Earlier in April, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that a COVID-19 relief fund would be available to every individual in Chicago, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.
The fund includes $1,000 housing grants that would assist with mortgage and rent payments, $100 million worth of small business loans and disaster relief funds, and online enrichment programs in place for students.
What the Order Means for Immigrants in Chicago
The Dean of the City Council’s Socialist Caucus, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), stated that while the mayor’s executive order doesn’t make any changes to city policy, it restates what is made clear in the city’s Welcoming City Ordinance.
Of the order, Ramirez-Rosa told the Chicago Sun-Times, “The federal government has excluded undocumented workers and small business owners from federal relief efforts. If we’re going to close the gap, we need to go beyond simply reiterating the city’s existing policy and create a dedicated local fund to provide support to everyone excluded from federal relief.”
To help provide more benefits for immigrants during these uncertain times, the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus sent the mayor a letter requesting the implementation of an “Immigrant Resiliency Fund.”
However, in the meantime, the order will ensure that the city’s coronavirus-related benefits are available to refugees and immigrants.
The federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus package doesn’t provide benefits for undocumented immigrants, and while many see the order as a step in the right direction for providing for undocumented immigrants, others like Ramirez-Rosa feel that there need to be more changes.
Additional Attempts to Help Immigrants
President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Sam Toia, has called immigrants “the backbone” of the restaurant industry.
Many business owners are worried about running out of money, but Toia has explained that help is available to those who apply. In early April, the treasury department requested an additional $200 billion in addition to the $300 billion that the government had announced to help businesses. Toia explained that business owners who successfully secure funding from the federal Payroll Protection Program will be able to use those funds to cover all employees, including undocumented workers.
While there are more steps that need to be in place to protect and provide for immigrants and their families in the long term, the mayor’s order and other efforts are working to help immigrants and refugees during these challenging times.