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Chicago Aldermen Approve Another Round Of Federal Pandemic Relief Spending By Claudia Morell Friday, Feb. 19, 2021

Aldermen on the City Council’s Budget Committee on Friday approved another round of federal coronavirus relief aid for Chicago, but it wasn’t without heated exchanges with the city budget director and more anger about how City Hall spent an earlier round of COVID-19 funding on police.

This latest round of federal support will help the city pay nearly $80 million toward rental assistance programs; $24 million toward vaccine distribution; and nearly $157 million toward technology upgrades to help the city’s Department of Public Health track and monitor the virus. Chicago Budget Director Susie Park also sought council authority to carry over $68 million in unspent CARES Act dollars that the city received in March.

But aldermen weren’t that interested in talking about the new federal money that was up for consideration. They wanted to know how the Chicago Police Department benefited from $281 million from the last round of federal aid and why the administration is dismissing their objections as the product of “misinformation.”

Earlier this week, some Chicago aldermen and activists criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for using federal COVID-19 relief dollars to cover overtime hours for cops instead of spending that money on housing relief, business support and vaccine outreach for residents impacted by the pandemic.

Park said the federal aid covered staff salaries and fringe benefits for police officers who were deployed in numerous pandemic-related situations, such as wellness checks. They also provided additional security at the makeshift hospital at McCormick Place, at vaccination sites and at the city’s two airports. At the peak of the pandemic last spring, a significant amount of police manpower was needed to handle the massive crowds at O’Hare Airport, Park said.

 

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