As a follow-up to his July 24 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) investigation request, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) on Friday, Oct. 10, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing’s (HUD) Inspector General David Montoya regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s alleged misuse of additional funds within the program.
In addition to the $5 million that is under investigation following Kirk’s original request to Montoya, it appears that an additional $9.2 million in funds were potentially used in violation of congressional intent, bringing the total of misused funds to more than $14 million.
The NRI was established by Quinn in 2010 and was created to serve as an anti-violence program within Chicago. In 2008, Hurricane Ike caused an estimated $43 million in damages and losses in Illinois. Forty-one counties were affected, and HUD allocated $193.7 million to the state for damage relief and recovery. Quinn announced in 2010 that three Chicago-area institutions (Accion Chicago, Chicago Community Ventures and the Women’s Business Development Center) would obtain $5 million of the disaster funds for a micro-lending program within the NRI.
In the Illinois Auditor General Report, it was discovered that the program had “pervasive deficiencies” and ignored Chicago’s most violent areas. Currently, the NRI is under full investigation by federal authorities within Illinois, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.
The letter to Inspector General Montoya can be seen below:
Dear Inspector General Montoya:
I write in follow-up to my first letter of July 24, 2014, to request your investigation of the estimated $5 million used in a microlending component of Illinois Governor Quinn’s anti-violence program titled “Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.” As part of the investigation is currently underway by your Illinois field staff, there is an additional $9.2 million of potentially misused federal disaster recovery funds that also appear to be spent in violation of congressional intent.
$1 million in federal Hurricane Ike disaster funds were awarded to the Wagner Motor Company on September 14, 2010 by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). This privately owned car dealership, located at 3800 Illinois, 15 Belleville, IL, is outside the “500 Year Floodplain,” according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps.
$3.2 million in federal Hurricane Ike disaster funds were used to demolish the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. On October 1, 2010, DCEO awarded the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association the funds, and Governor Quinn held a press conference to announce the grant on September 23, 2010. This was less than two months before a gubernatorial election. The site of the mall was outside the “500 Year Floodplain,” according to FEMA flood maps.
$5 million in federal Hurricane Ike disaster recovery funds were used to build a new community center in Chicago. DECO awarded this $5 million dollar construction grant to Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives on June 1, 2013. This July, the same month I requested your initial investigation into the potential misuse of federal disaster recovery funds, Governor Quinn held a press conference to announce the groundbreaking of this facility. This community center, located at 10355 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL is also outside the “500 Year Floodplain,” according to FEMA flood maps.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I urge you to expand your current investigation to include these new findings. Disaster funding cannot be used outside of congressional intent for political expedience. Illinois taxpayers deserve to know the truth and look forward to the findings from your investigation.