Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, JREDC Encourage Area Businesses to Apply for Second Round of B2B Grant Funding

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 24, 2023 at 1:11pm

The leaders of a pair of Jacksonville business organizations say if you missed out on the first round of Back to Business grants, the latest round is much different and easier to apply for.

On Tuesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced another $175 million in grant funding has been made available for the Back to Business Program.

The latest round of grants specifically targets hard-hit areas by the pandemic, restaurants, hotels, and businesses or organizations in the creative arts sector. Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation President Kristin Jamison says the way this round is being offered is very different from the first go-round.

“In that literally every eligible business will receive some funding. So that isn’t to say that every application will, but if you meet the eligibility guidelines you will receive some form of funding. So it’s really imperative that we reach those eligible businesses so that they take their time, and do their due diligence to actually submit an application because it will not be that rolling basis like it was. It won’t be that lottery-type system as some programs were. They are very clear that if you meet those requirements you will receive dollars.”

Jamison along with Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President, Lisa Musch are again acting as community navigators to help business owners through the process of applying, something both say they have been told will be much easier in this round.

Businesses must fall into certain qualifications, such as restaurants must have been in business no later than March 12th of 2020 or prior, and only those with 50 employees or less.

The three categories cover a wide range, however, with bars, food trucks, wineries, taprooms, and breweries among the business models that can qualify for funding under the restaurant category.

Back to Business grant award amounts will be determined for restaurants and arts by revenue declines based on tax returns, while hotel grant amounts will be allocated based on the number of rooms. Short-term rentals and Airbnb establishments do not qualify to apply.

Musch says contrary to what someone might first think, many area businesses qualify under the arts category, including movie theaters, museums, dance academies, and cultural heritage organizations among others.

Musch says she and Jamison know of several businesses in the area who either tried to apply the first time and weren’t selected in the lottery or point-based scoring systems, or simply gave up because the application was too cumbersome.

She says they will be contacting as many as they can to let them know they qualify for this round. She says both of their organizations are here to help business owners navigate the process to ensure they receive funding.

“We just really want to make sure that we are able to assist those people in doing that. We’ve stayed involved with this program for the very reason that we want to make sure that downstate and our area is well represented. Because we feel it’s very important to continue on. Businesses put a lot of things off because of Covid and expenses, and they are still open and moving forward and have worked hard to do that. But if these extra dollars can help them make things a little bit easier, we are certainly willing to help them get back to that place.”

Some differences remain in this round, such as restaurants that received grant funding in the past are ineligible, while arts and hotels are allowed to apply even if they received funding in the past.

Both Mush and Jamison say anyone with questions or who are curious if they qualify can reach out to them for assistance on anything from finding out if they qualify, to help in submitting their application.

Applications will be accepted from April 5th through May 10th. Contact Lisa Musch at the Chamber office at 217-245-2174, or Kristen Jamison at 217-719-9215 for assistance. More information can be found online at Illinois.gov/B2B.