high

  • Currently, the United States as a whole is trying to recover from the Great Recession and we are starting to make some progress—but this progress is too slow. The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that millions of people are lifted out of poverty by a variety of federal programs. In addition to Social Security, SNAP, low-income tax credits, and housing subsidies, programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), child nutrition programs, unemployment insurance, and home heating/cooling assistance are effective at lowering poverty rates. As effective as these programs are, their effectiveness is limited because of underfunding and proposed Congressional cuts threaten these programs further. 9Economic Growth Leaves the Poorest Americans Behind. A report from the Coalition on Human Needs highlighting the fact that cutting poverty in half will take a quarter century at our current rate. The second link also has shareable infographics and sample tweets.

poverty-timeline projections

The above findings make it ever more important that policymakers work to ensure that measures taken to reduce poverty are funded and run effectively. Stay tuned to the WIRE for more about putting this census data to use in your organization!

If you want to dig deeper, here are links to the full reports.

You can also visit our Poverty Page for the latest poverty data for Illinois, Chicago, and other cities.

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Making Sense of Credentials

Deciding on a particular training program or a specific certification to pursue can be confusing and difficult. Extensive labor market information about careers is available from sources like O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, but data about specific certificates and credentials can be harder to find. Here are a few places to start.

  • Find local programs that best fit one’s needs on the Program/Provider Directory from Illinois WorkNet.
  • Careers, Wages, and Trends from the Illinois WorkNet Center can help you find in demand occupations and provides brief overviews of a variety of career pathways and the credentials involved.
  • Provider websites like MicroTrain’s list of “WIOA Approved Courses” offer accessible information about course breakdowns, costs, and hours spent on course to better compare course’s costs and benefits.
  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook also provides details about job specific credentials in the “How to Become One” tab of any career. Here is information about jobs requiring various credentials in the US.
  • Payscale’s Certification Index shows the average salary and hourly earnings rates of jobs that require specific certifications. They also offer interactive charts of career pathways, that link to detailed earning summaries.

To better understand the financial benefits of earning a certification, here is a sample of credentials and corresponding salaries, hourly rates, job titles from Payscale:

The graph makes it clear that similar credentials have earning variability. If someone decides to go into the health sector and acquires a Basic Life Support Certification, their salary will vary depending on their position. An EKG Technician with the certification would be earning an average of $33,939 ($14.47/hr), while a Patient Care technician would be earning around $27,544 ($12.30/hr). 1Numbers from

Important Differences in Credentials

Credential and certification lengths are broadly broken down into two sections—long term and short term certifications. Short term certifications are usually no more than a year in length. Long term certifications typically take a year or more to complete.

  • When compared with other credentials, associates degrees are associated with higher returns in almost every field. Studies have associated long term certifications to: increased likelihood of being employed (9% for women, 11% for men), increased wages and to a lesser extent even increased number of hours worked (1.8 hours for women, 0.7 hours for men [not statistically significant for men]). These gender-specific findings were especially true for health related credentials and computer related credentials respectively. Studies have shown that, on average, associates degrees and long-term certificates/credentials increased quarterly earnings returns of about $2,000 for women (substantial) and $1,500 for men (significant). 2Mina Dadgar and Madeline Joy Trimble. Labor Market Returns to Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials: How Much Does a Community College Degree or Certificate Pay? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 0162373714553814, first published on November 5, 2014 doi:10.3102/0162373714553814
  • Short term certifications have shown minimal value for individuals earning these degrees. Short term certificates increase returns by about $300 for women and men per year. For the past few years there has been a dramatic national increase in the number of people earning short term certifications. Although short-term certificates have not shown to be significantly related to labor market outcomes, there could be benefits to such credentials beyond the obvious financial numbers.
  • The field of the credential is a major factor in its benefits. Associates degrees in nursing, for example, can increase women’s wages by 37.7%, while a degree in humanities is not associated with wage gains. 3Mina Dadgar and Madeline Joy Trimble. Labor Market Returns to Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials: How Much Does a Community College Degree or Certificate Pay? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 0162373714553814, first published on November 5, 2014 doi:10.3102/0162373714553814

Evidence is limited as to why there is such a large gap in returns between associates/long term certifications and short-term certifications. That being said, short term certificates may be beneficial to students in other ways. These programs tend to attract lower performing students and lower income adults. These programs are often the more accessible option because they have open door admission, flexible schedules, vocational orientations, lower costs (compared to long-term credentials), offer shorter time frames, and advertise potential paths to economic opportunity. Short term programs are especially useful to folks who need to get back into the work force as quickly as possible, and/or for those who need the flexibility to continue working while taking steps toward associated degrees.

Although short term credentials provide increased accessibility to higher education and can potentially provide entry into a new field, they do not guarantee wage gains. Degree earners can unlock and optimize the financial benefits of their degrees by using their credential as a building block that allows them to work toward long-term/associates degrees. The best programs offering short-term degrees will have “stackable credential” options, where certifications can be counted and work toward getting the individual a long term degree, and ultimately function as paths toward long term mobility and wage gains. Because short term certificates do not guarantee financial benefits it is increasingly important to know the program’s actual costs (financial and otherwise).

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