Illinois opens applications for business, community COVID-19 recovery grants

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Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (Photo via Good Free Photos)

CHICAGO – Last week, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) released applications for the latest in a series of grant programs designed to offset the economic impact of COVID-19 for businesses and communities across Illinois.

The new Business Interruption Grant (BIG) and the Rebuild Distressed Communities grants total $85 million and will provide relief for thousands of businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic. 

Applications for BIG grants and the Rebuild Distressed Communities NOFO are due on July 7. For more information on eligibility and how to apply, visit the DCEO’s website.

“This virus has had devastating effects on the health and livelihoods of our residents, and we must take aggressive action to help our families and communities recover,” said Pritzker in a press release. “As our small businesses reopen their doors, these grant programs will provide critical support to allow them to safely expand their operations. We can not recover without our small businesses leading the way, particularly in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this virus, and this administration is committed to using all resources at our disposal to help them thrive.”

These programs administered by the DCEO are part of over $900 million in new programs recently announced by Pritzker, with a focus on restoring communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Both programs offer priority for small businesses whose operations were heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic, for those located in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs), as well as those in communities damaged by recent civil unrest. DIAs are low-income areas that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our Illinois economy, which is why the Pritzker administration has continuously taken action to grant critical relief programs the duration of this unprecedented crisis,” said Acting Director of DCEO Michael Negron. “With many businesses all across our state experiencing hardship from COVID-19, DCEO has worked to marshal funding in a way that reaches across all of our diverse community areas, and that assists those who need it the most. With the new BIG program, the state will ensure those businesses most greatly affected are not left behind as we move forward to a safe, phased reopening of our state and economy.”

The first round of the new business interruption grants program, known as “BIG,” will make $60 million available for 3,500 businesses that experienced losses or business interruption because they closed or severely restricted their operations as a result of COVID-19. Businesses eligible for BIG include restaurants and bars; barbershops and salons; health and fitness centers; as well as businesses located in DIAs which have had reports of recent property damage due to civil unrest.

Grants will be made available for small businesses in amounts ranging between $10,000-$20,000, depending on business type and other eligibility criteria. A full list of criteria as well as the application can be found on DCEO’s website.

All grant categories feature dedicated set asides for businesses located in DIAs, based on a statutory mandate to release a minimum of 30 percent of BIG funds to DIAs throughout Illinois.

“These dollars are much needed resources that will be infused back into black communities that have been hit the hardest by COVID19 and communities that were hit by looting,” said State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, (D-Peoria). “These resources are critical to the revitalization and rebuilding necessary for our new normal. The Governors leadership in providing an equity lens in how these dollars are distributed is a hard pivot from the old ways of doing business and I am here for it.”

“Working together, Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly made Business Interruption Grants a priority in this year’s state budget,” said State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). “Making sure small business owners in all parts of Illinois have access to much needed financial assistance is imperative as we continue to fight the ongoing impact of COVID-19.  Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we should do everything we can to support them.”

The second program, Rebuild Distressed Communities, is a $25 million economic recovery program to support Illinois businesses that have sustained property damage as a result of civil unrest during protest and demonstrations on or after May 25. The Distressed Capital Program will reimburse the costs to repair structural damages, including repairs to storefronts and entrances, improving electrical systems, and restoring exterior work.

The Distressed Capital Program will specifically help businesses located in DIAs and will prioritize small businesses, women and minority-owned businesses, underinsured or uninsured businesses, businesses that have a high community impact – such as grocery stores – and businesses in communities that have experienced historic disinvestment. The Distressed Capital Program also includes provisions to encourage minority- and women-owned contractors are the first in line to do the repair work.

Details on both programs are available on the DCEO’s website.

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