When the U.S. economy was in the early stages of recovering from the 2008 recession, financial uncertainty was on everyone’s mind. Private companies were exploring ways to downsize or shut their doors while maintaining some financial security. The public sector was struggling to address skyrocketing service needs related to the foreclosure crisis with shrinking revenues. Many local governments were striving to understand how to plan for and adapt to a changing economy as well as the needs of their constituents.
In response, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning launched the Local Technical Assistance (LTA) Program to help counties and communities in the region. The LTA program was seeded with $4.25 million received by CMAP through the Sustainable Communities Initiative as part of the agency’s efforts to implement GO TO 2040, the northeastern Illinois region’s comprehensive plan. Adopted by the CMAP board in October 2010, GO TO 2040 recommended federal and state investments align with the Livability principles outlined in the plan and identified immediate actions the region should take in a time of economic uncertainty.
To establish the LTA program, CMAP put out a call for projects to the 284 municipalities in the region, as well as eligible nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and other groups needing assistance during the crisis. Since the program’s creation, CMAP has funded over 200 local planning projects, helping to build local capacity, engage marginalized groups, empower local governments to develop solutions for difficult community challenges, make critical decisions, and connect local partners to implementing agencies and capital funding for infrastructure investments. For example, in the most recent Surface Transportation Program funding, the City of Berwyn was awarded approximately $5.4 million for streetscape improvements supported by its LTA comprehensive plan from 2012. Additionally, the recently approved Rebuild Illinois capital appropriations bill included 21 projects totaling approximately $9 million that could fund planning elements from completed LTA plans.
Today, the pandemic is creating a new set of questions for the future of our economy, global health, and resilience. As the country rises to these unique challenges, we must use the region’s comprehensive plan, ON TO 2050, as the blueprint to prioritize investments, foster a more resilient region, and provide opportunities for all communities to succeed. CMAP will continue to be a regional resource through the LTA program and, as we did during the last crisis, actively expand into new and responsive forms of assistance to support communities.