Kane County Board ready to ditch task force overseeing federal COVID relief funds
Members disagree on who should decide how federal funds should be spent
A growing number of Kane County Board members are preparing to abandon the official task force created to determine how to spend the $93 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds the county received.
So far, the Coronavirus Relief Fund Task Force has yet to make a recommendation for the funds, and county officials learned Wednesday the state will withhold some state money due to the county if the federal funds aren't distributed.
"We are still stuck at the gate," board member Matt Hanson said. "There's been a lot of talk about how we can't spend the money. So we bumble along and basically do nothing. We have $93 million sitting in the hopper that could be helping with a variety of things. It's disgraceful."
However, Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt, the chairman of the task force, said in a statement the task force's role is not to create policies for the county board about how to spend the money, but to guide the board to make its own choices, based on what the federal guidelines for the funds say can and can't be done with the money. He said the task force has provided that guidance.
"The Task Force has no authority to determine the way the County Board chooses to allocate the funds we received," Hunt said.
Members of the county board's legislative committee have drafted several plans on their own in recent weeks -- all aimed at distributing the money to local governments and businesses sooner than later.
The plans contain suggestions include help for local businesses, per capita allocations for municipalities and surveying local needs. There is also widespread agreement the county should keep some of the money to offset its own COVID-19 expenses.
That includes a revised plan to buy care packages of masks, soap and thermometers for county residents unable to access those supplies. County leaders envisioned spending $5 million on those packages but scaled that back to less than $1 million Wednesday. The cut follows lingering uncertainty about how much need there is in the community for the $93 million.
Several county board members said it's looking more and more like the task force doesn't want to share any of the money with local governments. But county board members learned Wednesday there will be a penalty if they hoard the cash.
State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, also a county board member, told them a bipartisan state commission will review how the five counties large enough to receive direct federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds use the money. The state set aside $250 million for municipalities outside those five counties. State leaders expect the five counties to use the federal funds they received to help the communities within their county borders. If the counties don't allocate funds to their local governments, the state will withhold the county's share of state income tax money that goes to local governments.
"It is our job to make sure our constituents are cared for," said board member Theresa Barreiro. "As a county board, we have the right to gather our information and put forth a resolution."