QUINCY — Four Quincy businesses are among 65 receiving money from the Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The initial round of grants totals $1.3 million.
The four businesses are Sterling Awards and Signs Inc., 2302 N. 12th; Thyme Square Cafe, 615 Hampshire; V.W. Fundraising, 4531 Maine, Suite D; and Verve Aesthetics Inc., 707 N. 24th.
Sterling Awards and Signs is receiving a $15,000 grant from the state. The other businesses are receiving individual grants of $25,000, the maximum allowed under program guidelines.
Michael Negron, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said, "As the COVID-19 pandemic started to gain steam and it became clear that the economic impact of the pandemic would be severe, we started looking for ways to repurpose money that was already coming into the state and finding purposes for that money that would help the people of this state."
For small-business owners like Scott Westhaus of V.W. Fundraising, the grant eased fears that his business might not reopen.
"We are an organizational fundraising company that supports schools, clubs, sports teams and community organizations," Westhaus said. "When the pandemic became reality and schools and businesses closed, we literally lost every single customer we had in one day.
"I wasn't sure if we would ever be able to reopen. When I learned we received the grant, it was a huge sense of relief knowing I don't have to worry about how to come up with money to bridge the gap from our time closed. It was a blessing."
Calls to the other local recipients of the grants were not returned.
Negron said ultimately the department worked with the federal government's Housing and Urban Development department to repurpose $20 million that had been allocated for Community Development Block Grants.
As of Thursday afternoon, hundreds of applications from municipalities, who are required to apply in conjunction with business owners, had been received.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, "As businesses across Illinois grapple with the devastating financial impact of COVID-19, my administration continues to look for ways to help provide relief that will allow small businesses, the backbone of our economy, rebuild and thrive.
"The Downstate Small Business Stabilization fund will help respond to the needs of our rural and downstate communities and address the impact COVID-19 has had across Illinois so that together we can start to rebuild our economy."
The grants awarded on Friday were selected from 240 applications. State officials say the applications are reviewed in the order received.
To date, more than a dozen Quincy businesses have applied, including Second String Music, 110 N. Fifth; Quincy Audiology, 731 Maine; Domestics, Etc., 119 N. Sixth; Expressions by Christine, 711 Maine; Vancil Performing Arts Center, 721 Ohio and 531 S. Eighth; State Street Bar and Grill, 1638 State; Grown-n-Gathered, 601 Maine; the Dock restaurant, 1021 Bonansinga Drive; QDance, 640 S. Fifth; Barney's Tavern, 1708 Broadway; Mane Therapie Salon and Spa, 838 Hampshire; Coach House Restaurant, 2401 Broadway; and the Scoreboard, 234 S. Eighth.
Two Adams County businesses --Terstriep Concrete and Excavating, 6930 Horseshoe Valley Road, and the Ambiance LLC, 5225 Koch's Lane -- have also applied for funding.
Negron said the IDEO will likely be announcing the next wave of grants in the coming weeks. All funds must be used exclusively for working capital costs -- including but not limited to salaries, wages, rent, utilities and other overhead costs associated with running the business.
"It will be soon," Negron said. "This is something we plan on doing on a rolling basis. Our goal is to get back with the business owners within a month of their application."
The four businesses who received grants on Friday had their applications submitted in late April.
For-profit retailers and service businesses, including businesses deemed non-essential during the state-ordered stay-at-home order, are eligible if they meet specific criteria.
To be eligible, a business must employ between two and 50, including the business owner; the business must show an urgent need, including the impact the stay-at-home order has had on the business; have documentation verifying the business' good standing with the state; financial records documenting the net income for the last three fiscal years; a copy of the most recent bank statement for the business; and documentation attesting to the permanent working capital needs of the business, including utilities, mortgages, loan repayment and more.
The state plans to continue to accept applications until funding is exhausted.
"We know that $20 million doesn't meet the scope of the likely demand for this kind of program, but we are encouraged by the amount of interest we are seeing from businesses throughout the state," Negron said. "People pour a lot into their businesses. For many people, their small business is their life's work, they work on it during regular business hours and after hours as well. I just want to reinforce that we recognize, the governor recognizes, that the economic difficulties are being felt throughout the state. It is really important to all of us that we keep our small businesses up and running."