Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during an Oct. 8 press conference about the new "Together We Rise" initiative.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and local business leaders announced on Thursday, Oct. 8, the debut of the $25 million "Together We Rise" COVID-19 relief fund, which aims to put Chicago on a path toward an equitable and just recovery by assisting black and Latino communities through partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and other organizations.

During a press conference held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Helene Gayle, CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, said the initiative consists of three components: philanthropy, which consists of raising resources and investing in economic growth by supporting businesses, entrepreneurship, home ownership, job creation and other factors spurring economic development; business practices, or establishing more equitable ways for the region to invest and do business moving forward; and policy, which involves advocating for practices that support economic growth and incentivize investment in disinvested neighborhoods.

"Like the Chicago Fire, we know that once again we will rise and flourish after this crisis," Gayle said, noting the press conference took place on the anniversary of the fire that destroyed a significant portion of the city in 1871.

Participating organizations and companies include BMO Harris, The Chicago Community Trust, Jewel-Osco, Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and PepsiCo, among others.

"This initiative shows what is possible when companies, nonprofits and public entities all come together to ensure that Chicago not only recovers from this crisis, but uses it as an opportunity to reimagine who we are as a city full of equity and opportunity for each and every one of our residents to grasp what is at their fingertips, to really realize their God-given talent," Lightfoot said. "That's something that we absolutely can and must do."

Curtis Reed, Chicago-area region manager for JPMorgan Chase, said the company was committed to addressing structural barriers of opportunity exacerbated by COVID-19.

Among other actions, the firm plans to provide $600 million in home-lending funds to increase home ownership among 3,000 black and Latino Chicago families over a five-year period, and the company has also implemented a new program designed to give entrepreneurs in historically underserved areas access to coaching, technical assistance and capital.

"These initiatives are part of a long-term, firm-wide commitment to drive an inclusive economic recovery, support employees and break down barriers of systemic racism," Reed said.

Neil Pryor, president of PepsiCo North America's central division, said the company is investing $1 million in the Hatchery with the goal of helping female entrepreneurs with their businesses and assisting job seekers in the South and West sides with grants and other services.

PepsiCo is also building on its existing partnership with City College of Chicago with a new five-year partnership to provide scholarships and support services for students seeking trade and certificate education. Other steps include distributing 100,000 meals and investing in black-owned restaurants in Chicago through a five-year $4 million initiative.

"Our goal is to help meet acute needs of underserved communities and to help build long-term solutions which support all of Chicago's continued resiliency," Pryor said. "Because we know that resilience isn't something that just happens -- we must believe in it, we must build it, so that together we can become it."

Luis Gutierrez, founder and CEO of Latinos Progresando, said black and brown communities form the background of the city, adding he has found inspiration in the way Chicagoans have come together to help the most vulnerable members of these populations.

"I'm excited to be working with The Chicago Community Trust, my fellow steering committee members, leaders from all the civic organizations, foundations to create this plan and make sure that community is at the forefront of everything we do for the city of Chicago moving forward," he said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.