Photo caption: Archbishop Blase J. Cupich
February 6, 2023
Honorable Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot Honorable Members of the City Council City Hall,
121 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Dear Mayor and Members of the City Council,
Each year at the Archdiocese of Chicago we work through our parishes and Catholic Charities to help hundreds of thousands of people in need of all faiths and none. This mission of charity is paramount to our faith and of critical importance as pandemic and inflation-related challenges increase the burdens on our neighbors. As written, the proposed Human Service Workforce Advancement Ordinance puts that mission and those we serve in peril.
In the century since its founding, Catholic Charities has become the largest human service provider in the Chicago area. Our work covers a broad spectrum of need and includes operating food pantries, providing hot meals for seniors, giving shelter to the homeless, and providing refuge and counseling for victims of domestic violence. And since September, Catholic Charities has been a core partner with the city and state in welcoming asylum seekers.
We collaborate with other peer non-for-profit human service providers, a significant number of which have still not fully recovered from the demands made on them to serve the most vulnerable through the pandemic. We stand in solidarity with them as together we serve an estimated 1-1.5 million Chicagoans in need each year. Accomplishing our mission has become increasingly difficult amid a significant deterioration in government funding levels over the last five years, particularly when we consider the recent high levels of inflation. The result has been declining government reimbursement rates in contracts with human service providers, and the need for us and our peer agencies to provide more and more services not covered by contract funding.
The Human Service Workforce Advancement Ordinance – now being pushed through with great haste by its supporters – not only will hamper the ability of Catholic Charities and our peers to fulfill our shared mission to our neighbors in need, but may threaten the continued existence of many of our partners.
Any legislation concerning human services the City Council puts forth must, first and foremost, address the critical need for increased funding. Tens of thousands of families are hungry, rents are soaring, and seniors living alone cannot afford food and medication.
We cherish our employees at Catholic Charities as they work daily to improve the lives of those most in need. And the Church stands with organized labor and its goals of protecting worker dignity and ensuring workers earn a livable wage and receive good benefits. We share and respect the impulse driving this ordinance – the sector simply needs more funding to fulfill our mission and our commitments to our employees.
Rushing this ordinance through risks making unwanted and unwise tradeoffs. I urge that more time be given to allow further study, consultation, analysis, and revision.
The proposed Ordinance creates unnecessary discord for us and our peer human service providers and risks distracting us all from the core funding challenge. In its current form, given its specific requirements, the Ordinance will have significant unintended and damaging consequences for us all.
This is a critical moment. We should not become distracted, but rather remain united and focused on the needs of the most vulnerable among us.
Archbishop Blase J. Cupich