Eric Palm

River Forest village officials took the first step toward requesting reimbursement for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic July 13, unanimously approving an intergovernmental and sub-recipient agreement with Cook County at the virtual village board meeting that evening.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced July 8 that 134 Cook County suburbs will share about $51 million under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Village Administrator Eric Palm said River Forest officials also plan to request reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will reimburse eligible expenses on a 75 percent basis.

“We are working on submitting reimbursement for both FEMA public assistance and CARES Act funding,” he said. “Our plan is to submit to FEMA first, and then submit to the CARES Act through the county on any remaining eligible expenses.”

Although village officials said they hope to receive $100,941 from Cook County through CARES Act funding, Palm said the figure was reached by using a formula provided by Cook County and village officials do not have a breakdown of that total. 

Eligible categories include medical expenses;  public health expenses; 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; expenses of actions to facilitate compliance with COVID-19-related public health measures; expenses associated with the provision of economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency; and any other COVID-19-related expenses reasonably necessary to the function of government that satisfy the fund’s eligibility criteria, excluding costs associated in conducting Coronavirus Relief Fund Single or Program-Specific audits.

Palm also said village officials do not have a dollar amount yet for the request for reimbursement from FEMA but hope to submit the first round of requests “in the next couple of weeks.”

Allocations to each municipality were determined under a formula that county officials say will prioritize areas with the more dire financial and public health needs. Factors include the immediate needs of the municipality to respond to the pandemic, municipal population, municipal medium income and municipal public health statistics. 

The suburbs’ share of the $51 million is about 12 percent of the total $429 million coronavirus relief fund given to Cook County under the CARES Act. 

But the federal aid comes with the condition that local governments may only use it for direct expenses related to the pandemic, such as reimbursements for personal protective equipment or other costs incurred responding to the pandemic. Lost revenue from sales, amusement and other non-property taxes throughout the coronavirus outbreak cannot be offset by CARES Act funding.

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