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Coronavirus course correct? State’s recovery steers $44 million to ailing businesses, the unemployed, at-risk youth

The individual programs announced Thursday aren’t “the goals in and of themselves, but they are the key components of our recovery from the pandemic and our commitment to build a better Illinois for everyone,” Pritzker said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday morning.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced $44 million in programs he said would allow the state to successfully emerge from the pandemic by helping restaurants and other small businesses fill jobs, unemployed Illinoisans return to work and at-risk youths escape from dropping out or suffering from violence.

The individual programs announced Thursday aren’t “the goals in and of themselves, but they are the key components of our recovery from the pandemic and our commitment to build a better Illinois for everyone,” the governor said at Revolution Workshop in Garfield Park.

Chief among those “key components” was a $40 million workforce recovery grant program aimed at helping job seekers get back to work and small businesses in industries hit hard by the pandemic rebuild their workforces.

In addition, Pritzker said the state will also expand its youth career pathways program, investing $4.4 million in 20 organizations around the state that serve young people who might be at risk of dropping out, experiencing violence or who “otherwise would meaningfully benefit from training programs that open new doors.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to Chase Ervin, who is part of BUILD, during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday morning.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to Chase Ervin, who is part of BUILD, during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday morning.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The $40 million in workforce recovery grants are designed to help both businesses trying to fill jobs and unemployed people looking for work.

“We’re encouraging qualified organizations across the state to apply for funding, especially in industries experiencing shortages, like the hospitality industry, like manufacturing, or other high growth industries like tech and transportation, or the construction trades,” Pritzker said.

“We’re focusing these new investments in communities where they’re needed most — on adults looking to enter, or re-enter the workforce — because in order to create an Illinois where economic opportunity abounds for all residents, we have to address what’s holding them back.”

Sylvia Garcia, the acting director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said the state is focusing on “getting people back to work in ways that build careers that are meaningful and bring home good paying jobs for their families.”

Sylvia Garcia, the acting director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, speaks during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday morning.
Sylvia Garcia, the acting director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, speaks during a news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood Thursday morning.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Organizations receiving pieces of the $4.4 million under the youth career pathways program include:

  • Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois ($325,000)
  • Homework Hangout, Inc., in Decatur ($300,000)
  • OIA Inc., in Chicago and Park Forest ($300,000)
  • YWCA Metropolitan Chicago ($299,959)
  • Brighton Park Neighborhood Council ($285,000)
  • Phalanx Family Services, in Chicago ($260,000)
  • Greater West Town Community Development Project ($250,000)
  • Workforce Investment Solutions in Decatur ($250,000)
  • Teens Against Killing Everywhere ($250,000)
  • Youth Job Center in Evanston ($250,000)
  • Reset to Success Foundation in Belleville ($205,000)
  • Peoria Public Schools ($202,648)
  • CAPS Inc., in Chicago, Chicago Heights and Lisle ($200,000)
  • Quad County Urban League in Aurora ($200,000)
  • UCAN in Chicago and Riverdale ($200,000)
  • Illinois Foundation of SkillsUSA – VICA in Mokena ($180,000)
  • BUILD Inc. in Chicago ($170,000)
  • New Moms in Chicago ($150,000)
  • Hope Center Foundation in Chicago ($105,000)
  • Southeastern Illinois College ($98,718)

The $170,000 grant to BUILD Inc. will allow the nonprofit to “bring youth even more opportunities by helping to create strong workforce development and job training programs for our youth,” said Deonna Hart, the organization’s manager of learning and leadership.

“Since 1969, BUILD has been investing in Chicago’s Black and Brown youth, engaging them in and out of the]community, inspiring hope, and helping them to overcome the many systemic obstacles they face as they work to achieve positive futures,” Hart said.

“We know that potential does not discriminate — only opportunity. ... We are really grateful for the opportunity to expand our work in the workforce field.”

Deonna Hart, the manager of learning and leadership at BUILD, speaks at Thursday’s event.
Deonna Hart, the manager of learning and leadership at BUILD, speaks at Thursday’s event.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The $40 million for the workforce recovery grant program comes from money the state received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The grant program will use the state’s job training and economic development program model to increase access to education, training, and “supportive services needed for vulnerable residents to successfully re-enter the labor force,” according to a news release.

Attendees clap during Thursday’s news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.
Attendees clap during Thursday’s news conference at Revolution Workshop in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

On Tuesday, Pritzker announced two South Side businesses were among the recipients of Rebuild Illinois capital grants aimed at supporting regional economic development projects. Other recipients include the Naperville Heritage Society in Naperville and northwest suburban Schaumburg, which received $1.25 million to increase public access and bike path connections to the village’s Metra station.

New Med Diagnostics in Jefferson County as well as projects in the cities of Effingham, Geneva, Monmouth, Quincy, Rock Island and Ottawa are also slated to receive Rebuild Illinois grant funding.