JUly 1, 2020

Mayor Lightfoot And CDPH Announce $56M Grant To Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership To Bolster Contact Tracing Efforts For COVID-19 Cases In Chicago

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced the City has awarded a $56 million grant to Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership), in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, NORC at the University of Chicago, Malcolm X College – one of the City Colleges of Chicago – and Sinai Urban Health Institute, to carry out contact tracing services in Chicago, with an effort based in communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations will lead a health-equity based approach to further contain the spread of COVID-19, which will include disbursing 85% of the total grant funding to community organizations in areas of high economic hardship to train and certify a 600-person workforce that will support contact tracing. The 600 newly created jobs will be hired directly from the communities of high economic hardship that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The Partnership was chosen by a panel of community and city experts from a field of almost two dozen applications. This grant will fund the creation of the COVID Contact Tracing Corps and the COVID Resource Coordination Hub, which together will hire 600 people to provide contact tracing services to all of Chicago. As part of the grant, The Partnership will be conducting a second competitive bidding process to award the majority of the funding to at least 30 community-based organizations that will recruit and hire the contact tracers and resource coordinators under this grant.

In an effort to provide equitable opportunities to neighborhood organizations, the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance will be working with AMPT, a capacity-building provider for non-profits, to provide technical assistance to organizations applying for this second round grant. Community-based organizations that are interested in applying for this second-round grant can visit Chicago.gov/ContactTracing to sign up for one-on-one technical assistance for this application.

The Request for Proposals (RFP), in which the City has allocated $56 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health, mandates that the lead agency will be required to sub-grant 85% of contact tracing funding to at least 30 neighborhood-based organizations located within, or primarily serving residents of, communities of high economic hardship. Many of these same communities have been the most adversely impacted by COVID-19. These neighborhood-based organizations will be responsible for recruiting, hiring and supporting a workforce of 600 contact tracers, supervisors, and referral coordinators.

Employees hired through this program will be supported by an “Earn-and-Learn” program that helps them pursue higher education and credentialing, which will give contact tracers the ability to pursue stable, middle-income jobs that can support their livelihoods beyond the height of the pandemic. Contact tracers will earn $20 per hour with supervisors earning $24 per hour. CDPH will also require that applicants meet these minimum salary requirements and provide full health benefits. Organizations who are not able to meet these criteria will be able to submit a written statement to provide an explanation.

Alongside greater access to testing, contact tracing is an important tool in this phase of the City’s response to the pandemic. Contact tracing is a multi-step process of identifying and contacting anyone who has been in close, prolonged contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. The process begins when a case investigator interviews people who have tested positive for the virus to create a list of individuals with whom they have been in contact during their infectious period. Once contacts have been identified, contact tracers reach out to these individuals to provide guidance about appropriate steps they can take to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the public, such as self-quarantine or isolation. Public health officials then stay in touch with these individuals – mostly via electronic means (text services or reporting on a web/mobile platform) – to track the progression of any symptoms throughout the course of an illness.

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