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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

City Awards 1,500 Grants To Small Businesses Decimated By Coronavirus, Vandalism

The $6.2 million in grants is the first allocation from the Together Now fund launched last month by the mayor.

Cavell Ball and Gerrell Tucker of Englewood help board up the windows of a looted beauty supplies shop in Auburn Gresham on June 1, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — More than 1,500 small businesses in Chicago affected by the coronavirus pandemic or vandalism that hit the city amid unrest following protests against police brutality will receive grants to stay afloat, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.

The $6.2 million in grants is the first allocation from the Together Now fund launched last month by the mayor. It pools money from the city, philanthropists and corporations, including a $1 million contribution from Jewel-Osco.

“Our small businesses play a large role in contributing to the vibrancy of our city which is why it is essential that we continue to offer them assistance during what may be the most difficult time that many of them face,” Lightfoot said in a statement announcing the awards.

The grants were targeted at businesses that otherwise would not have reopened quickly — or at all — without the funding. To qualify, businesses had to employ less than 100 workers and document infrastructure damages related to “nationwide unrest and protests” to be eligible for a grant of up to $10,000. Businesses that showed at least a 25 percent revenue loss due to COVID-19 could qualify for up to $4,000 to cover operating costs

Over 4,000 businesses submitted applications before the June 29 deadline, officials said. After reviewing each application to ensure they qualified, the city awarded the grants through a lottery system. A second round of grants will be awarded at a later date targeted at “areas that received a disproportionately low number of eligible applications in the first round.”

The grant will ensure RAZE Up Grooming Lounge in Austin on the city’s West Side can stay open, said owner Barnett Sizer.

“We’ve never faced a bigger challenge or fallen on harder times than what we’ve experienced over the past months due to COVID-19,” he said.

The funds were targeted to Black and Latinx business owners to “ensure an equitable grant process,” officials said. Those owners are “more frequently uninsured or underinsured and living in South and West Side communities that have faced decades of disinvestment.”

Other businesses, including “regional or national businesses, including franchises, branch banks and payday loan stores” were not eligible.

Rosa Esacareno, commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said business owners have made “unprecedented sacrifices” during the pandemic to keep their communities safe.

“The Together Now fund is our latest commitment to support our businesses and entrepreneurs as we recover from these unprecedented crises and build a better future, together,” she said.

The Together Now program was created in June, backed by corporate and individual contributions and money from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and CARES Act funding provided by Congress. The City announced an initial $10 million investment in the fund and the grants were administered through City departments and “with the support and partnership of various neighborhood organizations.”

A full list of the recipients was not provided.

The “Lens On Lightfoot” project is a collaboration of seven Chicago newsrooms examining the first year of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Partners are the BGA, Block Club Chicago, Chalkbeat Chicago, The Chicago Reporter, The Daily Line, La Raza and The TRiiBE. It is managed by the Institute for Nonprofit News.