City of Rockford, IL Fails to Produce Receipts for 200K of Stimulus Dollars

Report suggests widespread incompetency in administration of stimulus grants

The city of Rockford, Illinois has failed to produce receipts for $200,000 of stimulus money and the federal government is requesting a refund, CBS 23-WIFR reports:

The federal government is questioning where the city of Rockford spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in stimulus money, and the city has yet to officially respond.

Employees in the city of Rockford are putting together a report to show how they used federal stimulus dollars. That report was supposed to be done Monday night, but wasn’t. Mayor Larry Morrissey told the aldermen that staff will need a few more weeks to get everything together. The federal government has asked the city to return more than $200,000 since the city can't hand over recipes showing how the money way spent. Rockford's Human Services Director denies those accusations.

Allegations of widespread incompetence in the administration of stimulus grants may have contributed to difficulty in the city's accounting, according to a report from the Rockford Register Star:

The Jericho Project should have never qualified for the federal stimulus money it got in 2009 and 2010, its founder said.

The small nonprofit didn’t have the budget to front a few thousand dollars to put up homeless men, women and families in hotels and apartments while waiting to be reimbursed from the stimulus. The project provides temporary housing for up to five single homeless men at a time. When directors learned they qualified for the stimulus, they tried their hand at helping families find temporary housing.

Executive Director Bill Gerber had to take out a loan to cover the costs. When the city, which administered the grant, did reimburse the nonprofit, money was short because, city officials said, expenses were improperly documented.

Gerber said Jericho Project was never given a clear sense of the details needed for documenting expenses, specifically when it came to recording work hours. There were no guidelines, Gerber said.

Three years later, the project is still $5,000 in debt.

"Had the city screened applicants for this grant and just asked basic questions like what our budget is, they would have known whether or not we were capable of meeting the requirements," Gerber said.

The Jericho Project wasn’t alone.

Auditors with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reviewed how the city spent about $600,000 of the nearly $1.1 million received under provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Auditors found that $205,296 had been improperly documented or spent after the stimulus window closed. They have recommended that the state repay the money to the federal government.

Mayor Larry Morrissey has called for a review of how city employees document and monitor reporting requirements when issuing grant or stimulus money to vendors and nonprofits.

The review is expected to be complete in two weeks.