Pritzker’s office says GOP congressmen’s complaints on federal pandemic relief are ‘baseless political attacks’
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration accused the state’s five Republican congressmen of engaging in “baseless political attacks” by contending the state shouldn’t be seeking more federal pandemic aid when it hasn’t spent or been transparent about the money it’s already received.
Pritzker’s office said the congressmen need to understand basic facts involving how Illinois’ budget year works.
In a statement, the five GOP lawmakers said “the lack of transparency regarding the federal funding sent to Illinois to support our communities through this pandemic” was “unacceptable.”
“While Gov. Pritzker continues to criticize the federal government and call for additional federal support, he must immediately provide information to the public about how the federal taxpayer money he is withholding will be disbursed and a process for how smaller units of government can get access to the funding,” they said.
The statement was issued by Republican Reps. John Shimkus of Collinsville, Darin LaHood of Peoria, Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Adam Kinzinger of Channahon and Mike Bost of Murphysboro.
The five cited data from the U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general showing how much each state received from the federal government and how much was spent as of June 30. The report showed Illinois received more than $3.5 billion and spent only $505 million.
That amount, the Republicans said, represented only “14.4% of the federal COVID-19 relief funding allocated by Congress as of June 30th.”
But the June 30 date is key, the governor’s office said. That’s because it’s the start of the current state budget year.
“In order to fully expend the funds, the General Assembly had to pass appropriations and create grant programs that will enable the state to spend the funds during (this budget year), which started July 1,” said Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh.
“A majority of the funding is allocated to … programs that support critical needs such as contact tracing and testing, health care providers, economic development and local governments across the state,” she said.
Abudayyeh said the congressmen could find the specific spending allocations online through the governor’s budget office.
“Instead of baseless political attacks over information that is readily available online, congressional Republicans should focus on getting members of their party to support a comprehensive federal funding package for states and local governments that are providing vital services working families rely on,” she said.
Illinois current-year budget counts heavily on supplemental federal aid to pay off borrowing used to offset the loss of tax revenue caused by the pandemic.
The actions by the Republican congressmen appear to follow the lead of the GOP minority on the House Ways and Means Committee. In a statement, the group contend that the minimal spending means “throwing cold water on calls from Democrats to give more to states as a next round of federal relief continues to be debated in Congress.”
LaHood is Illinois’ lone Republican member of the committee.