Kane County has more federal COVID-19 assistance money than requests for help

 
 
Updated 10/9/2020 7:36 PM

When Kane County received nearly $93 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds nearly six months ago, local officials feared it might not be enough.

But this week, the committee charged with overseeing the funds found itself with more money than it knew what to do with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The deadlines to apply for all the various pools of funds have expired. Spreadsheets of the requests obtained by the Daily Herald show that even if county officials approved every eligible penny requested, there would still be about $7 million unspoken for.

That's far more wiggle room than county officials expected to have just a couple of months ago when pressure intensified from the local municipalities, small businesses and nonprofit agencies to release the funds to them.

"We have a substantial sum of money that we still need to allocate," said John Hoscheit, chairman of the Kane County CARES Act Allocation Committee. "We have decisions to make. We need ideas to get these funds allocated sooner rather than later."

An initial committee spent two months reviewing the federal obligations and rules attached to the money before Horscheit's committee -- concerned with the slow pace of the initial review -- was formed and took control of the process.

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The county ultimately decided to earmark about $51 million for its own expenses. It is still reviewing, and has not yet allocated, millions of dollars in requests by local municipalities, fire districts and nonprofits.

But even with those applications in hand, the committee found itself Thursday puzzling over what to do with millions of dollars that must be spent in less than 90 days.

Part of the surprising surplus stems from comparatively low interest from local small businesses in the $8 million the county set aside for them. Only 253 businesses applied for a grant. If all were to receive the maximum amount of assistance, there still would be $3 million in that pool.

Nearly three times as many businesses in DuPage County applied for CARES Act assistance.

Kane County Board members expressed surprise this week about the low interest by businesses, but the county staff assured them the program was widely publicized. In June, county board members feared if they waited until October to get the money into the hands of local businesses, many would close shop forever before the funds could help them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The county also is reviewing the 53 applications it received from nonprofit entities seeking help. And nearly every local municipality maxed out its requested allocation of the $27.7 million set aside to help them.

Local park districts applied for about $821,000. Townships and the forest preserve district asked for $698,000. And library districts requested $325,000.

The only area county officials underestimated the need in was local fire protection districts. The committee had set aside $1.35 million for those entities, but fire districts asked for more than $6 million worth of assistance.

Given the expected surplus, committee members expressed a willingness to increase the allocation for fire districts. They also suggested additional county and municipal requests could see a second round of funding.

It is unlikely the county would seek or take requests for aid from entities it already hasn't been in contact with. There may not be enough time to certify the eligibility of new applicants before the deadline to spend all the money.

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