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The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has accused 17 employees of defrauding the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP). One of the accused resigned and the other 16 were terminated after the CHA’s inspector general conducted an internal investigation. The workers left their place of employment on July 15, 2022.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Housing Authority did not comment on whether services provided to residents would be impacted by the mass termination. The organization did not immediately release the names, job titles, or salaries of those terminated. It is also unclear exactly how much was defrauded from the PPP loans.
This is the first major embarrassment for CHA’s CEO Tracey Scott.
The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Scott as saying, “As a mission-driven organization that serves families, seniors and people experiencing housing insecurity, everyone who works at CHA must operate from a place of integrity.”
She continued on by saying when one employee “violates that trust, whether on the job or outside the job, it affects us all.” Scott noted that this situation is disappointing and difficult for CHA.
We will use it as an opportunity to hold ourselves to a higher standard and recommit to our values of integrity, consistency, and accountability.
During the investigation, the IG discovered that the 17 employees “committed federal program fraud” when they “falsified” applications to the Small Business Administration “in order to receive SBA COVID-19 relief funds to which they were not entitled.”
The IG compared a list of all active Chicago Housing Authority employees to those who received a PPP loan “for secondary employment or disclosed business income,” according to officials.
Prior to this scandal, the agency was taking heat for swapping land with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for a new $120 million high school on the Near South Side. The site traded was the former Harold L. Ickes Homes. Chicago Housing Authority started shutting it down in 2007 with promises of new public housing.
Many feel the CHA is breaking its promises to Black residents by building a school where the housing was supposed to be. Others are concerned that a new school will further hurt the nearby under-rolled majority Black schools.
Roderick Wilson, executive director of the community organization Lugenia Burns Hope Center, “This has been a problem with the city of Chicago.” Many thought voting for Mayor Lori Lightfoot would give them “something different.” However, it seems they “got the same playbook” as before.
“Ultimately, what CHA is doing is contributing to the gentrification of our community and contributing to the displacement of Black people,” Wilson added
Scott feels the agency will still be able to keep its promises with the trading of lands — 1.7 acres of land at 24th and State for two acres down the street on Wabash Avenue.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Sun-Times: 16 CHA employees fired, 1 resigns after accused of defrauding federal program
Chicago Tribune: 16 Chicago Housing Authority workers fired over PPP pandemic loan fraud; 17th person resigned