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IML calls governor’s aid claim “ridiculous,” DCEO fires back

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

* Illinois Municipal League…

The Illinois Municipal League (IML) is calling on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to speed up release of federal funds intended to aid communities during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, DCEO says it has released just $21 million of the nearly $150 million in funding set aside for Illinois municipalities through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) ACT.

Delays in disbursing these funds severely limit economic recovery in cities, villages and towns, where local leaders are facing major budget shortfalls due to a sharp dip in revenue caused by the pandemic. Downstate and suburban communities have been hit especially hard, as they did not receive direct financial aid from the federal government and have been left with unclear information from the state about what costs qualify for reimbursement and when to expect aid.

“It has been a full seven months since the federal CARES Act was passed, yet instead of receiving the aid as intended municipalities have largely been left in the dark about what help, if any, they will receive. This makes it impossible for local officials to make crucial decisions about public services that help those most impacted by the pandemic,” said Brad Cole, IML Executive Director. “Local officials know their communities best, and as we see COVID cases rise, this aid is going to be even more crucial to the wellbeing of our local municipalities.”

Cole rejected comments made by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday suggesting many municipalities have simply decided not to apply for the funding.

“The notion that municipalities are turning away money is ridiculous,” said Cole. “To the extent some communities have not submitted applications, it is because the state has made the process too cumbersome and difficult or those communities have been unable to get timely answers to their questions from DCEO.”

Municipal operations and finances have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. An IML survey from this summer found that 87 percent of responding municipalities have experienced revenue shortfalls of 20-30 percent when compared to last year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. To make up for these shortfalls and in the absence of federal aid dollars, elected officials are being forced to make difficult decisions, which includes possible layoffs of personnel, reductions in municipal programs and services, delaying infrastructure projects and spending already-limited reserve funds.

The CARES Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and was backed by every member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation, included provisions to grant federal aid to local governments during the pandemic. Further, state lawmakers also believed they were sending direct aid to local governments when voting for this year’s budget package.


Pritzker said the money has to go through the state, in case the feds audit how municipalities use the relief funding.

“We’re going to get audited for every dollar that we got from the federal government,” Pritzker said. “Every dollar has to be accounted for and that’s why the state is running the program that it is.”

That doesn’t pass the smell test for Cole, who said that each municipality should be liable for how the funds are spent.

Um, the feds will come to Illinois, not the municipalities, for any refunds.


IML’s characterization that DCEO is holding back funds from local governments is simply inaccurate. To date, we’ve issued $21.5 million in checks to 114 local units of government, with another $36.5 million in the pipeline and we fully expect to release all of the funds in the program. After a ramping up period to get hundreds of municipalities signed up for the program– we are now at a pivotal point in which substantial reimbursement checks – some topping over $1 million – are being issued to local governments daily. In the past week alone – approved payouts have more than doubled for the program, suggesting the volume of payments local governments should expect to receive in the coming weeks alone. DCEO continues to work closely with legislators, counties, municipalities and many other units of government to support local officials with understanding of the stringent federal requirements and any assistance they need to apply for the maximum amount of reimbursements available to them under this program.

* Background…

DCEO has worked diligently to implement the program pursuant to this guidance in order to avoid putting our state at risk for being required to repay misspent funds, at a time of great fiscal challenges across our state budget.

We recognize that local governments have had numerous questions about how to navigate eligible costs, as stipulated in the federal guidelines. DCEO continues to advise on these scenarios, to coach governments on the rules and with applying, and to help local governments fold in as many costs as possible. Since the start of the program DCEO and the Local CURE administrator have fielded hundreds of calls, held dozens of webinars, handled and solved more than 350 help desk tickets, and responded to more than 1,300 email inquiries.

Additionally, US Treasury has released numerous revisions to its guidance in recent months which have meaningfully impacted how these funds can be used – including reimbursement due dates, eligibility of key expenses like public safety payrolls, and providing guidance on how local governments can seek reimbursement for the costs of adopting CDC and IDPH guidance, to name a few.

We have compromised with the IML and allocated a portion of the funding toward a $15 million local government economic support program. Moreover, today 94% of overall funding in this program is under obligated agreements with local governments, waiting for qualified submissions of COVID-19 related costs.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - The Fifth Deputy Governor - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 7:58 am:

    Brad Cole grandstanding? I’m shocked.

