Apr 7, 2020
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Press Conference Transcript April 7
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a coronavirus press briefing on April 7 for the city. Lightfoot gave an order allowing immigrants access to the city’s COVID-19 relief. Full transcript here.
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Lori Lightfoot: (00:03)
Whenever you’re ready. Good morning everyone. Before I begin today, I’d like to thank our city leaders who are here with me. Alderman George Cardenas is here and Alderman Mike Rodriguez. Since becoming mayor, one of the things I’ve been most proud of is our unqualified support of Chicago’s immigrant and refugee communities. As the federal government has tried everything under the sun to stigmatize and scare them into the shadows. Chicago stood up and fought back. We upset some people, but we did so because it was really the only moral choice. Our city is a city of immigrants, built by immigrants, enriched by immigrants, and we will always stand with our immigrant communities no matter what. That’s what it means to be a proud, welcoming city, and a proud sanctuary city for all people from every walk of life. That ethos is our heritage. Shaping our history since John Baptiste du Sabal first made his home here over two centuries ago. And it’s that ethos that carries us to this moment and the new challenge we are confronting today.
Lori Lightfoot: (01:21)
Since the COVID-19 crisis first reached our city’s doorstep we’ve been working around the clock to ensure our residents, all of our residents, are not only secure from the COVID virus, but are supported against the economic fallout of this terrible disease, both of which have impacted our entire city. While the federal government hasn’t made all of its COVID related benefits available to our nation’s immigrants, the executive order I signed ensures all Chicagoans including our immigrants and refugees, have equal access to these programs regardless of status. This means all benefits, opportunities and services provided or administered by our city will be available to each of our residents regardless of citizenship status.
Lori Lightfoot: (02:12)
This includes the COVID-19 housing assistance grant to help with housing costs for individuals and families, online enrichment learning resources available to every student at every level regardless of status, and $100,000,000.00 Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund to help our neighborhood businesses keep afloat during this crisis. These are all available to Chicago’s entrepreneurs, including our immigrants and refugees. And perhaps most significant, we are standing up a disaster relief fund that puts money in the pockets of Chicagoans who’ve been excluded from needed federal aid programs, and we’ll be working with local community partners to make sure this support goes to those most needed.
Lori Lightfoot: (02:58)
For all those interested in learning more, please visit chicago.gov/coronavirus. Once again, that’s chicago.gov/coronavirus. I’ll welcome Alderman Cardenas up here to say a few words in a moment, but before I do, I want to say this. This order is more than just an official decree. It’s a statement of our values as a city and as Americans. We are saying we are all in this together means all of us regardless of citizenship status, are in this together. It means that in this crisis we will leave no one behind and no one will get left behind. I’m inspired every day by the acts of service, sacrifice, generosity and grace I’ve seen across our city ,from our healthcare workers and first responders, to our restaurants, many of them immigrant owned and immigrant employees who are still donating food despite their own constraints.
Lori Lightfoot: (03:56)
It’s in moments like this we see the true character of our city, and we find the bonds that hold all of us together in good times and bad. We are all in this together is not just a nice sentiment. It is an imperative for who we are and who we will remain as a city, young and old, North, West, and South side, black, brown, white, immigrant, and native born. All of us together as one city, with one future, and one destiny bound together. It’s what’s carried us through this crisis and what will lead us out of it and what will make us stronger. With that, it’s now my pleasure to welcome our Alderman Cardenas to the podium. Alderman.
Alderman Cardenas: (04:42)
Thank you very much.
Lori Lightfoot: (04:43)
Alderman Cardenas: (04:51)
First of all, thank you mayor. I must command you in your strong leadership and steely resolve, to lead Chicago through this crisis. These are difficult times, no less, unpredictable as well, but you are leading us with that focus, that determination, that you have shown since day one, but more importantly empathy. You can see it in her resolve. You can see it in her eyes and what she means she does. Little Village in my end, in the 12th Ward, is the heart and soul of the Mexican American community. And just like every corner of the city this pandemic has shocked my community to its core. COVID-19 does not discriminate. We all know that, and if recent weeks have taught us anything, it’s just how interdependent we all are. Congress’ response to this crisis has completely excluded the very immigrants that collectively pay billions of dollars of taxes, but more importantly they’re the heart and soul of the service economy. The ones that keep us safe, the ones that feed us, provide shelter for us across all industries.
Alderman Cardenas: (06:04)
These individuals are getting hit the hardest. They have nowhere to turn for support. Again, I thank you Mayor Lightfoot for seeing that and reacting quickly. You know just yesterday I spoke to the CEO of Esperanza Health Centers and they’re doing now more testing in their two health centers that they have. And he told me that of the 200 that they tested, 32% have become positive, have tested positive, and that tells you what’s going on in our communities. It is silent. It’s there. It is very real and it’s just sobering that what’s in front of us. And this is why I urge folks to stay indoors, not just the stay at home order, but stay indoors. As many people with warm weather are taking to biking, and walking, and running. It’s important to understand also that if you get close to people, you are becoming part of the problem, I think is the only way that we will control the spread of the virus.
