State OKs $20 million for influx of migrants to Chicago after warning that funding would end; amount less than half what Lightfoot wanted

  • In Business
  • 2023-01-18 23:34:00Z
  • By Chicago Tribune

Chicago is poised to receive $20 million from the state of Illinois under an appropriation bill passed by legislators for migrants, but that's less than half of what Mayor Lori Lightfoot requested to address a recent influx of asylum-seekers.

Lightfoot sent a letter late last month to state legislators asking for $54 million to help fund emergency services to asylum-seeking individuals. She noted that Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration sent a letter to the city saying the state is "out of funds and will no longer be able to support city migrant services efforts as of Feb. 1, 2023."

To fund emergency services to migrant and asylum-seeking individuals, Lightfoot asked for $54 million. State legislators responded by passing a $20 million appropriation for asylum-seekers in the lame-duck session.

At her customary post-City Council meeting news conference Wednesday, Lightfoot said her administration is taking a "wait-and-see" approach.

"If you look at the conversation around the $20 million, it was that they're going to give this to us as an initial installment. Wait and see what if any, monies that we get from the federal government and give us the opportunity to come back and ask for more," Lightfoot said. "So I'm never going to say no to that kind of money. We could use it because we will put it to good use in helping support migrants in the city."

The measure, which still has to be signed by Pritzker, and also includes an additional $90 million for state welcoming centers for immigrants and refugees.

Since the first bus arrived from Texas in the fall, nearly 4,000 asylum-seekers turned up in Chicago from Texas and another 1,400 from elsewhere by the end of 2022. About 1,500 remained in the city's care at that time, officials said. The city has set up 11 shelters to house, clothe and feed migrants and provide other services, costing the city an estimated $7 million in December alone, Lightfoot wrote her letter to lawmakers, sent after state officials said they planned to cease financial assistance to the city for the migrants at the end of January.

Lightfoot's administration has also floated a controversial plan to convert a vacant former school in Woodlawn into a temporary migrant shelter. Some residents have objected, saying the neighborhood is already lacking in adequate services.

But the need remains, with asylum-seekers sleeping in bus shelters, police stations, churches and other makeshift locations.

Chicago Tribune's Dan Petrella and Jeremy Gorner contributed.


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