Illinois announces first $24 million in ‘Back to Business’ grants

{div class=”edn_articleTags edn_clearFix”}Gov. JB Pritzker announces that the distribution of the first $24 million in Back to Business, or B2B, grants during a news conference at a restaurant in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. {/div}

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration on Thursday announced the awarding of the first $24 million in “Back to Business” grants, a program funded with federal relief aid to help businesses recover and reopen from the pandemic.

The announcement took place at a Mexican restaurant in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, Mi Tierra en la Villita, which was awarded a $150,000 grant.

“This is a tremendous blessing. Like many businesses in our community, we have faced hard times during the pandemic,” said Priscilla Fuentes, whose father owns the restaurant. “My dad, Ezequiel Fuentes, had cut into his personal savings when the pandemic first hit. At times, we barely broke even. But we always felt committed to delivering the food and service our community counts on.”

In the Kankakee County area, four businesses were selected to receive funding. Those businesses were as follows:

DJ Swoope/Vance Pruitt, Kankakee, $5,000

• Shreeji Budget Inc., Gilman, $15,000

• Pub 13 LLC, Pontiac, $15,000

• Los Campesinos Mexican Grill, Minooka, $35,000

The Back to Business, or B2B grant program, administered through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will provide a total of $250 million in aid to small businesses that have experienced losses during the pandemic. The funds come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and can be used for such things as rehiring staff and paying other operating expenses.

Grant amounts can range from $5,000 to $150,000, depending on the amount of losses a business experienced. Preference is given to businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue as well as those that did not receive funding under the previous Business Interruption Grant, or BIG program.

“After the success of last year’s Business Interruption Grants, which provided $290 million in relief to over 9,000 small businesses across our state, it was clear that these investments have had a big impact,” Pritzker said.

Applications for the remaining funds will remain open through Oct. 13. More information about the program and a link to an online application form can be found on the DCEO website.

Of the grants announced Thursday, 81 percent went to businesses that applied to the BIG program but did not receive funding; 71 percent went to businesses in disproportionately impacted areas or low-income ZIP codes that experienced high rates of COVID-19; 66 percent went to hard-hit industries such as restaurants and taverns, hotels, arts organizations and salons; and just over half went to minority-owned businesses.