Second Kane County COVID-19 relief program for businesses finds success, criticism
Twice as many small businesses are in line to receive COVID-19 relief funds through Kane County compared to a week ago, signaling a successful second attempt by the county to get help to those who need it.
But the fact it's taken eight months to get assistance out the door triggered a moment of revenge criticism from outgoing chairman Chris Lauzen.
It became clear a month ago the county's first effort to get federal assistance to local businesses missed the mark; the initial $8 million program netted about only $1.5 million in requests. Limiting the program to businesses with no more than $2.5 million in gross annual profit and requiring financial reports from before the pandemic were major hurdles in attracting applications.
So the board opened it to all businesses, scaled back the amount of financial documentation needed and raised the individual grant limit to $25,000. Since the county opened the second round of grants last week, nearly $5 million in additional requests have come in. Officials said dozens more are expected.
The county has until the end of the year to dole out the $93 million it received from the U.S. Treasury Department. It has already cut checks for nearly $28 million to assist local municipalities. Separate applications are pending for historical societies, entertainment venues and a possible new grant program for amusement parks, such as Santa's Village.
"We want to make sure we maximize this," said John Hoscheit, chairman of the county board committee overseeing the grant programs. "We don't want to return any money."
But with only a few weeks before the deadline and many months in the rearview mirror since the county received the funds, Lauzen sent a letter to local small businesses encouraging them to apply for grants while blasting the lack of assistance provided so far.
In a letter dated Nov. 22, Lauzen characterized the committee handling the process as "inexperienced and reckless usurpers" who put an auditing firm he didn't approve of into the process, as well as "an incompetent, dishonest old lawyer" from the state's attorney's office in charge of administering the funds. Lauzen went on in the letter to describe the second round of business grants as "throwing federal taxpayer money as if from a clown car." However, he encouraged local businesses to apply.
It's not clear how many businesses received Lauzen's letter. It is marked as being a communication paid for by his Friends of Lauzen campaign fund.
Board members didn't remark on the shots Lauzen took at them in the letter Thursday. A new chairman, Corinne Pierog, is set to take office Tuesday.