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May 13, 2020 3:30 PM, EDT

Illinois Directs $25 Million to Speed Grants for Infrastructure

PritzkerGov. Pritzker speaks at a press conference related to COVID-19. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

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Illinois Gov. Jay “J.B.” Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recently announced that $25 million in grant funding will be used to accelerate work on planned infrastructure projects.

The Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Grants will support local infrastructure projects that are ready for construction to start this summer. The governor’s announcement, issued May 12, acknowledges that many local government agencies’ revenue sources are strained during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of statewide stay-at-home orders established because of the pandemic have resulted in a decrease in vehicle travel that has hurt transportation revenue sources, particularly fuel taxes and tolls. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials projects the pandemic to reduce state transportation revenue by about 30% (approximately $50 billion) over the next 18 months.

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“This will keep key public infrastructure projects in the pipeline and will support the return of skilled labor to job sites for the busy summer season,” Pritzker said during a press conference. “Starting today, local governments with shovel-ready projects, including school districts, townships and other entities, can apply for this funding.”

These applicants must have projects that could begin construction within 90 days of receiving award notice. Eligible projects must be public assets that are permanent in nature. They must not have recurring project expenses. Awarded funds may be used for projects such as expanding water and sewer systems and modernizing schools or other public buildings.

Funding will be awarded on a rolling basis, and projects that represent underserved areas will be given priority. The grants are meant to restore key public works projects that may have been canceled due to lack of funding and help skilled laborers return to work.

“This program is about putting people back on the job now,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea said. “The return of every dollar spent on public works is another brick in rebuilding our economy, both in terms of jobs created and economic development created by improved infrastructure.”

Illinois

The Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Grants program represents an accelerated portion of an ongoing Notice of Funding Opportunity that makes $50 million available to support public infrastructure. Communities that need more time or do not have shovel-ready projects may apply for a grant for the remainder of the funds by June 30.

Funding for the grant program comes from Rebuild Illinois, a $45 billion infrastructure improvement initiative meant to fund investment in roads, bridges, transit, education, state parks, historic sites and clean water infrastructure.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will conduct informational webinars for local government groups that are interested in participating in the grant program.

“We recognize the unique challenge and burdens that COVID-19 is placing on us all, and we are taking steps to provide relief to businesses and communities,” said Erin Guthrie, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “Through the Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Grants program, the administration will provide a much-needed boost for workers across the state as well as the critical infrastructure projects our state depends on.”

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