With village finances on the rise, Gurnee considers aid to small businesses

  • Gurnee board members will consider a $250,000 plan to pay grants to small businesses that suffered during the pandemic.

    Gurnee board members will consider a $250,000 plan to pay grants to small businesses that suffered during the pandemic. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2020

Posted9/20/2021 5:25 AM

The Gurnee village board will vote Monday night on the last of three aid plans designed to help small businesses that suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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


Under the program, eligible small businesses could apply for grants of up to $10,000 each 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.

Assistant Village Manager Jack Linehan said that, for example, a restaurant that had spent $4,000 on a patio could apply for and receive $2,000 from the village. Linehan said franchise locations would not be eligible.

Last week, the board approved liquor license waivers for small businesses. Liquor licenses usually cost businesses between $1,200 to $2,250 a year, and the plan is expected to cost the village $50,000.

The other approved plan calls for the village to cut annual business fees in half, at a cost to the village of $125,000.

Linehan said the village would have liked to enact such programs last year but could not because of its own financial uncertainty. Linehan said sales taxes and other revenues have risen in recent months above what the village staff had expected.

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"We really tightened our belts," Linehan said, referring to the measures the village took to weather the worst of the pandemic. "Now we are able to heal a lot of the losses from last year."

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 Biden in March.

Finance Director Brian Gosnell said the village received the first half of the funding this month and is set to receive the rest in August 2022.

Linehan said the Rescue Plan funds will offset revenue the village lost in 2020, one of the eligible ways for municipalities to spend the federal dollars.

In June, Gosnell said village revenues were down $7.3 million last year. To counter the drop in revenue, Gosnell said, the village cut expenditures by $4.5 million, or about 10%.

Among the measures taken were instituting a hiring freeze, skipping cost-of-living adjustments for employees and suspending promotions.

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