How much in COVID-19 grant funds did suburban businesses get, and what more is coming?

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most nonessential businesses three years ago, the Ball Factory's future in Mount Prospect suddenly was in peril.

The indoor playground and children's entertainment center was among the thousands of Illinois businesses that saw revenues almost immediately dry up, while expenses continued to mount.

"Our payroll alone is about $400,000 a year, so when the state began offering grants, we began applying," said owner Eliza Jurowska. "It helped us greatly."

The $150,000 "Back 2 Business" grant coupled with a $45,000 Business Interruption Grant Jurowska's enterprise received through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity were welcome financial relief, she said. "I'd tell anyone to apply; it's not going to hurt," Jurowska said.

Her grants were among the $194,750,000 issued to suburban businesses during the pandemic. That amounts to 37.1% of the $524,675,000 B2B and BIG grants issued by the state since the outset of the pandemic, according to a Daily Herald analysis of the more than 15,600 grants awarded. Those are businesses located in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties as well as the suburban portion of Cook County.

A new round of grant funding totaling $175 million was announced last week, aimed at restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. But this time, grants are available only to businesses that haven't received any state-issued COVID relief funds yet, including through municipal sources.

"Illinois' businesses have made a strong recovery since the most difficult times of the pandemic, and we're proud to build upon that progress through additional support for hard-hit industries," said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. "Restaurants, hotels and creative arts are industries designed to bring people together, and with an additional $175 million, we are investing in communities and supporting continued economic development."

The state is making $50 million available to businesses in the restaurant field, including bars, caterers, wineries, breweries and food trucks, with grant awards available between $5,000 and $50,000.

Another $75 million is open to hotels, motels and other lodging sites, up to $1,500 per room.

The final $50 million is set aside for entertainment venues such as performing arts centers, theaters, museums and cultural heritage organizations. Grant amounts in this category range from $5,000 to $250,000.

The funds come from federal sources.

Applications are being accepted starting April 5 and ending May 10. Grant winners will be announced a few weeks after the application deadline. Registration for a Thursday webinar outlining the application process is available at the agency's website,

"The state has made several changes, including streamlining the application process," said Carol Gieske, Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "They also used to award the grants as they came in, but now the state is vetting all the requests before issuing any funds."

Elgin businesses received 72 grants totaling $2,455,000, state records show.

Chamber officials throughout the suburbs said they have worked hard to inform and educate small business owners about the grant process since the funding first became available. As many local businesses continue to struggle with inventory issues, inflation costs and staffing shortages, the new round of grant funding is especially helpful, they said.

"We definitely saw more businesses close than usual during the pandemic because they just couldn't hold on," said Scott Adams, president of the GLMV Chamber of Commerce, which serves Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills. "But we've also seen the value of these grants for many of the businesses that weren't able to operate normally but still had the overhead costs."

In addition to partnerships with local chambers of commerce, the state has "mobilized a network of more than 100 community navigators across Illinois," DCEO officials said.

Chamber officials said they believe the grants are being distributed fairly and haven't heard too many complaints about the award process.

"Anytime you're making sure the grants get to the right place and effectively spent, there's generally support for it," said Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Of the 15,659 B2B and BIG grants previously awarded statewide, suburban businesses received 5,866 of them, or 37.5%.

Chicago businesses received 5,183 grants totaling $168,185,000, records show.

Downstate businesses outside Cook County and the five suburban collar counties received 4,610 grants totaling $161,740,000, according to DCEO records.

After Chicago, Aurora businesses received the highest number of grants in the state and highest grant dollars, with 206 grants totaling $7,585,000.

Somewhat surprisingly, businesses in Addison received the fourth-highest grant revenue total in the state, with 99 grants awarded for a combined $5,135,000, outpacing larger suburbs: Naperville ($5,045,000), Schaumburg ($3,475,000) and Arlington Heights ($2,670,000).

Meanwhile, DCEO records show suburban Cook County businesses received 3,183 grants worth a combined $91,315,000.

DuPage County businesses received a combined 845 grants totaling $35,525,000.

In Kane County, businesses there received 446 grants worth $17.9 million.

Lake County businesses were awarded 595 grants valued at a combined $21,470,000.

There were 280 grants awarded to McHenry County businesses totaling $9,925,000.

In Will County, 517 grants worth $18,615,000 were issued in previous rounds.

In addition to these grants, the state has issued nearly $900 million in Child Care Restoration grants, $14 million in emergency hospitality grants, $18.5 million allocated to municipalities specifically for local business grants and $3.5 million in agricultural operation grants.

Suburban businesses received nearly $200 million of the almost $525 million in Back 2 Business and Business Interruption Grant funding awarded by the state since the onset of the pandemic, according to a Daily Herald analysis of the more than 15,600 grants awarded. Associated Press File Photo/Paul Sancya, 2020
COVID-19 mitigations forced nonessential businesses across the suburbs and nationwide to shut down beginning in March 2020. Many have recouped some of their losses through millions of dollars in state and federal grants. Associated Press File Photo/Paul Sancya, 2020
Suburban businesses received nearly $200 million of the almost $525 million in Back 2 Business and Business Interruption Grant funding awarded by the state since the onset of the pandemic, according to a Daily Herald analysis of the more than 15,600 grants awarded. Associated Press File Photo/Eric Gay, 2020
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