White business owner, Cook County grants program for minorities, women

A lawsuit by a white North Side businessman has forced Cook County officials to revise a program that pays $10,000 to minority and women-owned businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the year Announced in 2022, the Resource Growth Grant program was supposed to disburse $71 million in federal Covid relief funds to “historically underserved businesses — including those owned by entrepreneurs of color, women, veterans, LGBQT+ and people with disabilities.” Racial wealth and opportunity gaps.

Three months after the program began, Edison Park chiropractor Domenic Cusano filed a lawsuit backed by the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation. Applicants who identify as non-white or Hispanic.

The county has received 22,000 applications from business owners, but no money has been awarded, and county officials said this week they will redesign the program and ask applicants to reapply.

Court records show Cusano’s motion to suspend was denied by a judge earlier this month because the county announced on Feb. 27 that the program was “cancelled.”

It wasn’t clear from the indictment whether Cusano, who describes himself as “white and Caucasian,” applied for the development grant, which required him to list his race on the application form and prove that the business was at least 51% owned. Minority, female, disabled or veteran owned. Cusano did not return phone calls from the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday.

“A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was decided by Cook County to reverse the decision and restructure,” Preckwinkle spokesman Nick Mathiodis said in a statement. “For that reason, and in our effort to help small businesses as quickly as possible, we have chosen to restructure the assistance program rather than litigate the matter.”

The program provided assistance to 2,250 applicants. Matthews said the funding will be added to the newly designed program and will “target businesses disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and historically disenfranchised communities.”

Businesses must resubmit applications for grants, Mathiodis said.

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