Pritzker Announces $245M In Grants For Businesses, Communities Impacted By COVID-19, Civil Unrest

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Some hard-hit Illinois businesses and communities are getting help.

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced Tuesday the latest in a series of grants made available for small businesses in Illinois suffering losses as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as communities impacted by the recent civil unrest.

Applications for the second round of the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program will be made available Thursday afternoon and will offer $220 million in funds for small businesses hit hardest by the ongoing pandemic.

The Governor also announced applications for the new Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC) program will become available in the coming weeks. This program will provide $25 million in funding to cover the cost of civil-unrest related repairs while also supporting new investments in economically distressed communities across Illinois.

“Support for small businesses has been one of the central features of our COVID-19 response: Helping entrepreneurs stay afloat, giving business owners the help necessary to keep the lights on and payroll flowing, is vital to preserving jobs and businesses until we get to the other side of this pandemic,” said Governor Pritzker. “These two new programs, combined with the first round of Business Interruption Grants, deliver nearly $300 million in aid to the very small businesses that bring jobs and vibrancy to their communities –offering them increased stability so those jobs and that vibrancy can live on.”

According to the Governor's Office, BIG continues to prioritize equity by setting aside a substantial portion of funds for businesses located in economically vulnerable communities. The second round of BIG builds on over $49 million in grants awarded just last month – with initial grants allocated to approximately 2,800 businesses in 400 communities in every corner of the state. Application information for the second round of funds and can be found on DCEO’s website and the application form will open for submissions later this week.

The second wave of funds from BIG aims to provide relief for all types of small businesses, with a focus on businesses located downstate or in disproportionately impacted areas.

“From day one of this crisis, the Pritzker Administration has prioritized bold and equitable solutions to address the issues facing businesses and communities across our state as a result of COVID-19,” said Director of DCEO Erin Guthrie. “While the first round of funds has helped 2,800 businesses in 78 counties across the state make ends meet, an additional $200 million in BIG grants will help ensure that even more businesses across our state have a shot at unlocking funds that will help them pay the rent, the payroll and other costs to help them safely reopen and regain their livelihoods.”

Eligible businesses will include for-profit and nonprofit entities with $20 million or less in annual revenue in 2019 (annualized for businesses that started after January 2019). All businesses that receive a BIG award must have experienced losses due to COVID-19 that exceed the size of the award.

DCEO will also oversee the distribution of grants through the RDC program. Supported by the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, RDC funds will be made available to help businesses and economically distressed communities cover the cost of repairs already incurred, while making way for capital work to address eligible repairs or community improvements still needed in response to civil unrest. RDC funded projects may range in size from $1,000 to $200,000, based on eligibility and the extent of the damages. DCEO will prioritize contractors from minority, women, and veteran owned businesses to perform the work, and reimbursements will begin in the coming weeks for damages which have already been incurred.

The Govenor's Office said in order to coordinate reimbursement and capital repairs, the State of Illinois has selected two community development organizations – the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative (CNI). LISC and CNI were selected via a competitive process and will conduct outreach, coordinate local qualified vendors to perform repairs, and provide funds to cover the cost of repairs and new building improvements for businesses in eligible communities across the state. Additionally, LISC will host the application for the grants on its website.

Eligibility for the RDC grants requires businesses and nonprofits to demonstrate property damage as a result of civil unrest on or after May 25, 2020 and be located in economically distressed zip codes identified by DCEO as having sustained property damage due to civil unrest.

BIG and RDC build on a menu of small business and community relief programs created by the administration since COVID-19 first hit – with over $500 million in grants and programs launched by DCEO, including emergency hospitality grants, a downstate small business stabilization program, Fast Track Capital, and more. For more information on programs available for businesses and communities, please visit DCEO’s website.