Economic assistance for Evanston’s downtown may be one of the possibilities for federal stimulus money headed this way. (RoundTable photo)

Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Evanston stands to receive a major financial boost as a result of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 federal stimulus package recently signed into law.

City Manager Erika Storlie, giving a brief update at the start of the March 22 City Council meeting, estimated the City will be receiving $45 million.

By comparison, the City received perhaps half of that amount in federal assistance recovering from the recession in 2010.

Ms. Storlie said the City should receive 50% of the allotment by mid-May.

The money going to cities is not tied as tightly to the public health emergency as a relief bill passed last year under a Republican administration.

Kiannah Sepeda-Miller, writing for the Better Government Association, noted the latest aid package has more flexible guidelines, allowing state and local governments to use the funds toward increased pay for essential workers, preventing cuts to government services, and making investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure as well.

“And unlike the 2020 CARES Act, it covers costs incurred through 2024,” she pointed out.

In her brief report to the Council, Ms. Storlie said, “These are grants that are being provided to state, local governments, so that they can offset revenue loss and continue operations.

“We’ve had to do a lot of cost-cutting measures over the course of the past year, as we are all aware, because we had such a dramatic decrease in our revenue,” she said, “so this is something that we had talked about a lot last year, hoping that it was going to come to fruition.

“And it actually did. … We’re very appreciative of our legislators who worked so hard to get this bill passed. It’s going to be transformational in regards to how it will allow us to recover as a City, and how it will allow us to continue to provide the services that we provide to the community on a day-to-day basis.”

Ms. Storlie said there are a number of guidelines that apply to how the money can be spent.

She said City officials will be spending time in coming months, working with Council members and the community developing a strategy “so that we can make sure that our recovery sets us up for long term success, and also helps us weather any future storms that may come.”

City economic development officials are already calling for consideration in the recovery of the City’s business districts hit hard by COVID-19.

Addressing the Council later in the meeting, Annie Coakley, executive director of downtownevanston.org, which manages the special taxing district downtown, spoke in support, “although early,” of funds  earmarked for economic development initiatives – including “infrastructure needs,  branding initiatives and small business grant programs, just to name a few.”