March 5, 2021
The Civic Federation is examining the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the State of Illinois and its local governments. The following are blog posts and other items covering various topics related to the pandemic.
Final Cook County Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocations
March 5, 2021
Cook County has accounted for all $429 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) funding the County received through the federal CARES Act in 2020, according to a report presented by Cook County finance officials to the Cook County Board of Commissioners in January.
Illinois Expects to Spend Its Entire Coronavirus Relief Allocation
December 14, 2020
As the December 30 deadline looms for spending federal coronavirus relief money, the State of Illinois expects to be able to use its entire $3.5 billion allocation, even though only about 60% of the money had been spent by early this month.
Unspent amounts from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) must be returned to the U.S. Treasury Department, so Illinois and many other states are scrambling to make sure money is not left on the table. At the same time, states must be certain that expenditures conform to federal guidelines because money determined to have been spent improperly may be recouped by the Treasury.
City Continues to Move Forward with O'Hare Modernization Plan
December 11, 2020
This blog post provides an update on the status of the City of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport $8.5 billion modernization project in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously depressed air traffic around the world, reducing airline and airport revenues and raising questions about whether the O’Hare modernization project would be delayed. However, Chicago continues to move forward on the plan with construction proceeding on new runways and expansion of the international terminal.
With Revenue Projection Up, Illinois Still Faces Daunting Budget Challenges
November 20, 2020
Illinois has lost less tax revenue than expected this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the State still faces a significant budget gap, according to the latest official projection.
City of Chicago FY2020 Year-End Revenue Projections
November 6, 2020
The City of Chicago expects year-end general operating revenues to be 20.6% below budget by the end of the current 2020 fiscal year, according to the City’s FY2021 budget proposal. As described in a previous blog post, the City released a mid-year budget forecast at the end of August for the City’s Corporate Fund, which is the general operating fund. The budget forecast anticipated actual revenue in FY2020 to be $3.5 billion compared to the originally budgeted amount of $4.4 billion.
Budgeting in the Time of Coronavirus: Uncertainty and Surprises
October 9, 2020
The State of Illinois’ FY2020 fourth quarter revenue report contained a surprising result for two of the State of Illinois’ three main revenue sources, which came in higher than had been projected during the spring. Specifically, net sales tax revenue collections were $252 million higher than revised projections and net personal income tax projections were $372 million higher. Given the ongoing economic dislocations related to the pandemic and restrictions on economic activity, this was a surprising result and illustrates how difficult projections are for government budgeteers during this very unusual pandemic recession.
Update: McPier Issues $160.7 Million in Bonds
October 2, 2020
This is an update of a previous Civic Federation blog on the finances of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA). Since that post, MPEA has continued to face COVID-19 pandemic related economic disruptions. It issued $160.7 million in bonds in September to reduce debt service costs in FY2021 and provide liquidity for operations in FY2021 and FY2022.
Public Health System Seeks Increased Tax Support from Cook County
September 18, 2020
Over the objections of its Board Chair, Cook County’s public health system has approved a $3.4 billion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year that relies on an additional $53 million in tax revenues from the County.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office had previously authorized an increase of $30 million, bringing Cook County Health’s (CCH) annual tax allocation for operations to $113 million. But CCH amended that preliminary budget proposal to include an additional $23 million increase, which would be used to help avoid layoffs, service cuts and facility closures in the fiscal year that begins on December 1, 2020.
The FY2021 Capital Budget Enacted by the General Assembly
September 17, 2020
The General Assembly enacted an approximately $49.2 billion capital budget on May 24, 2020. Spending proposed in the capital budget includes funding from the State, grants from the federal government and local matching funds. The multi-year capital budget was initially approved in 2019 as the Build Illinois capital plan; this action provides annual appropriation authority for capital project spending to proceed.
City of Chicago Releases Projection of FY2020 Revenue Shortfall Due to COVID-19
September 10, 2020
The City of Chicago recently released its Budget Forecast for FY2021, which provides financial estimates for the City’s current fiscal year that ends on December 31, 2020 and a forecast for the next fiscal year and following two years.
This is the second forecast produced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration since she took office in May 2019.
Chicago Public Schools Budget Progress in Jeopardy due to COVID-19
September 4, 2020
In a recent analysis of the Chicago Public Schools FY2021 budget, the Civic Federation supported the District’s proposed $8.4 billion budget. However, the Federation expressed serious concerns about the budget’s reliance on $343 million in uncertain federal funding not yet approved by Congress and that several of the District’s revenue sources that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
CTA Amends FY2020 Budget Due to COVID-19
August 21, 2020
On August 12, 2020 the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) approved Ordinance 020-070 amending its FY2020 budget to incorporate $690.1 million of the CARES Act funding it received from the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act funding will help offset the decline in system generated revenue and public funding. This is the first time in nearly a decade that the CTA has had to amend its operating budget mid-year due to a drastic change in revenues.
