Thanks to the state’s solid leadership and careful consideration, Illinois has safely and successfully navigated one of the most challenging years in modern history. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker and other leaders across the state carefully followed the guidance of data and health experts and is now on the path to restoring and revitalizing the state’s business climate.
Shortly after the pandemic and subsequent global lockdowns began, Illinois enacted its five-phase plan to “Restore Illinois.” The framework was designed to save lives and livelihoods and currently all regions of the state have officially reached Phase 5, which allows all sectors of the economy to reopen and resume normal operations.
BIG Help for Small Business
One of the biggest ways the state worked to keep small businesses on track throughout the pandemic was through the newly developed Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program. BIG — the largest program of its kind in the nation — provided $580 million in economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. The program leverages federal funding provided by the CARES Act and consisted of $290 million for child care providers and $290 million for other small businesses.
In 2020, the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity helped thousands of small businesses throughout the state. Some of the hardest hit sectors include restaurants, taverns, gyms, museums and venues. Businesses located in downstate communities were also prioritized for funding with $105 million or 3,100 awards provided to those communities.
“Small businesses are the backbone of their local communities, providing essential goods and services to Illinois residents across the state. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, too many of those businesses are facing tough choices about the future, which is why my administration worked quickly to launch the historic BIG program to provide the relief business owners need,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Through BIG, the state was able to provide nearly 9,000 grants to small businesses in every corner of the state, with nearly half of all grants going to businesses in industries and communities hardest hit by COVID-19. Over $275 million in funding has been dispersed, allowing businesses to make payroll, purchase PPE, and cover other necessary operational costs. While the BIG program has now concluded, my administration continues to provide other relief programming for Illinois businesses and families impacted by COVID-19.”
The average grant award was $30,000, and businesses that didn’t receive other forms of assistance through programs like the PPP loan were given priority. Four out of every five grants were awarded to businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue.
Additionally, 40%, or over 3,600 awards, were made to minority-owned businesses statewide.
The assistance came at just the right moment for many small business owners who used the funds to make payroll, purchase PPE, pay vendors and even make a few improvements.
“Receiving the BIG Round 2 grant, provided relief for our business after all, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, “ said Jose Hernandez co-owner of Diamond Garden Banquet Hall in Chicago. “The grant has helped our business pay for a couple months of mortgage, utilities and payroll.”
“The Illinois Business Interruption Grant came at a crucial time for our business,” said Spenser Ng, owner of Triple Crown Restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown community. “It has allowed us to keep our employees at work, while keeping us in good standing with our suppliers.”
Stronger and Healthier
As the state continues to recover and improve following the pandemic, Governor Pritzker and other legislators are creating a careful plan to balance the books while stimulating economic growth and jobs. In June, Gov. Pritzker signed a $42.3 billion FY22 state budget that leverages $1.5 billion from the state’s allotment of the American Rescue Plan Act.
Illinois is expected to receive $8.1 billion in federal relief over the next three and a half years. The state’s FY22 budget allocates $2.8 billion of the funds, including $1 billion in capital projects, toward pandemic-recovery-related government programs, services and projects.
The budget will also allow for major investments in the governor’s key priority areas of education, health care, public safety, human services, criminal justice reform and ongoing pandemic relief, while fully funding the state’s pension contributions.
“The Fiscal Year 2022 budget is a responsible balance — addressing the pain of the pandemic, while investing in a thriving future for the people of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Business relief, housing stability, childcare support, these are the pillars of a recovery that is inclusive of working families. After the most difficult year in memory, Illinois is making a major comeback — and doing so with a level of fiscal prudence not seen in our state for two decades.”