BusinessCU-Covid19Public Funds

Small Business Incentive Program relief grants provides ‘much needed’ financial assistance

Chrisoula Motamed / For CU-CitizenAccess

Forty-eight out of approximately 90 small businesses in Champaign received a total of $520,000 in grants from the Small Business Incentive Program COVID Relief Grants. 

The funds were dispersed in order to help support and save local jobs. The average award given was $10,833, and 22 businesses received the maximum amount of $15,000. 

The money for these grants came from the Federal CARES Act fund. The city council amended the pre-existing Small Business Incentive Program so that the program could be used to distribute this new funding in an efficient and productive way. 

“We had about 80-90 applicants apply for this grant,” said Champaign Planning and Development Department Associate Planner Tina-Marie Ansong. “We wanted to ensure that our most vulnerable businesses were selected first.”

In order to qualify for the award, businesses had to commit to either preserving low-income jobs, or the business owner had to qualify as low income. Phase One of application selection went to businesses that received no other federal funding whatsoever, and Phase Two went to those who received less than $5,000 in assistance. 

According to Ansong, many businesses that didn’t receive federal funding were those that were so small they didn’t have a department dedicated to grant writing, and, due to limited resources, they sent in applications too late and received nothing. These businesses were at the top of the list for the local relief grant, and received much needed help quickly.

A total of $194.4 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration was distributed to nearly 1,500 businesses in Champaign-Urbana earlier this year. CU-CitizenAccess provides a searchable database for PPP loans granted under $150,000. 

Thirty-four of the businesses that received the city grants were minority-owned, and 19 of them woman-owned. One business that received the maximum amount was Habitat for Humanity Champaign, which used the money to help pay rent and utilities on the building that houses its ReStore.

“During the first shutdown, our ReStore was required to close. The ReStore funds our mission of building low income housing in Champaign County, and without this revenue, it was difficult to move our organization forward,” said Habitat Executive Director Chad Hoffman. “During the shutdown, we were not permitted to receive donated items. This further hindered the number of product offerings and our overall retail environment once we were reopened.”

The funds from the relief grant came quickly in a time of need, he said, and allowed the organization to get back on track when it came to reopening and operating in a safe manner.

“The application process was simple and straight-forward,” Hoffman says. There was a couple months between completing the form and getting payment, but the program was great.  We were glad to be funded.”

In addition to the relief grant, there are a variety of other services available throughout the area to help small businesses get back on track, one of them being through the Small Business Development Center. The center is a part of America’s Small Business Development Center Network, the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States. 

Their mission is to assist in job creation, financial consulting, networking opportunities and more for those looking to start and grow a business in the Champaign area. With the pandemic their role has changed, however, and are now needed more than ever by local business owners. Center Director Don Elmore has been advising his clients on how to best spend their money and maximizes business during these times, and credits the cities relief fund as a major help in funding some of the critical elements when it comes to a running a small business:

“Before the pandemic the Small Business Incentive Program funds didn’t cover any monthly expenses, you could only use it for things like marketing services, equipment and technology,” Elmore says. “The relief grant made it possible to use the money in some additional ways, like paying for rent and utilities.”

The Center is funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce, and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, and provides all of their services at no charge. Elmore and his team not only advise new companies on how to start up, but also help established ones grow through connecting them to private services and providing them with the necessary tools to keep up with the constantly changing landscape of the business world.

“I talk to my clients a lot about increasing an online presence, and making sure people know you do things like curbside delivery and pickup,” says Elmore on how he is helping businesses adapt to new rules and regulations. “My job is to keep that percentage of businesses that fail as low as possible. Part of that is money, and part is giving good advice.” 

With the grant funds providing a much needed economic boost to small businesses all over the Champaign area, the money has been spent almost as quickly as it was obtained, and there are calls for another round of stimulus, whether that comes from the federal, state or city level. Elmore believes that the city has done all they possibly can do, however, and points out that almost all of the money from city programs comes from the federal level through bills like the CARES Act.

Ansong said the city will be rolling out a new relief program soon, which will be focused on adaptable expenses incurred by businesses caused by the pandemic, such as new HVAC filtering systems, greenhouse bubbles, and other safety equipment.

Full list of businesses that received funds:

BusinessMBE/WBE?Approved Amount
AircribzWBE/ MBE$2,741.00
Animals on WheelsMBE$4,918.00
Antiques & More at Staley RdWBE$15,000.00
Café BeneMBE$15,000.00
Caribbean GrillMBE$15,000.00
CBPB PopcornMBE/WBE$5,120.00
CellairisMBE$15,000.00
Chick Shack/Campus BurgerMBE$15,000.00
Circles BoutiqueWBE$14,833.00
Classic Home ConsignmentWBE$12,995.85
C-U La La NoodleMBE$6,965.00
Custom CleanMBE$15,000.00
Dandelion Vintage ClothingMBE/WBE$6,445.00
Dish Passionate CuisineWBE$15,000.00
FleurishWBE$7,754.00
Fresh International MarketMBE$15,000.00
Furniture LoungeWBE$10,999.00
Green JadeMBE$15,000.00
Habitat for Humanitynonprofit$15,000.00
Henderson JantorialMBE$2,534.66
Jills Creative Expression$4,723.72
Latea Bubble TeaMBE$15,000.00
Leadaz Athletic FootwareMBE$13,609.00
Living Yoga CenterWBE$4,437.00
Lotta Love Salon & CutzMBE/WBE$4,464.00
Mary’s Master CleaningMBE/WBE$14,099.00
McGuire HomesWBE$15,000.00
Minuteman Press$15,000.00
Mizu Campus LLCMBE$15,000.00
Nailed PerfectionMBE/WBE$3,514.00
NannyvilleMBE/WBE$2,381.13
Original Designs BarbershopMBE$13,158.65
PhocafeMBE$14,206.00
Restoring BalanceWBE$2,506.00
SA Fitness LLCMBE$9,599.00
Salon ExpressionMBE$15,000.00
Scanics$6,978.00
Shoe RefreshMBE$8,267.00
Signature GrillMBE$15,000.00
Smith’s TowingMBE/WBE$15,000.00
Stans Sportsworld$15,000.00
Suits by SouljahMBE$3,962.00
Sushi KameMBE/ WBE$15,000.00
The Upper BoutWBE$15,000.00
Top Food RestaurantMBE/ WBE$7,500.00
We Do Lawncare and Home RepairMBE$1,289.16
WIN Recovery NetworkNonprofit$15,000.00
Wood N HogMBE/WBE$15,000.00
MBE: Minority Business Enterprise; WBE: Women Business Enterprise

Chrisoula Motamed / For CU-CitizenAccess

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