Illinois Sen. Biss honored by Chicago nonprofit

Julian Gerez, Assistant City Editor

Illinois Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) won an award last week from a Chicago nonprofit for his work in finding solution to retirement insecurity.

Biss won the Woodstock Institute’s Community Investment Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of community members who “exemplify what it means to work locally with a national impact,” said Katie Buitrago, a spokesperson for the Institute, a research and policy group that works on lending and financial reform.

“The award is meant to honor individuals and organizations that have contributed to the community investment movement in Chicago,” Buitrago said. “Sen. Biss has been championing a policy for a secure choice retirement saving program … (that) the Woodstock Institute has supported.”

The bill Biss is sponsoring, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act, would establish “a retirement savings program in the form of an automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA with the intent of promoting greater retirement savings for private-sector employees in a convenient, low-cost, and portable manner,” according to the General Assembly’s website. 

“The goal is to have more people in retirement savings accounts so that they don’t retire into destitution,” Buitrago said. “Over half of employees in the Illinois public sector lack retirement savings accounts.”

Katharine Eastvold, a spokeswoman for Biss, said the award was particularly important because the senator’s most high-profile legislative works have been related to state-sponsored pension plans.

“The focus, a lot of times, has been on the cuts that had to be made in order to preserve the systems for the people who are retiring out on them,” she said. “So now for him to have the opportunity to work on a private sector plan to make sure that retirement security is there not just for public sector employees, but also for private sector employees and to prevent older people from retiring into poverty is very important for him.”

Biss spoke at Northwestern in February to talk about his political background and Illinois fiscal issues, including his efforts to reform public pensions, at an event hosted by the Political Union.

(Illinois state senator talks fiscal issues, political background)

Along with Biss, the Chicago Community Loan Fund and journalists Alby Gallun, Micah Maidenberg and David Matthews from Crain’s Chicago Business also received the award.

The Chicago Community Loan Fund is being honored for its programs providing financing to affordable housing and community development projects, Buitrago said. The three journalists are being recognized for an interactive story they did on Chicago-area foreclosures, vacant properties and the housing crisis.

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