• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 05, 2023


    Funding requests for migrants, undocumented residents adding to budget pressures as report significantly decreases revenue projections for the year

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pictured at a polling location in June 2022. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line] 

    Costs to help migrants being sent to Illinois as well as provide health care for undocumented residents already living in Illinois are putting pressure on the state’s budget as a report finds Illinois will not have a surplus this year as big as experts once thought.  

    Between the continuing influx of migrants being shipped to Chicago from Texas and a recent report from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services showing the state is underestimating health care costs for undocumented residents, Illinois lawmakers are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars to fund services for migrants.  

    On Wednesday, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) released their April report showing a major decline in personal income tax receipts for the month that will erase a previously projected multi-billion-dollar surplus. The report revised the Fiscal Year 2023 projected surplus down $728 million and the year is now running $132 million higher than this time last year. When discounting one-time federal dollars, Fiscal Year 2023 revenue is actually $193 million lower than last year.  

    “While a substantial decline was anticipated, as final tax payments were expected to struggle to repeat last year’s extraordinary performance, the extent of the decline is much steeper than the Commission had projected,” CGFA revenue manager Eric Noggle wrote.  

    The report did not make any significant changes to the projected revenue for Fiscal Year 2024 as lawmakers work to craft the budget. CGFA projects FY24 revenue will come in around $50.4 billion, which is still above Gov. JB Pritzker’s projected $49.9 billion of revenue.   

    After back-to-back budget surpluses, lawmakers are being hit by spending requests from multiple sides even as the budget tightens. Among those is a request for $20 million in Fiscal Year 2024 for Cook County to provide health care services for migrants arriving from Texas. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the costs to the county to care for new residents is only expected to increase when a federal immigration rule expires this month that is expected to cause more people to enter the country seeking asylum.   

    “We’ve assumed the entire cost because we’re not going to let people go without health care… but we hope the state will make us whole through the end of their fiscal year, which is June 30, and then support our efforts to provide this care for asylum seekers going forward for next year,” Preckwinkle said.   

    In addition to $20 million in FY24, Preckwinkle also wants lawmakers to cover an additional $8 million for FY23. She said the county is spending $1.8 million each month to provide asylum seekers with health care after the state ended a monthly $1.6 million contribution at the end of January.   

    Chicago has been saddled with the majority of the cost for caring for migrants, particularly finding them housing. State lawmakers appropriated $20 million to the city in January in a supplemental budget and the city has received an additional $10 million from the state since then. However, Chicago Budget Director Susie Park told a City Council committee last week the city still faces a $53 million funding gap caring for migrants.   

    Related: Mid-year budget amendment would close $53M shortfall in funding to support asylum seekers as Chicago asks state, federal government for more resources  

    "We're going to have to make hard decisions about where our shelter is going to be opened next...it cannot just be Chicago,” Brandie Knazze, commissioner of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, said in addressing how the city can move to get individuals and families out of police stations where many are currently staying. “We have to look across the state for resettlement support."   

    Preckwinkle met with several top lawmakers in Springfield on Tuesday and Wednesday, but would not get into how receptive they were to her funding request for asylum seekers only describing the conversation as “positive.” A spokesperson for Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said it was a “friendly discussion.”   

    “We were reminded by a couple of folks that there was some disheartening news this week about the initial revenue projections from the state… and that was going to make things difficult in the year ahead,” Preckwinkle said.   

    Other lawmakers involved in the budget process and meetings with Preckwinkle were not available for comment.   

    Adding to the budget pressures is a much larger price tag for the state program that provides health care to undocumented residents aged 42 and up. A March 31 report from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services found the department expects to pay hundreds of million more in Fiscal Year 2024 than in Fiscal Year 2023 to provide health care to undocumented residents. The department budgeted $221.8 million for the expanded program in Fiscal Year 2023, but has spent $410.7 million on health insurance claims from March 2022 through February 2023. At a hearing Wednesday, department officials told lawmakers they now expect the program to cost $1.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2024, which is $880 million more than Pritzker requested in his budget, according to Capitol News Illinois.

    Related: House GOP sounding alarm after state report shows major funding deficit for health care program for undocumented residents 

     Illinois began offering undocumented residents health care in 2020 initially to people over age 65 who didn’t qualify for Medicaid because they were undocumented. The state then expanded it to people over age 55 in 2021 and then over 42-years-old last year.     

    Some Democrats are considering expanding the program again to cover all undocumented adults above age 19. Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) filed a bill (HB1570) that would complete the expansion of the program starting on July 1. The bill has been assigned to a House subcommittee and was given an extension from deadlines allowing it to pass the House any time before the end of session.     

    According to the report, Hernandez’s bill will add an additional $380 million to the program in Fiscal Year 2024, department officials told lawmakers Wednesday, Capitol News Illinois reported. The funds the state spends on health care for undocumented residents are not eligible for a federal reimbursement. 

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