Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned the city’s aldermen on Wednesday not to produce wish lists now that Congress has passed a COVID-19 relief package that will send nearly $2 billion to the city.
The $1.9 trillion package signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday is expected to deliver about $7.5 billion to state government and about $6 billion for local government.
Lightfoot said the money headed to Chicago will have strings attached to how it can be spent.
“So I want to disabuse people out there and my colleagues in the City Council,” Lightfoot said. “This is not $1.9 trillion of a slush fund that we can use every way that we can.”
Lightfoot said she expects the city will get money to help with the cost of vaccinating city residents and to address affordable housing and homelessness. She says although the city is likely to also get relief funds next year, it won’t be able to use it to reduce taxes or bankroll city employee pensions.
Lightfoot said she has been hearing from people about what did and didn’t go right after the city received stimulus funds after the 2008 economic crisis. The mayor said the city will want to be smarter about the way in which the money is utilized to make sure investments are made to lift the city into a full recovery.
“We’ve got to be very smart about how we utilize those monies to make sure we have maximum impact, as intended by the Congress,” she said. “If we don’t follow those rules, we put ourselves in a world of hurt.”
Lightfoot was scrutinized last month when it was revealed that her administration spent $281.5 million of the $1.2 billion Chicago received in federal COVID-19 relief money last year on personnel costs for the Chicago Police Department.