CARES Act Distribution and its Discontents
August 12, 2020
As state and local governments continue to press Congress for more pandemic recovery funds, disputes are springing up across the country about the disbursement of federal aid that is currently available. A controversy in Illinois has centered on the use of federal relief funds that the State is distributing to counties and municipalities.
States Beg, Borrow and Cut to Cope with Pandemic-Wracked Finances
August 6, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on state budgets, with tax revenue shortfalls estimated to total about $200 billion for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 compared with initial projections.What actions are states taking to deal with these financial losses?
Federal Relief Funding to Chicago Public Schools, Now and Then
July 23, 2020
In March Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the third federal coronavirus relief act, which among many other things provided $13.2 billion in funding to K-12 schools across the country. Congress reconvened this week to consider additional coronavirus relief measures.
Civic Federation Calls on General Assembly to Authorize Remote Legislative Sessions and Committee Meetings
July 17, 2020
At all times, it is important that the Illinois General Assembly be able to conduct its legislative duties safely, effectively and in open view of the public. This remains true during emergencies such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure a fully functioning legislature now and in the future, the Civic Federation urges the General Assembly to authorize virtual legislative sessions and committee meetings during the rare occasions when face-to-face gatherings are too dangerous. All remote sessions and meetings should be accessible to the public through widely available technology.
CARES Act Funds to Reach Smaller Illinois Counties and Municipalities
July 8, 2020
Since the federal government provided $139 billion of coronavirus relief funds to states and large cities and counties in April, smaller localities have been waiting to receive some of the money. Now large governments, including Cook County, are taking steps to share the funds.
Update on Illinois Short-Term Debt
June 26, 2020
Since the Civic Federation published a blog on short-term debt in Illinois on May 22, 2020, there have been two significant updates to report.
Illinois Governments will Likely Issue More Short-Term Debt to Deal with Revenue Shortfalls Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic
May 22, 2020
Governments frequently borrow funds on a short-term basis to deal with cash flow problems, and this year, due to the massive economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of Illinois and many local governments will face large cash shortfalls as revenue collections are delayed or they fall far below original projections. The State of Illinois has confirmed that it will submit a notice of interest to participate in a special Federal Reserve Bank short-term borrowing facility to help close its FY2020 budget deficit and is proposing to use it for the FY2021 projected budget deficit as well.
Update: How Public Safety Agencies Have Been Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
May 15, 2020
This blog post is an update to the Civic Federation’s April 9, 2020 blog post: How COVID-19 is Impacting Chicago’s Criminal Justice System and How Public Safety Agencies are Responding.
How Are State Legislative Bodies Meeting During COVID-19?
May 11, 2020
State legislatures across the country are working out how to conduct the people’s business while also maintaining proper social distancing guidelines. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislative chambers in at least 23 states have introduced or adopted bills or resolutions that change rules or procedures in response to COVID-19. Legislatures in at least 14 states have allowed for remote voting or meetings, with new measures being adopted or proposed almost daily. Lawmakers in Wisconsin were already authorized to hold remote meetings during emergencies under a law passed in 2009. Some state constitutions, such as in Alaska and Oregon, require state legislatures to meet in person, meaning a constitutional amendment would be required for remote voting.
Cook County April Revenue Estimates Show Early Impact of COVID-19
May 8, 2020
Revenue estimates presented at the April 29, 2020 meeting of the Cook County Independent Revenue Forecast Commission show the first details on how severe an impact COVID-19 is having on some Cook County tax revenues since Illinois’ stay-at-home order went into effect on March 21. The estimates presented for the month of April 2020 show significant losses in tax revenue related to closures of bars, restaurants and retail, event cancellations and limited travel.
The County has estimated that the total budget shortfall due to loss of tax revenue in the current 2020 fiscal year will be at least $200 million. This revenue loss estimate is for the General Fund only, which accounts for general operations (primarily consisting of administrative functions, property tax administration, and the County’s jail and court operations). These estimates exclude the Health Fund that accounts for operations of Cook County Health, a $2.7 billion operation.
Estimating the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on the State of Illinois Budget
May 4, 2020
When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year in February 2020, the overall economic outlook was cautiously optimistic, with few signs of a recession on the horizon. The Governor’s budget assumed underlying annual growth of slightly more than 3% in income and sales taxes, the State’s largest revenue sources.
But in the past two months, economic disruptions aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic have upended financial plans in Illinois and other states and led to projections of dramatic revenue declines and gaping budget shortfalls across the country.
