Lightfoot’s Emergency Powers to End Tuesday

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the city’s first virtual City Council meeting on April 15, 2020. (@chicagosmayor / Twitter)Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the city’s first virtual City Council meeting on April 15, 2020. (@chicagosmayor / Twitter)

In another sign that Chicago has passed the peak of the pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will not move to extend the emergency powers she used to respond to the coronavirus without the approval of the City Council. 

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The City Council approved the emergency powers ordinance with a 29-21 vote in April, one of the closest tallies in decades, after a raucous, expletive-filled meeting held remotely for the first time in response to the deadly respiratory virus.

After the measure received pushback from a number of aldermen – including her allies – Lightfoot agreed to have the ordinance automatically expire on June 30, unless Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, determined that the pandemic was still raging.

However, Chicago entered the fourth phase of its reopening plan on Friday, five days ahead of schedule, with Lightfoot and Arwady praising Chicagoans for making significant progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. City officials have urged residents to remain vigilant or face a new surge of cases.

The emergency powers “assisted in the city’s quick and comprehensive response to COVID-19, a response that has resulted in significant declines in new cases for several weeks and that allowed us to enter phase four of our reopening,” according to a statement from Andrew Buchanan, a spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Initially, Lightfoot said Tuesday would serve as “an outside marker” of when the pandemic was expected to begin receding.

The measure gave Chief Procurement Officer Shannon Andrews the authority to approve emergency contracts of up to $1 million to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Budget Director Susie Park was allowed to spend federal and state relief grants to respond to the pandemic, and move funds within city departments if she deemed it necessary.

Andrews and Park detailed their actions with weekly summaries of pandemic-related spending and contracts to the City Council’s Budget Committee.

The last time the Lightfoot administration used that authority was during the week of May 14, according to those reports.

In all, the city earmarked $250 million from its corporate fund to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the reports. However, just $30.7 million has been spent, according to city data.

That includes approximately $3.4 million spent on personal protective equipment, according to city records.

In addition, the city spent $10.4 million to rent hotel rooms to house unsheltered Chicagoans as well as first responders who feared they would spread the virus to their family members.

The contracts the city inked with Hotel Essex and London House, both in downtown Chicago, expired during the week of May 14 and were not renewed, according to city data.

Another $10.3 million was spent to create two funds designed to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic, according to city records.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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