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Small businesses receive essential grants during pandemic closures

Rex Robinson | 11/18/2020, 5:31 p.m.

More than 1,900 small business owners throughout the region have applied for CARES Act grants through Will County and more than 1,000 have had grants approved for up to $15,000 each, according to Will County Board member Ken Harris (D-Bolingbrook), chairman of the county board’s CARES Act committee.

The grants for small businesses in the county total more than $14 million, according to Harris.

“Eligibility review, notification of award, and grant payments are ongoing,” he told The Times Weekly. “Will County has authorized an additional $5,000 in assistance to restaurants and bars closed for in-house service as a result of the latest round of restrictions.”

In order to receive this additional $5,000, the business must adhere to all public health mandates. “Those businesses will be notified of the additional award shortly,” Harris said.

The application period ended on Monday. Business owners seeking an update on their application should visit www.willcountyillinois.com/COVIDbizgrant.

According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Office of Management and Budget, Small Business Activity Preliminary reports indicate that small businesses have suffered the worst during the pandemic.

Restaurants, bars, bookstores, hair salons, and other commercial establishments that rely on in-person activity are suffering a larger share of the diminished economic activity. Data retrieved from the Small Business Administration indicate that more than 24,000 Illinois recipients received loans of more than $150,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Businesses can use PPP loans for eligible payroll or mortgage costs and can apply for loan forgiveness once loan proceeds have been exhausted. Small business closures in Cook County and all Illinois collar counties led to a precipitous decline in the share of businesses open during March and April, while data for the central and southern regions of the state suggest that small business closures followed a similar decline but at a lower rate.

Each of the counties have since recovered somewhat as time has progressed but all remain below their January 2020 levels, according to the report. Surveys conducted by both the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS) and Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker have charted small business responses throughout the pandemic and recovery and uncovered a litany of concerns, ranging from low amounts of cash on hand, impact of declining revenues and concerns with reopening operations before a vaccine comes to market. State officials said in the report that “it is believed that additional funding through PPP will be authorized but stalemates in negotiations between Congress and the White House have delayed a deal.”