State offers grants for public works projects

The $25 million program is designed to help local governments that need cash to start work.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker, along with elected and health officials, is shown in March during a daily update on the coronavirus situation in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday the state will provide $25 million in grants so local governments can accelerate public works projects that revive local economies.

The program is called Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Grants and draws on money in the state’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital improvements plan.

Grants will range from $500,000 to $5 million and be awarded on a rolling basis. Projects must be ready to go within 90 days of getting funding approval.

“This will keep public infrastructure projects in the pipeline and support the return of skilled labor to job sites for the busy summer season,” Pritzker said Tuesday during his media briefing,

Michael Negron, assistant director at the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said lower-income areas will get priority but the scoring system for applications will ensure no region of the state gets overlooked.

Negron said the program will help municipalities and other public agencies that are strapped for cash because of the pandemic and were considering canceling or deferring public improvements such as road work, water main replacement or school renovations.

“This program is about putting people back on the job now,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea said. “We applaud Gov. Pritzker for being proactive and innovative. 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.”

Pritzker said the state will have an additional $25 million available through June 30 for projects that aren’t ready to start immediately.

Negron said 25% of the grants can be an advance payment, with the balance to be paid as expenses are reported.

Applications for the money will be available on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.

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