City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin Encourages Small Businesses To Apply For City Loans As Deadline Approaches

The $100 million Chicago Resiliency Fund is meant to throw businesses a lifeline, and the deadline to apply for a grant is coming up on Friday.

City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin Encourages Small Businesses To Apply For City Loans As Deadline Approaches

CHICAGO (CBS) — The $100 million Chicago Resiliency Fund is meant to throw businesses a lifeline, and the deadline to apply for a grant is coming up at 5 p.m. Friday.

Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin joined CBS 2’s Brad Edwards and Irika Sargent on “Hour 18” Thursday to talk about the how the loan works. Conyears-Ervin, as treasurer, is chair of the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund – which invested up to $50 million of the $100 million for the Resiliency Fund.

“This is truly designed for small businesses. Me being the young lady that is born in Englewood, raised on the West Side, I actually know the importance of small businesses in our communities” Conyears-Ervin said, “and so I was happy to pardon with Mayor Lightfoot on this in making certain that unlike the federal program, which a lot of small businesses were not able to tap into, this program through the City of Chicago is truly for small businesses – less than 50 employees with an annual revenue of less than $3 million.”

The requirements also include that the business has seen a 25 percent decrease in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, and serves Chicago communities.

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Businesses can apply through ChicagoCityTreasurer.com, or through the CityOfChicago.org website, where there is a tab for coronavirus.

Edwards noted that Chicago has long been dogged by accusations that getting something like a loan is an insiders game in which you’ve got to know someone. But Conyears-Ervin emphasized that her office is ensuring equity in how the funds are doled out.

“We are making certain – and there has been a great partnership between my office and the Mayor’s office in making certain that we are working with the financial institutions to make certain that there is equity with this program,” Conyears-Ervin said. “And I’ll tell you, just with the number of loans that we’ve already provided, 67 percent of the loans have been given to businesses with low- to moderate-income communities.”

A total of 41 percent of the loans have been given to African-American and Hispanic business owners, she said.

She emphasized that she does not want a small business to hear about the loan and think it does not apply to them.

However, officials emphasize that this is a loan and not a grant. But for the first six months, the interest rate is 0 percent, and for the next six months, it can be between 1 and 2 percent up to 18 months.

The loans can go further up to five years, Conyears-Ervin said.

As of Thursday, 124 loans had been approved – and there are many left to give out.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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State Funding For Unemployment Benefits Likely To Run Out Leaving Illinois To Borrow From Federal Government

The state's unemployment fund balance is losing money and fast.

State Funding For Unemployment Benefits Likely To Run Out Leaving Illinois To Borrow From Federal Government

CHICAGO (CBS) — One in six working Americans is now out of a job and may be struggling to pay their rent or mortgage or feed their families. In just the last seven weeks more than 750,000 people in Illinois filed unemployment claims. That’s more than what was filed all last year.

During those seven weeks, Illinois paid out more than $700 million in benefits.

The CBS 2 team is Working for Chicago, getting information about new resources for businesses trying to avoid layoffs and reporting that uncovers whether the state has enough money to keep paying those unemployment benefits that are already due.

For 10 years Kathleen Simonelli was a devoted server at Mamma Maria’s restaurant in Bensenville, but last month she lost  job.

“I want to go back to work so bad. It’s terrible. My heart sinks to my stomach thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got these bills I need to pay,'” she said.

That first unemployment check came right on time, but in April, as the hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed flooded the system, the second one never arrived.

“It was very devastating, very shocking,” she said. “I’ve never once in my life collected unemployment.”

The state Department of Employment Security paid out $200 million in unemployment benefits in March as businesses closed and laid off employees.

“We effectively stopped the economy to protect citizens, protect everyone from the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, we closed the economy,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a research organization that looks at issues affecting Illinois including unemployment. “This unprecedented amount of activity in unemployment, and the biggest challenge is we don’t know when it’s going to end.”

The state’s unemployment fund balance is losing money and fast. The fund started April with a balance of around $1.5 billion dollars. In the first two weeks of April it was already down $400 million or about 25%.

Msall said if the state continues go through that much money every two weeks “eventually we’ll deplete the amount of money the State of Illinois has set aside for unemployment.”

About six weeks is when Msall estimates the set aside will run out‚ but that doesn’t mean the unemployment checks will stop. Msall said the state will just borrow money from the fed.

“There is a process in place where the state can take a draw from the federal trust fund and repay it later in order to pay current benefits,” he said.

So the money will keep coming, but the issues like Simonelli’s may not stop any time soon.

“I just wish someone could answer the phone,” she said.

The state can borrow money from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, but unless it’s a grant, the money has to be repaid. Which means the state will be in debt for years.

Residents will all ultimately pay. Businesses will have higher payroll taxes and will pass on those costs to consumers.

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