CHICAGO — Billions in pandemic funds given to the city are not being used effectively, say participants at a Sunday South Side rally.

Among those calling for extra funding for public health throughout the city of Chicago was Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward).

“We talk about equity, then deliver equity,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “Deliver equity for our families.”

“I think we continue to see a politicization of a public health matter,” the alderman added. “Public health issues must get a public health response. We continue to see politicians use it as a political issue but we need to prioritize the well-being and health of our students and staff in CPS.”

Participants believe city officials should allocate more funding to city schools and the city’s health department.

Dr. Howard Ehrman, who worked for CDPH in the 80s and early 90s, believes investment needs to happen outside the private sector with public money. 

“Most of the money from the Department of health, most of the money has gone to private contractors, not to actually put direct services into our communities and schools,” Ehrman said.

The longtime doctor says locals are launching a citywide campaign to force Chicago officials to spend money directly on schools “and spend the public health money in our communities to hire people from these communities at union-wage jobs in the Department of Health, in CPS and not through contractors.”

The group is critical of the city and state for allowing the mask mandate to expire, especially in schools, and not implementing weekly testing for staff and students. It’s a debate that will continue as a pandemic-weary public balances life, two years into Covid as rates inch back up.