Proviso Suburbs, School Districts To Get Millions In Federal Relief 

Saturday, April 10, 2021 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

The nine suburbs and nine school districts in the Village Free Press readership area stand to receive millions of dollars in federal aid after President Joseph R. Biden signed on March 11 H.R. 1319, or the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021. 

The new law distributes $1.9 trillion in direct stimulus payments to state and local governments.

The law includes $65.1 billion in financial assistance for municipalities across the country, according to the Illinois Municipal League (IML). Of that total, $45.57 billion will go to metropolitan cities that are either central cities or have populations over 50,000. 

The remaining $19.53 billion will go states, which are required to pass the funding to non-metropolitan municipalities, such as the suburbs in Proviso Township, based on population. The amount of funding those municipalities receive is capped at 75 percent of the municipality’s pre-pandemic budget, as of Jan. 27, 2020, the IML stated. 

Based on that criteria, the nine suburbs in VFP’s coverage area are poised to receive a total of nearly $15 million. 

Melrose Park, which has a population of roughly 26,000, stands to receive the most federal aid — roughly $3 million. Stone Park, which has a population of around 4,800, stands to receive the least federal aid among the nine suburbs — roughly $600,000.

The funds were set to be distributed in two rounds by the federal government within two months of Biden signing the ARP into law. For communities that aren’t designated metropolitan areas, the federal government has allowed more time for the state to distribute the funding. 

“The second round of funding may not be distributed earlier than 12 months after the first round distribution, meaning sometime in spring or summer of 2022,” the IML stated. 

A chart detailing projected federal aid amounts for the nine suburbs in the Village Free Press coverage area. Figures are from the Illinois Municipal League. | VFP 

Municipalities will be allowed to spend the money by Dec. 31, 2024 on a range of expenditures, including COVID-19-related costs, including providing financial assistance to households, businesses and nonprofits; funding for essential workers; costs related for the provision of government services; and costs related to water, sewer and broadband infrastructure improvements. 

Brad Cole, the executive director of the IML, explained in a statement released on March 11 that he asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker in a letter that the governor “develop and provide guidance on relaxed restrictions and mitigations so communities and organizations have time to prepare for upcoming local events and festivals during Phase 5 of the ‘Restore Illinois’ plan.” 

According to the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, some “local officials have been wary about expecting the full amount of the federal relief payments, since they are being routed through the state. That concern resulted from the way the federal government allowed states to generally decide how relief funds from last year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, were divvied up.” 

The state “funneled that local money to municipalities through Cook County, which set aside $51 million for Chicago’s suburbs. Compared to the federal funds coming through the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act reimbursements for COVID-rated expenses were small.” 

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According to the Landmark, Cole said that the state and county won’t be allowed to touch ARP money targeted for municipalities. 

“It is our understanding they can’t do that,” Cole said. “The [American Rescue Plan] legislation was written to make clear the funds were to pass through without restriction or reduction by the state. If there is, that would conflict with the letter and the intent of the federal law.”

Area school districts also receiving millions 

In addition to suburbs, the nine local school districts in VFP’s readership also stood to receive millions in federal assistance. 

Gov. Pritzker announced on March 31 that the state would release $7 billion in ARP money to school districts. 

“If you’re a parent, I know you’ve spent most of this pandemic worried about how your kids are learning – with all the screens and Zooms, sometimes you’re worried about whether they’re learning at all,” Pritzker stated. “My administration is taking a little bit of that worry off your plates.” 

Among the nine school districts in VFP’s readership area, Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview Elementary School District 89 stood to receive the most federal assistance — nearly $27 million. Komarek School District 94, which has about 500 students and includes only one Pre-Kindergarten to eighth-grade school, stood to receive roughly $800,000.

A chart detailing projected federal aid amounts for the school districts in the Village Free Press coverage area. Figures are from the Illinois Municipal League. | VFP 

Pritzker said the funding will flow to school districts over three years and will be spent based on recommendations developed by the Illinois P-20 Council, a group of state education stakeholders established by the Illinois Legislature in 2009. 

“The ‘P’ in our name represents Preschool and ’20’ stands for grade 20, education after college,” according to the council’s web page. “We meet quarterly as a Council, and more frequently in committees, to develop a framework to improve the alignment of all our education systems, so that a child’s path is smooth from early learning to kindergarten, through high school, and on to career education or college.” 

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (4th), whose district spans most of Proviso Township, said that the latest round of federal stimulus will help address the state’s long history of systemic racism. 

“Black people have suffered from systemic racism for far too long, so I am proud that I led the effort to change Illinois’ educational system for our Black students,” Lightford said. 

“The law we passed required the state’s P-20 Council to make recommendations on how to address the impact of COVID-19, resulting in the Learning Renewal Guide. It will help our state’s schools and universities make the best use of the more than $7 billion they’re receiving in federal aid. This funding is especially important for schools in disproportionately affected Black communities.”

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