by Lesley R. Chinn
After Congressmen Bobby Rush, Jesse L. Jackson Jr., and Danny Davis discussed President Barack Obama’s stimulus package at a series of town hall meetings, they met at the Quentis Bernard Garth Foundation headquarters last Saturday with members of the Chatham Business Association’s (CBA) Small Business Development, Inc.’s group to discuss how entrepreneurs can benefit from the economic recovery package.
Invited CBA members spoke with all three Congressmen about issues ranging from neighborhood revitalization; social services, and business contracts resulting from the stimulus. Joe Caldwell, CBA vice chairman, said that with the economy deteriorating, many small businesses are just trying to "hold on." While noting the CBA represents more than 800 small businesses within the Chatham area, Caldwell said that there needs to be some "clarity and understanding" about how entrepreneurs will benefit from the stimulus.
Congressman Rush said Obama just recently signed the stimulus plan. He added that the money will flow from the federal government to the state and local governments. Some of the funds will come in the form of grants directly distributed to the states.
The Citizen asked about Illinois’ stimulus portion. Previous reports indicated that Illinois was expected to receive between $3 and $33 billion. Congressman Rush said he was unsure about the exact number and called the package a "work in progress."
However, what is known so far is that 95 percent of working Americans and their families will receive a tax cut. The plan will provide for an additional $400 for individuals and $800 for couples and will be spread out in their paychecks over a period of time, according to Jackson.
Questions were asked about what constitutes "shovel-ready" projects that create and grow jobs in the Black community. Jackson read off a list of top priorities that included addressing the foreclosure crisis; repairing and building roads and bridges including the Bishop Ford and the I-57 Expressways, and addressing banking and credit issues.
The group was also urged to inquire about oversight of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)’s minority infrastructure funds and to find out more informa- tion from Governor Pat Quinn who the next secretary will be.
Keith Tate, president of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, Eleanor Porter, CBA housing chairman, and Phyllis Logan, housing chairman of the Westside NAACP pointed out that the economy won’t become stable if homeownership remains at risk. Logan said she hopes funds from the stimulus will assist homeowners in getting loans at better interest rates. Right now, the problem, she added, is dealing with sub-prime lenders who refuse to modify loans. Tate added that Chatham has seen more than 121 foreclosures. He asked how people are going to get funds to help solve some of these problems.
As for social services, Dr. Felicia Blasingame, president/CEO of South Central Community Services, wanted to know how agencies like hers can benefit from the stimulus.
Congressman Jackson said that the $787 billion stimulus package will not be the last infusion of dollars injected into communities and added that more funds will come later. "If people don’t see some relief fairly quickly, there will be some consequences at the polling places for everyone including the President," Jackson stated. "He said he wants to be measured by the quality of his administration instead of the quantity and right now, he is offering up the whole kitchen sink right now as opposed to running cautiously to get re-elected."
Tracking stimulus dollars was also an item of interest to CBA members. Congressman Rush told the group they could visit a stimulus transparency website called www.recovery. gov. Rush, Jackson, and Davis also said the group and other citizens like them, should hold their state and local officials accountable to ensure that stimulus funds are properly distribute.