Things That Matter

Chicago’s Mayor Is Stepping Up Where Others Have Failed, Makes Undocumented Residents Eligible For Coronavirus Relief Programs

The sweeping Coronavirus stimulus packaged signed into law by President Trump promises a huge infusion of cash into a struggling economy. However, the bill explicitly denies much-needed benefits to some of the most vulnerable communities in the county – including most undocumented residents.

Several progressive politicians have called out the original bill for this major omission but so far have failed to get a bill passed that would bring benefits to communities currently not eligible.

Meanwhile, city and state officials have been working to make sure their programs are eligible to all residents – regardless of legal status.

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot is leading the way by making sure all residents in her city who need help – can get it.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday issued an executive order granting undocumented immigrants and refugees, who are sometimes forgotten, a variety of city benefits, including money from the city’s Small Business Resiliency Loan Program.

”This order is more than just an official decree, it is a statement of our values as a city and as Americans,” she said in a statement on Tuesday. “Since COVID-19 first reached our city’s doorstep, we have been working around the clock to ensure all our residents are secure and supported, including our immigrant and refugee communities, who are among the most vulnerable to the impact of this pandemic.”

“Here in Chicago, saying ‘we are all in this together’ means that during this crisis, no one gets left out and no one gets left behind,” she added.

The city of Chicago has launched several programs in order to help residents cope with the financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: LatinQuarterORD / Instagram

Under the executive order, Lightfoot’s office said all residents in the city, regardless of their birthplace or citizenship status, will have access to the city’s newly-established COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant program and online resources offered through Chicago public schools for students, among other benefits.

Michael Rodriguez, who serves as alderman of the 22nd Ward in Chicago, praised Lightfoot for the move in a statement, while pointing to coronavirus relief legislation recently passed by Congress that will give relief checks to most Americans but not nonresident aliens and people who don’t have Social Security numbers.

“Not all of Chicago’s residents qualify for federal stimulus checks, state unemployment insurance or other economic assistance due to their documentation status,” Rodriguez said. “These Chicagoans are vital community members who work in various industries and help our great city to thrive every day.”

The Mayor has overwhelming support for her plan from much of the city.

Credit: @chicagosmayor / Twitter

Many City Council members have bemoaned that the federal government didn’t do enough to help undocumented immigrants with legislation. But the city can also do more, said 35th Ward Alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. That includes creating an immigrant resiliency fund, which he has asked the mayor to do, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

George Cardenas, alderman for Chicago’s 12th Ward, also commended the mayor for the executive order in a statement.

“Most individuals in our immigrant community labor in industries pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, such as restaurants and hotels,” he said. “Although many of these workers collectively pay billions of dollars in taxes, they are excluded from the federal aid package signed by Congress. We must meet this moment together; no one should be excluded.” 

The mayor’s plan tries to fill the gap left behind by Congress’ federal stimulus bill.

Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

Congress passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill in late March that provides major financial assistance to Americans struggling under the coronavirus pandemic. The stimulus package includes a $1,200 payout to eligible U.S. citizens, and allocates $350 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses.

However, progressive politicians have criticized the bailout package for excluding some of the most vulnerable communities among us. House Democrats introduced the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act, a bill that calls for extending much-needed benefits to tax-paying undocumented residents.

The Chicago mayor is not alone in setting aside benefits for the undocumented community.

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Governors Pool

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that his administration has established a state fund to provide relief to businesses run by individuals living in the U.S. without proper documentation.

Lightfoot, for her part, has long been a virulent critic of immigration enforcement, and has established sanctuary policies that forbid local police cooperation with ICE.

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