Newsletter: COVID-19’s Dire Impact On Chicago’s Economy

chicago for rent
In this June 20 2020 file photo, a “Store For Rent” sign is displayed at a retail property in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
chicago for rent
In this June 20 2020 file photo, a “Store For Rent” sign is displayed at a retail property in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Newsletter: COVID-19’s Dire Impact On Chicago’s Economy

Good afternoon! It’s Wednesday, and I really wish every weekend were three days long. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Half of Chicago households face serious financial problems, poll finds

A new poll released today by NPR further illustrates the devastating economic impact of the pandemic on Americans.

The poll found that at least half of all households in the nation’s four largest cities have lost jobs, wages or savings since the beginning of the pandemic. Many of these problems are more pronounced in Black and Latino households, NPR reports.

In Chicago, 50% of households reported serious financial problems compared to 46% nationally, according to the poll. That number is considerably higher for Black (69%) and Latino (63%) households in Chicago. [NPR]

The poll comes as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration must find a way to close a combined $2 billion shortfall in this year’s budget and the next. Lightfoot warned this week that layoffs will be needed to help close the massive budget deficit, and the city is negotiating with unions over cuts and concessions.

“We can’t ask individual taxpayers to give us more if we don’t prove to them that we are being good fiduciaries of their tax dollars, and that includes making painful sacrifices,” Lightfoot said.

City officials are not banking that federal lawmakers will provide relief as negotiations over a new stimulus bill appear to have hit a brick wall in Congress. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Some economists say the enormous budget cuts facing local governments across the nation will further jeopardize the U.S. economy unless federal lawmakers step in. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin today expressed doubt that a new relief bill could be passed this year. [New York Times]

2. In recorded interview, Trump admitted he purposely downplayed the coronavirus

As President Donald Trump told the nation the coronavirus was no worse than the seasonal flu, he said the opposite in an interview with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in early February.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call that was recorded. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

The news comes as Woodward’s new book, Rage, is slated to be released next week. The book is partly based on 18 on-the-record interviews Woodward conducted with Trump between December and July.

In an interview in March, Trump said he intentionally minimized the risk of the coronavirus. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said. [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, the head of the National Institutes of Health told a Senate panel today that he can’t say whether a vaccine will be ready before the November election, as Trump has suggested. [New York Times]

In Illinois, state officials today reported 1,337 new cases and 30 additional deaths. Over the past week, the state is seeing an average of about 2,300 cases per day. You can find more information about Illinois’ numbers in this link. [WBEZ]

3. “The Loop’s like a ghost town”

As the pandemic began upending life in America during the spring, a theory emerged that city dwellers would move to the suburbs for more space and safety. Now, data on downtown renters and home sales appear to support that theory.

Downtown apartment occupancy fell to 89.2%, the lowest since 2002, reports Crain’s Chicago Business, citing figures from appraisal and consulting firm Integra Realty Resources. The suburban occupancy rate dipped slightly from 95.3% to 95.1%, but the median net rent rose by 1.6%.

As Crain’s notes, residents are moving for a variety of reasons, from losing jobs to the new reality that working from home means many tenants no longer need to be close to the office. [Crain’s]

4. U.S. attorney general touts Operation Legend after Chicago suffers violent Labor Day weekend

U.S. Attorney General William Barr today gave an update on the Trump administration’s efforts to curb violence in Chicago, saying that federal prosecutors have so far charged 124 defendants.

“Many of those defendants are now detained pending trial rather than causing harm on the streets,” Barr said.

In July, President Trump announced he was expanding the federal program known as Operation Legend to Chicago, allowing the administration to deploy more federal agents to the city.

While violence continues to plague the city, more gun cases have been filed in federal court in Chicago since Operation Legend’s expansion. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Homeland Security officials wanted to play down threats from Russia because it was unflattering to Trump, whistleblower says

The former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence division said he was told to downplay the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming election because it “made the President look bad,” reports The Washington Post, citing the whistleblower’s complaint.

The official, Brian Murphy, said he believed the order from acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf jeopardized national security. While U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, President Trump has characterized Russian interference as a “hoax.” [Washington Post]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Bradley University in central Illinois says its entire student body will quarantine for two weeks. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Restaurants in New York City can resume indoor dining at reduced capacity levels on Sept. 30. [NBC New York]
  • Here’s a look at how one Chicago family navigated the first day of remote learning. [WBEZ]
  • AMC’s The Walking Dead will end after 11 seasons in 2022. [Deadline]

Oh, and one more thing …

Have you ever thought, “Man, I wish there were a 15-minute version of NPR’s All Things Considered”?

Well you’re in luck, because NPR and WBEZ have teamed up on a new podcast called … (wait for it) … Consider This.

How considerate. The new podcast doesn’t waste your time. It gets straight to the news while providing thorough takes on the latest local and national headlines. Episodes come out every weekday at 4 p.m., and they’re hosted by NPR’s Kelly McEvers and WBEZ’s Lisa Labuz. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

WBEZ’s fall pledge drive begins this week, and I’d like to know what you enjoy the most about public radio.

@adamfork2 tweets:

“There are three primary elements delivered by public radio I appreciate most: a sense of calm, a source of information I feel I can trust, and all the best podcasts in existence.”

And Mel writes:

“We live in Wisconsin, but our kids and grandkids live in Chicago. We joined last year, and began receiving your daily newsletter. It keeps my wife and I informed about goings on in Chicago and hits the high spots of national and state news as well. Great coverage in a small space. Keep up the great work!!! We love the newsletter and so have re-subscribed for this year.”

What do you enjoy the most about public radio? Feel free to email at or tweet to @whuntah.

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