Big cities get COVID-19 relief while smaller cities wait on Pritzker


While Illinois’ 45 largest cities are making decisions about their share of federal tax dollars for COVID-19 relief, more than 1,250 cities across the state are still waiting for the first half of a combined $742 million in federal aid.

The Pritzker administration has Illinois as one of eleven states in the nation that haven’t requested federal tax dollars for smaller communities.

Of the $162 billion federal taxpayers are on the hook for in pandemic assistance to Illinois, more than $8 billion is directly for state government.

The state’s 45 cities with more than 50,000 people share $2.7 billion. Chicago gets nearly $1.9 billion.

The U.S. Treasury says smaller cities must get allocation requests through their state government. Illinois hasn’t invoiced the first half of $742 million for smaller cities.

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said the lack of action is impacting 1,251 cities across the state. He said it has to happen sooner, rather than later.

“To allow communities to reinvest in critical infrastructure that are going to put people to work, to help build communities, and rebuild their economy,” Cole said.

The Pritzker administration didn’t return messages seeking comment.

The federal money was approved in March. The first payments started going to smaller cities in other states and jurisdictions in late May.

In Springfield, city officials already got half of their expected $33 million. About $1.4 million of that is going to restore budget reductions for the city’s fire department, even though Springfield Alderman Ralph Hanauer says there need to be efficiencies.

“This is nothing against the job that they do, we just can’t allow $800,000 in overage, in overtime,” Hanauer told WMAY.

Just 30 minutes west, South Jacksonville Mayor Tyson Manker says the village hasn't seen a dime. He worries politics is at play.

“Thank god Mike Madigan is gone, but it doesn't mean his shadow is,” Manker said, referring to the former Illinois House Speaker, the state’s longest-serving House Speaker.

“The parties, the way that they operate, it’s a lot of back-scratching, so we’re just trying to get some investment in South Jacksonville that hasn’t seen investment in a really long time,” Manker said. “We have infrastructure needs.”

The federal funds from the American Rescue Plan are larger than last year’s federal relief package and can be used for water and sewer infrastructure, broadband and revenue loss, but can’t be used to reduce taxes or for pensions.

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