Chicago coronavirus: $700M budget shortfall due to COVID-19, property tax increase not off the table, Mayor Lightfoot says

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago is projected to have a $700 million shortfall in its budget as a result of COVID-19.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago is projected to have a $700 million shortfall in its budget as a result of COVID-19.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Lightfoot called the shortfall "sobering." She said a decline in tax revenue from hotels, restaurants and parking contributed to the shortfall.

She outlined how the city plans to address the shortfall, and said that property tax increases are not off the table.

"In the aggregate, even though those taxes are only 25 percent of our budget, nevertheless, the close of restaurants, hotels and other service industries over the last two months has had a devastating impact," Mayor Lightfoot said. "It's not just the businesses themselves being closed, it's the workers having little to no income to spend on themselves and to take care of their needs and further support other businesses."

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Mayor Lightfoot said the city lost $175 million in March and April. She also said if COVID-19 cases surge again, the budget gap could widen even more.

"In this time people are hurting - housing support - renters and landlords are in dire straights, but I don't want to raise property taxes," Lightfoot said.

The city has saved $100 million due to refinancing, Lightfoot said, with other potential savings being undertaken in city departments. Things like layoffs and property taxes can't be ruled out but remain a last option, Lightfoot said.

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The city will also appropriate $1.13 billion for CARES Act grants toward the COVID-19 response. Mayor Lightfoot said that money is non-discretionary and can't be used for budget shortfalls.

The mayorhas prioritized areas including airport assistance, public health response, homeless services and small business assistance for the help from Washington.

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Lightfoot also announced that all big summer events that bring in cash are cancelled including the Taste ofChicago, the Jazz Festival and Lollapalooza, citing the continued threat of COVID-19.

"Reality is, bringing that many people from all over the country in Grant Park every single day, we might as well just light ourselves on fire," Lightfoot said.