Grant program created to help Des Plaines businesses recover from pandemic

Des Plaines businesses could receive municipal grants of up to $2,000 under a new program designed to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

The City Council unanimously approved creating the Small Business Safe Reopening Grant Program during its virtual meeting Monday night.

The program aims to help defray the costs associated with safely reopening businesses as part of the state's Restore Illinois program.

Grants will be awarded to eligible businesses as reimbursements for purchases relating to COVID-19 safety, such as plastic shields, masks for workers and customers, hand sanitizer and floor decals. Grants also can cover the purchase or rental of tables, tents, umbrellas and other equipment needed for outdoor restaurant or bar service.

The grants will be funded with $150,000 from an existing business assistance program. The money already is in the city's annual budget, officials said.

Sixth Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester said he'd like to do more to help businesses, but the city can't afford to offer larger grants.

"Obviously, $2,000 is not a lot of money, but at least it's something," Chester said. "We're doing what we can do within the limits of our budget."

To qualify for a grant, a business must:

• Have at least one store with a physical presence in a commercially zoned area in Des Plaines.

• Have no more than three locations in the Chicago area.

• Have fewer than 25 full-time employees.

Businesses deemed essential during the pandemic, such as grocery or convenience stores, and home-based businesses are not eligible.

Palatine, Cary, Naperville, Antioch and Mundelein are among the suburbs that have launched similar programs during the pandemic.

Monday's action in Des Plaines followed lengthy board discussions at two meetings in January. It also came a few months after the council voted to enforce temporary restrictions on indoor restaurant and bar service ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, despite pleas of leniency from local restaurateurs.

Chester said he wants officials to think up more ways to help struggling businesses.

"This is a start," he said.

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