NBC 5 Investigates

Growing costs of migrant care tied to projected $538 million budget deficit

Invoices obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show some staffers caring for migrants earn more than $135 an hour

NBC Universal, Inc.

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Wednesday that the city of Chicago is facing a projected $538 million budget deficit for 2024 – a financial burden his administration blamed in part on the growing cost of caring for migrants.

Since asylum seekers began arriving one year ago, the city is now hosting at least 13,000 migrants who are living at airports, police stations and shelters spread across the city.

According to latest budget projections released by the Johnson administration, records show at least $200 million of the deficit stems from special project costs – which includes caring for new arrivals to the city of Chicago.

Recent city estimates indicate the migrant care crisis is already projected to cost Chicago taxpayers more than $255 million by the end of the year - if not more given the expected increase of new arrivals and talks of adding additional shelter space.

But accounting for exactly how and where those dollars are being spent has been a bit harder to pin down.

For months, NBC 5 Investigates has been asking city agencies for copies of specific financial records that would provide better insight into where those dollars are flowing and how they are spent.

While the city continues to withhold many of the records we’ve requested, NBC 5 Investigates did obtain contracts and a spreadsheet accounting for some of the spending. The records show since October of last year, the city has spent at least $83 million on the crisis.

The bulk of that money – more than $56 million – went to Favorite Healthcare Staffing – a Kansas-based company whose employees work in the city’s shelters.

In response to our Freedom of Information Act requests, the city has so far provided just two invoices – showing how much Favorite staffers are being paid.

One invoice from the now-closed shelter at Truman College shows a facility manager made $14,000 in one week last December.

Another invoice shows a nurse earned $20,000 during a week in December.

That same week – that shelter manager’s invoice billed for more than $14,000. All those employees’ figures included the employees being paid for overtime. The hourly rate for the registered nurse was $195 an hour. The facility manager earned $135 an hour.

When we visited the shelter the High Ridge YMCA this week, we were greeted by that same facility manager, who declined to answer our questions about expenses and referred us to the city.

City agencies have said they need more time to respond to NBC 5 Investigates’ records requests for financial records on the costs of caring for migrants. That response has come after city has missed previous deadlines for turning over records.

Earlier this summer, when a reporter asked Mayor Brandon Johnson about the growing costs during a June 21 press conference, Johnson said this:

“I’m certainly aware of the challenges I inherited and you know, this is why I made it a part of my everyday focus that we are decompressing police stations and we are providing a pathway sustainable existence and living in the city of Chicago,” he said.

The growing costs of the humanitarian crisis are not lost on other city leaders.

“We don’t have the money to support this…” said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. during a Tuesday’s budget committee meeting.

While being asked to approve more money, alderpersons mentioned other issues plaguing the city, including homelessness, prior to signing off on a $33 million federal grant that was earmarked for helping care for migrants.

“This is a drop in the bucket,” Burnett said. “We need more money. For every dollar that they don’t give us, it’s money that we have to take out of our other funding.”

NBC 5 Investigates made multiple attempts on Wednesday to reach someone from Favorite Healthcare Staffing. A woman who answered at a number listed online steered us to leave a voicemail. A woman at a Chicago office asked us to send emails to two different addresses. We’ll keep you posted when we hear back.

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