Logan area small businesses looking to bounce back from the pandemic may get a boost from a new pot of state-administered funds. State Rep. Will Guzzardi’s office encouraged businesses in his 39th district, which includes much of Logan Square, to take advantage of the $250 million Back to Business grant program.
Last week, volunteers with the Logan resident Guzzardi’s office canvassed businesses in Hermosa to highlight the grant program being offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity using funds from the federal American Recovery Plan Act. Approximately 10 volunteers partnered with representatives from Guzzardi’s office and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago (2546 W. Division St.) to speak with business owners along Fullerton Avenue.
“As part of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s overall economic recovery strategy, the $250 million Back to Business (B2B) grant program aims to deploy small businesses recovery grants for those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads the program’s website. “The B2B grant program builds on the success of last year’s Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program – an equity focused business relief program, which directed $290 million to 9,000 businesses in 98 communities across Illinois.”
$100 million of the program’s funds are set aside for business in disproportionately impacted areas, or DIAs. Hermosa ZIP code 60639 is a DIA, meaning it is categorized by the state as being more seriously affected by economic hardship created by the pandemic. ZIP codes 60641, 60651 and 60612 were also included as DIAs. The grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000 per business. Because funds received are grants, they do not need to be paid back.
“I am very excited to get behind the B2B Grant and speak to local business owners about taking advantage of this opportunity,” said Francesca Vega, marketing outreach coordinator at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. “Black and brown businesses were hit the hardest by the pandemic, so it’s especially important we connect them to the resources they deserve.”
The grants could be vital to getting neighborhood businesses back on their feet, said Emily Melbye, chief of staff to Rep. Guzzardi. “Small businesses are the cornerstone of our community, and we must do everything we can to help them on their long road to recovery. Programs like the Back 2 Business grant are especially important as they target small businesses that were hit hardest by the pandemic.”
To qualify for grants, businesses must have been in operation during or before December 2019, must have had less than $20 million in gross operating revenue in 2019, and must have experienced at least $5,000 in loss due to the pandemic in calendar year 2020. Find a full list of eligibility criteria here.
Volunteers at last week’s event demonstrated the community’s commitment to helping local businesses recover, Melbye said. “We had a small but mighty group of volunteers and community partners doing this outreach. … It’s wonderful to see so many folks in the community coming together and volunteering their time and effort to support small businesses. It’s through door-to-door canvassing that we’re able to connect with of our hard-to-reach businesses who oftentimes need the most help.”
The grants can be used for a wide variety of expenses, from overhead to staff and operations. To apply, businesses must provide federal tax returns for 2019 and 2020 and at least two bank statements within the window from April to December 2020.
The program began Aug. 18 and will run through Oct. 13 or until are depleted, whichever occurs first.