How is Cook County Spending Federal COVID Relief Funds?

September 02, 2022

Cook County has received $1 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) and released its latest 2022 performance report mandated by the United States Department of Treasury this past summer. This blog post is the second in a series looking at local governments’ plans to use these funds and what they’ve spent so far. To read more about how Chicago plans to use its distribution of SLFRF and to read more about ARPA’s general reporting requirements, please read this blog post.

Plans for ARPA Funds

Cook County plans to use ARPA funds based on its Policy Roadmap: Five-Year Strategic Plan for Offices Under the President. The Strategic Plan focuses on prioritizing health and wellness, community and economic development, criminal justice and community safety, environmental sustainability, public infrastructure and good government.[1] The total $1 billion allocation would be mostly divided across three fiscal years, FY2022, FY2023 and FY2024, with a small amount spent in FY2021. Cook County reported on the details of the initial FY2022 allocations across five externally focused policy pillars in its ARPA at a glance document. Out of the $1 billion allocation, approximately $420 million was appropriated to FY2021 and FY2022 budgets and $580 million is planned to be appropriated in FY2023 and FY2024.[2] Of the total $420 million FY2022 allocation, $100 million was appropriated for revenue replacement and operating expenditures and the remaining $320 million was directed to targeted programs and new investments.

During FY2021, the Board of Commissioners of Cook County approved an initial tranche of ARPA spending, with $25 million to be spent through December 31, 2021 to support County operations during the pandemic and for programs and initiatives. The $25 million was spent across three categories: $12 million for Cook County Community Recovery Initiatives; $3 million for personnel costs; and $10 million for professional services and administrative costs. The expenses were intended to continue support of projects previously implemented through the CARES Act and support for ARPA implementation.[3] In the summer of 2021, the County also started a process to solicit stakeholder proposals for the use of ARPA funds. A total of 426 proposals were submitted for the County’s consideration, which were reviewed in turn by Policy Pillar Teams.

The Policy Pillar Teams were groups of 10 to 20 subject matter experts on each of the six policy priorities within the Policy Roadmap: Five-Year Strategic plan for Office Under the President. The Teams evaluated each proposal for the six policy priorities to make sure they aligned with the County’s priorities and voted upon the proposals submitted through the proposal identification process. Proposals that advanced from the Policy Pillar Teams were then considered by the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), which is a group of Bureau Chiefs, Department Heads and County leadership to further prioritize and approve proposals across all six Policy Pillars. Currently, there are 78 community initiatives that the Executive Leadership Council deemed address County priorities.[4]

In January and March 2022, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve allocations of funds for each Policy Pillar for FY2022. The five program initiatives are healthy communities, vital communities, safe and thriving communities, sustainable communities and smart communities. Major investments within these initiatives include the guaranteed income program, housing assistance, utility bill assistance and funding to alleviate medical debt. Within each of the five initiatives are various programs that will be implemented across Cook County. As part of its required performance reporting to the federal government, the County released a Project Inventory that outlines what it calls its “near-term” and “transformative” initiatives funded by the American Rescue Plan funds. All the projects in the inventory have been reviewed by the new Project Management Office and been allocated a budget. The U.S. Treasury Department’s reporting requirements include identification number, funding amount, expenditure category, project overview, and where applicable, use of evidence, analysis, and performance metrics, which are outlined in the inventory.[5]

The County established a Project Management Office (PMO) to conduct a project management review and implementation process of each ARPA-funded initiative. Several Cook County departments were included in the process of creating the Project Management Office team and helped to determine the performance indicators for each project. The indicators are targets, inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes.[6]

Types of Policy Roadmap Programs

ARPA funding allocations across the five Policy Roadmap program areas in FY2022 total $320 million. There are a total of 72  initiatives listed in the project inventory in the 2022 performance report. The program initiatives with the largest allocation of American Rescue Plan funds for the vital communities, healthy communities and safe and thriving communities program areas.

The vital communities initiatives have been allocated $100 million in FY2022 for economic development investments. One of the major programs within the vital communities initiative is the Guaranteed Income Program, which is proposing to invest approximately $42 million from FY2022 – FY2025 to provide two years of monthly unrestricted payments to 3,250 residents who were selected through a lottery. For FY2022, the program was allocated $4.42 million. Another vital communities initiative is the Small Business Grant Program, which is proposing to invest $70 million from FY2022 – FY2024. Approximately $30 million is being allocated in FY2022 to provide grants to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees who continue to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19.[7]

The healthy communities initiative will focus on integrating health and social services while improving the health and wellness of County employees and communities. This initiative has been allocated a total of $60 million in funds in FY2022, including the use of $5 million of those funds for a Vaccine Incentives Program. This program will provide a $100 incentive gift card for individuals that received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Another significant program through this initiative is the Housing for Health, which is proposing to spend approximately $4.5 million in FY2022 to improve Cook County Health patients and CountyCare members who are risk for homelessness. The housing efforts will be supported by the Flexible Housing Pool and a Homeless Housing Navigation program.[8]

The safe and thriving communities program area is also allocated $60 million in FY2022. This program will focus on improving the criminal justice system and investing in community-based services for residents. The County is proposing to allocate a total of $85 million from FY2022 through FY2024, plus an additional $28.3 million in FY2022 through Justice Advisory Council (JAC) grants to expand funding for community-based services that support justice-involved adults and youth. The goal of this program is to reduce the number of shooting incidents and to improve the outlook of participants involved with gun violence. Additional programs include a Gun Crime Strategy Unit Initiative that will support the State’s Attorney’s Office by adding investigators to the gun crime unit to work with prosecutors. Approximately $2.5 million is proposed to cover FY2022 through FY2024 and the County allocated $103,387 of the $2.5 million for FY2022.[9]

The final two Policy Roadmap program areas, sustainable communities and smart communities, are allocated a total of $45 million and $55 million in FY2022, respectively.

Importantly, the County is additionally allocating funds to provide technical assistance to local governments in Cook County in managing their own ARPA distributions.

Additional information on how Cook County planned to spend ARPA funds in FY2022 and how they meet their policy goals can be found in the 2022 Annual Appropriation Bill. Also, residents can visit to learn more about the County’s use of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

To read more about how governments across the United States are spending ARPA funds, see the following sources:

[1] Cook County American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) At A Glance, February 2022, p. 2, Available at

[2] Cook County, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) At A Glance, February 2022, p. 4-5, Available at