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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Businesses Hurt By Pandemic Can Apply For Grants From $250 Million State Program. Here’s How

Leaders came to Bronzeville to talk about the program on Thursday. Priority will be given to business owners most impacted by the pandemic.

Acting Department of Economic Opportunity Director Sylvia Garcia (l) and State Rep. Lamont Johnson (ri) speak with Legacy Men's Boutique owner Mandene Muhammad about the state's new initiative to help small businesses.
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BRONZEVILLE — Local businesses owners hurt by the pandemic can apply for a new grant from the state.

Leaders from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity spoke Thursday at Build Bronzeville, 5055 S. Prairie Ave., about the state’s $250 million Back to Business grant program, hoping to get the word out to small business owners.

Interested business owners can apply online.

Business owners who apply and are selected can get grants of $5,000-$150,000, or $250,000 if they operate a hotel. Businesses must have been established before the pandemic and have had revenues of $20 million or less in 2019. The owners must provide an ID, two bank statements and tax returns from 2019 and 2020 to show economic losses from the pandemic.

Priority will be given to owners who previously applied for grants, people with shops in underserved areas and those in industries most impacted. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 13, with the first round of grantees set to be announced next week.

Money will be awarded on a rolling basis, said Sylvia Garcia, acting director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

After Thursday’s news conference, Garcia and local leaders canvassed businesses along 47th Street to spread the news.

Legacy Men’s Boutique owner Mandene Muhammad said the foot traffic he relied on prior to the pandemic practically stopped once it came. While things have picked up, progress has been slow, Muhammad said.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” said Muhammad, who moved his shop from Martin Luther King Drive to 107 E. 47th St. more than a year ago. “In the last location, I was tucked away, so a lot of folks wouldn’t see me unless I was hitting the streets to advertise, and I’m still doing it now.”

A block away, Dress Code owner Will Doleh told the group he incurred $350,000 in damages when his store, 205 E. 47th St., was broken into during unrest in May 2020.

Doleh said he applied for COVID-19 assistance last year but didn’t get it. The money would help with his business’s recovery, which has been slow going, he said.

“We were closed for two months. Three of our five locations were hit, so we’ve been busy trying to recoup, but it’s been hard,” Doleh said.

Bronzeville business owners who need help applying to the grant program can call 773-285-3401 to talk to the 51st Street Business Association.

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