Naperville City Council votes to secure $13.3 million of COVID-19 relief money with capital improvement projects

COVID-19 relief
Donate Today

Naperville City Council voted on Tuesday for staff to secure $13.3 million of COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government using planned capital projects to qualify for the money.

Naperville’s American Rescue Plan Act funds

The funds were issued as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, which distributed over $350 billion in federal relief to state and local governments to help recover from the pandemic.

Naperville received $13.3 million in two installments during 2021 and 2022.  Money can be used to address negative economic effects, invest in infrastructure, fund public health, provide extra pay to essential workers, and restore lost public sector revenue.  However, the U.S. Department of Treasury said it requires that all ARPA funds are to be ”obligated,” or designated for a specific use, by Dec. 31, 2024, and fully spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

City council’s decision

During the latest council meeting, the dais voted 5-3 for city staff to send the federal government a report of the capital improvement projects the money could be used for in order to guarantee access to that money and not have it taken away.  Councilman Josh McBroom was not in attendance during the session.

City Finance Director Rachel Mayor assured council it would be received free-and-clear, however, meaning the council can vote for actual use at a later date.

“If something were to change in the future, (the federal government) would not be able to take it back from us,” said Mayer.

Councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor voted against the motion. She questioned city staff’s desire to “rush” the process and had different ideas for how funding could be allocated in an “impactful” way.

“There are things we can do to help our local nonprofits with the mental health issues that did come out from COVID,” said Bruzan Taylor. “There’s something we could do with the funds to, you know, help our small businesses despite the restrictions that are in place of what we can do. That there’s something we can do to help our police and our fire.”

Councilman Patrick Kelly voted in favor of the motion, saying that though other projects should still be considered through the regular budget process, it would be good to secure the COVID-19 relief funds.

“For me, I guess, it’s not worth any degree of risk,” said Kelly. “Capital projects might not be sexy, but we know we need to spend money on them, and it helps our taxpayers not only cover those expenses now but also potentially in the future if we don’t have to issue as much debt and we’re not paying additional interest down the road.”

City Manager Doug Krieger clarified Tuesday’s decision does not immediately spend any of the ARPA funds.

“(The decision) cuts all of the ties that could potentially risk the feds clawing back those dollars,” said Krieger. “Our bank account balance does not change.”

Any capital projects receiving ARPA funds will be a topic of discussion at a future council meeting.  Meanwhile, the city’s finance department will now move forward with securing the money from the American Rescue Plan Act from the federal government.

Have a story idea? We’d like to hear from you.