SEP 21, 2021
Lightfoot reveals 'Chicago Recovery Plan' with guaranteed income plank as progressive groups take credit
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) said during a news conference before Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget address that her administration had been "copying" the Chicago Rescue Plan "coalition's homework." [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]
As part of her third budget address Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her $2.5 billion Chicago Recovery Plan, her proposal for using the city’s nearly $1.9 billion in federal pandemic-related stimulus funds and other new spending to aid in recovery from the pandemic.
Lightfoot introduced the plan as part of her proposed $16.7 billion 2022 spending plan, dubbed a “recovery budget” — a foil to the 2021 “pandemic budget,” which called for $12.8 billion in total spending.
Community organizations and some aldermen, including members of the City Council Progressive Reform Caucus, have been calling for months for the city to distribute its windfall of federal American Rescue Plan money. The same groups and aldermen noted prior to Lightfoot’s budget address that the mayor’s “recovery” plan appeared to include many of the same priorities and dollar amounts included in a plan proposed by progressive groups earlier this year.
But Lightfoot and Ald. Pat Dowell (3), who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations, pushed back against allocating the federal funding separate from the city’s budget.
Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan calls to use a combination of $567 million in federal stimulus funds paired with $660 million in new general obligation bonds to fund more than $1.2 billion in new initiatives, including programming dedicated to a guaranteed income program and public safety.
Additionally, more than $1.3 billion in federal stimulus dollars would infuse the Chicago Recovery Plan to fund “essential government services” including $782.2 million of eligible personnel and contractual costs in the 2021 budget and $385 million of “revenue replacement” to fund existing and new programs in 2022. A portion of an additional $56.3 million would go toward funding the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which aldermen approved in July.
Ald. Sophia King (4), who chairs the City Council Progressive Caucus, told The Daily Line on Monday that she is “very optimistic about the mayor's words.”
“I was happily surprised at a lot of what she said,” King said, adding that “the devil is in the details.”
King told The Daily Line last month that Progressive Caucus leaders would prioritize curbing gun violence and ensuring federal stimulus money helps Chicago residents.
"I want to make sure that most of the money for the [ARP] funds is put out into the community,” she said Monday. “I'm not averse to some of it being used on debt or taxes or what have you, but I think most of it should go out" to the community.
King noted that Lightfoot didn’t mention funding for childcare in her budget address and “that’s one thing that is big — one of our priorities.”
Safety and reducing gun violence are “probably the largest priority that our city is facing,” King added, nodding to the inclusion of mental health-focused first responders as a “win-win,” as it would “free up” money for police to respond to violent crime.
King said she is also interested in seeing data for the alternative response program pilot the city launched earlier this year.
Chicago Recovery Plan spending
Lightfoot’s recovery plan splits the more than $1.2 billion in new initiatives into two categories: “thriving and safe communities” and “equitable economic recovery.”
The $126 million set aside to assist Chicago families includes $71 million for legal and financial assistance to underserved Chicagoans, about $31.5 million of which would establish a program to send monthly payments to “hard-hit, low-income households in need of additional economic stability.”
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) introduced his own proposal for a $30 million guaranteed income program via a resolution filed in February and an ordinance (O2021-1564) filed in April that was initially sent to the City Council’s Committee on Committees and Rules.
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” Villegas told The Daily Line on Monday, adding he was not initially aware that guaranteed income would be included in Lightfoot’s budget.
Villegas, who last budget season was serving as Lightfoot’s floor leader, said the mayor’s proposal to dedicate funds to guaranteed income is “a starting point, so we have to make some negotiations.”
Still, approving a guaranteed income program is critical, as “we’re still not out of this pandemic,” Villegas said. “The frustrating part is that we're six months into the ordinance that I've introduced — we could have been halfway through the pilot program.”
Harish Patel, director of Economic Security for Illinois, applauded the inclusion of guaranteed income in Lightfoot’s budget plan.
“The monthly cash payments included in the Mayor’s budget would be nothing short of life-changing for thousands of Chicago families. We applaud her bold leadership and are proud to be partners in the effort to bring a guaranteed income pilot to Chicago,” Patel wrote in an emailed statement.
The mayor’s plan calls for another $20 million for the city’s “vulnerable students” and $15 million to be allocated to the Chicago Department of Public Health for “public support services,” including the creation of a 211 system, according to budget documents.
Another $103 million would be put toward “health and wellness” priorities, including $25 million designated to the public health department to expand in-home health services for new mothers, $20 million each to reduce gender-based violence and to bolster the city’s mental health care through initiatives including trauma-informed care centers, early childhood mental health and “residential or intensive outpatient treatment for persons with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.”
Advocates from domestic violence organizations called in June for the city to set aside $50 million in the city’s budget to meet staffing and resource demands.
Another $15 million would go toward an alternative response to 911, including a move to divert calls from 911, establish alternate responses and create “alternate destinations” for patients to be transported. The plan proposes designating $10 million to a food equity program via the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Lightfoot during her budget address Monday announced her 2022 spending proposal would allocate more than $400 million “across various initiatives to not only enhance community safety, but also bolster ‘Our City, Our Safety’—the comprehensive, violence reduction plan we released back in October 2020.”
