OpenCHICAGO – The state released $46 million in Business Interruption Grants to more than 2,500 local businesses in the first round of the program, which is intended to help businesses hit especially hard by pandemic-related closures and restrictions. State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) is urging more business owners to apply for the next round.

“I was happy to see more than 50% of this round of grants go to businesses owned by people of color in particularly hard hit areas,” Villanueva said. “These grants will go a long way to help businesses struggling from the COVID-19 outbreak, especially for the many business owners who couldn’t qualify for federal aid in communities like the one I represent.”

In the 11th Senate District, 42 businesses received $770,000 in aid. First round BIG grants range from $10,000 to $20,000 and will be used to help businesses cover payroll costs, rent and utilities. The funds may also be used to cover pandemic-related expenses, such as masks and other protective equipment, training, and new technology. Recipients were selected via a random lottery.

Before the next round of grants, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is providing technical assistance to support entrepreneurs who need help applying, especially in communities of colors. They will work through community partners, including the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, The Resurrection Project, and the Chicago Urban League.

“We all know the truth is the pandemic has hit Latinx and Black communities especially hard, especially in the city,” Villanueva said. “Businesses in our communities often have less resources and less experience navigating government programs. I urge local businesses who need help to work with these community navigators to apply for the next round of grants.”

DCEO expects to launch the next round of applications soon.