“This pandemic has dealt Cook County and its residents a catastrophic blow,” said Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle says the COVID-19 crisis has blown a $400 million hole in next year’s county budget, forcing her to dip into reserve funds and resort to layoffs to avoid a tax hike.
“In the midst of a historic pandemic, this proposed budget will have no tax increases, no cuts to critical services and will be balanced,” she said.
Hardest hit is the Sheriff’s department, which sees its budget shrink by seven percent, including the elimination of about 300 open positions.
In a statement, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he won’t fight the cuts: “The elimination of the positions are significant, but we understand these cuts are necessary and that all county agencies are facing similar hardships.”
A different reaction though from unionized health and hospital workers who gathered outside the county building after learning about 130 positions will be eliminated.
“Somebody told us that we were essential workers. How essential can you be when you get layoff letters saying we no longer need your services,” said Tyrone Hawthorne, a Stroger Hospital nurse.
Preckwinkle says while they’re able to avoid major service cuts and tax hikes this year, the pandemic drags on.
“Cook County cannot, cannot absorb another financial calamity in 2021,” said Preckwinkle.