GOP CONGRESS HOPE­FUL & DAIRY MAG­NATE SAW FIRM GET PPP LOAN

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CARO­LINE HUR­LEY AND LYNN SWEET Staff Re­porters

Jim Oberweis — the state sen­a­tor who is a GOP House hope­ful and who loaned his con­gres­sional campaign $1.1 million — is the chair­man of Oberweis Dairy, a com­pany tak­ing a $5.6 million fed­eral Paycheck Protection Pro­gram COVID-19 pan­demic for­giv­able loan.

The dairy, fa­mous for its ice cream, is in a rar­i­fied group of 255 Illinois com­pa­nies get­ting be­tween $5 million and $10 million in the PPP loans, the top amount, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Trea­sury data re­leased Mon­day.

The PPP loans were approved by bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional votes in the wake of coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions trig­ger­ing gov­ern­ment shutdown or­ders and an eco­nomic melt­down. To date, 202,157 Illinois em­ploy­ers have received PPP funds.

The fi­nan­cial lifeline was in­tended to help em­ploy­ers keep peo­ple on the pay­roll and pay some over­head ex­penses. If used as in­tended, the loans do not have to be re­paid.

An Oberweis spokesman told the Sun­Times the ex­act amount was $5.6 million.

Trea­sury records show Oberweis Dairy got the PPP loan on April 8 from CIBC Bank USA to cover 500 em­ploy­ees, the max­i­mum num­ber al­lowed un­der the PPP pro­gram.

Oberweis is run­ning against fresh­man Rep. Lauren Un­der­wood, D-Ill., in the 14th Con­gres­sional District in a na­tion­ally watched race whose out­come could de­ter­mine the party con­trol­ling the House. Oberweis is po­lit­i­cally vi­able be­cause of his abil­ity to loan his var­i­ous cam­paigns for state and fed­eral of­fice millions of his own dol­lars. Fed­eral Election Com­mis­sion records show Oberweis re­paid him­self $500,000 of his loan.

Oberweis is listed on his campaign dis­clo­sure as the chair­man of Oberweis Dairy, head­quar­tered in North Aurora, with a fi­nan­cial stake in the firm. His wife, Julie, re­ceives an undis­closed salary from the firm, ac­cord­ing to the campaign dis­clo­sure.

Oberweis said in a state­ment, “Oberweis Dairy ap­plied for and was granted PPP fund­ing to save the jobs and pay­checks of its em­ploy­ees dur­ing this un­prece­dented time.”

While Oberweis is the chair­man, a spokesman said he does not take a salary, his role is “ad­vi­sory” and his son, Joe, runs the com­pany.

The com­pany said in a state­ment, “With­out the PPP, at a min­i­mum it would have been pru­dent to close all restau­rants and some ice cream stores that we op­er­ate for some pe­riod of time,” and with the PPP funds no work­ers were laid off, fur­loughed or had their pay cut.

The PPP loans have been avail­able to pri­vate com­pa­nies as well as non­prof­its.

Key to se­cur­ing a jumbo PPP loan — es­pe­cially in the first round — was hav­ing a solid re­la­tion­ship with a ma­jor bank. Lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions that fronted the money were paid a fee based on loan size and had less risk to worry about in deal­ing with fa­mil­iar cus­tomers. The par­ent com­pany of the Chicago Sun­Times received a $2.7 million PPP loan.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ini­tially balked at re­leas­ing the names of com­pa­nies get­ting ma­jor loans; un­der pres­sure, the de­ci­sion was re­versed, and the names of em­ploy­ers re­ceiv­ing $150,000 and up were dis­closed.

Other Chicago-area em­ploy­ers get­ting the top loans in­cluded:

◆ Be­tween $5 million and $10 million: Be­sides Oberweis Dairy, the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Pe­di­atrics; Andy Frain Ser­vices, Inc.; Chicago Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety; and the Chicago Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, which op­er­ates the Brook­field Zoo.

◆ Be­tween $2 million and $5 million: Ster­ling Bay, de­vel­oper on the con­tro­ver­sial Lin­coln Yards project, one of the largest in city his­tory; Ada S. McKinley Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, Inc.; Af­ter School Mat­ters, chaired by Mel­lody Hob­son, pres­i­dent of Ariel In­vest­ments; Amer­i­can Col­lege of Chest Physi­cians; Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion; Jof­frey Bal­let; Mor­ton Ar­bore­tum; Museum of Con­tem­po­rary Art; and Vi­enna Beef.

SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO

Jim Oberweis vis­its the Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store on Sh­effield Av­enue in 2014.

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