Pritzker Announces First $1.3M Awarded To Downstate, Rural Communities As Part Of Small Business Stabilization Fund

Coronavirus Money

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The State of Illinois is reaching out to small businesses downstate and in rural areas that have been hit hard by COVID-19.

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced Sunday the first round of grants awarded as part of the new Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program, just over a month after the program was launched.

The fund was created to support small businesses in downstate and rural counties across Illinois that have experienced a negative impact due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As businesses across Illinois grapple with the devastating financial impact of COVID-19, my administration continues to look for ways to help provide relief that will allow small businesses, the backbone of our economy, rebuild and thrive,” said Governor JB Pritzker, in a statement.  “The Downstate Small Business Stabilization fund will help respond to the needs of our rural and downstate communities and address the impact COVID-19 has had across Illinois so that together we can start to rebuild our economy.”

State officials said the first $1.3 million in grants have been allocated to 65 businesses spanning 28 downstate communities. To support small businesses in downstate and rural counties across Illinois, DCEO repurposed $20 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to create the Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program. Through the program, small businesses of up to 50 employees can partner with their local governments to obtain grants of up to $25,000 in working capital.“While COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for many businesses around our state, the Downstate Small Business Stabilization program specifically targets business in downstate and rural communities who are in need a life-line,” said Michael Negron, Acting Director of DCEO. “This program, like many other COVID-19 relief initiatives, recognizes the burden facing our small businesses, and puts much-needed capital into the hands of small business owners so that they can continue making payroll and meeting other urgent operational needs in order to protect their workers and their livelihood.”

Grantees include restaurants and cafes, salons, furniture stores, florists, pet stores and other specialty retail stores. Many of the grantees are multi-generation family-owned and operated proprietors.  

Grants will be offered on an on-going basis, with funding made available to small businesses with operations impacted by COVID-19 and where the business has a demonstrated financial need, a commitment to retaining employees, and an analysis of how working capital can support short- and long-term liabilities.  All funds must be used exclusively for working capital costs - including but not limited to salaries, wages, rent, utilities and other overhead costs associated with running the business.

The Downstate fund represents a creative solution for addressing the distinct needs of smaller downstate communities, who do not receive a direct allocation of CDBG funds. All funding will be prioritized for businesses in small rural communities, including those forced to temporarily close or adapt operations significantly due to the ongoing pandemic. While funding will directly benefit small businesses, applications must be submitted by a unit of local government, such as cities, villages, and counties.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pritzker administration has put in place a menu of new programming and policies geared toward residents and communities hit hardest by the virus – including small businesses.  Over the past several weeks, the administration has launched nearly $100 million in small business relief and assistance programs - including the Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program, the Emergency Small Business Loan Fund, the Emergency Hospitality Grant Program, and more.

The application for the downstate small business fund remains open. For more on how to apply for the grants, please visit DCEO’s page.