(The Center Square) – As large cities decide what to do with 2021 COVID-19 relief tax dollars, smaller cities continue to wait.
However, nearly $24 million from last year’s relief package has been left on the table.
A review of COVID-19 relief funds for governments across Illinois from 2020 found more than $205 million was approved or paid out across Illinois to towns as small as 120 people. Some $23.9 million was left unclaimed.
Some governments took all of the funds they were allocated in the 2020 taxpayer aid package sent by the federal government. Some took just 75%. Others left as little as a dollar unclaimed. Many left tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars unclaimed. Many other taxing bodies didn’t claim any of the money.
Even though he supported the relief during the height of the pandemic last year, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said some communities didn’t need the dollars for the COVID-19-related costs the guidelines allowed.
“I have 19 counties across central and west-central Illinois and many of them small, that have turned back the money, didn’t take the money,” LaHood said. “You know, this is the problem with too much government.”
That was one reason why LaHood said he and other Republicans opposed Biden’s 2021 COVID-19 relief plan that’s costing taxpayers nationwide $1.9 trillion. Those funds can be used for much broader purposes, such as for sewers, to replace lost revenue, or to hire more police officers.
“The analogy has been used, it’s kind of like throwing money out of a helicopter, in terms of not targeting that money,” LaHood said.
It’s expected Gov. J.B. Pritzker will soon announce how to allocate $740 million in COVID-19 relief funds for smaller cities the Biden administration approved in March. Large cities already got half of their share of $2.7 Billion.
For the 2021 COVID-19 relief spending, Republicans at the Illinois statehouse say they’ve been left in the dark on how smaller local government funds from federal taxpayers will be distributed.
A spokesperson for Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said it’s expected the Pritzker administration may soon announce details on how to allocate more than $740 million in 2021 COVID-19 relief.
Messages seeking comment from the Pritzker administration weren’t returned.
While big cities got direct payments from the federal government weeks ago, more than 1,250 smaller communities are still waiting.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said minority Republicans and their taxpayer constituents are in the dark.
“We were left out of the budget negotiations, there has been no briefing from the [Pritzker] administration on how the [American Rescue Plan Act] money is going to be distributed,” Durkin said. “This is strictly a very partisan administration. More partisan than I ever imagined.”
State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi called for transparency “about where the money can go, should go.”
“So that everyone feels that they have a say in the process,” Mazzochi said. “Not just the governor is going to make sure that the funds get allocated to his favored political constituencies.”