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Chicago to provide $56 million to expand contact tracing efforts

Chicago to provide $56 million to expand contact tracing efforts

The city of Chicago will offer $56 million to community organizations to boost contact tracing, officials announced Tuesday.

The two-year grants will help to build up a 600-person workforce that includes contact tracers, supervisors and referral coordinators, said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The overall operation will have the capacity to trace 4,500 new contacts per day.

“Thanks to our close community partnerships, our work to expand our contact tracing workforce will also empower these same individuals to apply their new skills towards long-term career opportunities in our healthcare economy, and strengthen our ability to become the inclusive, equitable city we all know we can be,” she said.

The city currently has about 40 contact tracers.

The funds will be given to a lead agency, which will be mandated to give 85 percent of those funds to at least 30 neighborhood-based organizations either located within or primarily serving residents in communities of high economic hardship. The first contact tracers will begin work by August, with Lightfoot saying the work will take about 18 months.

“This approach provides the opportunity not only to operationalize an important tool in the fight against COVID-19, but also leverage the economic investment sourced from federal COVID relief funding to create thriving wage jobs and address long-standing health inequities caused by unequal economic opportunity and access to education,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Funds for the plan come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Lightfoot said the proposal goes beyond COVID-19, as those who are hired will also be enrolled in a program to help them pursue higher education and credentialing, which she said will help them pursue middle-income jobs once the pandemic ends.

“Even in the face of this crisis, we need to leverage every opportunity we can to grow, build and recover in ways our city has never seen before,” Lightfoot said.


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