COVID-19 Pandemic Will Have Serious Impact on Finances of Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority
April 24, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to Chicago’s hospitality industry. Conventions have been cancelled, dine-in restaurants have closed, airport traffic has plunged and sporting events have been cancelled. As of early April, the City had experienced the loss of over 20 conventions and 250,000 hotel bookings related to those events. The coronavirus closures have had an abrupt and serious impact on the hospitality tax revenues used to pay for bonds issued by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority in Chicago (ISFA).
Bonds issued by these entities are backed up by pledges from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago if the primary revenue sources are inadequate. Unfortunately, the negative financial situation across the United States comes at a time when the City of Chicago expects serious revenue shortfalls and the State of Illinois projects a General Funds FY2020 revenue shortfall of $2.7 billion and a FY2021 shortfall of up to $7.4 billion.
Chicago Local Governments’ Executive Orders Provide for Continuance of Government Functions During the COVID-19 Crisis
April 17, 2020
As discussed in a previous blog post, the unprecedented public health emergency brought on by coronavirus has led local governments in Illinois to enact emergency measures and loosen rules related to the Open Meetings Act. Local government bodies have been meeting remotely pursuant to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-07 issued on March 16. In the absence of normal meetings and business as usual, and in the interest of keeping government running, the boards and councils that oversee local government bodies in Chicago have temporarily put more authority in the hands of executive leadership and staff, enabling them to make decisions and take actions without going through the normally required approval process.
How Will CARES Act Funding Be Divided Among Illinois and its Local Governments?
April 15, 2020
The $2.2 trillion economic relief legislation passed by Congress in late March contains significant new funding for States and large local governments. Exactly how the money will be split appears to have caused considerable confusion in Illinois and elsewhere.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a total of $150 billion in federal aid through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. After setting aside $11 billion for tribal governments, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, the remaining $139 billion is divided among states and local governments based on population. The money can only be used to cover new expenses from March 1 to December 30 of this year to combat COVID-19.
Illinois is expected to receive a total allocation of $4.9 billion. Governor J.B. Pritzker has said the State itself will keep $2.7 billion, with $2.2 billion going to large local governments, and has called on Congress to provide more aid to address revenue shortfalls.
Income Tax Delay Could Boost Illinois’ Bill Backlog
April 13, 2020
Like most states that levy income taxes, Illinois has followed the federal government in extending the deadline for filing and paying income taxes due for 2019 by three months. The extension—from April 15 to July 15—is intended to provide relief to individuals and businesses hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also expected to further strain Illinois’ ability to pay its bills.
The Illinois Comptroller’s Office has estimated that more than $1 billion in State revenues could be delayed due to the extension. The Comptroller’s website warns vendors and social service agencies to expect longer payment delays. As of April 13, the State’s backlog of unpaid bills stood at an estimated $8.0 billion.
How City Councils in Major Cities are Governing During COVID-19
April 10, 2020
The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the measures put in place to reduce the transmission of the virus have forced states and localities across the country to quickly adjust to a new way of governing. Either through executive-branch action or legislative changes to statutes, states have altered their laws surrounding open meetings in an effort to allow state and local governments to continue to govern transparently while also promoting social distancing.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Chicago’s Criminal Justice System and How Public Safety Agencies are Responding
April 9, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on all sectors, including the criminal justice system. How are the public safety agencies in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois responding to the public health emergency?
Cook County Jail
On March 9, the day Illinois Governor JB Pritzker declared a state of emergency, the Cook County Jail had about 5,700 people in jail (“behind the walls”) and another 2,430 people under the Sheriff’s custody on community supervision (electronic monitoring). The vast majority of the jail population consists of people being held pretrial, either because they were ordered to be detained while awaiting trial or because they could not pay their bond.
What Limitations do States Face in Addressing a Coronavirus Pandemic Recession?
April 3, 2020
States are currently facing monumental fiscal challenges posed by the economic and revenue impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. However, their ability to use fiscal policies to address these challenges is quite limited due to structural and capacity issues. Only the federal government has the resources and capacity to implement meaningful countercyclical fiscal policies that might mitigate severe economic and fiscal disruption in the states.
This blog post first provides a basic discussion of the monetary and fiscal policies that the federal government can use to stabilize the economy in times of serious disruption, using examples from the Great Recession, before addressing the limitations that states face in implementing fiscal policies in times of economic distress.
New Report Shows Potential Virus Impact on Illinois Tax Revenues
March 24, 2020
The coronavirus could have a devastating impact on the State of Illinois’ tax revenues, according to the first official State report that attempts to quantify the fiscal fallout from the crisis.
The new report, from the Illinois General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), based its projections on declines in tax revenues experienced during recent recessions. The conclusion: Illinois’ general operating revenues could fall between almost $2 billion and more than $8 billion over several years, depending on the severity of the virus-triggered recession. Before the crisis, COGFA had estimated that General Funds revenue would total $40.6 billion in fiscal year 2021, which begins on July 1, 2020.