Lightfoot’s 2022 budget, with more dollars for social services and direct cash payments, secures key city approval

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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2022 budget is expected to be approved by city council next week after securing key approval from several progressive aldermen on Friday.

Armed with $ 1.9 billion in federal relief funds, Lightfoot’s proposed $ 16.7 billion budget avoids steep tax hikes, fills a $ 733 million deficit, and cancels a borrowing plan at long term expensive approved last year.

The spending portion of the budget also distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to struggling Chicagoans through social programs. But Lightfoot and city council members were stuck in final negotiations this week to achieve the 26-vote majority needed to pass the budget.

The revenue side of the plan, supported by an inflation-linked property tax increase, was voted on Thursday by mixed votes.

Lightfoot’s final proposal followed to the left and included a few more “wins” for progressives to tout to voters, like an additional investment of $ 6 million in the city’s five mental health clinics and $ 5 million for preserve single-occupancy buildings to help prevent homelessness.

The city council budget committee passed two ordinances comprising the bulk of the budget by 27 votes to 5. Alds. Marty Quinn (13th); Matt O’Shea (19th); Silvana Tabares (23rd); Nick Sposato (38th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) voted “no”.

“It’s a progressive budget, I have to be the first to say it,” Ald said. Sophia King (4th), who chairs the Progressive City Council Caucus. “I understand that there is more work to be done … to get this money out, but I appreciate the collaboration we have had on this budget.”

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Ald. Sophia King (4th) attends a city council meeting on September 14, 2021.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), chairman of the five-member Democratic Socialist Caucus, also approved the budget, praising the efforts of a coalition of progressive aldermen and community groups who have fought for change.

Ramirez-Rosa voted against Lightfoot’s two previous budgets, but this version went through a committee hearing, showing the “countless hours” of work behind the scenes between aldermen, departments, mayor’s staff, working hard to make it happen. advance a budget which, in our opinion, will advance the interests of our communities, ”declared the alderman.

He highlighted the additional investment of $ 6 million in the city’s public mental health clinics. Progressive aldermen and community groups initially requested $ 10 million.

The investment would launch child and adolescent mental health services, extend evening hours at clinics and support 29 staff positions, Susie Park, the city’s budget manager, told the committee.

Funding would not reopen closed mental health clinics, but Department of Public Health commissioner Dr Allison Arwady said she would “certainly be open to exploring” the assignment of some of the health clinicians. mental health at offsite locations, including libraries.

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks during a city council meeting on September 14, 2021.

The budget still includes $ 31.5 million in funding to launch a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program to provide 5,000 Chicagoans with $ 500 per month for one year. The plan encountered opposition from aldermen, including some members of the Black Caucus who preferred the money to be allocated to violence prevention and more conservative members who wanted strict rules on who eligible for the plan. cash help.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Cheryse Singleton Nobles, who received direct cash assistance through a separate program, urged the committee to keep the pilot program. Singleton Nobles, who owns a home day care center, said the money gave his family hope.

“I was able to buy the replacement part for my mother’s tub so that it wouldn’t slip and fall, and also get a computer to continue my quest to be” a published author, she said. . “It is desperately needed and we need it so that we can strive and move forward.”

The full city council is expected to pass the budget ordinance package on October 27.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), the chairman of the budget committee, said the administration heard city council’s concerns and made several changes.

In addition to funding for mental health clinics and ORS preservation, the changes included increased funding to expand broadband access in the city, funding to support 30 tree-trimming teams across the city. , a $ 10,000 increase in the advertising budget for animal care and control, and the creation of a city council subcommittee to monitor how the city is spending federal relief funds provided by the U.S. stimulus package. . A new Homeless Awareness Team will also be created within the Department of Family Services and Support.

In a statement after the vote, Lightfoot touted Budget 2022 as “a one-time investment in a generation that offers us the opportunity to transform Chicago’s future.”

“The changes made today are the result of the dialogue that continued this week with our colleagues on the Board and with our union partners and represent our commitment to transparency, inclusion and fairness as together we are building a more prosperous Chicago, ”said the mayor.

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