Small businesses in Champaign County have a new source of financial assistance to help them reopen and recover from the pandemic -- the COVID-19 Champaign County Small Business Emergency Grant Fund.
The Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) established the local grant program with the support of the Champaign County Board of Commissioners, which allocated a portion of local tax dollars generated for economic development through conveyance fees collected on Champaign County real estate sales.
“We are very thankful to the Champaign County Commissioners for funding this important initiative,” Kyle Hall, president of the CEP Board of Trustees, said. “The COVID-19 grant fund can really make a difference in our county. It will help small businesses bridge the gap in revenue during the shutdown and help them meet safety requirements for reopening, so that consumers will return to them with confidence.”
Through 5 p.m. May 15, qualifying local businesses may complete and submit a simple application for $500 to $2,500 in grant funds, at www.champaignworks.com/PayItForwardGrant. Businesses may submit their applications directly from the website. But if they prefer, they may print out the application form, complete it, and drop it in the Champaign Economic Partnership mailbox (next to the CEP office door, inside the ATM lobby of Security National Bank, 3 Monument Square, Urbana), or email their completed, scanned application to the CEP at email@example.com, by the 5 p.m. May 15 deadline.
“The commissioners want to support the health and vitality of the Champaign County business community during the pandemic,” said County Commissioner Steve Hess, who serves on the CEP Board of Trustees. “Through this grant fund we want to help our local businesses get through this crisis by supplementing the support they’re getting from the state and federal government.”
To be eligible for the grant program, commercial or retail businesses must have a storefront in Champaign County (cannot be home-based or nonprofit), have fewer than 50 employees, be current on local, state and federal obligations such as taxes and assessments, been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, if a franchise, have no more than two storefronts in the county and not be corporate owned.
CEP Director Marcia Bailey said the grants may be used for operating expenses such as rent, utilities, payroll, and the cost of supplies and modifications needed to comply with safety requirements for reopening. Grant money cannot be used for taxes or other assessments. Grant recipients will be required to report to the grant committee how they spent the money.
“Our grant committee desires to make this a self-perpetuating fund so that money will be available to support future economic sustainability in our community,” Bailey said. “Through the Pay It Forward provision of the program, we will encourage grant recipients to contribute financially to the Champaign County Small Business Grant Fund once their businesses are back on their feet – in an amount equal to or greater than their grant.”
She added, “Our small businesses are essential to the vitality of Champaign County. We want to do what we can to help get them back on track, to continue providing jobs and valuable products and services that make our county a better place to live and work.”
For grant guidelines and the application, visit www.champaignworks.com/PayItForwardGrant.