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Local

Metro West opposes task force vote to distribute $42M to communities for COVID-19 costs

Task force member says not enough to cover all costs

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.

GENEVA – The Coronavirus Relief Fund Task Force voted unanimously today to recommend the distribution of nearly $42 million in COVID-19 relief funds to Kane County communities based on population, as well as keeping $42 million for the pandemic's impact on the county itself.

Task force chairman Terry Hunt, who is also the county’s auditor, restated the guidelines from the U.S. Treasury that the funds include payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“The task force proposal provides local municipalities complete control of how they allocate coronavirus relief funds,” Hunt said. “Local government units are in the best position to identify the needs of their communities.”

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, president of the Metro West Council of Government, said it opposes the task force’s recommendation, as it should be a rolling disbursement.

“What Metro West is saying – and I in Geneva – is consistent with the U.S. Treasury guidelines,” Burns said. “Expenses incurred for public safety through Dec. 30, 2020 – those expenses are real (and) apply to police and fire departments … Every police and fire call has a COVID-19 element to it.”

Task force member Mark Armstrong, who is also the county’s assessor, said the county does not have enough money to cover all the needs of local municipalities caused by the coronavirus.

“The resolution provides that every local government can address those issues in their locality,” Armstrong said.

Kenneth Shepro, representing the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District as its attorney, said there are 24 municipalities and unincorporated Kane County that are served by 23 fire districts for both fire and ambulance. And though they are included with an allocation of $7 million – according to the task force's recommendation – there is no mechanism for them to receive this funding.

“Fire districts’ revenues are limited to their general and ambulance tax levies and ambulance fees,” Shepro said. “DuPage County has included both fire districts and townships in its decision making process for COVID-19 relief funds.”

Shepro said he would speak at the special County Board meeting Thursday about including a fire district representative on the new ad hoc committee that board members were putting together.

“Fire districts are first responders in the battle to control COVID-19,” Shepro said. “They have been called to emergencies at the houses where they have encountered people who have had COVID-19 or have deceased from COVID-19. Clearly, they are in the front lines of all the responders, along with the sheriff’s office, police and coroner.”

The task force included written comments from Huntley Village Administrator Lisa Amour, Geneva Chamber of Commerce President Paula Schmidt and Kate McCormack, LCSW, Community Health Initiatives Coordinator at the Kane County Health Department.

As part of the county’s plan to disperse the funds, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office will have to prepare intergovernmental agreements for all recipient governmental bodies, Hunt said.

The task force amended its resolution to include that it was dissolving itself, and then voted to do that.

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