CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday signed an executive order that she said would guarantee immigrants and refugees in Chicago have access to all of the benefits the city is offering to residents and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mayor noted that undocumented immigrants do not qualify for the stimulus checks being sent out as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress, but she said they will be able to access all of the relief programs provided by the city of Chicago during the outbreak.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who represents a large Mexican-American community in Little Village, blasted Congress for excluding undocumented immigrants from the coronavirus stimulus plan.
“Congress’ response to this crisis has completely excluded the very immigrants that collectively pay billions of dollars of taxes, but more importantly they’re the heart and soul of the service economy: the ones that keep us safe, the ones that feed us, provide shelter for us across all industries,” he said.
Lightfoot said she will stand by the immigrant and refugee communities no matter what.
“As the federal government tried everything under the sun to stigmatize and scare them into the shadows, Chicago stood up and fought back. We upset some people, but we did so because it was really the only moral choice,” she said.
The mayor’s order guarantees immigrants and refugees will be able to receive all of the city’s COVID-19-related benefits, regardless of their citizenship status.
“We are all in this together is not just a nice sentiment, it is an imperative for who we are and who we will remain as a city,” Lighfoot said.
Among the aid programs offered by the city during the pandemic are:
- COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grants – a $2 million fund to provide grants of $1,000 toward rent or mortgage payments for low-income residents;
- Online enrichment learning resources, including more than 100,000 devices for families who lack access to technology for remote learning while the Chicago Public Schools are closed due to the pandemic.
- A $100 million Small Business Resiliency Fund, to provide low-interest loans to help businesses most hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mayor said no personal information provided by immigrants taking advantage of those programs will be stored in a city database, or shared with any federal agency.
Meantime, the mayor said she and her finance team will soon provide details on the impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the city’s budget, but she said she is not planning any furloughs, layoffs, service cuts, or tax hikes to make up for lost tax revenue from all the businesses that have been closed due to the pandemic.
“That’s a last resort. What we need to be doing in this time is not shrinking government, in terms of our place in the economy, we need to be using government resources as a stimulus, if anything,” she said.
The mayor said her economic team believes “the worst thing that we can do when we’re going through this kind of struggle is slash city services, slash city workers, and put people on the street.”
Lightfoot said, if there is a need for the city to raise new revenue at some point due to the coronavirus pandemic, she will be transparent about the steps she will take.