Alderman Cardenas: (07:11)
We must make sure that all Chicagoans meet their basic needs as well. And we’re helping do that with the Mayor’s help. Our city’s ability to contain this virus depends on it. And just as the mayor alluded to and said very eloquently, we must meet this moment together. No one can be excluded. And this executive order ensures that everyone in Chicago, regardless of their status, has somewhere to turn for support. And I thank you mayor once again.
Alderman Rodriguez: (07:39)
[foreign language 00:07:52] Chicago [foreign language 00:07:53].
Alderman Rodriguez: (08:45)
Alderman Mike Rodriguez, 22nd ward. Briefly, not all Chicago residents qualify for federal stimulus checks. Not all Chicago residents qualify for state unemployment insurance, or for that matter most other economic supports that the federal and state governments are offering at this point. These Chicagoans are vital community members. They’re our family members. They’re our neighbors. They are our friends. They are co-congregants. They are Chicagoans. They work in industries throughout our city to make our city great and thrive every day. According to the Pew Center, Hispanics, particularly Spanish immigrants, are one of the sectors most likely to be experiencing hardship either through a lack of employments, cut in hours, or cut in jobs.
Alderman Rodriguez: (09:45)
There’s a family in my community that we’re working to bring food to and support and get them to apply for assistance at the city level. Father, young man works in the temp agency, can’t work. Wife, undocumented, was laid off from a restaurant, three citizen children. The fact is this family will not be eligible to receive checks in the next couple of weeks from the federal government. They’re not eligible for unemployment insurance at the state level, but they will be eligible for city supports. And I applaud the mayor for standing with undocumented individuals and families throughout this crisis and every day of the job. Thank you very much mayor for signing this executive order and thank you very much for covering this issue. It’s very important to our community.
Lori Lightfoot: (11:22)
And now we’re happy to take any of your questions.
Speaker 5: (11:25)
Mayor Lightfoot, could you elaborate a little further in how you see the city being able to help some of these hardworking families that are in their home? They don’t have the financial support from the federal government. How can the city government meet these folks and try to help them with the challenges they’re facing?
Lori Lightfoot: (11:48)
I think we do it in a number of ways. Number one, as I indicated, every form of relief that we have stood up as a response to this crisis is open to everyone. We are not discriminating on the basis of citizenship status, and it’s really important I think for people to know that. The other thing that I think we have to do, and we talked about this briefly yesterday, when we disclose what we’re seeing and the demographic information, we’ve got to continue to expand our outreach to our immigrant and refugee communities to talk to them about the dangers of the virus, why staying at home matters, and what they can do to protect themselves. From hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, but also just making sure social distancing is something that they understand and appreciate why it’s so important.
Lori Lightfoot: (12:45)
We need to make sure that they are connected up to the healthcare system. This is a significant challenge. We believe that there’s substantial under-reporting of the rate of infection in the Latinx community in particular, and so we’re calling upon all those providers, the community clinics, the doctors, and nurses, and nurse practitioners that really service the immigrant and refugee community across the city to make sure that they are advising their patients about the things that they should do to stay safe, and that if they do experience some kind of illness that they seek help right away and not and not delay. And so that messaging is going to be part of what we are doing with this Racial Equity Rapid Response Team and we need to spread it far and wide.
Lori Lightfoot: (13:42)
We talked a lot yesterday about the challenges that we’re seeing in the black community, but this is really about social equity anywhere where we know that people have not had the same kind of opportunity to get connected up with a health system to practice preventative care. That’s an area where we know we’ve got challenges and we’re going to meet those challenges.
Speaker 5: (14:08)
There’s a question here from the Washington Post, Mike [Guarino 00:00:14:12]. And Mayor, he’s asking about the humor that you’ve used to reinforce your message and your stay at home order. He’s asking if you believe humor is effective in motivating Chicagoans to stay at home and if that was part of the original strategy or it has it become something that has organically grown over time?
Lori Lightfoot: (14:36)
Well, we’ve been thinking all along about what we could do to help people through this challenging time. And we’ve got a great creative team and I’ve got to give all credit to Michael Fassnacht, who we announced yesterday as the Chief Marketing Officer, and really the creative talent that he’s brought to the table and our folks in our digital media. But yes, we’re very intentional about the strategy. Obviously, the memes cropped up and really became a thing before we rolled out our specific strategy. But look, I think what this moment tells us is people want a distraction. People want something to make them smile. People have been very creative about using the memes, and creating them, and spreading them in their network and across social media.
