(The Center Square) – The state of Illinois is pumping hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars out the door for COVID-19 relief, and the money is going out all over the place, including into private hands.
Part of more than $160 billion of taxpayer resources in COVID-relief the U.S. Congress approved through the entirety of the pandemic for Illinois is payments to private businesses, local taxing bodies and landlords.
There are also billions for schools. Some are critical of the strings attached to the funds.
In a viral video recorded before the Vandalia school board last month, parent Carol Kerr took officials to task for implementing COVID-19 policies she disagrees with to access millions of dollars.
“Hiding $5,750,000 from us and then telling us you’re masking our children for their health is unconscionable,” Kerr said.
Large Unit School District Association Executive Director John Burkey said districts have to follow COVID-19 protocols to get the funds. And school officials are “pushed really hard” in different areas.
“So the funds are being used as well to help them accomplish the COVID-related task while that have to keep being administrators for other aspects of the school, and teachers as well,” Burkey said.
In total, K-12 schools across the state are in line for nearly $9 billion in COVID aid.
Landlords are sharing in $443 million. That’s from more than $500 million available.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s eviction moratorium that’s been in place for nearly 20 months expires Monday. He said they’re pushing the dollars out. He expects the courts to as well.
“They will be referring people who haven’t yet applied for rental assistance to go do that so they won’t be evicted, because there are people who just haven’t applied yet,” Pritzker said.
Around $250 million is also available for businesses. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Sylvia Garcia said there’s a deadline of Oct. 13 to apply.
“[Back to Business] grants can be used to cover operational expenses like rent, payroll, working capital,” Garcia said. “And, as has been mentioned, these are grants, not loans. So you do not have to pay them back. That’s the best part. You don’t have to pay them back.”
There’s also $742 million for smaller local governments. The deadline to claim those funds was Thursday. Unclaimed taxpayer funds can be sent to other districts that have continued need.