City Council votes to allocate ARPA funding to ASPIRE-Evanston Community Healthcare Workforce Development Program


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council voted Monday to allocate $200,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding to the ASPIRE Workforce Development Program.

Avani Kalra, Assistant City Editor

City Council voted Monday to allocate $200,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding to the ASPIRE-Evanston Community Healthcare Workforce Development Program. 

What context should I know here?

The city’s Economic Development Committee recommended the council approve ARPA funding for the ASPIRE program in Monday’s session. The Finnegan Family Foundation proposed an additional $200,000 toward the program conditioned upon the council’s approval of ARPA funding. 

The program seeks to launch and accelerate health care careers by providing job shadowing and career fair opportunities for high school students, offering internships and scholarships and expanding health care opportunities around the city.

Leadership at the NorthShore University HealthSystem recently announced a need to develop a health care workforce pipeline. The system is presently looking to fill about 500 job openings. 

What were the key points of debate?

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) opened, expressing her discontent with City Council’s ARPA fund distribution process. 

“We have continued to tell people that we’re making a process and a plan for the rescue funds,” Fleming said. “There just seems like a more transparent way to allocate funds.” 

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) agreed with Fleming, adding that approving funds for programs like these without a comprehensive plan for ARPA funding undermines the council’s credibility. 

Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski said the city has tried and failed to hire a specialist to guide the council in their allocation of ARPA funds. 

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) voted in favor of the program.

“The ASPIRE program has a tremendous community,” Revelle said. “It has support from a number of really great partners in the community who are ready to jump in and make this initiative a success … Reaching out to District 65 and District 202 students is really hitting all the groups that we are continually concerned about reaching with workforce training and opportunity.” 

What’s the expected impact of the vote?

The funding approved today established a partnership between NorthShore University HealthSystem and the city that will support career fairs and certification programs, among other opportunities, for eligible Evanston residents looking to pursue careers in health care. 

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Twitter: @avanidkalra

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