Updated: Clinton AmVets $100,000 grant in limbo receives wider attention

Funds awarded in 2018 now at the mercy of new Illinois adminstration

Posted

Gordon Woods

gwoods@theclintonjournal.com

CLINTON — In July 2018, then-State Rep. Bill Mitchell made a $100,000 grant presentation to members of the Clinton AmVets post.  Three years later, the grant money remains a no-show, so with the help of the AmVets’ district commander, they enlisted some big media help.

Mitchell held the 2018 presentation at the Clinton AmVets post, a new building for the veterans organization, that needed some major enlarging and updating.  The grant money was earmarked for that purpose.

But, after spending down some of the post’s own funds in anticipation of the grant, the local AmVets is now in somewhat of a bind and needs the money to continue with the building project.

The Clinton Journal covered the original presentation and subsequently reported the money hadn’t arrived.  What the post needed was to receive a wider audience to bring attention to their plight, which prompted AmVets District Commander Art Rodriguez to enlist the help CBS 2, WBBM Chicago.

A WBBM cameraman / reporter was down to visit Clinton AmVets about a week ago, and that resulted in a segment highlighting the story of the missing funds.

“He (Rodriguez) likes their investigative things,” said Marc Rogers, Clinton AmVets Chaplain. 

Rodriguez lives in Bloomington.

“They said, ‘We usually don’t do anything out of Chicago, but we’re going to run with this one,’” Rogers said.

Rogers said AmVets tried to get area television stations to cover the story, but they didn’t receive any responses.

Clinton AmVets members hope, as part of their building remodeling, they are able to have a separate room where veterans can meet with a VSO (Veterans Service Officer) to help them with AmVets services.

“Art is not an actual VSO, but he’s doing a lot of that stuff for people in the area,” Rogers said. 

Post members are ready to go with the project and have been for some time.

“We had plans ready when they handed us the fake check,” Rogers said.

Mitchell put the Clinton post in for the $100,000 grant in 2014, but it’s a slow process before money is finally delivered.  Although Mitchell expected the money was short coming at that point, no one anticipated that, three years later, it would still not have materialized.

Clinton AmVets is not the only local agency promised grant money that remains in limbo with the state. 

“So, we had plans and had even shown what we were going to do with the current building, because part of the money was to buy the current building,” Rogers said.  “We just went out on a limb with what we had and bought the building.”

This was necessary because, in order to receive a grant from the state, the organization needed a permanent address. 

The DeWitt County Friendship Center was promised a $50,000 grant that has not arrived.

“If you look at the line items the legislature approved, the Friendship Center is number 31, and we’re number 33, and it’s been that way for two or three years,” Rogers said.

The problem now lies, apparently, with the new Illinois administration.  Representatives through three Illinois administrations, Pat Quinn, Bruce Rauner and now J.B. Pritzker, have all replied the state is busy with other things.

“These people are veterans, and they deserve the money,” Mitchell told WBBM in a Zoom interview for the segment.

“When Bill Mitchell came down and gave us the check, we thought it was a done deal,” Clinton AmVets Post Commander Jesse Owens said in the WBBM segment.  “We were ready to start working.”

According to WBBM, Gov. Pritzker’s office responded the issue “pre-dated” their administration, so they weren’t necessarily obligated to honor the grant.  WBBM said current State Rep. Dan Caulkins replied he was working to try to get the money released.

“Then, you hear about all these places getting millions,” Rogers said.

Rep. Dan Caulkins responded Wednesday to the Clinton Journal.  Under former Rep. Bill Mitchell, he awarded the AmVets grant under what is known as "member initiative" projects as part of the passing of a budget deal.

The funding comes from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), "and that is where the bottleneck happened," Caulkins said.  "I know that Bill tried on several occasions to get funds released for his projects prior to retiring."

Caulkins said he, too, along with his staff, have requested several times for the Director of the DCEO to release the funds for the AmVets and other projects  that were promised grants but never received them.

"This is not the outcome Bill expected when he announced the grants," Caulkins said.