First batch of Kane Co. COVID-19 relief funds may be released next week
Local governments in Kane County could see new COVID-19 relief funds flowing their way next week if county board members continue a sense of urgency demonstrated Monday.
A new county board committee that seized control of $93 million in federal COVID-19 money from a defunct task force last week ironed out many of the wrinkles associated with disbursing the money. In doing so, it also stripped county board Chairman Chris Lauzen of nearly all his ability to influence the process.
Key decisions made include using population numbers for local communities that come from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Those numbers will decide the maximum amount of money each incorporated area of the county can receive.
It also put in motion the creation of a universal application for local governments to access the funds and put county staff in place to review and track the applications.
The committee pushed forward on the general sentiment that the county will keep 55% of the money for its own COVID-19 response needs. That includes spending up to $13 million for the county health department to begin contract tracing on local COVID-19 cases.
It will release about $34.7 million to local cities, towns and villages. Between 50% and 66% of that total could be accessed immediately after a final vote next Tuesday.
There are still several details to work out. The committee agreed that park districts, the county forest preserves, townships and fire protection districts are all eligible applicants for $7 million it set aside for unincorporated areas. But it hasn't yet figured out how to separate out the areas of those units of local government that are within overlapping incorporated areas that will be helped with the $34.7 million.
The committee's work in one day follows two months of deliberation about federal guidelines for the funds by a now-defunct task force created by Lauzen. The county board became increasingly concerned by a lack of actionable recommendations by that task force as well as the lack of any county board member presence on the task force. Local mayors shared a growing sentiment that the county planned to keep all the money.
Lauzen denied any such plan Monday. But members of the new committee repeatedly ignored his input during their meeting en route to getting the funds disbursed as soon as possible.
The committee, led by John Hoscheit, went so far as to indicate it won't even debate a last-minute resolution to spend the money created by Lauzen's task force. It will also strip a committee led by Lauzen of its usual authority to review the new COVID-19 committee's resolutions.
The initial plans to spend the money will now go straight to the county board next Tuesday.
"It's important that what this committee is recommending make its way to the board in whatever form we have to take to get it there," Hoscheit said. "The frustration was that there were 60 days that went by, and we hadn't gotten to this point. The board is committed in unison to dot the I's and cross the T's."
The new COVID-19 committee will meet again Monday afternoon to continue its work on the unresolved details.