As Gov. Pat Quinn’s aides sought to pump up an anti-violence program ahead of his November 2010 election bid, they decided to add to the pot $3.76 million in federal disaster recovery funds from Hurricane Ike to make loans to small businesses.
In the rush to get the program launched, the Quinn administration hired a financially troubled West Side business development group to dole out loans, despite concluding the organization had recently misspent state grant funds.
The group, Chicago Community Ventures did not make a single loan, but was allowed to keep more than $150,000 when the contract was nixed, the Tribune has found.
Quinn aides say they caught the problems early by carefully monitoring the group and opted to let the organization keep the money because it had been spent appropriately on administrative costs.
But the administration would not specify how the group was vetted and whether other warning signs about the group’s finances were taken into consideration before it was selected.
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* The story was apparently sparked by a letter written by US Sen. Mark Kirk, a Bruce Rauner ally, a week ago…
The Illinois Auditor, State’s Attorney office and the Audit Commission have only focused on the estimated $50 million in state funds used for the NRI. I am concerned that without your investigation into the micro-lending component of the NRI, there will be no oversight of the $5 million in federal disaster funds used for this questionable program.
I ask that you investigate and make public how these funds were used. I also request answers to the following questions regarding the NRI micro-loan program.
1. Who were the final recipients of the NRI micro-loan program and where were they located?
2. Did any of these businesses lie within areas of significant damage caused by Hurricane Ike?
3. What criteria was used to select micro-loan recipients?
a. Who chose the criteria?
4. What criteria was used to select micro-loan lenders?
a. Who chose this criteria?
5. How many jobs were created by this micro-loan program?
a. Which businesses created these jobs and what metrics were used to verify job creation statistics?
6. Was the NRI micro-loan program an eligible activity under the law that appropriated the money?
7. Did the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity accurately report the functions of the micro-loan program in their mandated Ike quarterly reports to allow for proper HUD oversight?
8. The Accion press release stated minimum requirements to obtain a NRI micro-loan. Were all of the recipients properly notified of the disaster requirements necessary to qualify for Ike Disaster Recovery Funds? Were these requirements posted online?
9. Did all of the recipients of the loans meet Ike Disaster Recovery Funds requirements?
10. I understand Illinois submitted waivers to forgo a portion of the HUD requirements for the Ike funds. Did these waivers permit micro-lending activity?
In addition to the answers to these questions, I would like any and all documents related to the site visits and subsequent concerns that were forwarded to the lenders as mentioned in the state’s Ike Quarterly Performance Reports to be made public.