Cook County Announces Call for Applications for $15 Million in Grant Programs

Applications are now open for two programs to promote economic development and transportation improvements through equitable investments

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced a call for applications today for the Department of Transportation and Highways (DoTH) 'Invest in Cook' grant program to assist communities with transportation infrastructure improvements as well as the Bureau of Economic Development's (BED) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program supporting community development throughout the County.

"Transportation and community development projects are essential components of the County's work to build and maintain thriving communities," said President Preckwinkle. "Making equitable investments in our most underserved areas to create more accessible transit options and job opportunities in our communities will always be a top priority for my administration. I'm grateful to DoTH and BED for ensuring equity is a key component in distributing these funds."

For the 5th year in a row, DoTH will make available $8.5 million in 'Invest in Cook' grants to help advance planning, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction associated with transportation improvements sponsored by local governments and private partners.

The DoTH call for projects is an initiative of Connecting Cook County, the County's first long-range transportation plan in 75 years. Connecting Cook County lays the groundwork for how the County invests in transportation to attract and retain businesses, people, capital and talent. In its first four years, Invest in Cook awarded $31.2 million to fund 128 projects throughout the County.

Invest in Cook seeks projects consistent with the priorities detailed in Connecting Cook County that will prioritize transit and other transportation alternatives, support the region's role as North America's freight capital, promote equal access to opportunities, maintain and modernize what already exists and increase investments in transportation.

In addition to funding projects, Invest in Cook provides technical and grant-writing expertise through workshops to help communities tap into new fund sources and accelerate the completion of projects that may have languished.

"Over the years, the Invest in Cook program has helped communities advance necessary transportation improvements across the County," said Jennifer 'Sis' Killen, acting superintendent at DoTH. "Equity is an important consideration when evaluating applications for who receives funding. This year DoTH is taking this sentiment one step further by proactively reaching out to nine municipalities that have never applied before to see if any projects on their to-do list are applicable. We are committed to ensuring that the distribution of these funds is equitable."

For over 40 years, Cook County has administered the Community Development Block Grant program to support critical community development needs across suburban Cook County. BED opened the CDBG capital improvement application today, while a CDBG application for social service needs will be made available later in the year.

The County's CDBG capital improvement program is designed to support infrastructure and facility needs in income-eligible areas of suburban Cook. Typical projects include residential infrastructure needs like street and sewer improvements and municipal and nonprofit facility improvements. Last year, 48 CDBG applicants were awarded grants totaling $8.7 million through a funding partnership between BED and DoTH.

"Coordinating efforts with the Bureau of Transportation and Highways is a critical component to the success of launching these grants," said Bureau of Economic Development Chief Xochitl Flores. "We hope to bridge boundaries, engage our whole community and create equitable solutions for all suburban Cook County residents and businesses to thrive."

CDBG funding can also be invested in capital projects that will lead to job creation. Interested applicants can contact BED to discuss potential projects to determine if CDBG would be a good fit by emailing Dominic Tocci at Dominic.Tocci@cookcountyil.gov.

CDBG funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and must be invested in line with Moving to Implementation, BED's new five-year strategic plan that guides the use of these HUD resources.

The application deadline for both programs is March 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. CST.

Under the Invest in Cook program, DoTH is seeking applications from local governments and transit agencies. Private and nonprofit organizations can submit project proposals but must have a public sponsor. Under the CDBG capital improvement program, BED will accept applications from units of government and nonprofit organizations.

DoTH and BED are also hosting a virtual workshop on Wednesday, January 27 to provide more details about the programs and information on how to apply. Click here to register.

Cook County transportation staff will evaluate and score the proposals to determine which projects will be chosen this year. For program information and to apply for a grant, visit www.cookcountyil.gov/investincook.

To view the application and application guide for the CDBG capital improvement program, visit  www.cookcountyil.gov/service/2021CDBGCapital

Award letters for both grant programs will be sent out this summer and a corresponding list of grantees will be published on each department's webpage.

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