State unveils $85 million in grants for business support

The money will help stores, restaurants and others affected by COVID-19 and rioting.

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A looted Family Dollar at 4247 W. Madison St. is seen June 1.

State officials are offering grants to businesses affected by looting and a slowdown related to COVID-19.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

State officials Tuesday said they will issue $85 million in grants to help businesses affected by the pandemic or rioting.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said applications can be filed beginning Friday and are due July 7. Eligibility rules are available at the agency’s web site, Illinois.gov/dceo.

The grants are available under two programs: $60 million in Business Interruption Grants, or BIG, and $25 million in Rebuilt Distressed Communities assistance. A DCEO official said the money comes from either the federal CARES Act payments to states or proceeds of the Rebuild Illinois capital improvements bonds. Recipients will be picked via lottery.

The BIG program will provide grants of between $10,000 and $20,000 to 3,500 businesses that can document revenue lost due to COVID-19. The money can be used for payroll, rent, utilities and other working capital, as well as purchases of supplies needed to comply with public health guidelines for business reopenings. State rules require 30% of the money go to businesses in low-income areas, many of which have been hit hard by the virus.

Community-based financial institutions with experience in state grants will be enlisted to get money into recipients’ hands in mid-July, officials said.

The other funding source, which the state also calls the Distressed Capital Program, will cover costs to repair structural damage, including repairs to storefronts and entrances, improving electrical systems, and restoring exterior work. It is exclusively for businesses in low-income areas that experienced damage from rioting and looting after the death of George Floyd.

The BIG grants are the first installment of a business aid package expected to total $540 million, with $270 million reserved for child care providers. Details will be announced later, DCEO said.

“With many businesses all across our state experiencing hardship from COVID-19, DCEO has worked to release funding in a way that reaches across all of our diverse community areas, and that assists those who need it the most,” acting Director Michael Negron said. “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.”

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