Gov. Pritzker Awards First $24 Million in “Back to Business” Grants

by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

September 30, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Governor J. B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced today that the first grants under the Back to Business (B2B) recovery program have been awarded. 

521 grants totaling more than $24 million have been awarded to small businesses in 146 cities across Illinois to assist them in dealing with the acute operational impacts of COVID-19.  The first wave of funding provided through this program supports a diverse range of businesses representing industries and geographies hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than half of the grants going to minority-owned businesses in Illinois. 

Overall, the B2B initiative will provide $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to small businesses that have suffered COVID-19 losses, and grants will be distributed on a rolling basis.  Eligible firms are invited to apply by visiting the DCEO website before the October 13 deadline.

“I am excited to announce the first $24 million in Back to Business grants – just the beginning of our efforts to distribute over $250 million to small business owners across the state,” said Governor J. B. Pritzker. “This first wave of B2B funds will help over 500 of our state’s entrepreneurs rehire staff and cover operating costs – without owing a single cent back. And as Illinois rebuilds and recovers, we will continue to step up for our small businesses. They deserve to breathe easier and dream bigger – it’s our mission to deliver the funds and resources they need to do so.”

The B2B initiative will award grants ranging in size from $5,000 to $150,000 to assist in the restoration of operational losses caused during the pandemic.  The first wave of funds announced today has reached businesses that are most in need of support due to the pandemic.

Businesses with revenues of $5 million or less, as well as those who did not obtain an award under the BIG program, are given priority throughout the evaluation period, with $25 million made available for businesses that applied but did not receive money under that program.

Furthermore, firms located within DIAs are being prioritized, with over $100 million set aside for certain zip codes.