Chicago, state of Illinois get $8.5 million in federal migrant grants; requested up to $191 million

The city and state each got $4,301,387.13, as migrants stream into Illinois after crossing the Mexican border in Texas and bused to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

SHARE Chicago, state of Illinois get $8.5 million in federal migrant grants; requested up to $191 million
Migrants in the lobby of the 8th District police station in Chicago Lawn on Friday, May 5, 2023.

Migrants in the lobby of the 8th District police station in Chicago Lawn on Friday. The 8th District is one of the police stations in Chicago where asylum seekers have been temporarily sleeping while they wait for more suitable shelter.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — The city of Chicago and state of Illinois will each receive, according to a Friday announcement, a mere $4.3 million in new federal funding to help with the swelling migrant crisis — far less than what was requested and is desperately needed.

The city and state each applied for new federal cash from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter program, which on Friday allocated $332.5 million in disbursements to 35 local governments.

The state of Illinois requested $125 million from this pot of federal money for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

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The city of Chicago asked FEMA for between $38.9 million and $66.7 million to cover costs for meal services, shelter rentals, other housing costs and equipment to put in the temporary housing. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Deputy Director of Communications, Ryan Johnson, told the Sun-Times “this request was only for the portion of costs that we knew could be covered through this specific grant program” and the total need is much greater.

The combined paltry $8.6 million in aid was disappointing, city and state spokespeople said.

The city and state each got $4,301,387.13, as migrants stream into Illinois after crossing the Mexican border in Texas and being bused to Chicago and other cities by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and other cities are braced for a surge of new arrivals when the COVID-era program that restricted border crossings, known as Title 42 and put in place by the Trump administration, expires May 11.

The Sun-Times has learned Gov. J.B. Pritzker appealed for more federal help when he met with Biden Chief of Staff Jeff Zients when Pritzker was in Washington for the Building Trade Unions Conference on April 25.

Homeland Security Chief Mayorkas Visits Texas Border Ahead Of Lifting Of Title 42

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks at a press conference about immigration and Title 42, a Trump-era expulsion policy.

Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

The FEMA grants went to cities, states, tribal entities and charities.

New York City got the biggest chunk - $30.5 million, a drop in the bucket considering the FEMA ask was for $350 million. The District of Columbia Department of Human Services got $7.2 million.

FEMA said in a statement New York got the most “of any interior city by a significant margin, given it’s challenges.”

That was not enough for the Biden White House to escape the wrath of New York Mayor Eric Adams, an outspoken critic of how the Biden administration is handling the migrant crisis.

Adams spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement: “Let us be very clear: This is both disappointing and woefully insufficient.”

Contrast that with the far more tempered statement from Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh: “Every little bit from the federal government helps us in this response, and the Governor has had productive conversations with the White House to let them know we need more.”

Johnson’s reaction was also more measured than his New York City counterpart.

“We are disappointed, as we know these funds are not enough to address the challenges our city faces as we respond to this crisis. We will continue to partner with our federal partners to ensure welcoming cities are supported appropriately,” Johnson said.

A White House spokesman, asked about funding levels for migrants bused to Chicago, noted $360 million more federal money for emergency migrant care is in the pipeline, to be allocated later this year.

FEMA said in the next funding round, New York is “anticipated” to “again receive a significant share.”

Like Pritzker, Lightfoot is well-connected in the Biden White House. Lightfoot’s federal affairs operation in D.C. works closely with the White House and its powerful Office of Management and Budget.

Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, a paid Chicago Teachers Union staffer and Cook County Board member (and no relation to Ryan Johnson) is sworn in May 15.

Brandon Johnson will be in Washington Wednesday, facing an immediate challenge of quickly establishing working relations with the Biden White House — and Illinois’ congressional delegation — to try to bring more federal cash to Chicago.

Lightfoot, running through the tape in pressing for more federal resources, passes the baton to Johnson with a migrant crisis that likely will only get worse — putting pressure on the new mayor to deliver.

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