Chicago charged $7.2M to staff migrant shelters during four-week period, invoices obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show

With more migrants arriving by busloads each week, Chicago leaders have expressed concerns about the growing costs and have raised calls for additional funding from the state and federal governments.

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Newly obtained invoices show a Kansas-based company, Favorite Healthcare Staffing, billed the city of Chicago more than $7.2 million to staff migrant shelters during a four-week period this spring, according to a review of invoices obtained by NBC 5 Investigates.

Favorite Healthcare Staffing holds the contract to staff the city’s migrant shelters.

The city has spent nearly $60 million on staffing shelters, according to previously released city financial records.

With more migrants arriving by busloads each week, city leaders have expressed concerns about the growing costs and have raised calls for additional funding from the state and federal governments.

As of Friday, more than 18,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago over the past year, according to a city count, with more than 11,000 staying in city shelters and more than 3,000 people living at Chicago police stations.

“The situation is unacceptable,” 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez told NBC 5 Investigates this week. “These contractors, they are basically imposing on us – in my opinion – it’s unacceptable and that’s what we will be looking into in the next few weeks to modify this in the budget."

To better understand where those dollars have flowed, NBC 5 Investigates filed open records requests asking for a year’s worth of invoices submitted by Favorite Healthcare Staffing.

The city denied our initial request as overly burdensome, but after amending our request, the city did provide four weeks’ worth of invoices covering parts of April and May of this year.

As part of our review, we examined Favorite staffing invoices covering 400 employees between April 22 to May 19.

As we previously reported, Favorite Healthcare Staffing billed the city $20,000 for a single nurse during one week last December.

The new invoices show that despite hourly rates being reduced this spring, Favorite Healthcare Staffing still billed the city for $16,536 for that same nurse to work seven days in April.

All told, in the four weeks we examined, the company charged Chicago more than $64,000 for the services of one nurse, who was working at the YMCA High Ridge shelter.

He wasn’t alone.

Our analysis found even after hourly rates appeared to have been reduced from the December invoices we examined, the lowest paid staff rates were $50 an hour, and the most expensive was $156 per hour before overtime.

That means – if you were to extrapolate those costs in a year’s time – Favorite Healthcare Staffing could have potentially charged the city six-figure salaries for some employees working inside the shelters.

Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration has said that the hourly rates were inflated in the contract to cover administrative costs like hotel rooms for out-of-town employees and that it has since re-negotiated the contract.

We asked a spokesman for the mayor repeatedly what those new rates are but have not received a reply.

Following his budget address this week, Johnson told reporters that he had “re-negotiated the emergency contract that I inherited multiple times” and mentioned a request for proposal the city put out in an effort to further reduce costs and “hire Chicagoans as well as Chicago businesses.”

That request for applications had an initial deadline of Oct. 6, but during last month’s council committee meeting on migrants, Johnson’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Cristina Paciones-Zayas told city council members the deadline would be extended because of so many questions they had received from potential providers.

“I told you Favorite should’ve been gone. They have not set the standard for what we do in our city,” said Ald. Jeanette Taylor during a council committee hearing last month.

The costs have led to criticism.

In Taylor’s ward, staffing invoices for the shelter at former Wadsworth School totaled $1.4 million during the four-week period we examined.

At the Inn of Chicago, the city’s largest shelter that has held as many as 1,500 migrants, the total was $1.6 million. At the Social Club shelter located in the Loop, it was $1.2 million.

“For me, if you are going to spend that much tax dollars on Chicagoans, it should go to Chicagoans. To get to the point that it becomes a point of recycling those funds in our economy, is where we want to be,” said 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez, who chairs the Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

We reached out to a spokeswoman for Favorite multiple times this week seeking comment but have not yet heard back.

NBC 5 Investigates also asked the mayor’s office for an interview to discuss future plans, but we’ve haven’t gotten a response to that either.

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