The Chicago Recovery Plan proposes $85 million in violence prevention spending, including $45 million for community safety initiatives through the city’s public health department. Another $30 million would fund intervention and “justice diversion” programs for youth through the Department of Family and Support Services, and another $10 million to support violent crime victims and their families, including with access to “crime victim compensation, housing, food, and more.”
“Too often, when we talk about community violence, we forget the victims,” Lightfoot said during her budget address. “We know of them, but they are more than crime statistics. The lives deeply impacted by the violence that once it comes to their doorstep, it lives on in some form forever.”
Another $32 million in Lightfoot’s proposed Chicago Recovery Plan is dedicated to supporting the city’s homeless residents, and another $65 million would fund youth programs.
“We must be intentionally on the side of our most vulnerable residents—seniors, the homeless, the addicted, the jobless — as we have enough riches in this city to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors who need us,” Lightfoot said during her address.
‘Equitable economic recovery’
Lightfoot is proposing to dedicate $16 million to relief for Chicago artists, cultural organizations and “community engagement” projects including public art, walking tours and pop-up galleries. Another $20 million would be used to help market the city to grow tourism and business supports.
Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, wrote in statement on Monday that the city’s hotels “continue to be decimated by the pandemic, suffering depression level occupancy rates, layoffs and closures” and that the “impacts are far reaching.”
Hotels have asked the city to dedicate American Rescue Plan dollars to help them “pay for workers’ wages and benefits and aid them in maintaining employment throughout the winter, when leisure tourism is expected to fall even further,” Jacobson wrote.
But the statewide hotel organization is “disappointed the current Chicago budget proposal includes no aid to the hotel industry,” Jacobson wrote, adding they will continue working with Lightfoot and the City Council on a budget that “that encourages strong return of the city’s tourism industry.”
Progressive groups take credit
A group of progressive aldermen took a preemptive victory lap during a news conference before Lightfoot’s address on Monday, saying many of the proposals in Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan mirrored initiatives they championed in the Chicago Rescue Plan ordinance (O2021-2860) earlier this year.
A handful of aldermen joined groups including United Working Families and the Chicago Teachers Union to propose a list of “community-led demands” for the budget, including that the city tap federal funds for $230 million in housing assistance and $98.5 million for non-police violence prevention initiatives.
“It’s pretty clear that people in the administration have been copying this coalition’s homework,” Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) said during the news conference. “But as we know with this administration, the devil is always in the details.”
Nonetheless, Ramirez-Rosa, who chairs the council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the spending initiatives bakes into Lightfoot’s plan. And Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) said that advance peaks at the mayor’s plan made him “hopeful.”
“A lot of those numbers looked familiar, because they look a lot like the numbers we’ve been putting forward for months now,” La Spata said. “I’m talking about the kinds of substantial wins and investments that take people off of the streets and out of our parks and into homes…that gives them the jobs and resources that their communities need to be more healthy and more stable.”
United Working Families, which issues an alternative budget proposal to rival the mayor’s plan each year, followed Lightfoot’s address on Monday with a statement cheering that the group’s demands are “now setting the terms of the city’s annual debate.”
However, United Working Families executive director Emma Tai went on to lament Lightfoot’s plan to boost funding for the Chicago Police Department. The mayor is planning to grow the department’s budget by about $189 million, or 11 percent, despite only adding a handful of new full-time positions, as officers’ salaries rocket up under a new collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police.
“The real impacts to people’s lives will be felt not in the rhetorical flourishes of a budget address but in the details of the actual ordinance,” Tai wrote in the statement. “And when you look at the details, you see more of the same failed policies that have harmed poor and working-class communities of color for generations: a shell game to use federal relief dollars to pay bank interest. An increase in funding to the Chicago Police Department. The continued defunding and privatization of mental health.”
Related: What would defunding CPD look like?
Latino hiring ‘report card’
Prior to the mayor’s budget address, leaders of the City Council Latino Caucus released a “report card” assessing Latino hiring and representation under Lightfoot.
“There’s a problem with equity and representation in our city government,” said Villegas, who chairs the Latino Caucus. “We see the biggest issue with this at the highest level of the mayor's administration.”
Leaders of the Latino Caucus plan to introduce a resolution for a “Hispanic inclusion plan, complete with an advisory board,” Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) said on Monday.
“We need to make sure that Latino representation in the mayor's administration, and in our city government, reflects the makeup of our city,” Tabares continued.
Villegas added that Latino representation matters because “there’s no question the budget we'll hear today was developed with input from too few Latinos in decision-making roles.”
“Until that happens, we'll continue to see inadequate investments in our community,” he said.
Villegas left the door open to the withholding votes on Lightfoot’s budget proposal, saying “our job is to make sure that we're holding this administration accountable,” and if that means asking caucus members if they can support the budget “then that's the route we potentially can take.”
Alex Nitkin contributed reporting.
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