Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a $250 million grant program for small businesses on Wednesday, calling the measure a “great step forward” to stimulating economic growth statewide and helping businesses recover from the pandemic.
Pritzker announced the back-to-business grants at The Hatchery, a food and beverage business incubator in East Garfield Park, where he was joined by state Senate President Don Harmon, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, state legislators and members of the business community.
“Last summer, our state was one of the earliest in the nation to get sizable pandemic relief out to residents quickly and efficiently,” Pritzker said. “Today we’re kicking off the latest program in our slate of initiatives to support recovery for small businesses and for working families.
“Further accelerating our economic recovery, today we’re announcing $250 million in back-to-business grants to help small businesses all across Illinois hire back staff and cover operating costs. These are grants, not loans, so not a single cent has to be paid back.”
The grants will be available to small businesses across the state that have experienced losses due to the pandemic.
Starting next Wednesday, business owners will be able to submit applications for the grants. Priority will be given to those who have not yet received state funding through other programs and to those in communities or industries hit hard by the pandemic, Pritzker said.
Alan Moy, the owner of the Vietnamese-inspired restaurant Viet Nom Nom, spoke to the need for the grant program.
There were many points during the last year and a half when he didn’t think he’d still be able to call himself a restaurant owner, but, thanks to the state’s Business Interruption Grant program, he was able to keep his restaurant afloat and employees paid.
Funds from that grant program could be used for payroll, rent, personal protective equipment and other operational costs.
Moy encouraged others to seek out the resources, too.
“Our ability not only to survive, but to expand during the pandemic is thanks in large part to support received from government, including the state of Illinois business interruption grants program, which helped me make payroll for my team several times over in the fall and winter of last year,” Moy said. “These grants allowed me to keep my dream going to recover and to even start growing again.”
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will also work with over 100 community navigators, 42 small business development centers and others who work with local business communities to get the funds out.
The Small Business Community Navigators Program, which has been recognized by President Joe Biden’s administration, will see a $9 million investment from the state to help with its expansion.
Sylvia Garcia, the acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, called the navigators the “boots on the ground” who work directly with communities and help businesses submit their applications.
Garcia said the grants, which utilize dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, will range from $5,000 to $150,000 depending on the business’ losses.
“We’ve really invested in this approach because we think leveraging our dollars with trusted partners helps us reach more businesses and especially those businesses that are most in need,” Garcia said.