CHICAGO (CBS) — An Illinois state grant program is touted as a method to assist companies decimated by looting – with the cash meant for rapid repairs so companies can survive.
However two years after the launch of this system, CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov came upon solely a small fraction of these thousands and thousands have been given out. And a few of that cash has been used to pay the salaries of these overseeing this system.
Kozlov met Najee Landon as she regarded with despair round her Englewood firm’s workplace house.
“The rioting and all the things that occurred on the summer season, it actually hit us onerous,” Landon mentioned. “It is like a knife to the guts.”
And he or she mentioned issues have solely gotten worse since her Concord Worldwide Improvement places of work had been looted and vandalized through the unrest across the metropolis on the finish of Might 2020.
“We had our plumbing traces pulled. These had been stolen,” Landon mentioned. “Our electrical wires had been additionally stolen.”
Landon didn’t have the cash to make all of the repairs whereas additionally struggling to pay lease. So when she heard a couple of state program referred to as Rebuild Distressed Communities in a webinar in the summertime of 2020, she utilized.
“I assumed that this was the right alternative, as a result of we confronted a lot harm,” Landon mentioned.
In line with the state’s personal web site, the entire level of the $25 million program is to “assist economically distressed Illinois companies” that had been broken “as a consequence of civil unrest.”
The grant cash would cowl the price of repairs for a lot of issues – together with “structural damages,” “storefronts and entrances,” and “electrical programs.”
Landon certified within the fall of 2020, finally being awarded $133,307,57.
“I assumed that this like the reply to our prayers and that all the things was going to prove effective,” she mentioned, “and right here we’re two yr later.”
Two years later, and Landon has solely gotten a 3rd of the grant cash promised to her. She did not even get that till a couple of months in the past.
Landon has used that cash for accepted repairs. However she calls the delay devastating, and her places of work have additional deteriorated.
“We have completed the most effective that we will to our means to begin repairing and begin eradicating among the damages, however it’s simply past our scope,” she mentioned.
Landon’s enterprise is barely surviving – and he or she is not alone.
“It is taken longer than I believe anybody has needed,” mentioned David Doig.
Doig, a former superintendent of the Chicago Park District, now heads the nonprofit CNI – or Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives – which is overseeing Landon’s grant. CNI is certainly one of two organizations tapped by the state to provide out the grants.
Kozlov: “It has been two years. What’s the holdup?”
Doig: “As you’ll be able to think about with authorities packages, there’s quite a few necessities.”
The necessities embrace large requests for documentation – all of which Landon mentioned she has offered CNI, time and again.
Kozlov: “They’ve given you and the state all the things that has been requested, however but, the requests simply maintain coming and the cash would not.”
Doig: “Yeah, I imply, it is a truthful query. A part of that is the state is – it is a new program, and so the state continues to carry up new necessities.”
Our public data request discovered CNI has gotten $4.75 million in grant cash from the state. Up to now, CNI has solely awarded $2.6 million in grants, however has really solely given out $249,000 to qualifying enterprise house owners and recipients.
So the place is that different $4.5 million?
Doig: “It is there. It is out there. Now we have not had tasks adequate to have the ability to draw down that amount of cash.”
Kozlov: “Once you say tasks, aren’t we speaking about grant recipients right here?”
Doig: “Yeah, precisely.”
Kozlov: “Okay. However I imply, we have now a spreadsheet of all of the individuals who had been certified for these awards; these grants – and also you’re saying you do not have the tasks. However I am trying on the tasks, and I am nonetheless unclear as to why it is taking so lengthy.”
Doig: “Yeah, no. I hear you. Once more, it is a new program.”
The CBS 2 Investigators have additionally discovered CNI has used among the cash it obtained to pay its salaries.
“It is getting used to fund our venture managers and among the accounting workers,” Doig mentioned.
Within the meantime, Landon is left combating and hoping the remainder of her cash comes by way of – earlier than she loses her enterprise for good.
“We even have plenty of group companies,” Landon mentioned. “For this to occur to an organization that is already been so established and is simply so pivotal for the group, yeah, it is onerous.”
Doig pushed again when Kozlov requested him if he thought this was a failed grant.
Kozlov additionally reached out to the Illinois Division of Commerce and Financial Alternative about Doig’s declare that the state retains altering the necessities for grantees. A spokesperson mentioned the necessities have remained the identical.