Illinois holds onto majority of Cares Act funding, but DCEO says it will distribute entire $150 million to municipalities

(The Center Square) – Municipalities across Illinois continue to wait for COVID-19 relief funding allocated by the federal government, but state officials said they aren’t withholding the funding.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or Cares Act, approved this spring allotted $150 million for towns and cities in Illinois, but so far the Illinois Municipal League said only $21 million has been released by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration.

“We are just trying to advocate for local governments and request the state to release these dollars and get the money out to local governments so they can help their communities and help the people that live in those communities,” said IML president Brad Cole.

The state is dispersing grants to cities and towns that apply through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which determines how much municipalities are awarded.

Bloomington Deputy city manager Billy Tyus says they haven’t applied for funding yet because the city has been making preparations to receive the over $3 million in funds.

“The costs had to be eligible, and you have to provide information related to those costs,” said Tyus.

Pritzker said this week that many towns aren’t trying to get the money, something Cole is not buying into.

“The notion that municipalities are turning away money is ridiculous,” he said. “To the extent some communities have not submitted applications, it is because the state has made the process too cumbersome and difficult or those communities have been unable to get timely answers to their questions from DCEO.”

DCEO said it has not been holding back funding.

“IML’s characterization that DCEO is holding back funds from local governments is simply inaccurate. To date, we’ve issued $21.5 million in checks to 114 local units of government, with another $36.5 million in the pipeline and we fully expect to release all of the funds in the program,” the department said.

It said it had to get many municipalities signed up for the program before sending out checks.

“After a ramping-up period to get hundreds of municipalities signed up for the program – we are now at a pivotal point in which substantial reimbursement checks – some topping over $1 million – are being issued to local governments daily,” the agency said in a statement. “In the past week alone – approved payouts have more than doubled for the program, suggesting the volume of payments local governments should expect to receive in the coming weeks alone.”

The agency also said it was working to make sure local officials were aware of the “stringent federal requirements” for the money.

“DCEO continues to work closely with legislators, counties, municipalities and many other units of government to support local officials with understanding of the stringent federal requirements and any assistance they need to apply for the maximum amount of reimbursements available to them under this program,” the statement said.

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