Approximately $11 million collected from those who owed the city of Chicago money is going to churches, community organizations and job creation programs for youths.
Rather than increase taxes, Chicago has opted to act on an Illinois law that took effect this year, which allows the city to collect outstanding debt owed by Illinois residents by deducting it from their state income tax returns. The city expected to collect $8.5 million from unpaid parking tickets, red-light citations and administrative hearing fines, according to the Chicago Tribune, but ended up collecting $2.5 million more than that.
“By ensuring that those who break the law are held accountable, we are able to investing in job opportunities that will keep our kids off the streets and better prepare them for the future,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.
Of the money collected from debtors, which Emanuel has previously referred to as “the deadbeats and the delinquents,” $8.5 million is being used to fund a job program for youths that officials hope will create 20,000 employment opportunities. Another $1 million is being put towards a violence prevention program called CeaseFire and the $1.5 million in the remaining funds will be distributed to local churches, hospitals and community organizations.
“These job opportunities will go a long way toward helping Chicago’s youth stand on their own two feet working in their communities and building a strong foundation that will lead to a brighter future,” Saint Sabina Pastor Michael Pfleger said in prepared remarks.
The Chicago City Council approved the use of the refund interception program in February by a 41-8 vote. Those who voted against the new program worried that it could target those in need.
“These are hard times for people,” Alderman Willie Cochran said in February. “Traditionally, the income tax refunds that people have been receiving have been a big relief for them. … It is wrong to extract their last opportunity to help support their family, to help support the businesses, to help support their schools — the science project — the everyday needs of the working class.”