Chicago City Council approves $51M for migrant housing, outdoor dining program

Saturday, June 3, 2023
Chicago City Council approves $51M for migrant housing
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The Chicago City Council at Wednesday's meeting approved funding for thousands of migrants being sent to the city from Texas.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As debates rage over how to care for migrants arriving in Chicago from Texas, the City Council met Wednesday to consider how to pay for it.

Not everyone is on board with $51 million in financial aid for migrants in Chicago, which is meant to help provide housing.

Many residents voiced their concerns before and during Wednesday's council meeting.

However, the funding initiative passed with a 34-13 vote.

Before that, CPD had to escort people out of the meeting several times, as Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson asked for a two-minute breather.

"I want to make sure we are conducting the business of the people," Johnson said.

Where is money for helping Chicago migrants coming from?

More than 10,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago since last August. Hundreds are still sleeping on floors in various police departments.

This proposed funding is only expected to last through June.

Aldermen were split on which way to vote, with some saying that money should go to underfunded neighborhoods and others saying this is a sanctuary city that must help those seeking asylum.

"We have to help the residents of this big city; it's not an either or. It's both," 17th Ward Alderman David Moore said.

Chicago's GOP leaders along with members of the Black Community Collaborative and Neighborhood Network Alliance held a press conferences urging alderman to vote no.

"We don't know where that money is coming from," said Steve Boulton, Chicago Republican Party chairman. "We are not being told where that money is going to be spent. We are not being told how it is being spent. It is irresponsible for the City Council to appropriate what is no more than stop gap money that will get us through a month or two and then the problem will still be staring at us in the face."

City Council Budget Committee Chairman Jason Ervin said the city must come up with a plan.

"There does need to be a greater plan, and I think this was always designed to give the incoming administration an opportunity to do that. This is a stop-gap measure pure and simple," Ervin said.

Some Black aldermen who have struggled themselves admit they are conflicted.

Maria Hadden, with the 49th Ward, voted yes, but asks community members helping the migrants to help people who live in Chicago.

"Everybody that is working hard for this, you have to show up for Black Chicagoans with the same energy, and that does mean money," Hadden said.

The issue was emotional for 20th Ward Aldermen Jeanette Taylor. She said while Black people have fought for a seat at the table, it doesn't mean they shouldn't help others who are struggling.

"We fight just to drink out of a damn fountain, but hurt people don't hurt all of the hurt people," Taylor said.

Taylor's passionate statement received a standing ovation from her colleagues.

On the state level, Chicago is not getting as much money as expected. In a new budget, Springfield approved over $42 million in migrant aid for the entire state, leaving less for the city.

The council also approved a permanent outdoor dining program, allowing restaurants to expand outdoors to sidewalks and even curb lanes, and in some cases entire streets, like in River North during the pandemic.