CHICAGO (CBS) – The Illinois Grant Program is being touted as a way to help businesses decimated by plunder – with the money allocated to immediate repairs so that businesses can survive.
But two years after the program launched, CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov learned that only a small fraction of those million had been given away. Some of this money was used to pay the salaries of the program supervisors.
Kozlov met Najee Landon as she looked desperately around her firm’s Englewood office.
“The riots and everything that happened this summer hit us really hard,” Landon said. “It’s like a knife to the heart.”
And she said the situation has only gotten worse since her time International development of harmony offices were looted and vandalized during riots around the city in late May 2020.
– We had our hydraulic lines removed. They’ve been stolen, ”Landon said. “Our electrical cables were also stolen.”
Landon didn’t have the money to do all the repairs, and at the same time he struggled to pay the rent. So when she heard about the state program “Odbuduj Distressed Communities” on a webinar in the summer of 2020, she applied.
“I thought it was an ideal opportunity because we faced so much damage,” said Landon.
According your own websiteThe whole point of the $ 25 million program is to “support Illinois troubled businesses” that have been devastated “by social unrest.”
The grant money would cover the cost of repairing many things – including “structural damage”, “store fronts and entrances” and “electrical installations”.
Landon qualified in the fall of 2020, ultimately receiving $ 133,307.57.
“I thought it was like an answer to our prayers and that everything would go well,” she said, “and here we are two years later.”
Two years later, Landon only received a third of the scholarships she had been promised. She hadn’t understood it even a few months ago.
Landon used the money for approved repairs. But she calls the delay devastating, and her offices have gotten even worse.
“We’ve done our best to start repairing and repairing some of the damage, but it’s just beyond our scope,” she said.
Landon has barely survived – and she is not alone.
“It took longer than anyone thought anyone wanted,” said David Doig.
Doig, a former superintendent of the Chicago Park District, now heads the nonprofit organization CNI – or Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives – which oversees the Landon grant. CNI is one of two organizations used by the state to distribute grants.
Kozlov: – It’s been two years. What is this seizure?
Dog: “As you can imagine with government programs, there are a number of requirements.”
The requirements include massive requests for documentation – which Landon said she repeatedly provided to CNI.
Kozlov: “They gave you and the state what was asked for, but the requests just come and the money doesn’t.”
Dog: “Yes, I mean, it’s a fair question. Part of it is the state – this is a new program, so the state continues to make new demands. ‘
From our public conclusion, the CNI has received $ 4.75 million in subsidies from the state. So far, CNI has only awarded $ 2.6 million in grants, but has actually only given away $ 249,000 to eligible business owners and customers.
So where is the remaining $ 4.5 million?
Dog: “Is there. Is available. We did not have enough projects to be able to get this amount of money. “
Kozlov: “When you say projects, aren’t we talking about grant recipients?”
Dog: “Yes exactly.”
Kozlov: “Approx. But I mean, we have a spreadsheet of all the people who qualified for these awards; these grants – and you say you don’t have projects. But I look at projects and I still don’t know why it takes so long.
Dog: “Yes No. I can hear you. It’s a new program again. “
CBS 2 investigators also found that the CNI used some of the money received to pay a salary.
“It’s used to finance our project managers and some accountants,” said Doig.
Meanwhile, Landon struggles and hopes that the rest of her money will go through – before losing her business for good.
“We also have a lot of community services,” said Landon. “For that to happen in a company that is already so established and so central to the community, yes, it’s hard.”
The CNI also requested two extensions – Kozlov also contacted the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economics on several occasions until April 2023 – asking for a response to Doig’s claims that the state was constantly changing requirements.
Late Monday, a state spokesman told us the subsidy requirements had not changed – contrary to Doig’s claims.
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