CHICAGO — The city will give out $5,000 grants to 1,000 “microbusinesses” as part of the new Microbusiness Recovery Grant Program.
The grants will be available to businesses with four or fewer employees and are meant to help people in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods that have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. The money that’s given out can be used for working capital.
The grants will be distributed on a lottery basis. Those interested in applying can do so online until May 4.
The program is specifically meant to help businesses that might not be able to get help through federal programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and that might struggle to take on debt.
“Many are family-owned businesses,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a Tuesday call with reporters. “They’re just trying to survive and stay above water.”
The mayor added the grants are “life or death for some of these businesses.”
“In many instances, they hire people from neighborhoods,” she said. “For some of these businesses, if they don’t get money now, they’re not coming back.”
Microbusinesses represent half of all businesses in Chicago, according to the city. They’re more likely to be minority- or immigrant-owned.
Rosa Escareno, commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said nationwide small businesses have, on average, 26 days of cash on hand. But in Englewood, the average cash on hand is just six days, which means those businesses are under considerable strain during the pandemic, she said.
“So this money is of critical need to some of these businesses,” Escareno said. “Our calculation is about half of the area we have selected could actually … cover an entire month’s worth of revenue loss [with the grant]. We’re just hoping [the grant is] gonna have a significant impact in having some of these businesses survive and continue to make an impact in these communities.”
The city has programs to help business owners apply and, if they are chosen for the grant, to access the money, Lightfoot said.
Businesses are eligible to apply if they have four or fewer employees, less than $250,000 in annual revenue and experienced a 25 percent decrease in revenue due to the pandemic. All those applying must also have been in business for at least one year and must be in an eligible community area. A map of the eligible community areas is available online.
Grants will be awarded by May 11.
A map of eligible community areas:
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