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$5 million fund will help Chicagoans ineligible for federal stimulus assistance during pandemic

Each eligible household can get $1,000. The federal CARES Act “leaves behind thousands of residents,” Lightfoot said, and that includes many essential workers.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces the new Chi COVID Coach Health App during a press conference at City Hall in April.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday announced a $5 million cash assistance program for 300,000 Chicago immigrants “excluded from stimulus” checks.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file.

More than 300,000 struggling Chicagoans ineligible for federal stimulus checks would get $1,000 in cash assistance from the city, thanks to a $5 million mayoral program unveiled Wednesday.

The cash assistance would come from the “Chicago Resiliency Fund,” a partnership between the city, The Resurrection Project and Open Society Foundations.

It’ll provide checks of $1,000 per eligible household to a forgotten group that includes undocumented immigrants, “mixed-status” families, dependent adults and ex-offenders returning to their communities after serving their time.

So far, Chicago has received $1.13 billion in federal stimulus money from Congress to defray the cost of responding to the coronavirus and soften the incredible social hardships caused by the stay-at-home shutdown triggered by the pandemic.

But, “as expansive” as the so-called CARES Act has been, it still “leaves thousands” of Chicagoans behind, the mayor said.

“Many residents who represent our essential workers … and are themselves members of the very same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. These include our undocumented residents, our mixed-status families, our dependent adults and our college students living in poverty,” Lightfoot said.

“This also includes our recently incarcerated residents and those experiencing homelessness who all too easily fall through the cracks of our networks. They need our support, our care and our love just as much as anyone. That’s why we have created the Chicago Resiliency Fund.”

The Open Society Foundations has committed more than $130 million to combat the coronavirus around the world and seeded the Chicago Resiliency Fund with a $1 million pledge. The Resurrection Project will work with a broad base of community organizations to identify as many households as possible eligible for the $1,000 assistance.

Checks are expected to be cut in mid-June.

“This is not just a one-and-done announcement. To every Chicagoan out there looking for ways to help your fellow residents struggling with the impact of COVID-19, this is how. You can chip in now by donating to the Chicago Resiliency Fund” at ResurrectionProject.org/ChicagoFund, the mayor said.

“What makes this fund unique is that it does not focus on only one segment of the population, but instead aims to be as inclusive as possible. It represents our values of equity, inclusion and transparency and puts those values into action.”

Raul Raymundo, CEO of the Resurrection Project, urged Chicagoans to “be generous because this is just the beginning.” To be eligible, recipients must be Chicagoans who have not received federal stimulus checks.

“We know $1,000 may not go a long way. But, it will certainly help in these troubling times so that families can stay in their home, put food on the table and pay the utility bills,” Raymundo said.

“As COVID-19 continues to expose inequities in black and brown communities, we are proud to be joining forces with the mayor and others on the rebuilding process and healing process to make sure that communities of color once again begin to thrive.”

Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said Chicago is “lucky to have a little fireball in Mayor Lightfoot” to lead the city through the pandemic. She credited the mayor with starting a “national conversation” about the disproportionate impact that the virus has had on black and brown communities.

“I want to commend the Chicago Resiliency Fund for recognizing these disparities. It is a response to the pain of generations and generations and generations of disinvestment and racism. It is also a glimmer of hope,” she said.

“We can’t stop. We need justice. We need direct investments in our community. Health care, business, education, police accountability and, yes, direct cash assistance to the poor and vulnerable. I look forward to seeing these funds reach poor families across the city and especially in the Austin community I represent. Thank you for supporting those who have traditionally been left out of every conversation and out of every support system.”

The $1,000 check can’t come soon enough for community navigator Maria Ochoa.

Speaking through a translator, Ochoa described herself as a “mom and an immigrant” whose year got off to a roaring start.

Her green card arrived in January. She became a resident through her children who are in the Marines. She received free legal assistance through the Chicago Legal Protection Fund.

That’s when the bottom dropped out.

“In April, my entire family became ill with coronavirus. They were difficult days. Thank God we are all fine,” Ochoa said through the interpreter.

“My family did not get a stimulus check because, until now, I filed my taxes with an I-10 number. Trump says we don’t deserve help. Trump says we don’t need help. Chicago says we deserve help. Chicago says we matter.”