Sued by white business owner, Cook County halts grant program that aimed to 'close racial wealth' gap
Published in News & Features
The 22,000 individuals who applied for help in October have been in limbo since, WBBM-Ch. 2 reported earlier this month. County officials plan to launch a larger program in the coming months, but business owners will have to apply again.
“We decided to rescind, restructure and refine the program to try to get the money out to small business as quickly as possible … rather than trying to litigate it,” Preckwinkle said at a news conference Thursday following the County Board’s monthly meeting.
Cusano could not be reached for comment Friday, but Quinio, his attorney, released a statement saying it’s “encouraging that the county has backed off from its discriminatory program. We look forward to all small business owners getting a fair and equal shot at receiving assistance without regard to their skin color. The county should never use a crisis to violate the constitution.”
Asked whether the county had concerns about whether the program could be considered discriminatory when it was released, Laura Lechowicz Felicione, special counsel for Preckwinkle’s office, said “we believe we had strong arguments, based upon the individuals and communities that were hardest hit by COVID. We were comfortable when we structured and issued the grant, but based upon the litigation, to fight that out in the courts could take some time.”
“We’ll be working with our grant subrecipient and referral partners to restructure the grant,” Lechowicz Felicione continued. “We’ll be looking at probably qualified census tracts” and bringing a revised program back to the county board for approval in “late spring or early summer.”
“Any and all business information contained in a submitted Grow Grant application will remain confidential and secure,” Mathiowdis said. The revamped grant program will “include additional funds” unspent from the county’s $1 billion ARP distribution. “Businesses that had applied previously will have to reapply but may not have to resubmit documents provided previously.”
Preckwinkle encouraged businesses to visit the Cook County Small Business Source’s website, which offers events and business advising sessions.
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