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$1.5 Billion In Coronavirus Relief Likely Coming To Chicago From Federal Stimulus

Estimates show Chicago could snag at least $1.6 billion in funding from the federal government — but more money will likely be needed, officials said.

Second Lieutenant Jon Kent, the officer in charge of National Guard relief efforts at the McCormick Place, explains the details of Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs) to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the McCormick Place Convention Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago, Ill., April 1, 2020.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec
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CHICAGO — The city and its sister agencies are expected to get more than $1.5 billion in coronavirus relief funding from the federal government — but more will likely be needed, officials said.

The city expects to get more than $500 million directly from the CARES Act, the federal stimulus bill, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials said during a Thursday call with reporters. Another $800 million could go to the CTA and $205 million to Chicago Public Schools.

That money will help Chicago as it looks to recover economically from the pandemic, which has devastated multiple industries and left thousands out of work and wondering how they’ll pay bills.

The city will be able to use the funding to reimburse itself for costs it’s picked up while providing coronavirus relief to residents.

So far, the city has spent in excess of $100 million on things like personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, quarantine and isolation sites and equipping shelters for people who are homeless, said Budget Director Susie Park.

The “bulk” of the city’s expenses have been on the McCormick “field hospital,” Park said. That facility was built in just five days to house up to 3,000 non-acute coronavirus patients amidst the pandemic. Officials have said the facility was prepared to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed amid a surge of coronavirus patients.

500 COVID19 patient beds were completed within five days at Hall C of the COVID19 Alternate Care Facility at McCormick Place in Chicago.

The city has also created programs to offer grants to residents so they can pay their rent or mortgages or, if they’re a business owner, keep their businesses open.

Lightfoot said the city has no intentions of slowing down on such programs and the city is looking at other ways it can financially help people amid an economic downturn — and it could use federal funding to enhance those programs.

But the city is also hoping it can get more federal funding in the future to make up for revenue it has lost due to the virus and the stay at home order.

The city has started looking at revenue losses and estimating what they could be, though there’s no figures available yet, said Chicago CFO Jennie Huang Bennett.

The pandemic has had a “yin and yang” effect on businesses: Some, like restaurants and hotels, have suffered amid coronavirus, while others, like ride shares and streaming, are doing well, Lightfoot said. Since 30 percent of the city’s “Amusement Tax” is streaming, that means the city isn’t necessarily hurting as much in that area, Lightfoot noted.

“… I keep emphasizing, because it’s true, is there’s no one revenue stream in our budget that is more than 13 percent, so that’s important. The other thing that’s important is in the aggregate, the economically sensitive taxes and revenue streams are not more than 25 percent. That’s important as well,” Lightfoot said. “And the final thing you also have to understand … we have a very diverse economy in Chicago. We’re not like some other areas of the country that are in effect kind of a one-company town, and when that company goes down or that business goes down then our fortunes are 100 percent tied to that.”

“It’s too soon to know what the full weight of the impact is gonna be. Of course there will be an impact.”

Officials said the city won’t be able to determine the economic impact of the pandemic until after it’s over, though Bennett said the city is already looking ahead and strategizing how it will recover after the pandemic.

“I think that’s really difficult for us to be able to say at this juncture” how long economic recovery will take, Lightfoot said. “We’re not close to seeing what the peak [of coronavirus here] is yet. … The bottom line is, from an economic standpoint, how we recover and how long it takes is gonna depend upon what the scientific data tell us about what the cases are.”

Here’s a breakdown of the estimated funding:

  • $470 million to the city from the Coronavirus Relief Fund
  • $800 million to the CTA for transportation funding
  • $205 million to CPS
  • $46.7 million to the city from Community Development block grants
  • $23.7 million to the city from Emergency Solutions grants
  • $1.5 million to the city from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
  • $15 million to the city from Community Services block grants
  • $6.785 million to the city from the Coronavirus emergency Supplemental Funding Program
  • $9.715 to the city from Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants

The Chicago Housing Authority and O’Hare and Midway airports will also likely receive funding, though it’s not yet clear how much they’ll get.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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