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Cook County drawing on $100M credit line
The Preckwinkle administration plans to tap the entirety of its $100 million revolving line of credit with BMO Harris "in light of the uncertain economic circumstances surrounding COVID-19."

Friday, April 03, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by A.D. Quig

Amid "uncertain economic circumstances" surrounding the fallout of COVID-19, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle plans to use her executive authority to draw down the entirety of a $100 million revolving credit line the county has with BMO Harris Bank.

According to a memo to county commissioners from county Chief Financial Officer Ammar Rizki, "the situation surrounding COVID-19 will most likely result in a need for expedited liquidity. The county will likely see a delay and a decrease in revenues in FY 2020 due to COVID-19. Accordingly, it would be prudent for the county to be prepared to drawdown on the (line of credit) to meet its obligations and expenses over the next several months."

While Rizki is authorized to draw down $18 million without board approval, Preckwinkle plans to implement an executive order to provide authority to draw on the entire line of credit. So far, it has been "entirely undrawn, with zero balance" since 2016, and is meant to serve as a source of emergency liquidity.

The county currently has an estimated $300 million in its rainy day fund, enough for two months of general fund operating expenditures.

"We have a history of being fiscally conservative and are pleased that we have not had to draw on the (line of credit) to date," Rizki said in the memo.

According to the memo, the county could pay between $431,000 and $1.7 million in estimated fees, depending on the amounts drawn, the interest rates, and the period.

UPDATE:

Cook County appears to be bracing for major impacts from the coronavirus—county HR officials sent an email Friday suggesting employees jobs and pay could shift after April 30.

 

"The County plans to pay its employees through April 30th but would like to have a meeting on Monday to discuss what our pay/benefit structure may look like beyond that date," Human Resources Bureau Chief Velisha Haddox wrote in an email to other county officers obtained by Crain's.

A planned Monday meeting with bureau chiefs, their chief financial officers, and chiefs of staff will include "projections on the anticipated financial impact of this crisis. Then, we will have a broader discussion of how each office is thinking about this issue and next steps."

The county is extending its work from home guidelines through the end of the month.

5:15 P.M. UPDATE:

Ted Nelson, a spokesman for the county's Bureau of Finance, said in an email the move to draw down on the credit line was "more of a precautionary measure at this point aimed at providing additional liquidity to the county should the need arise. The county does not have an immediate need for the funds. The line of credit serves as an emergency COVID-19 credit card. From our perspective, it is better to have access to this money and not use it than to need it and not have it."

This is the only line of credit the county would draw from if needed, Nelson added, and should be available after Preckwinkle issues her executive order in the next week or two. "It is important to note that we are not using any money at this time. This just provides the option and it would only be utilized in an emergency."



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