CHICAGO (CBS) — A total of $168.5 million in taxpayer money has been spent since March 24 battling the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois alone.
We have been digging into how that money is being spent. Here is what CBS 2 Investigative Producer Samah Assad found:READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Spotty Showers Sunday Night, Monday
OVERVIEW OF FINDINGS
-Total individual purchases from March 24 through April 13: 102
-Total spent: $168,551,582.76
-At least $44,066,445 million spent. Additional masks were purchased with other items, and it’s unclear how much those masks cost on their own.
-The largest amount was a purchase on 3/26 for 10 million masks. That cost $12 million.
-At least $12,751,838 spent. Additional respirators were purchased with other items, and it’s unclear how much they cost on their own.
-The largest amount was a purchase on 4/3 for 2 million respirators. That cost $3,975,000.
-The most expensive purchase was for 200 ventilators on 4/9. It cost $13 million.
-Total spent on ventilators was $26,828,490.
Hospital beds at Elgin, Blue Island, and Melrose Park alternate care facility sites
Total spent: $289,750
Hospital supplies at Elgin, Blue Island and Melrose Park alternate care facility sites
Total spent: $203,063.70
Other interesting tidbits
-$2,572,736 spent on Meals Ready to Eat
-1 million bottles of hand sanitizer purchased 3/31 for $8 million
-Accion Chicago Inc. has been paid over $12 million to serve as pass-through entity to partner with DCEO to direct sub-awards to sub-recipients who operate hotels and bars, respectively
-Military Affairs Department has been paid over $3 million for reimbursement to IL National Guard
-Vendor paid the most was Care and Wear II Inc., $13.3 million for 50k goggles, 500k face shields and 416,000 gowns all on 4/10.
-Spent the most on 4/10: $34,685,955.14. This included 2 million gowns for $7.7 million.
Total masks purchased: More than 41,500,500 (this includes 3-ply, medical, surgical, n95, disposable)
Total respirators purchased: More than 5,825,501
Ventilators purchased: 1,500
-More than $3 million was spent on more than 15.5 million gloves.
-At least $9 million was spent on more than 1.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer.
-Gowns were listed on many purchases with multiple things. At least 4.5 million gowns were purchased for more than $18 million.
-About $23,750 were spent on 50 cases of postmortem bags, or body bags.
-The smallest item on the list was about $16 for some plumbing supplies at Menards.READ MORE: Phase 2 Opens Monday In Illinois Outside Chicago For Anyone 16 And Over To Get COVID-19 Vaccine, But Teens Under 18 Face Challenge
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is the one who wrote all those checks. She talked with CBS 2’s Brad Edwards and Irika Sargent Tuesday evening about the state’s purchases.
Sargent noted that the body bag purchase paints a sobering picture of what we’re up against. Mendoza agreed “100 percent.”
“Those are those moments where it just really – it hits you so hard to think that we are preparing for the worst, right? That those body bags carry an absolutely cherished and loved person to someone’s family, and you know, again, it’s an opportunity to reflect on this, and also, we can never thank enough those first responders who are trying to prevent as many casualties as possible,” Mendoza said.
As to the supplies as a whole, Edwards asked Mendoza how much of it has actually made it to first responders.
“The good news is that as far as I know, most of these supplies that have been ordered have either been received or are on their way, and once we receive them, we quickly dispatch them – the Governor’s office, I should say,” Mendoza said. “We pay for them in the Comptroller’s office, but the Governor’s office has just done an amazing job – Governor Pritzker – making sure that those products get into the hands of those first responders.”
The first responders receiving the supplies include everyone from doctors and nurses to police and fire departments.
Mendoza also emphasized the importance of documenting every expense – even that $16 for plumbing supplies at Menards. In short, it’s all because it’s the taxpayers’ money.
“From the very beginning of my tenure, which was back in December of 2016 in the middle of that budget crisis, I have always felt that it’s very important to make sure that taxpayers have a sound understanding of how their tax dollars are being spent. We really champion transparency. It’s at the core of what we do at the Comptroller’s office,” she said. “And we are spending a great deal of money, as we should be, to make sure that we’re getting the equipment that we need to fight this war against coronavirus. But I also believe that at the same time, taxpayers deserve to know how we’re spending the money.”
Meanwhile, the state has found itself spending more than it should be on many products, prices skyrocketing. Edwards noted that gloves are averaging out to more than $1 a glove when it should be more like 80 cents.
Further, Illinois is competing against other states for products such as face masks, ventilators, and eye shields.
“That shouldn’t be happening,” Mendoza said. “Really, I truly believe, with every part of my being, that President Trump should have invoked early on the federal (Defense) Production Act – and had he done that, we’d have American companies producing the face masks, the shields, the ventilators here in the United States of America, and we wouldn’t have to be paying black market rates competing against New York or New Jersey or California. Every time we win one of these contracts, it’s important to remember that another state in our country loses, and that means people die unnecessarily. It’s really a shame.”
And as to all the taxpayer money, where is it coming from? Is there any anticipation that it will be recouped by federal disaster relief, or is it money down the drain for the state?
Mendoza noted that it is her job to ensure the money is found for the purchases and borrow if necessary.
“Coming up with these amount of dollars when they were not budgeted for is always a difficult thing to do. It is my job to prioritize how we spend the limited General Revenue Fund dollars, as well as how we access other fund dollars and borrow them temporarily so that we can make these state purchases, essentially in a 24- to 48-hour period at times,” she said.
Still, Mendoza said, Illinois will need more help from the federal government.MORE NEWS: On One-Year Anniversary Of Botched Smokestack Demolition, Little Village Community Leaders Call For Jobs, Better Environmental Protection
“In terms of the federal funds that are going to be coming to Illinois from the CARES Act, we’re going to make sure that we find every opportunity we can to spend taxpayer dollars where we’re getting federal reimbursements for matches,” she said.