  2. - frustrated GOP - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 8:03 am:

    Schools have gotten money recently. Yes, there is an accounting system and you must submit expense reports. And like all federal money, its the State that is responsible for the funds. so either someone at IML is new, or they just want to complain, there is a SOP that money flows, and it needs to be setup and running. There is valid criticism about some of the delays of response of the State not being able to turn around because workers are not back in the office and or their at home systems can’t support current needs. but I’m not sure that is all on Pritzker. Lack of investment by several administrations have caused some of the delays

  3. - JS Mill - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 8:14 am:

    @Frustrated GOP describes our experience with the CARES funding. The initial process was delayed a bit, but that has been derigure in Illinois for decades. Our district is getting reimbursements now.

  4. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 8:30 am:

    “… so either someone at IML is new … .”

    Actually, just a reflection of how much IML work time Brad Cole spends protecting IML parking lots from the hoi polloi and how little IML work time he spends on matters of substance … /s

  5. - duck duck goose - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 8:57 am:

    A few points:
    Other states don’t seem to be having issues making these distributions. Why is this a problem in Illinois?
    The money was given to the state to pass through to local governments to address a crisis situation. Seven months into that crisis situation, the State has managed to pass through 14% of the money to a small handful of local governments. Clearly, there is something broken with the State’s process.

  6. - walker - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:11 am:

    “”There is valid criticism about some of the delays of response of the State”" Yes

    What did IML do with and for its members, to help smooth the process of getting reimbursed, instead of leading the choir? Do they accept a wider responsibility?

  7. - From DaZoo - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:13 am:

    On a couple federally funded programs I know about, the state fronts the money and is reimbursed by the feds. Sure, the feds can play whack-o-mole down at the municipal level but the first thing that will happen is the state will not be reimbursed if the paperwork isn’t properly filed. That would increase the hole in the budget for next year.

  8. - Demoralized - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:41 am:

    The feds made it difficult because they restricted what the money can be used for which is why the state distribution is more complicated than it needs to be. It’s coronavirus related expenses only. It isn’t a pot of money to be used as you see fit. If they have a problem they need to take it up with the feds.

  9. - Flyin' Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:44 am:

    Brad Cole hitched his wagon to George Ryan.

    His opinions on anything should be judged accordingly.

  10. - Experienced grant manager - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    For this program, the first guidelines issued in June were a confusing mess with contradictory information. In early September better guidance was issued. In this case haste doesn’t make waste, it sets you up for repaying the funds when you are audited.

  11. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    ===Brad Cole hitched his wagon to George Ryan.===

    Brad Cole also hitched IML’s wagon to Bruce Rauner.

  12. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Governor claims he is ramping up the program and increasing responsiveness. Same claims he made when unemployment insurance claims and nursing home inspections were backed up in a ridiculous fashion. Anyone seeing a pattern developing here?

  13. - Google is Your Friend - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    “Iowa’s government misallocated at least $21 million of federal assistance intended for COVID-19 relief and must correct the error by the end of the year or face having to repay the money, State Auditor Rob Sand says.

    “Iowa used the money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act to help pay for a new accounting system.

    “Sand and the U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general last week advised Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration that the software is not an allowable use of the money, according to a review Sand released Monday.”

    The Treasury department isn’t not going easy on these funds, folks. Wise up or shut up. That goes for Brad Cole too.

  14. - Flyin' Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 11:04 am:

    “That goes for Brad Cole too.”

    Yep, it should, but again he was one of Ryan’s guys.

    Kosher ain’t really his thang.

  15. - Socially DIstant Watcher - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    ==Anyone seeing a pattern developing here?==

    Sure, Louis: the pattern is that you liked Rauner and don’t like Pritzker.

    But on the substance, that the state doesn’t want to be on the hook for money improperly spent by municipalities, what do you think?

  16. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 11:43 am:

    === Governor claims he is ramping up the program and increasing responsiveness. Same claims he made when unemployment insurance claims and nursing home inspections were backed up in a ridiculous fashion. Anyone seeing a pattern developing here?===

    Your blind dishonesty to facts during the Rauner years, but you made out ok, so…

    I agree with you here. I really do.

    You delivering the comment is comical, trying to masquerade as an honest broker.

    I don’t necessarily see a pattern, I do see a continued need for better service.

  17. - Flying Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:05 pm:

    “Anyone seeing a pattern here”

    Yeah, continuing proof that no one should take you being an attorney seriously.

    Maybe you and DeVore could form a practice. With his mouth and your legal expertise, combined you would be a big man.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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