Kane County spends last of $93 million in federal relief funds

It took almost eight months of squabbling and rejiggering programs, but when Kane County officials put up new calendars, they expect to have spent all $93 million in federal CARES Act funds.

Jarett Sanchez, the county board member now leading the committee overseeing the funds, said the final weeks in which elected officials opened the books to the second round of small business grants made a major difference in getting the cash out the door.

"We had to close the applications last week," Sanchez said. "It's going to be false hope at some point, and we already know we are going to be oversubscribed. Right now, county staff is full speed ahead on sending the final agreements out to get them signed."

It didn't always appear the county would get the money into the hands of everyone who may need it.

The county received the funds in April, but it took until the first week of July studying federal rules governing the funds before forming a first draft of how to spend the money. That plan didn't gain traction until the board acted to disband an oversight panel created by former county board Chairman Chris Lauzen.

It took two weeks to sort out what population data to use to determine how much of the money local municipalities should get. Another month went by before the county formed plans to get cash out to local businesses, townships and fire districts.

It wasn't until mid-October that county officials started reviewing and approving applications for any of the money.

In early November, local businesses complained there was little publicity and a confusing application for the first round of grants.

That fueled a second round of business grants just before Thanksgiving with a lower threshold to qualify for the money. It proved to be the catalyst for getting the money spent, up to this week.

The total number of requests between the two rounds of funding will ultimately help more than 400 local businesses.

As with all the grants the county is funding, only expenses incurred in 2020 are eligible for federal reimbursement.

As of Monday, the county had only about $237,000 of unspent funds remaining. Board members voted to take what it could to help fund the county's December payroll. Anything left over will go back into the small business grant program, though applications are closed.

"Will we end up with a few hundred bucks left over? We might," Sanchez said. "But it's not looking like that will happen. What I would love is for more (federal relief money) to come through. Then we could run the programs the right way from the beginning."

Legislation awaiting President Donald Trump's signature does not include new money for state and local governments. It does, however, extend the deadline to spend the money Kane County has now exhausted by up to another year.

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