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Illinois Comptroller creates portal to track asylum seeker-related spending

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza speaks to reporters on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, after Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his budget address at the statehouse in Springfield, Ill.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza speaks to reporters on Wednesday after Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his budget address at the statehouse in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said she wants to give taxpayers more information about state expenditures on the asylum seekers who have been arriving in Illinois. Mendoza has opened a portal on her office website.

“While the state is incurring expenses that, frankly, should be paid by the federal government, I want to make sure that taxpayers know exactly what the state is spending money on when it comes to the arrival and care of asylum seekers,” Mendoza said.

The portal will show expenditures, with information including the vendor’s name, which agency paid the vendor, which state fund the money came from, contract information and the total amount paid, Mendoza said.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week that he is increasing the state’s spending commitment with an additional $182 million to help accommodate the migrants, most of whom were bussed from Texas to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The number who have arrived is estimated around 40,000 so far.

“As elected officials and citizens discuss the best policies to accommodate the influx of asylum seekers, having accurate numbers will benefit all involved,” Mendoza said, adding it is similar to her effort to list all COVID-19 spending.

As with COVID, spending on accommodations for the asylum-seekers is an issue of great public interest, Mendoza said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has committed $70 million in county funds to the effort.

“I encourage Cook County and the city of Chicago to offer similar portals showing their spending on this important issue,” says Comptroller Mendoza. “We especially urge the federal government, which should bear the entirety of the responsibility for this issue, to disclose all its spending.”

According to a statement from the comptroller’s office, the directive requires state agencies to attach a special code for expenditures related to programs and benefits for asylum-seekers as of November this past year.

As of Feb 20, 11 vouchers totaling $31 million had been reported with more expected in the coming months.

It also said state spending that helps homeless or other populations that could benefit migrants may not be included, “so this should not be considered an exhaustive list of all the help the state provides asylum-seekers, but it should include all spending directly aimed at these newcomers moving forward as reported by state agencies.”

Sean Crawford is the managing editor at NPR Illinois (WUIS) in Springfield, Illinois.