Illinois Municipal League says if federal funds for local governments continue to be restricted, it could be too late to avoid damages

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(The Center Square) – Money that Congress approved for local governments to provide economic support payments amid COVID-19 is still being held by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and the Illinois Municipal League worries it may be too late to avert the damage.

The Illinois Municipal League, which represents municipalities, has been working to change the administration’s policy of stricter controls over dollars the federal government passed and enacted in late March, and made some progress.

Illinois got $4.9 billion in federal COVID-19 relief. Some of that was for state and local governments to cover COVID-related costs. Other funds the Illinois Municipal League said was for local governments to provide economic stimulus to businesses impacted by the pandemic. Chicago and other governments with large populations got direct payments. The rest of the money for the rest of the state was captured by the Pritzker administration whose rules the IML says are too strict.

“IML is focused on a ‘yes we can’ approach of disturbing [federal COVID-19-aid] funding to desperate cities, villages and towns,” Cole wrote in the letter to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules. “Unfortunately, DCEO seems to have taken a ‘no we can’t’ approach, due to a desire to implement bureaucratic excuses and administrative hurdles that are unnecessary and burdensome. For some communities, it may already be too late to matter.”

Cole said the state continues to restrict $150 million.

“And I think if you give anybody the option of do you want state government in the middle of these funds and controlling, restricting and imposing guidelines in all of that or do you want to give it to your local mayor and city government so they can give out to the businesses quickly and easily, everybody is going to say ‘the local government,’” Cole said.

Messages seeking comment from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the governor’s officer were not returned. Rules the Pritzker administration filed with JCAR to manage the federal dollars are expected to be addressed in Springfield Tuesday.

Cole said he worried it may be too late for some businesses.

“By the time this money is released and hopefully it’s released to the full extent possible, businesses have closed, communities are suffering, people have lost jobs and in many cases, it may be too late for this money to do any good,” Cole said. “But we have to get it out. We have to get it all out at the local level as soon as possible.”

Last week GOP members of Congress urged for transparency on how the governor is handling that money and to release those funds. They cite a congressional report that had Illinois only distributing about 15 percent of the $4.9 billion Illinois has received in federal aid, as of June 30.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday those funds are set to be spent over the rest of the calendar in the budget that began last month.

“That’s what the budget that was passed in May was about. Much of that money will be spent in the last half of this calendar year and is intended to be used as the Legislature has outlined."

JCAR, the body of state lawmakers that reviews administrative rules, has the power to reject proposed rules. They discussed the distribution of funds last month but DCEO officials pledged to meet with municipal officials to come up with an agreement. The next meeting is Aug. 11.

26-Delivered

via The Center Square

August 6, 2020 at 05:00PM

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