Gurnee's $250,000 business grant program to kick off next month

  • A new village program to give matching grants to Gurnee small businesses was approved this week and will roll out next month. The program is expected to cost $250,000.

      A new village program to give matching grants to Gurnee small businesses was approved this week and will roll out next month. The program is expected to cost $250,000. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2020

Updated 9/23/2021 5:26 PM

Small businesses in Gurnee will be able to apply for grants of up to $10,000 next month as part of a new village program to help those that suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the program, which was approved unanimously by the Gurnee village board earlier this week, eligible small businesses could apply for the grants to cover up to half the cost of making permanent improvements to their premises by 2024. Businesses that made improvements since Jan. 1, 2020, would also be eligible.


The grant program could cost the village up to $250,000.

"I think it's great that they were able to work this out in their budgeting despite still being hurt themselves," said Paola Smith, owner of Riverside Cafe & Coffee Shop, of the village.

The village's revenues were down $7.3 million last year because of the pandemic's effect on businesses, according to staff. To counter the drop in revenue, the village cut expenditures by $4.5 million, or about 10%. But better days appear to be ahead,

Assistant Village Administrator Jack Linehan said sales taxes and other revenues have risen in recent months above what the village staff had expected. And Gurnee will receive $4.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

The small business grant program is the third of three plans recently passed by the board to help local small businesses. Linehan said the village would have liked to enact such programs last year but could not because of its own financial uncertainty.

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Village Administrator Patrick Muetz said Monday night that village staff hopes to open up the application process in mid-October. Officials need to finalize what the application will look like.

As an example of how the grant program would work, Linehan said a restaurant that had spent $4,000 on a patio could apply for and receive $2,000 from the village.

Smith wasn't sure what sort of work she would pursue in her grant application, but she said she was grateful for the help.

Initially, the grant project was intended to exclude franchises with more than 20 locations. Muetz said Monday an exception will be made for franchise locations which have invested to relocate and elected to stay within the village, including the Dairy Queen that moved from Old Grand Avenue to Route 21.

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