Lightfoot joins mayors statewide in urging Illinois congressional delegation to back Biden’s COVID-19 relief package

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Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read
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Illinois municipal groups and mayors, including Lori Lightfoot, have sent a letter to Illinois’ congressional delegation urging passage of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan and its $350 billion in direct aid to state and local governments nationally.

In a letter released Friday by the White House, the mayors and groups representing nearly 1,300 municipalities warned that “without local recovery, there is no national economic recovery.”

“As mayors on the front line of the pandemic response, we have taken necessary steps to keep our communities safe and continue flattening the curve to save lives,” the letter sent Thursday said. “Undoubtedly, these steps have come with severe financial hardship. Not only have tax revenues been dropping drastically, but funding essential services critical to the health and safety of our residents has and continues to be challenged.”

Of the $350 billion in direct relief to states and municipalities under the plan approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Illinois state government would receive $7.55 billion while municipalities in the state would get $5.7 billion. Of the municipal share, Chicago would get more than $1.8 billion.

While the letter was sent to all 18 members of Illinois’ House delegation and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, it was primarily aimed at the state’s five Republican congressmen: Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon, Darin LaHood of Peoria, Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Mike Bost of Murphysboro and Mary Miller of Oakland. They have joined with other GOP members in opposing direct state and local pandemic relief funding.

The letter comes after Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker used his combined budget and State of the State address on Wednesday to criticize Republican members of the congressional delegation for their opposition to relief funds and to urge “every Illinoisan to add their voice” to the demand for federal aid.

In the letter, the mayors and municipal officials countered Republican criticisms that direct federal aid would be “a bailout for mismanaged governments.”

“These are unprecedented times where we face revenue shortfalls that could not be predicted or prevented. Sadly, nearly 1 million local government jobs have already been lost during the pandemic and countless programs and services have been cut at a time when it is most needed. We feel this loss acutely in our communities,” the letter said.

The letter noted that earlier federal assistance was tied directly to costs dealing with the pandemic and that because of the way it was distributed, many municipalities did not receive assistance.

“It is paramount that future funding provide the flexibility to cover lost revenue, so that we may continue our essential services; keep staff — including public safety and front-line workers — on the payroll; and meet the needs of our communities which have seen tremendous hardship,” it said.

In addition to Lightfoot, the letter was signed by Ricky Gottman, mayor of Vandalia and president of the Illinois Municipal League; Frank Trilla, mayor of Willowbrook and president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference.

It also included mayors heading such groups as the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, the Northwest Municipal Conference, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the Southwest Conference of Mayors, the West Central Municipal Conference and the Will County Governmental League.