Homeless shelters, food pantries ask for more help than Kane County is offering
Kane County officials won't come close to providing the help local homeless shelters, food pantries and mental health providers told them they need under current plans to distribute federal COVID-19 relief funds.
A committee overseeing the $103 million the county will receive from the American Rescue Plan revealed Wednesday it received 66 applications asking for a total of $35 million.
The county board has set aside $4 million so far to address what multiple local social service providers described during the past six months as an unprecedented mental health and homelessness crisis spawned by the pandemic.
The $4 million would fulfill about 11% of the help those agencies requested from the county.
The caps the county board placed on any single grant amount an individual organization could receive automatically slashed the total the committee would consider down to $7.3 million. Several committee members, including Drew Frasz, pushed Wednesday for either a second round of grant awards or an overall increase in the funds available to outside organizations to at least meet the $7.3 million tally.
"We allotted $4 million as a first-shot grant, but with that ($7.3 million) total, I would like to try to fund everything that's a reasonable ask, even if we have to up the amount," Frasz said.
If there is no increase, the committee and county board must determine where to cut back the requests even further to get the $4 million total.
Within that $7.3 million capped total, mental health service providers asked for $4.64 million in help. Homeless shelters asked for $1.5 million. Food pantries asked for $1.1 million.
The committee will prioritize the mental health service providers. The plan is to vote on awarding those grants on March 1.
Homeless shelters and food pantries may have to wait to see if the full county board agrees to increase the allotment for outside requests.
Food pantries and homeless shelters possibly being left without help would mark a major change in the way officials thought about the federal dollars upon receiving the $103 million.
Last spring, county board members floated several ideas for the money. Those included expanding high-speed internet throughout the county, addressing well water contamination and putting money into solving child care problems for local parents.
In the past four months, most of the debate on the county board centered on how much money the county should keep for its own expenses.
Having already dedicated some of the money to solving what started as a $16 million budget deficit for 2022, county board members are now focused on using the American Rescue Plan money to keep filling budget gaps.
The upcoming 2023 budget discussion will involve a full exploration of long-term cost-cutting and ways to increase revenue, including several ideas to raise local taxes.