(The Center Square) – Illinois’ downstate businesses are benefiting from the help of the Community Navigator Program to apply for a piece of $300 million in grants to help them recover from the pandemic.
The Business Navigator Alliance recently launched its Community Navigator Program to specifically help small businesses in six downstate counties gather the resources necessary to apply for the grant, WTHI TV 10 reported.
Jennifer Bishop, executive director of the Marshall Chamber of Commerce, says downstate businesses in counties like Marshall are often overlooked.
“We are smaller,” she said. “We have [fewer] resources available, and they just don’t have a fighting chance against some of these bigger businesses in areas that have a few more resources.”
Applying for a grant requires some administrative muscle, Bishop said, and the Navigator program aims to provide it.
“Whether it’s an accountant, an attorney – and just being the boots on the ground to help walk businesses through the process,” she said.
Bishop says she and her downstate neighbors are stretched thin compared to the resources available in bigger cities up north.
“Chambers of commerce up north have 10 to 12 people working in their offices – and then they also have an economic development arm,” she said. “Down here, I personally wear both hats in our community, and almost oversee most of the county as well.”
Usually, an email a few days before applications open notifying businesses there is a grant available is all they get, said Bishop. This time the state is giving smaller businesses a head start so they can be ready to apply when applications open, Bishop said.
“The state has really given us all the documents to make sure these businesses apply versus them getting inundated by every single business: ‘Am I eligible?’ Because, honestly, every business is different,” she said.
Businesses which can show loss of revenue will potentially be eligible to recoup some of that, Bishop says.
“So this grant opportunity allows them to show their revenue losses and can hopefully be able to help reimburse them for rent, mortgage, payroll, inventory – those types of things.”
Those businesses that haven’t received any type of funding previously will be given priority, according to Bishop.