By Jim Williams
CALUMET CITY, Illinois (WBBM) — A 72-year-old woman in Calumet City was worried she would be forced out of her home because someone took out a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan in her name.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Wednesday evening, great-grandmother Helen Byrd’s Calumet City home is the center of her robust family.
“I cherish my home,” she said through her daughter. “I love it here.”
We talked to Ms. Byrd – who is deaf and communicates using sign language – and her daughter Candace, who lives in Indianapolis and interpreted for her mother via videoconference.
“We have good time,” Candace said.
But these are stressful times for the 72-year-old great grandmother. A couple of weeks ago she got a letter from the Housing Authority of Cook County.
“It has come to the Housing Authority of Cook County’s attention via the Small Business Administration that you applied for and may have received a Small Business Administration/Paycheck Protection Program Loan/Grant,” the letter said.
The loan was for $20,000. The letter goes on to say Ms. Byrd failed to disclose the payment, nor did she report owning a business. PPP loans were set up by the federal government to help keep small businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county Housing Authority’s claims are important, because they could affect Ms. Byrd’s status as a Section 8 tenant.
Candace: “Did you own your own business before?”
Ms. Byrd: “No, no, never. I don’t own a business or anything.”
In fact, Ms. Byrd is a retired postal worker, who now fears she will lose her apartment of 12 years.
“I’m afraid. I don’t know where I’m going to live,” she said. “I want to be here. I love it here.”
We called the county, and a spokeswoman told us it appears Ms. Byrd is a victim of identity theft – and can easily prove she’s didn’t apply for the loan by contacting the Small Business Administration.
Will she be evicted from her home, we asked? “Absolutely not,” spokeswoman Emily Orenstein said.
“I feel good knowing that my mother would not have to worry about being put out,” said Candace. “I really do appreciate you and Channel 2 for getting this story together and definitely getting results.”
Ms. Byrd says she’ll call if she hits any snags as works toward clearing this up.
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