Lake County earmarks nearly $41 million for 16 projects in pandemic recovery funds

  • The Lake County Board has earmarked roughly $7 million in federal pandemic relief funds toward a permanent, centrally located PADS shelter, rather than rotating locations like here in Waukegan, for the homeless to include "wraparound services."

    The Lake County Board has earmarked roughly $7 million in federal pandemic relief funds toward a permanent, centrally located PADS shelter, rather than rotating locations like here in Waukegan, for the homeless to include "wraparound services." Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 3/11/2022 11:48 AM

Work to implement a variety of projects in Lake County can kick into gear with officials earmarking nearly $41 million in federal pandemic recovery funds.

The county board approved 16 projects Tuesday to be completed using American Rescue Plan Act funding. The allocation followed months of review to pare down a wish list of $108 million in potential needs or projects suggested by community organizations and county departments.

 

Funded projects range from $31,000 for equipment and storage for the Lake County coroner's office to $15 million for software to perform myriad county functions. The Enterprise Resource Planning system will replace the one installed 20 years ago and upgraded 10 years ago.

A significant investment also is being made in housing with $11.6 million earmarked for five projects, including a permanent, fixed-site homeless shelter.

All suggestions were reviewed, scored and prioritized based on criteria aligning with U.S. Treasury guidance, according to county officials.

Unlike the $121 million in federal CARES Act funds Lake County received early on during the pandemic and used mainly for immediate needs, this second injection has a broader range of uses.

Funds can be used for needs associated with public health, to counteract harm to the local economy, provide services to disproportionately affected communities, for infrastructure, to provide premium pay, to replace lost revenue, and for administrative purposes from March 3, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2026.

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County board member Paul Frank chairs a special finance committee that continues to review funding requests and make recommendations to the full board. Before the vote Tuesday, Frank said the $41 million allocation is "really focused on investment in housing and other key needs."

"We're really going to make an impact and (be) helping people in a significant way," he said.

All five projects submitted in the household assistance category were approved and received about 29% of the total funding.

The largest project is about $7.1 million to build a centrally located PADS homeless shelter with access to related services. That's been on the radar since 2019 when a study commissioned by the county found a permanent center, rather than rotating locations, would better serve the homeless, said Brenda O'Connell, community development administrator.

"The county has expressed its support and wants to see it happen," she said. "Hopefully, this investment will help bring them closer to finding a site."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two of the five projects are ready to go, according to O'Connell.

The first is $1.4 million for construction of 44 affordable housing units in Highwood.

The second is $1.05 million for the acquisition and rehab of seven single-family homes being sold by the Lake County Housing Authority in Mundelein and Lake Zurich to be preserved as affordable housing.

Converting an existing building to create 32 affordable senior housing units and office space for Community Partners for Affordable Housing in Libertyville, and building eight affordable housing units in Highland Park are in the review process for state tax credits.

"Part of the county's strategy was to leverage state dollars to make the ARPA money go as far as possible," O'Connell said.

Lake County has received half its $136 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation. The money must be earmarked by the end of 2024 and spent by end of 2026.

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