Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Champaign News-Gazette. September 24, 2023.

Editorial: Federal/state aid program turned into vast fraud program

It was like stealing candy from a baby.

Investigators are starting to put flesh on the bones of the massive criminality and incompetence surrounding the state’s administration of the multibillion-dollar federal Paycheck Protection Program.

The program aimed at helping businesses cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was rife with corruption, and our loyal state employees apparently were right in the middle of it.

Illinois Executive Inspector General Susan Haling, amplifying on previous disclosures, recently announced that at least 117 state employees defrauded the programs. She’s referring their cases to Attorney General Kwame Raoul for possible prosecution.

It better be probable prosecution, because this is yet another outrage perpetrated on the citizens of Illinois by the public servants of Illinois.

Unfortunately for her, Haling’s investigation is not over yet. She’s in the middle of 438 probes of individual wrongdoing and is not quite halfway done.

This is one case where Illinois, which is notoriously corrupt, is not an outlier. The entire federal PPP program provided fraudsters coast-to-coast opportunities, and they took full advantage to secure loans that were really grants.

Given the volume, Haling’s investigators are forced to set priorities, one of which is addressing only those cases where fraudsters made off with loans of $20,000 or more.

In other words, those who were more restrained in their avarice will escape prosecution.

The PPP wrongdoing is not just limited to state employees. In Chicago, employees of the county, city and school district participated in the thievery.

What’s interesting here is that all of these people who have been implicated in the fraud were employed. They either created fictitious businesses or exaggerated their revenues to qualify.

The coronavirus fraud is not limited to the PPP programs. Illinois also threw billions out the window in a similar program designed to aid the unemployed.

Misconduct on this scale clearly shows that governmental ineptitude at the federal and state levels created a feeding frenzy of fraud that was open to all comers.

God knows how many billions of dollars in federal tax revenue was lost, much of which will never be recovered.

Congress and presidents (both Donald Trump and Joe Biden) oversaw the prompt passage of these aid programs that were ill-conceived and foolishly managed.

They were open invitations to criminality, and it was obvious from the beginning what would happen. It’s what always happens when legislators and bureaucrats take a leap into the wild blue yonder in the vain hope that somehow, things will work out.

Naturally, they didn’t.


Chicago Sun-Times. September 23, 2023.

Editorial: Illinois inspired the idea behind Biden’s green jobs corps. Now, Illinois needs to get on board.

President Biden created the American Climate Corps to send money to states that created green jobs programs for young people. Yet Illinois, which first inspired the idea, is sitting on the sidelines.

Illinois led the way for other states to create programs to hire young people to do environmental jobs. So where is Illinois’ own program?

A bit of background: Adopting a campaign originally led by the Illinois environmental group Openlands, President Joe Biden’s 2021 Build Back Better legislation included $30 billion to create a version of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps that would train young people to build green projects around the country, such as maintaining and restoring parks, trails and natural areas.

The New Deal-era CCC built parks, trails and natural amenities throughout Illinois and across the nation, a legacy that endures in many places, including the construction of the lodge at Starved Rock State Park and the Skokie Lagoons.

Unfortunately, Congress cut the idea of a new CCC-style program from the final Build Back Better legislation, which was renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. But 10 states — five of them just recently — went ahead and created their own programs anyway, understanding how such programs would provide good-paying jobs, teach workers important skills and help the environment.

Surprisingly, Illinois wasn’t one of those states. That should change, and quickly.

On Wednesday, Biden issued an executive order picking up on the idea by creating a more modest American Climate Corps to hire more than 20,000 young adults in clean energy, conservation and climate-protecting jobs.

Clearly, if Illinois doesn’t get its act together, it will leave money from that program on the table that it could use for its own CCC-style green jobs program. The deadline for states to apply for money through the American Climate Corps is April 1.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who pushed for an updated CCC-style program in the last two Congresses, called the creation of the American Climate Corps “great news, and a huge win for our environment.”

Jerry Adelmann, CEO of Openlands, told us, “Given the dual crisis of climate change and loss of biodiversity — and the effect we are seeing on people’s lives, especially in underserved communities — a program such as the American Climate Corps could not be more relevant.”

Josh Mogerman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We see this as an important and valuable program.”

Utah, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota, Washington and North Carolina have set up their own programs, which now can be linked to Biden’s national program. Why are those states benefiting from Illinois’ idea, while Illinois sits on the sidelines?

For the benefit of the state, the nation, young adults who need jobs and training, and the planet, Illinois has to get moving.