Lori Lightfoot: (15:29)
I think it’s helping sustain us in this time. This is a beautiful sunshiny day, but we’re going to be in this for weeks to come and so we’ve got to have something that people can really rally around, and I think that the memes and the social media that we’ve also put out, and I’ll tease more to come. I believe that that’s really helped people get through this difficult time.
Speaker 5: (15:52)
Mayor Lightfoot here’s a question. She actually has a couple of questions. Fran [Spielman 00:15:57].
Lori Lightfoot: (15:57)
She always has multiple questions.
Speaker 5: (15:59)
And she’s asking, you’ve said all along that economically sensitive revenues comprise only 25% of city revenues, but that’s a lot of money. What mid-year corrections do you anticipate having to make in your 11.6 billion dollar budget? Furloughs, layoffs, program cuts? Are tax increases needed? If not, how is that possible?
Lori Lightfoot: (16:23)
Well, we’re going to be coming out soon with what we think the intermediate impact has been on our economy, generally, but also on city revenues. We do not anticipate any of the draconian things that she listed, which is layoffs, furloughs, and so forth. That’s a last result. What we need to be doing in this time is not shrinking government in terms of our place in the economy. We need to be using government resources as a stimulus, if anything. That’s why we’ve seen the stimulus bills at the federal level. The same applies here at the local level. We believe, and when I say we I’m talking about our economic team, including our CFO and our budget director. We believe that the worst thing that we can do when we’re going through this kind of struggle is slash city services, slash city workforce, and put people on the street.
Lori Lightfoot: (17:21)
Now we have to make sure that we’re striking the right balance, but when people are going through this really difficult economic time, we’ve got to think creatively about the way that we weather it and not say to folks who are out of work, unemployed, really struggling, “By the way, give us more of your money.” Now, I’m going to be very clear eyed about the fact that if there is a need to raise additional revenue after we see in the longterm what this impact is, I’m going to be straightforward and very transparent about it, but in this intermediate time it’s still really early for us to understand the full magnitude of the impact. We know certain sectors obviously have really been hit hard, hospitality, restaurant, and service industries. Those are really I think [born 00:18:08] the brunt of the shutdown, but we also see other industries that are really doing quite well, groceries, pharmaceuticals, and others.
Lori Lightfoot: (18:21)
So understanding what the balance is and we’re still kind of at the mid point, I think not the end point, but we’re going to be releasing some information in the coming days that goes through what we see as the impacts, and releasing what we believe are going to be the dollars that will come to Chicago, in particular from the last federal stimulus package. We’re still waiting on guidance from the Treasury Department for example, that’s supposed to be coming today and I’m hoping that, that will be, if we get that today, we’ll be better well situated to put out a fulsome report.
Speaker 5: (19:01)
A question about the streets and sanitation workers, and they say they’re picking up higher volumes of garbage with people staying at home, and they’re saying they have not been given masks, gloves, or protective equipment. What is your response to that and how is the city handling the higher volume of garbage?
Lori Lightfoot: (19:20)
Well, people are staying at home, so it is not surprising to me that there’s more refuse and hopefully recycling that people are putting out on the curb. I’m not aware that the sanitation workers aren’t being equipped, so that’s something that we’ll look into, but obviously we want to make sure that they’re protected and at least from my anecdotal experience, a lot of sanitation workers always wear gloves all year round because of the hazards of handling other people’s waste, but we’ll certainly look into the mask question.
Speaker 5: (19:54)
You talked about the weather earlier. It’s going to be in the 70’s. Any word of warning for people who might think that it’s okay to go back out to the Lakefront?
Lori Lightfoot: (20:02)
Yeah, it’s the same caution that we’ve been giving when the weather was much colder back in mid-March. Look, this is a moment that we live for in Chicago. We weather the winter and the first rays of sunshine and warming weather, we embrace it with gusto. Unfortunately, in this time, as Alderman Cardenas said, we cannot. We have to practice the same stay at home social distancing that has sustained us and has moved us from a doubling of cases from one to two days in March to where we are right now, which is nine to 10 days. We’ve made that progress because people have complied. And to be clear, the issue isn’t going outside per se, or getting a walk, or exercise, or walking your dog. It’s congregating. That is the problem. We want people to stay distant from each other and that’s why we’re emphasize so much. Stay in home to save lives.
Speaker 5: (21:07)
And the federal government, any updates you can give? Any improvements that you’ve seen as far as PPE coming in? Are things getting any better?
Lori Lightfoot: (21:20)
I would say marginally so. We just received, the Department of Public Health last night received, I believe another 125 vents, but that’s a fraction of what we had requested.