The growing number of migrants arriving in the city of Chicago has raised questions among leaders about how the city can continue to shoulder the growing costs of staffing migrant shelters and caring for more than 18,500 asylum seekers.

In the past year, city financial records show nearly $60 million has flowed to an out-of-state company, Favorite Healthcare Staffing, which holds the contract to staff the city’s migrant shelters.

As aldermen spend the next few weeks in budget hearings, there are more questions about whether the mayor’s current budget proposal will cover the costs for sheltering migrants or if there are local providers who could save the city some money.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s budget proposal allocated $150 million to cover the cost of migrants, but some aldermen have raised questions about whether that figure would cover the current costs in the coming months.

For months, NBC 5 Investigates has been following the money billed by Favorite Healthcare Staffing. After denying our initial request for a year’s worth of records, the city did provide us with four weeks’ worth of invoices from this spring, from April 22 to May 19, detailing payments to 400 Favorite Staffing employees.

Our analysis found that Favorite Healthcare Staffing billed for 84 hours of work per week for most of their employees and that those rates ranged from nearly $50 to $156 an hour for regular pay and from $75 to $234 an hour for overtime during the four-week period we examined.

For employees assigned to housekeeping, according to the invoices, Favorite Healthcare Staffing billed the city of Chicago for four weeks at a median pay rate of $17,000 for each of their housekeepers. At that rate, taxpayers could have potentially paid a median of approximately $221,039 for each housekeeper supplied by Favorite.

When it came to employees assigned to security, the invoices show that Favorite charged Chicago taxpayers a median payrate of $24,000 apiece for each security guard, for four weeks’ worth of work. That translates to an annual charge, for each security guard, of $312,000.

The invoices also show that for one registered nurse at the shelters, Favorite billed Chicago a total of more than $64,272 for four weeks’ worth of work. At that rate, taxpayers could’ve potentially paid more than $830,000 a year for this single nurse.

Johnson’s office has said that it has since re-negotiated this contract that it inherited from the previous administration and that the hourly payrates we found in the invoices were inflated to cover administrative costs like housing and transportation costs for out-of-state employees.

The Johnson administration has also said it has encouraged hiring locally and put out a request for proposal to look for local providers interested in operating shelters. That process is still ongoing. An Oct. 6 deadline application has since been extended.

A spokesman for Johnson did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking a response on what are the new rates.

NBC 5 Investigates did speak to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who is Mayor Johnson’s floor leader.

“The city is working to bring those prices down, including negotiating working directly with Favorite and putting out a request for proposal to say, ‘Hey, we want to find local nonprofits to hire people locally…,’” Ald. Ramirez-Rosa said.

NBC 5 Investigates also shared our findings with Joe Ferguson, the former inspector general for the city of Chicago. When asked if he thought taxpayers should still be concerned, he said: “Unquestionably yes. We are negotiated back from the worst-case scenario.”

Ferguson said the pandemic proved that governments do have the ability to provide real-time information to the public and that the city could do a better job with transparency by making all the invoices public.

NBC 5 Investigates’ initial records request for a year’s worth of invoices was denied by the city as being “unduly burdensome.” The denial letter said that redacting more than 400 pay statements would put a burden on the department.

“We have the capacity for real-time transparency that could allay concerns that we are just burning money and we need to get on top of that as well,” Ferguson said.

Online job postings show in the past month Favorite Healthcare Staffing was looking to hire more than 150 positions in Chicago, at rates lower than what previous invoices show. But what and where those positions are for is somewhat unclear. Through a spokeswoman, Favorite Healthcare Staffing has not responded to multiple requests for answers. An emailed message left for a Favorite recruiter also went unanswered.


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