The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity today (Friday, Jan. 8, 2021) announced more than $275 million in nearly 9,000 emergency assistance grants have been made to small businesses in over 600 cities and towns statewide through the Business Interruption Grants program.
According to an IDCEO news release, the BIG program is the largest of its kind in the nation, and grants have been made available to a wide range of small businesses, with a focus on the industries and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and with the majority of funding going to smaller and minority-owned businesses.
The announcement marks the conclusion of the BIG program, which was created by the General Assembly to assist Illinois’ hardest hit businesses with making ends meet during the pandemic. A full list of awards made can be found on DCEO’s website.
Using an equity framework, the BIG program sought to ensure that the hardest hit businesses and communities would be prioritized for small business grants provided using federal CARES Act dollars.
As a result, nearly half, or over 4,200 awards, were made to businesses located in disproportionately impacted areas; more than 80%, or over 7,300 awards, were made to businesses with $1 million or less in annual revenues; and 40%, or over 3,600 awards, were made to minority-owned businesses statewide. Additionally, $105 million or 3,100 awards were provided to downstate communities.
“Through the historic BIG program, we are proud to have helped thousands of deserving businesses with assistance that will help them continue to make payroll, afford operational costs, and make ends meet during these unprecedented times,” said DCEO Director Erin Guthrie.
Help For Taverns, Fitness Centers, Performing Arts
The hardest hit industry sectors are among the largest beneficiaries of this program — including restaurants and taverns; gyms and fitness centers; museums; performing arts venues, event venues, concert venues; and indoor recreation. Businesses located in downstate communities were also prioritized for funding.
Nearly half of all funds went to restaurants and taverns, with 3,747 grants totaling more than $133 million. More than 2,700 grants were made to other heavily impacted industries.
“Illinois’ restaurant industry has been devastated by COVID-19, necessitating continued relief at the local, state and federal levels,” said Sam Toia, president and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association. “Every grant, every program, stands to make a difference. Financial support — now and in the future — remains critical to the industry’s long-term chances for survival.”
BIG grants average $30,000 in size. Grants were tailored in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $150,000, according to the amount of loss incurred. The funds may be used toward reimbursing losses due to COVID and operational expenses, including PPE, rent and utilities, payroll, and more.
To receive BIG grants, businesses were required to demonstrate they experienced losses due to COVID-19, and that annual revenues in 2019 did not exceed $20 million.
“If it weren’t for the BIG award, COVID-19 would have done us in for sure,” said Linda Sandoval, co-owner of Louie’s Pub in Wicker Park. “With no contingency plan, we would have been forced to sell our established 30-year-old business. Now, we are looking ahead, using our award to add a kitchen at the bar, as well as pay rent, taxes and other expenses that will allow us to reopen this spring when it is safe to do so.”
To help small, minority-owned and hard to reach businesses gain access to the program, DCEO partnered with a dozen community organizations to conduct outreach and technical assistance for businesses seeking funding. Using a “community navigator model,” DCEO worked with lead partners including the Chicago Urban League, the Resurrection Project, IBIC and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation to connect with over 29,000 individual businesses in the fall and winter months of the program.
SOURCE: state of Illinois news release