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As The City Recovers From Coronavirus, Mayor Urges Business Leaders To Support Black And Brown Youth

"If we do this right ... this will be the kind of transformation that generations from now will be talking about as the second Chicago renaissance," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at the reopening of the Merlo Library Branch in July.
Heidi Zieger/Chicago Mayor's Office
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SOUTH SHORE — Chicago will have a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to reimagine itself as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

That recovery must prioritize helping young Black and Brown people, among other things, the mayor said. She and the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force released a report Thursday morning that will provide a roadmap to the city’s comeback from the crisis.

The advisory report aims to help the mayor’s team balance the health impacts of coronavirus with a “strategic economic and social response” to address the challenges presented by the pandemic. The report was compiled with input from more than 200 industry experts and area leaders over the past 10 weeks.

The report addresses a number of areas — the economy, mental health and more — but Lightfoot emphasized the city and private companies here must do more all around to support people of color. She said the crisis highlighted inequities for people of color that are rooted in systemic racism.

It is people of color who have suffered disproportionately due to the pandemic, with more deaths, confirmed cases of COVID-19 and job losses occurring among Black and Latino people.

“While the COVID-19 crisis has impacted all of us, it’s our fellow Chicagoans who were already struggling beforehand who felt its impact the most profoundly and whose future was placed in even more uncertain circumstances,” Lightfoot said.

The city’s first priority must be to address “traumas both old and new” with an advanced healing center, Lightfoot said. And the mayor called on the city’s private and public sectors to provide good-paying jobs and opportunities for young people of color.

“We need to make sure that Black and Brown young men recognize that their life’s journey doesn’t have to end at a corner,” Lightfoot said. “That it can and must end at college or career. That’s critically important for us to really build a healthy, vibrant community that deals everybody in to the prosperity of this great city.”

Lightfoot said the city will increase ownership of and employment in the region’s contracting and construction industry, and she called on unions and trades to “step up” and provide entryways for people of color.

The mayor also said the city will create the most vibrant minority- and women-owned businesses in the country, though she did not say how it will do so.

The city will also be “doubling down on our efforts” in initiatives like Invest South/West, which provides funding to build up communities on the South and West sides that have faced disinvestment, Lightfoot said.

“If we do this right … this will be the kind of transformation that generations from now will be talking about as the second Chicago renaissance,” Lightfoot said. “This is our moment. This is our opportunity to really rise to the occasion.”

The task force made 17 recommendations to the mayor’s office under six subsets. The city is already working on some of the recommendations.

See the recommendations here:

Address New And Old Traumas

  • Create the most advanced healing-centered region in the country
  • Increase access to mental and emotional health resources and services in communities
  • Create a culturally sensitive, diverse mental health workforce

Expand Economic Opportunity, Quality Employment And Financial Security

  • Reimagine the region’s workforce infrastructure and create a plan to invest in displaced and young workers
  • Increase ownership and employment for Black and brown residents in the regions’ contracting and construction industries
  • Create the most vibrant small and medium-sized business and Black- and brown-owned business community in America
  • Expand relief programs and pilot innovative approaches to improve and strengthen the social safety net

Build On Our Region’s Strengths

  • Expand the region’s transportation, distribution and logistics sector by leveraging new trends in the localization of supply chains
  • Strengthen Chicago’s healthcare and life-sciences ecosystem
  • Build on the region’s assets in food and agriculture

Capture Opportunities Created By COVID-19

  • Build on the region’s historic strength in manufacturing
  • Prepare the region to capture HQ2s and corporate development and specialty centers
  • Capture film and TV production opportunities given the lack of studio space in California

Reignite Activity Throughout Chicago By Sharing Our Story

  • Introduce Chicago’s master brand
  • Lead the re-imagination of regional tourism, travel, and hospitality
  • Develop new and existing community hubs to encourage tourism in neighborhoods
  • Show the world Chicago is open for business

Accelerate Investments To Eliminate Inequities

  • INVEST South/West
  • Solutions Toward Ending Poverty (STEP)
  • We Will Chicago / Citywide Plan
  • Chicago Connected

The COVID-19 Recovery Task Force was co-chaired by Lightfoot and former White House Chief of Staff Samuel Skinner.

“I am deeply grateful for the hard work of the Recovery Task Force, and their commitment to doubling down on our mission of building a better Chicago that ends economic hardship, confronts racial inequities and unites all of the City’s residents,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “With their invaluable contributions we will transform the COVID-19 crisis into the once-in-a-generation opportunity that it presents to eliminate the deep, glaring chasms of inequity it has brought to the surface. While we don’t know when this crisis will end, we do know that our recovery from it will not be reached with any short cuts or half measures.”

Read the full report here:

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