Lightfoot torpedoes proposal to use TIF money for small-business ‘survival grants’

The mayor said the TIF money was spoken for and the proposal ran contrary to state statute.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot responds to a question after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

AP file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday shot down a proposal to use TIF money to provide small businesses “survival grants” of up to $50,000.

”The proposed funding for ‘survival grants’ is not possible for several reasons: One, due to the fact that 2019 TIF surplus funds are already allocated for specific expenses, and two, because distribution of these funds in the manner proposed is illegal under state statute,” the mayor’s office said Friday.

On Thursday, a group of business owners who are members of the Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit economic development group, called on Lightfoot and the city council to make tax increment financing money available.

Their proposal would require applicants to have a dollar-for-dollar match of the requested grant money on hand. Business owners would also be required to use the cash infusion to retain at least 50% of employees over the next 60 days.

The group praised Lightfoot’s recent rollout $100 million worth of low interest “resiliency loans” from the city to small businesses, but said companies with more than $3 million of annual sales and more than 50 employees aren’t eligible but need help, too.

Lightfoot’s office said TIF surplus money cannot be used for cash distribution as the business association requests.

It also shot down comparisons of “survival grants” to two programs already in place to use TIF money to help support workforce development and building improvement projects. The existing programs are “rigorously monitored for compliance” and do not allow participants to bypass application or compliance processes, according to the mayor’s office.

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