Illinois recipients of federal coronavirus bailout fund identified

Thousands of Illinois businesses, not-for-profits and even churches cashed in on a federal coronavirus bailout program.

After initially refusing to release information, the US Treasury has now posted some names and dollar totals.

On the US Treasury's list of 660,000 who received some of the $521 billion in forgivable loans: Willow Creek Megachurch in the northwest suburbs, Mario Tricoci hair salons, and Oberweis Dairy and ice cream stores, owned by the family of Illinois State Senator Jim Oberweis. He is now running for Congress and says his son took the $5.8 million bailout to prevent any layoffs, a common refrain.

“We felt like we ought to save these jobs in order to do the important work that we do. It was a choice between that or having to stand down on some of the government watchdog work that we do,” said David Greising, CEO of the Better Government Association.

While Greising's not-for-profit BGA took $413,000 in cares act PPP cash, the not-for-profit public radio station WBEZ-FM got $2.8 million.

Still, WBEZ reporter Dan Mihalopoulos covers the coronavirus bailout skeptically, filing freedom of information requests demanding more transparency from the treasury department.

“There’ve been some complaints on the part of many small businesses that they could not get access to money when we do have other places that very few would define as a small business getting millions and millions of dollars,” Mihalopoulos said.

Many want to see a complete list of PPP beneficiaries. The Treasury ha so far disclosed only about 15-percent of those who got these forgivable loans.