(The Center Square) – Illinois’ Republican congressional delegation is calling for transparency on how Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration is allocating federal funds that have already been released.
As part of an earlier COVID-19 relief package Congress passed and President Donald Trump enacted, states were to get billions to deal with COVID-19 pandemic costs.
Illinois was set to get nearly $5 billion from one package. Most of that was in direct payments to the city of Chicago and Cook County. The rest of the money was to be split among local governments.
Earlier this month, Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole criticized the governor’s plan to divvy out the remaining $800 million of that package. Cole said then the Pritzker administration stripped the economic stimulus decisions from the local governments.
“Let’s keep the money locally, let’s not reallocate it,” Cole said. “Let’s give it to local officials so they can spend it on local businesses for local purposes so that we can keep local businesses thriving.”
The Pritzker administration said then the state legislature approved $250 million in federal funds for local government COVID-19-related costs and an additional $636 million for business interruption grant dollars the state will administer.
Round 1 of the BIG program is closed three weeks ago.
According to a U.S. Treasury Department report, the state's total allocation was $4.9 billion, of which about $753 million has been spent, or 15.3 percent.
Chicago got $470 million of that and has spent about 45 percent of the money. Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties got a combined $924.5 million and each county has spent between zero and 11.1 percent of their share.
The state government received $3.5 billion in federal tax money meant from COVID-19 aid packages and has spent $505 million, or 14.4 percent of the federal COVID-19 aid as of June 30.
Illinois’ Republican delegation of U.S. Reps Darin LaHood, R-Peoria; John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon; Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; and Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said they want more transparency.
“We continue to hear from local leaders in our districts who are struggling because of COVID-19 and Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders,” the GOP delegation said. “The lack of transparency regarding the federal funding sent to Illinois to support our communities through this pandemic is unacceptable.”
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which administers the BIG program, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Pritzker said the money would be spent transparently.
"The Legislature allocated that money in the budget so it's all transparently in the budget," Pritzker said Friday when asked about the GOP demand for transparency. "The Legislature met in mid-late May to do that and then the reason that the money hasn't been entirely spent is that we entered a new fiscal year. That's what the budget that was passed in May was about. Much of that money will be spent in the last half of this calendar year and is intended to be used as the Legislature has outlined."
“While Governor Pritzker continues to criticize the federal government and call for additional federal support, he must immediately provide information to the public about how the federal taxpayer money he is withholding will be disbursed and a process for how smaller units of government can get access to the funding,” the Republicans said.