Businesses & Organizations Announce Opening of Back 2 Business Grants from DCEO

By Benjamin Cox on August 19, 2021 at 9:25pm

L to R: Bev Coats of World Travel, Kristin Jamison of JREDC, Brittany Henry of JACVB, Judy Tighe of Jacksonville Main Street, Kristin Davidsmeyer of the Jacksonville Arts Association, Gwen Eyer Owner of Blessings On State, and Lisa Musch of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce

Illinois’ Back2Business Grant applications opened in the state on Wednesday. Members of local businesses and regional and public business organizations gathered in Downtown Jacksonville on Wednesday to talk about the program and answer questions around the launch.

Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Kristin Jamison says that members of all 4 key Morgan County and Jacksonville business organizations have been designated as community navigators for the grant program by the State of Illinois: “We – meaning Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, Jacksonville Main Street, the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau – are all community navigators for the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Back 2 Business grant. This is one of what we assume will be a number of programs that are rolled out through the American Rescue Plan funds. As community navigators, we are here just to help facilitate this program to small businesses and non-profits that might qualify for funding. There is $250 million throughout this program, and we again, anticipate that there will be more funding that will roll down in the coming months. We will serve as community navigators through the end of this calendar year at least. It could go on further. That’s what we know at this time.”

Jacksonville Main Street Executive Director Judy Tighe says that all of the business organizations will help any potential applicants with the process and answer any questions along the way: “If anybody has questions or trouble with the application, we can help navigate them through that and explain the program to help people identify whether or not they are eligible, what kinds of documentation they’ll be required to submit. There are a lot of factors in the application process that can get you extra priority points, and obviously those that fell through the cracks or receive as much funding as expected through other programs are given consideration.”

Executive Director of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Lisa Musch says that all businesses who believe they qualify or have applied for other programs in the past should attempt to apply: “We do want to encourage all of our small businesses to apply even if you have already received some funding in some way. That just puts you a little bit lower on the priority list, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get funded. The application is very simple. The portal this time is also allowing you to check your status. The program is pretty quick – about 8 weeks turnaround time this time around. It’s very similar to the Business Interruption Grant, but different in that you can continue to take a look at your application. You can check the status and make sure you have everything submitted appropriately, and then, you can also check to see what decisions have been made in regards to your application. We think it will be a really good way for businesses to keep track of what it is, and it’s a very simple app. A lot of people already have this information gathered because they have applied for other grants. We encourage you to go ahead and throw your hat into the ring. You might as well.”

Musch says there aren’t many restrictions on how a business spends the funds compared to the previous grant opportunities: “There aren’t a lot of restrictions except for if you have already received funding from one of the other programs, the expenses that were paid for with that funding cannot be utilized for this funding as well. For a lot of people, [those other grants] didn’t cover all their expenses. This is just an add on.”

Executive Director of the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Brittany Henry says information on the grants, paper applications, and her office like the others are open for any business owners, especially those in the hospitality industry, to come by and ask questions: “We have some folders in our office that has all the information if people need hard copies. There is $25 million allocated for hotels in this program. That is an industry that the Convention & Visitors Bureau is here to help with. Those industries that have been hit really hard that haven’t necessarily received that funding in the past, this is for them. If businesses have received any PPP loans, that seems to be question that I have gotten quite a bit in my office, are they still eligible for funding – yes, you can still apply.”

Tighe says that are limits on the amount of money that businesses will get through this program: “Most of the grants will be $5,000 up to $150,000. A lot of that is going to be based on your business’ income levels in comparison to prior years.”

Musch adds that total losses in revenue will also be factored in: “The amount a business receives will be based upon the total loss in gross revenue from 2020 to 2019 divided by 6, and then, increased to the nearest $5,000 increment. So, DCEO is using a pretty standard formula in how they decide how much money people are receiving.

The program is on an 8-week rolling application process. Jamison says when all the funds are distributed, the grant program ends. Jamison says there are some set aside amounts for certain industries: “The amounts include $100 million for businesses in disproportionately impacted areas. That is not what this area qualifies for. Also, $25 million for those that applied for B.I.G. grants but did not receive that grant, $80 million for specific hard-hit industries like hotels, $25 million for restaurants that didn’t receive Restaurant Revitalization funds, and $30 million for arts businesses and organizations.”

Jacksonville Main Street falls under the Illinois Main Street and National Main Street spoke of the community navigator program while JREDC, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Area Convention & Visitors Bureau fall under the Illinois Department of Public Health spoke of the system. There are 21 spokes in the navigator system that perform the same duties to act as facilitators to the state’s grant and various economic revitalization funding.

For the first time during the pandemic, sole proprietorships are now eligible for relief funds. Blessings on State owner Gwen Eyer says her revenues struggled over the last year, and the grant program would be a way for to recoup losses and various costs over the last year and a half: “Looking only at cancellations, not looking at lost revenue of those who might have booked – during the pandemic I can show $7,990+ in cancelled revenue. They were on the books – then off books. They were coming, and then, they weren’t. That’s nearly $8,000. We are maintaining a historic home. We are preserving a historic home. We need any money we can get. That was my ‘paint one side of the house’ money right there in lost revenue, so having any kind of opportunity as a sole proprietor is needed. I work hard to run my business, and to run it professionally. We have a very high reputation, but to do that, I need money. I need guests so that I can live in that home and enjoy being an innkeeper. You can’t be an innkeeper if no guests come.”

The arts and performance venues are also included in this new program. Kristin Davidsmeyer of the Jacksonville Arts Association says they hope to get a piece of the funding to make up for many of the fundraisers and programs cancelled due to the pandemic: “Some of our big fundraisers were postponed and cancelled. We own a historic building that we have to maintain upkeep on. We still keep our gallery director on staff. Half of our art openings were cancelled. We have hosts that run the gallery hours, and they were laid off. This is very exciting to be able to apply. Arts is usually kind of on the low end of the totem pole. We had classes that we had to cancel last year – the pottery classes, the adult classes, the kids classes. We are planning on doing those again this Fall, so fingers crossed.”

Bev Coats of World Travel says that the travel industry and her business is still dealing with the pandemic and all of the delays and problems associated with travel restrictions associated with tourism: “The revenues have been drastically down and now the issue is with travel is what you need to do to go anywhere. A booking that used to take you maybe 30 minutes to do is maybe taking you 2 hours to do today. A lot more time has gone into it, but I will say, we had a lot of people that didn’t use a travel agent that called us to help. We helped those that we could. A lot of them we were not allowed to because they had not booked through us, but we helped every single person that had an issue throughout this whole pandemic, and we will continue to do that because it is so important for people.”

The application portal for the Back2Business grant can be found on or by visiting any of the four business organizations’ websites or social media accounts. Office hours and paper applications and questions that need to be answered in person can be found at the following locations and phone numbers:

Jacksonville Main Street
222 West State Street, Jacksonville IL 62650
Phone: (217) 245-6884

Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce
155 West Morton Avenue, Jacksonville IL 62650
Phone: (217) 245-2174

Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
310 East State Street, Jacksonville IL 62650
Phone: (217) 243-5678 or toll free at (800) 593-5678

Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation
620 East State Street, Jacksonville IL 62650
Phone: (217) 479-4627