Joliet officials acknowledge staff knew about grant for asylum seekers

Joliet City Hall, Municipal Building. Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 in Joliet.

The city of Joliet acknowledged on Thursday that their staff was aware of the state grant to provide services for asylum seekers but stressed the grant application was done without their knowledge or approval.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Interim City Manager Ron Tonelli said the city received a “notice of funding opportunity” regarding the grant on Aug. 9. The city also acknowledged a meeting was held on Sept. 1 between their staff, the township, the Spanish Community Center and the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic.

“A general discussion was held regarding the current pressures placed on these agencies from asylum seekers currently in the community and whether this grant would help stabilize the financial burden placed on the community,” according to the city’s statement.

On Sept. 29, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the township would receive a $8.6 million grant.

City officials said they were aware that Joliet Township, the Spanish Community Center and the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic intended to have “additional conversations” regarding the grant, according to the statement.

“The city of Joliet provided no input in Joliet Township’s grant application,” according to the statement.

Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy said on Thursday there were city staff who aware there was a grant available before Sept. 29 but it did not mean anyone from the city applied for any grants.

“I didn’t sign the grant and I didn’t know the grant was being applied for,” D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy has noted the grant application had listed his office and Joliet Fire Department as local supporters, which he has called “almost a fraud.”

“This is Angel Contreras doing something that he shouldn’t have done,” D’Arcy said.

In a statement, Tonelli said he does not support Joliet Township’s grant application.

“In the future, the city will continue to partner on funding opportunities with our governmental and community partners that benefit the residents and businesses of Joliet. The mayor’s strong request that Joliet Township withdraw the application stands,” the statement said.

The Herald-News has not yet received comment from Contreras.