Small businesses around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in Illinois, they can receive some BIG relief with the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program.
Businesses in DeKalb County were awarded $713,000 in total through the program so far, to help offset devastating dips in revenue as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on.
The BIG program is a $636 million program developed by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly to provide economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. The grant funding helps small businesses with capital expenses, including payroll costs, rent, utilities and other operational costs. And as COVID-19 case numbers surge across the state but especially in the geographical health region known as Region 1, which includes DeKalb and Winnebago counties and the Sauk Valley area, state officials have spent the month of October heralding the BIG program as a bone to throw struggling small business unable to offer indoor dining.
Hink’s Bar & Grille in Sycamore received $85,000 grant in the second round of the BIG program, which began awarding funds in September, just before the October COVID-19 surge swept Illinois.
Michael Hinks, the restaurant’s manager, said that they haven’t decided how they will use the grant money yet.
“It’s been very difficult during the pandemic,” he said. “Every little bit helps.”
Sycamore Parkway Restaurant and Country Inn Hotel in Sycamore received the largest grants so far, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, with $150,000 awarded each. Hink's Bar & Grille in Sycamore received $85,000, and Fatty's Pub & Grille in DeKalb received $80,000. Dozens more local businesses received grants ranging from $10,000 to $70,000. A full list is below.
Priority will be given to applicants that did not receive Paycheck Protection Program loans – which loaned $35 million to DeKalb County businesses over the summer – or other forms of emergency aid from the CARES Act or other governments, are located in DIAs, are subject to regional mitigation measures due to COVID-19 resurgence and have less than $5 million in annual revenue.
Jock Sommese, consultant for the Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College and in partnership with Kishwaukee College, said a difficulty with the BIG program is that “a lot of businesses are not eligible for it.”
“Businesses that received PPP money do not have priority,” Sommese said. “Not having priority is a nicer way to say they’re not eligible. Clients of mine have not applied for BIG because they received PPP money.”
The Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb applied for the second round of BIG the day applications began, on Sept. 17. The Egyptian Theatre applied for and received PPP.
“There were quite a bit of paperwork and documents we had to submit,” executive director Alex Nerad said. “The assistance is beyond critical because we have been essentially shut down since March. We’ve have 75 different events impacted.”
Two weeks ago, the theater learned that they had been awarded the grant and are now waiting to hear how much grant money they will receive.
“We have $25,000 monthly costs with payroll, utilities and insurance, but have had no revenue in months,” Nerad said. “These last few months during the pandemic have been devastating. We’re getting by with the community’s support and other grants, but it is very, very difficult. The BIG program will be vital and will really help.”
How to apply, who's eligible, and who's not
According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website, BIG is the largest program of its kind in the nation – leveraging federal CARES Act funds to establish economic recovery programs: more than $270 million for small businesses, and an additional $270 million exclusively for childcare providers, administered jointly by DCEO and IDHS.
During a conference Thursday, Erin Guthrie, the director of the Illinois DCEO, said that more than 4,000 small businesses have received grants through the BIG program, with half of the recipients minority-owned and one-third women-owned.
$174 million of BIG money remains available, and applications will be accepted until funds are exhausted.
In the first round of funding, BIG directed $49 million to about 2,800 businesses in 400 cities in 78 counties. First round grants ranged from $10,000 to $20,000 and averaged $17,000. More than 5,000 businesses applied for funding, with grantees selected via random lottery.
The second round has a focus on businesses downstate and those in disproportionately impacted areas. DIAS are defined by ZIP code for communities most economically distressed and vulnerable to COVID-19. There are two DIAs in DeKalb County: 60115 in DeKalb and 60145 in Kingston.
So far, in the second phase of the program that began in Sept. 1, 200 businesses received grant funds in 340 cities in 79 counties. Second round grant size will be calculated based on revenue losses and/or expenses over the last two months, ranging from $5,000 to $150,000.
The second round of grants sets aside $60 million for heavily impacted industries, such as movie theaters, performing arts venues, concert venues, indoor recreation and amusement parks, $70 million for DIAs, $5 million for livestock production disruptions, more than $100 million for downstate communities and loan forgiveness for Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan recipients.
To be eligible for the second round of BIG, businesses must meet the following criteria:
• Must be an independently owned and operated for-profit corporation or limited liability corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship authorized to conduct business in the state of Illinois; OR a 501c3, 501c6, or 501c19 nonprofit
• Must have been operating for at least three months prior to March 2020
• Must have had less than $20 million in gross operating revenue in calendar year 2019, or a pro-rated amount if in operation for less than a year prior to March 2020
• Must have experienced operating losses since March 21, 2020
• Must have been closed or had reduced operations due to government orders, public health guidelines, or depressed consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic
• Must have complied with all relevant laws, regulations, and executive orders from the state and federal government, including the social distancing guidelines as promulgated by the Executive Orders of the Illinois Governor
For information about the Business Interruption Grants program, visit the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's webpage.
First Round of BIG Recipients
• $10,000 French Toast Pancake House, DeKalb
• $10,000 Hill’s Tap, Genoa
• $10,000 In & Out Cuts, LLC, Sycamore
• $10,000 Nails 47, Sycamore
• $10,000 University City Barber Shop, DeKalb
• $20,000 Bill Cho’s United Taekwondo Center, Sycamore
• $20,000 China House, DeKalb
• $20,000 Ducky’s Formal Wear, DeKalb
• $20,000 Fanatico, DeKalb
• $20,000 Genoa Café, Genoa
• $20,000 Houlahan’s Tavern & Grill, Waterman
• $20,000 Jamrah Middle Eastern Cuisine, DeKalb
• $20,000 The Lincoln Inn Family Restaurant, DeKalb
• $20,000 Mardi Gras Lanes, DeKalb
• $20,000 Papa John’s Pizza, DeKalb
• $20,000 Pho N Grill, DeKalb
• $20,000 Omi Sushi, DeKalb
• $20,000 Pour House Pub, Kingston
• $20,000 South Moon BBQ, Inc., Hinckley
Second Round of BIG Recipients
• $10,000 Hendrik Stables, Kingston
• $10,000 Subway, Hinckley
• $15,000 Arti Hospitality, DeKalb
• $15,000 VIP Cleaners, Inc., DeKalb
• $50,000 Lord Stanley’s, DeKalb
• $70,000 Subway, DeKalb
• $80,000 Fatty’s Pub & Grille, DeKalb
• $85,000 Hink’s Bar & Grille, Sycamore
• $150,000 Country Inn Hotel, Sycamore
• $150,000 Sycamore Parkway Restaurant, Sycamore