Rep. Miller, House Colleagues Investigate Misuse of COVID Relief Funds

“People who dutifully pay their taxes are again being taken advantage of by politicians unwilling to stop the scams. Recently, the Small Business Administration’s inspector general estimated that more than $200 billion may have been stolen from federal COVID-19 relief funds. We believe the state-level misuse (or theft) of COVID-19 funds may be just as big.

Illinois Democrats just passed the largest budget in the state’s history, and it’s no surprise that the budget reflects a lot of pork-project spending. For the fourth year in the last five years, the budget includes pay hikes for legislators, raising annual baseline pay to nearly $90,000 for a part-time job.

Also in the budget are millions for “member initiatives” in districts represented by only Democrats, funding local projects using state tax dollars. The budget allocates $550 million for healthcare for illegal aliens—all state money because federal rules don’t allow Medicaid for people residing here illegally. This budget item will likely need a supplemental appropriation as Governor Pritzker is taking heat for limiting participation.

Millions more are already allocated for free housing, education, and legal support for illegal aliens. Then there’s massive amounts of spending on K-12 education with no tying of that spending to improvements in proficiency.

We understand that the party in control gets to spend state tax money on their priorities and – right or wrong – not much can be done about it, but federal taxpayers should know Illinois Democrats are recklessly funding lots of pet projects using federal COVID money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). These projects are not COVID-related, and we’re blowing the whistle.

In the Illinois FY24 budget, there’s a $300,000 grant to Black Lives Matter Lake County—an organization run by a convicted felon with a long rap sheet—that doesn’t appear to be in business anymore.

This grant follows a similar one BLM Lake County was awarded in 2021 from ARPA funds. At the time the 2021 grant was approved, the leader of the group was out on bond for felony battery of a police officer and disorderly conduct related to the aftermath of the Kenosha riots.

The grant to BLM Lake County for this year is just one grant out of over $82 million in violence-prevention grants in the budget, all funded using State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Funds (SCUREF), a state category of funding that uses federal ARPA funds as its primary source. It’s unclear how any of this qualifies as COVID-related. In 2023 there’s nothing urgent, there’s no emergency over COVID-19, and we know of no violence-prevention grant that offers remediation from the virus.

Buried in the Illinois budget, we found over $1.3 billion of COVID-19 funding coming from SCUREF-ARPA funds. Among the items federal taxpayers will have to subsidize as “COVID-related” are Welcoming Centers for illegal aliens ($3.3 million); Chicago-based United Power, a community organization that lobbies for social services ($8.5 million); the Latino Family Commission ($4 million); and numerous grants to local governments like the Peoria Chamber of Commerce and other entities for a variety of ordinary budget items wholly unrelated to COVID. 

We don’t think Illinois is the only state abusing COVID funds as many politicians look for easy ways to fill budget holes and ARPA language is vague enough to allow spending on non-COVID items. But we think it’s wrong and a misuse of taxpayer money.

Illinois is proof that the Congressional Republicans are right to want to claw back unspent COVID money. We urge them also to ask for a specific accounting of all federal spending and as well as proof that it was spent to mitigate the effects of COVID and not to fund organizations for ordinary expenses or worse yet, that don’t appear to be operating.”

See how COVID Funding was spent here.

– State Rep. Chris Miller (R – Charleston), State Rep. Brad Halbrook (R – Shelbyville), State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R – Decatur)