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CHICAGO — Drawing parallels with Chicago’s recovery after the 1871 fire, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a new task force focused on helping Chicago and the surrounding region rebuild their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday.

Made up of industry, government and nonprofit leaders, the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force will advise city officials as they take on what Lightfoot described as, “nothing less than the most breathtaking recovery effort that our city has ever seen.”

“Now we don’t know when this crisis will end – the virus has been unpredictable from the start – but what we do know is that when it comes to recovering from this crisis there can be no half measures, no cutting corners,” Lightfoot said. “It will require bold, visionary action that will build on the measures that we’ve already taken.”

Watch Above: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces a new COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force Thursday

Lightfoot’s announcement came as Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is expected to extend the state’s stay-at-home order during his own COVID-19 briefing later Thursday. Such orders have led to a shutdown of major parts of the U.S. economy and record spikes in unemployment.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows March’s unemployment rate in Chicago was around 5.3 percent, up 1.3 percent from last year.

Unemployment was also up by about one percent in the greater Chicagoland, with more than 247,000 filing for assistance throughout the region in March alone. The biggest job losses compared with last year were in sectors like business services (-9,100), hospitality (-7,000), and manufacturing (-6,700).

This graph from the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows seasonally-adjusted unemployment in Illinois

Lightfoot’s Taskforce will be divided up into different “working groups” focused on everything from economic stimulus to mental health to marketing the city. Members include:

  • Roberto Herencia, Chairman, Byline Bank 
  • Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO, Ariel Investments
  • Bob Reiter, President, Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Jenny Scanlon, CEO, UL
  • Evelyn Diaz, President, Heartland Alliance
  • Karen Freeman Wilson, President & CEO, Urban League of Chicago
  • Alexa James, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago
  • Sandra Cordova Micek, CEO, WTTW | WFMT
  • Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman
  • Anton Seals, Executive Director, Grow Greater Englewood
  • Daniel Cronin, Board Chairman, DuPage County
  • Toni Preckwinkle, Board President, Cook County
  • Joseph T. Tamburino, Mayor, Village of Hillside
  • Ben Harris, Executive Director, Kellogg Public-Private Initiative at Northwestern University
  • Ai-Jen Poo, Co-Founder, National Domestic Worker’s Alliance

Later Thursday, officials with another City task force will take part in the first of three virtual town halls focusing on communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Austin, Auburn Gresham and South Shore.

The “Racial Equity Rapid Response Team” will discuss improving health outcomes in South Shore during the town hall, which is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on the Facebook page for South Shore Works.

African-Americans make up about 30 percent of Chicago’s population but represent a disproportionate amount of both COVID-19 cases and deaths in Chicago. Statistics from the State of Illinois also show communities on Chicago’s west and south sides have been hit particularly hard by the spread of the virus’ spread.