Will County officials detail use of $120 million in federal pandemic aid

Much of the CARES Act funds went to help local governments, small businesses and nonprofit organizations

Will County officials reviewed how about $120 million in federal pandemic relief aid was spent over the past year.

The funds, made available via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, went primarily to fund county government expenses, small businesses, other local governments and nonprofit organizations impacted by the pandemic.

An ad-hoc county board committee worked for months to allocate the funds to various entities with the help of Bronner Group, a Chicago-based firm. Committee chair Ken Harris, D-Bolingbrook, said it was gratifying to see the aid going to residents and businesses in need.

“I was pleased with the way it went,” Harris said of the efforts to hand out the funds.

A little over 1,500 small businesses in the county received about $22.1 million in grants. The county made the funds available over three application periods.

About $34.4 million went to local units of government including cities and villages, fire districts, library districts, park districts, school districts and townships. Cities and villages received the bulk of the funds, around 77%.

Cities and villages received their own funds through the American Rescue Plan, which was passed earlier this year, so the county won’t have to distribute parts of its $133 million from that relief package.

Board members allocated around $57.3 million to the county government, most of which went to compensate the county for the salaries of public safety employees. Members chose to use some of that aid on improvements to buildings like the county office building in downtown Joliet.

Nonprofit organizations received about $6.1 million in CARES Act funds.

There was still close to $1 million of expenses pending, according to county documents. The expenses were designated for the renovations to the county office building and for two nonprofit organizations.

County officials have also begun to discuss the use of the American Rescue Plan funds, including asking residents and others to give their input on how the money should be used via a survey. The county has a few years to spend the more than $133 million.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.