Mayor Johnson backs out of commitment to $250M joint city, county, state migrant care package

CHICAGO (WLS) — New questions arose Monday about what Chicago’s plans are for paying for migrant care after Mayor Brandon Johnson backed out of a commitment last week for a joint city, county and state funding package.

Volunteers on the ground are frustrated and calling for the mayor to step up.

There is a lot at stake for the new arrivals with Chicago bearing the responsibility for providing shelter. The county covers health care and the state provides the wrap around services and relocation.

But there is much at stake for the mayor as well with the question about will the city commit to paying for care.

The warmer temperatures and sunny skies have been providing a welcome respite for migrants hanging out outside a shelter in Pilsen. But the future may not look so sunny after Johnson backed out of a commitment with the county and state for the city to contribute $71 million to care for migrants through the end of the year.

“I think that Mayor Brandon Johnson seems to want to hold a moral high ground that he is absolutely entitled to, given all that Chicago has done for this population. But we need to continue to see his actions and money match that sentiment,” said migrant care volunteer Annie Gomberg.

Last week, Johnson refused to commit to new funding for migrants despite the state and Cook County pledging a combined $250 million.

On Monday, after an unrelated news conference, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was careful not to criticize her protégé.

There, Preckwinke was asked whether she was disappointed that the mayor agreed to the city’s portion of the funding, and then backed out.

“As I’ve said, you know, I’ve worked with the governor and the mayor to try to meet the challenges of new arrivals since August of 2022, and I’ll continue to do that,” Preckwinkle said.

Political observers call Johnson’s decision a strange move given that he calls himself a collaborator.

“Clearly, he’s been under a lot of pressure from the black community, particularly from black members of the city council for months, about the distribution of resources to black communities. And perhaps he felt if, so if he made it just kind of a commitment to migrants that would there be a lot of backlash,” said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

“No one in the state of Illinois this country is questioning there. Brandon Johnson is committed to this mission,” Johnson said.

But now, some are.

“I really want to believe that there is nobody more committed to this mission than Mayor Brandon Johnson. But of course, the money is really where that rubber hits the road,” Gomberg said.

Johnson seems to be holding out hope that that federal government will come through with additional funding, but political observers say that’s not very likely given the political gridlock in Washington.

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