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$14 Million In State Grants To Be Split Among Bars, Restaurants And Hotels Hit Hard By Coronavirus

"Our goal is simple: We understand business has slowed. We do not want businesses to closer forever," said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.

Governor J.B. Pritzker answers questions at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The state unveiled a new grant program to help restaurants, bars and small hotels hit hard by the coronavirus.

The program, called the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program, makes $14 million available to businesses so they can cover payroll, rent and changes in technology and job training, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday.

“Our goal is simple: We understand business has slowed. We do not want businesses to closer forever,” said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “We want them to be able to make payroll and pay their own bills. It’s easier to ramp up a business that is struggling than a business that has shuttered.”

Bars and restaurants that generated $500,000-$1 million in 2019 can receive up to $25,000, while those that generated less than $500,000 can receive up to $10,000.

Hotels that generated less than $8 million in 2019 can receive up to $50,000.

Businesses can use that money to keep people on staff and to train them for changes — like managing delivery and pickup orders, which restaurants and bars are now reliant on — to ensure those businesses don’t have to close.

Hotels have been particularly impacted by the health care crisis, with the damage “worse than the impact of 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO of the Hotel and Lodging Association.

That means hotels around the state are having to lay off employees — an estimated 120,000 will be laid off in coming weeks — and deciding if they should close altogether, Jacobson said.

“We know that our work is not complete yet, and we have a lot of work cut out for us, especially as we look at longterm recovery,” Jacobon said. “But this is an important first step in trying to save our industry.”

Applications for the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program are available online and are due by 5 p.m. April 1. Valid applicants will be entered in a lottery and grant winners will be notified by April 4.

Pritzker also announced two other programs to help small businesses, but those programs exclude Chicago businesses. However, the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund is available for city businesses.

Pritzker’s administration has made other changes meant to help business owners and other Illinoisans: The state tax filing deadline has been moved back three months to July 15, though it will continue to distribute refunds.

And the state is asking banks that handle Advantage Illinois loans to allow people to request a three-month deferral of payment or six months of interest-only payments due to the current economic situation.

Illinois also contacted major mortgage lenders, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, asking them to offer multi-month forbearance to Illinoisans. Those institutions have agreed, Pritzker said.

People in the state can contact their mortgage servicers for more information.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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