A La Salle County Board member wants $22 million in federal COVID-19 funds put into the hands of the needy — now.
Thursday, board member Doug Trager, D-Ottawa, appealed his comrades to take the funds awarded earlier this year through the American Rescue Plan and begin dispersing them as soon as possible, citing the “great latitude” the counties have in using the funds.
“So far La Salle County has done very, very little with these funds,” Trager said, adding later, “I realize we have until 2024 to appropriate these funds but people need help now.”
But Chairman Don Jensen raised a cautionary flag and said the federal funds were awarded with strings attached. And if the county isn’t careful in doling them out, they might have to pay back the feds for ineligible projects.
To that end, the county has an ad hoc committee tasked with reviewing the feds rules and prioritizing where best to send the money – for example, mental health assistance, tourism – without running afoul of the Fed’s eligibility rules.
“That’s why we’re taking our time,” Jensen said. “Basically, we have until Dec. 31, 2024, to allocate the funds, and then we have until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend those moneys.”