Suburban businesses, city of Aurora get grants to rebuild from looting in 2020

The City of Aurora and some small business owners in Lake and Cook counties are among recipients of $8.4 million in state funds aimed to help communities rebuild from looting that followed the George Floyd protests in the spring of 2020.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced this week that Aurora received a $1.2 million grant from the Rebuild Distressed Communities program to “support capital investment in commercial corridors that have experienced property damage.”

“During the civil unrest that unfolded in the summer of 2020, 85 businesses and organizations throughout the City of Aurora were the victims of burglaries, criminal damage, and arsons,” said Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross in a statement.

“This grant will allow us to protect our businesses, residents and visitors into the future and will provide real-time information that will help direct the daily response of our public safety personnel.”

To qualify, projects must take place on the same block and surrounding area where businesses were most affected.

The Aurora grant came from $7.45 million assigned to seven commercial corridors across the state.

In addition to the money provided to communities, the state commerce department provided $976,000 in aid to 26 small businesses across the state, including a hair and beauty supply store in Waukegan.

Melissa Hampton, owner of Beauty City in the Lake Plaza shopping center, said the $1,421 grant she received helped pay for repairs to the store's entrance damaged during looting.

“They only talk about Chicago, but Waukegan was hit really bad when the looting started,” said Hampton, who's been in business for 24 years.

She said her business was vandalized three times over the course of the summer of 2020 and removed the plywood boarded up in her store windows only at the end of that year.

Beauty City, which specializes in hair extension and wigs for cancer patients and people with hair loss, has also struggled from the ongoing pandemic.

Hampton said her business has recovered about 60% to 70% since the COVID-19 crisis began in March 2020.

“I'm trying to ride this (omicron) wave out,” she said.

Most of the small-business grants went to companies in Chicago, but Master Wireless-26 Kezie Inc. in Waukegan received $20,400, and Dr. Zhivago, a restaurant in Skokie, received $4,085.

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