Illinois’ GOP Congressional Delegation is asking Governor J.B. Pritzker to be more transparent about the allocation of federal funding to state and local governments under the CARES Act. Data compiled by the National League of Cities recently showed that 32 states, including Illinois, are withholding funding from local governments.
18th District Congressman Darin LaHood says the state government needs to keep with the intent of Congress and release the money to rural towns and governments immediately. “The district that I represent have cities that need the money. There is a lot of stress and anxiety with their budgets right now, and the fact that Illinois is withholding that money is really reprehensible particularly in the middle of a pandemic. That money needs to be sent to our cities and municipalities, so I’m again imploring the governor and his team to get that money out to our cities and municipalities. That’s money that we passed several weeks ago in the CARES Act, and Illinois overall received $4.9 billion. That money needs to start filtering down. Again, this goes back to the frustration in downstate Illinois that money goes to Chicago or goes to the state and never gets down to the trenches in the cities and municipalities in downstate Illinois. It’s extremely frustrating and infuriating to a lot of people.”
The Daily Line reported yesterday that of the $4.9 billion received by the state, $2.7 billion went directly to the state government and $2.2 was allocated to local governments. Of that $2.2 billion, Illinois’ five largest counties — Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will and Kane — received $1.4 billion which also included the City of Chicago. The budget implementation bill that passed over the weekend stipulates that municipalities are not directly eligible for state CARES Act money. Municipalities will have to implore their county government for any portion of the funding.
LaHood says that the majority of the federal money should not go towards state pensions but payroll for city government. “50% of city budgets are taken up by police and fire, and because of the coronavirus over the last 8 to 9 weeks they have not had that tax revenue coming in, so they’ve been effected. What I’ve said, the money that the feds are giving the state shouldn’t go to bail out pension systems. They should obviously go for the 9 weeks where they haven’t had that money. Keeping police and fire on the payroll and supplementing the holes that have been blown in their budget is what the money ought to be used for. We don’t need to be laying off police and fire because of this, but on the other hand, none of this money should be going to bail out 25 years of mismanagement that’s gone on well before coronavirus ever effected the country.”
LaHood says that postponing the vote on the graduated income tax would also provide relief to people in the near term. LaHood and the congressional delegation asked in a letter last Friday how much money came to the state directly, what the application process is for smaller units of government to get funding, and how much of the federal money has been disbursed to smaller units of government throughout the state.
Governor J.B. Pritzker refuted the congressional delegation’s claims that the money is being withheld last week, saying that the General Assembly has to pass enabling legislation for the release of funds.
State Senator Andy Manar says that $812 million is coming to downstate municipalities and he has worked closely with 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis and Senators Tammy Duckworth & Dick Durbin to get answers on how to implement federal dollars in the state budget: “Congress passed a massive bill, that even to this day, is very confusing. It’s still very murky in what it does and what it doesn’t do. Here’s my concern about what Congressman LaHood has said. The reason why the new state budget doesn’t specifically dole out hundreds of millions of dollars for what he’s call for – to units of local government is because when Congressman LaHood voted for that bill, it required that units of local government submit reimbursement. Our concern is that if we narrowly tailor it to local units of government, there may not be that many expenses directly related to COVID-19. We surveyed municipalities. We worked with the Illinois Municipal League, and our concern is we would be sending federal money back to Washington, which we do as a state anyway because we don’t get what we pay in to the federal government. We’re a donor state. What we did instead was for example, we took some of the CARES Act money and took $5 million and make it available to farmers who have to depopulate their farms and slaughter their livestock because of supply chain issues like in the meat processing business, which is happening in Illinois right now. We wanted to make sure those farmers had an avenue to get some financial relief. That wasn’t in the CARES Act, but we have the ability to do that.”
In the current draft of the Illinois budget, $267 million is slated to be released to local health providers for testing and COVID-19 related services for implementation of CARES Act funding. Manar says that every dollar of the $812 million allocated to local units of government and entities will be put to use and won’t have to be returned to the federal government.
The House Ways & Means Committee Republican caucus says that the 32 states mentioned in the National League of Cities report says that small towns and rural communities have received no indication when or if the federal dollars will ever be made available despite claims from their state lawmakers.