The state of Illinois is set to receive $7.5 billion as part of the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress this month. That's on top of $5.5 billion that will be distributed to municipalities across Illinois, including Chicago. But the influx of federal money won’t come all at once, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Tuesday.
“We should be seeing about $3.75 billion of the $7.5 billion within the next 60 days. We don’t know the exact day yet, but that’s our expectation,” Mendoza said. “The remainder of that ... we likely will not see until almost a year from now, toward the end of the fiscal year.”
Echoing statements made by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mendoza says the funds will first go toward paying back the billions Illinois borrowed from the Federal Reserve early in the pandemic last year.
“That was about $3.1 billion. We’ve already paid a little bit of that back, but we still have a significant [amount] that has yet to be paid back, and that is priority number one,” she said.
Another focus will be the state’s nearly $5.5 billion bill backlog, although Mendoza admitted the stimulus funds won’t make too big a dent in the number.
One area the federal dollars will not go toward is Illinois’ massive unfunded pension liability, currently in excess of $140 billion.
“Not a penny of this will go toward mistakes of the past, or pension debt or anything like that. We’re going to be fiscally solvent, that is the goal, and we’re trying to stabilize our finances and inject some predictability and stability into our financial picture here,” she said.
For Mendoza, COVID-19 has also been personal.
Her brother, a Chicago police officer, spent weeks in the hospital after testing positive for the virus, and suffered from a series of strokes and kidney failure. Mendoza says he’s now moved into her home so she can care for him.
“I think it’s important for people to know, when we hear about a 99% survival rate, think about my brother’s situation. Sure he survived and it’s a blessing for us, but it breaks my heart to see the complications for someone who’s dedicated his life to public service,” Mendoza said. “It’s no joke … I just ask people please, get vaccinated the first chance you get, please do everything to protect yourself and your loved ones.”