“I proceeded in good faith,” said Mark Hosty, owner of the now-closed Healy’s Westside, of the $65,000 Business Interruption Grant (BIG) the state government is recalling. Hosty said he applied for the grant prior to deciding to shut the long-standing bar and that a full repayment plan has been scheduled with the state.
Healy’s Westside is one of eight recipients of an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant that have been asked to return received money to the government because they were non-compliant or ineligible for the award. According to Lauren Huffman, spokesperson for the program, money from six of the eight businesses asked to return grant awards has been accounted for. The two businesses which as of May 10 had not returned money were Healy’s and Tank Noodles in Chicago.
Huffman said the department is “engaged in ongoing negotiations” to work out a payment plan.
Healy’s grant is being recalled because the establishment allegedly had closed permanently prior to receiving the BIG, a grant awarded to businesses trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
But although the money was received after the bar had closed, Hosty said he applied for the grant prior to deciding to permanently shut the doors of Healy’s, which had been a mainstay of downtown Forest Park for 25 years. Hosty temporarily closed when the COVID-19 pandemic slammed businesses and then announced on Facebook on Oct. 13 that the bar was closing for good.
“When DCEO learned that Healy’s had closed its doors prior to receiving its BIG grant, a violation of their agreement, the department contacted owners immediately to initiate a process to return funds as quickly as possible,” said Huffman in a May 10 email.
In total, the state awarded over 9,000 grants totaling more than $275 million for small businesses, said Huffman. After BIG grants were awarded, the DCEO continued to monitor “to ensure grantees maintain compliance with their grant agreements.” The eight who were not in compliance represent a tiny fraction, less than .1 percent, of the total number of grants provided, said Huffman.
“All returned funds have been awarded to other businesses which applied for BIG, met the eligibility requirements, and which were next in line to receive funding through Round 2 of the program in line with program priorities,” Huffman said.