In unprecedented move for local town, Elk Grove issues $2.8 million coronavirus relief package
In an unprecedented move for a local municipality, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Monday signed a proclamation establishing a $2.8 million coronavirus relief package that gives water bill credits to residents and waives various licensing fees for businesses.
"We know this outbreak has placed plenty of economic stress on our families and our businesses, so if there's something we can do as a village to make things just a little bit easier, we're gonna do it," Johnson said in a video message posted to the village's website and social media channels.
Seated at his desk in village hall, Johnson signed the proclamation at the end of a five-minute video message to the community. The mayor said he individually polled village board members, all of whom supported the measure.
The financial expenditures are set to be formally approved at the board's next scheduled meeting April 14.
The village is paying for the relief package -- equating to some $2.3 million for residents and $500,000 for businesses -- with its surplus from last year's budget. Johnson says Elk Grove was able to do it because of the town's financial strength and because officials "have always planned for the tough times."
According to its 2019 audit, Elk Grove Village has $28 million in its unassigned reserve account, which is about six months of general fund expenses.
Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said it's the first he's heard of a local town providing direct funds to residents in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"They are a well-run village, they had a budget surplus, and they've decided to return that back to their residents," Cole said. "I think it's a great decision from the village board. It's something that they're obviously able to do, but most other communities are not."
Mark Fowler, executive director of the Northwest Municipal Conference, said towns in the Northwest suburbs have been brainstorming various ways to help during the crisis, such as delaying food and beverage tax payments. But Elk Grove's package represents the first direct financial award.
"I applaud Elk Grove for doing this and hopefully this leads the way in showing other towns some unique out-of-the-box things that can be done," Fowler said.
The deal gives each of Elk Grove's 11,500 households a $200 credit on their bimonthly water bills. The average residential water bill is $84, so officials anticipate most customers will be able to take advantage of the credit for two or three billing cycles.
Johnson said the village is requiring landlords to pass savings onto their tenants, and likewise condo associations to their unit owners, through future assessment fees.
For the 2,200 businesses in town, Elk Grove is waiving annual licensing fees that would have been due June 1. That will mean some $220,000 in fees waived for restaurants and bars that have been closed and others that have had to scale back operations with takeout orders only, and more than $75,000 in relief for building contractors, officials said.
Johnson on Monday also announced a grace period for all payments to the village through May 31 without any late fees or penalties. That includes water/sewer bills, parking/traffic tickets, food/beverage tax and hotel/motel tax. The grace period will be reevaluated and could be extended, he added.
"We know that this relief package will not cure everyone's financial challenges, but we also know that every little bit counts," Johnson said.