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Pritzker announces $900M in COVID-19 relief grants for small businesses, struggling renters

The governor also announced that he would be extending a residential eviction ban until July 31. Pritzker first banned evictions when he issued a stay-at-home order on March 21.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces $900 million in grants to help businesses affected by COVID-19, and homeowners and renters struggling to pay rent and mortgages.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces $900 million in grants to help businesses affected by COVID-19, and homeowners and renters struggling to pay rent and mortgages.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced a wide-ranging $900 million in grants to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19, as well as the many Illinoisans struggling to pay mortgages and rent amid the pandemic.

In front of a North Lawndale store that was looted about three weeks ago, Pritzker said about 3,500 businesses will be able to benefit from a $60 million grant program, as soon as early July.

The Democratic governor also announced that he would be extending a residential eviction ban until July 31. Pritzker first banned evictions when he issued a stay-at-home order on March 21.

Several progressive Democratic lawmakers tried to push through a more expansive rent relief measure that would have canceled rent and mortgage payments statewide for 180 days during a shortened legislative special session last month, but found resistance from realtors. Instead, a deal was reached to increase funds to the Illinois Housing Development Authority to administer a relief program.

Pritzker said nearly one in three Illinois adults have either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment or are worried about their ability to pay next month’s rent.

“That’s one in three of our neighbors, one in three of our community members, one in three of our friends, struggling just to maintain housing for themselves and their families. That’s an unacceptable reality for too many,” Pritzker said. “Housing is vital and people are struggling.”

Among the assistance is a $150 million program that will provide $5,000 grants to Illinois tenants who are struggling to pay their rent. The governor’s office believes the Emergency Rental Assistance Program will help about 30,000 renters who are struggling to pay their bills. The grants will launch in August and run through the end of the year. Renters who have disproportionately impacted by the pandemic will be prioritized in the grant process.

Another $150 million program will provide $15,000 grants for 10,000 eligible homeowners who have been unable to pay their mortgage. The program is also expected to begin in August.

And to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is providing $60 million for up to 3,500 businesses. Those funds will be distributed to qualifying businesses in early July, the governor’s office said. About $540 million of that program will go toward small businesses and is funded by the federal CARES Act.

Priority will be given to small businesses that were completely shut down or heavily restricted during the pandemic and that are in disproportionately impacted areas. And an “emphasis will be placed” on businesses that also sustained property damage during recent looting, the governor’s office said.

The application process for the business grant program will begin Monday.

Pritzker on Wednesday also said $25 million will be reappropriated from the state’s capital program to help Illinois businesses that sustained property damage due to looting during the George Floyd’s protest. That money is intended to help businesses repair structural damage, improve electrical systems and restore the exterior of their businesses. Small businesses, women and minority-owned businesses, underinsured or uninsured businesses and businesses that have a high community impact, like grocery stores, will be prioritized.

The grants were largely authorized from an emergency budget that Pritzker signed into law last week, with some of the funds also coming from the federal CARES Act.

Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, said Black businesses across the state need support to encourage economic growth.

“Black communities are the hardest hit by COVID-19, another symptom of the disease that is racism in our country,” Lightford said Wednesday as officials announced another 546 people in Illinois tested positive for the coronavirus, while an additional 87 deaths were attributed to the virus.

“Working families who have yet to receive a proper payday have struggled. They’ve struggle to maintain during this time. Our small businesses, built in our local communities by the people who care about them the most were forced to shut down and were damaged by individuals who exploited, totally exploited our pain for personal gain. They need a government that will work for them without hesitation.”

Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout