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Officials eager for county to disperse stimulus money

Rex Robinson | 5/20/2020, 2:19 p.m.
Will County received more than $120.5 million in federal stimulus money to assist with a variety of hardships related to ...

Will County received more than $120.5 million in federal stimulus money to assist with a variety of hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now some area officials are wondering when the county is going to start doling those funds out to communities. Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk told The Times Weekly recently that he is still waiting to hear when the funds will be released.

The money was part of the $2.2 trillion economic relief legislation passed by Congress in late March. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a total of $150 billion in federal aid through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Will County’s portion of that funding came to $120,529,327.

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) is urging the Will County Board to immediately establish a panel to distribute the federal CARES Act funding to residents in need as they are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, keep their small businesses afloat and deal with other hardships created by the COVID-19 crisis.

The CARES Act, she added, is to provide financial relief for workers, families, small businesses and local governments that have been impacted fiscally by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is up to county officials to decide where Will County’s share of the money goes, she said.

In addition to supporting local health operations, Bertino-Tarrant is asking the county to consider establishing grants to prevent evictions, creating a program to provide forgivable loans to small businesses that have experienced interruptions due to COVID-19 and providing direct financial assistance to families or individuals.

“It is imperative to establish a process for reviewing and distributing dollars to address the needs of our residents,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “People throughout the community are struggling, and it’s up to us, the area’s public officials, to prioritize those we serve.”

Will County District 4 Board Member Kenneth Harris (D-Bolingbrook), who is chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said none of the funds have been dispersed at this time, adding that the County Board will vote to establish a special fund to track all expenditures.

“Our goal will be to develop a process that will give the greatest number of Will County residents an opportunity to benefit from,” Harris said.

Will County District 8 Board Speaker Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet) said an Ad-Hoc committee has been name to work with the finance department to identify the needs, verify guidelines and determine the county’s approach.

“Following that, they will determine a consultant to administer the funds using that data,” Winfrey said. “As a county, our goal is to provide for all residents. We plan to use the funds to relieve the burden of expenses that have occurred in response to the pandemic. We also want to insure that we have the necessary resources on hand to combat any resurgence in the county.”

Bertini-Tarrant said she hopes the county board moves fast to disperse the funds.

“Will County was awarded money to help the residents of our area combat the financial hardships they are facing due to COVID-19,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “We must work quickly and diligently to make sure the needs of all Will County residents are met in a timely manner.”