What is the Back to Business Grant Program?
For 2020 into 2022, businesses around the globe suffered significant economic loss as a result of the pandemic. Between mandatory shutdowns, stay at home orders, and self-isolation, the U.S. economy lost trillions. Many businesses shut their doors for good and employees lost their jobs or quit. Illinois Governor, JB Pritzker, decided to roll out an economic recovery plan. Known as the Back to Business Grant Program (or B2B for short), the plan called for relief to businesses hit hardest by the pandemic.
Help with Access to the Back to Business Grant Program
Using the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA), Illinois directed $250 million dollars to the B2B Grant Program. Illinois set up a Community Navigator Program to help businesses and reduce barriers to assistance programs.
The 2021 Small Business Community Navigator Program around the state brought together community organizations to engage with small businesses. They provide the following services:
- In-person technical assistance in eligibility and applications for economic aid.
- Services offered in multiple languages.
- Outreach to underserved areas to increase awareness of federal and state aid programs.
As a result, Illinois increased awareness and participation in the Back to Business Grant Program.
Back to Business Grant Program Available Funding
$250 million in grants are available to small businesses across Illinois that experienced losses in 2020 due to the pandemic. These are set asides in the funding:
- $100 million for businesses located in designated Disproportionately Impacted Areas.
- $30 million set aside for Arts and Entertainment businesses that were not participants in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.
- $25 million for taverns and restaurants that had not received money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
- $25 million for hotels.
- $25 million available to businesses that had not received money from a BIG Grant.
Grants range between $5,000 and $150,000 for each business. The funds can be used for a wide range of purposes, including overhead, staff, and operations costs. Up to $250,000 is available for hotels.
Eligibility Guidelines for the Back to Business Grant Program
The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity sets out specific guidelines for the Back to Business Basics Grant Program.
Businesses that are Eligible for the Back to Business Grant
- Must be nonprofits or these for-profit business structures in the state of Illinois:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
- Must be a business in operation prior to or during December of 2019.
- Gross operating revenue in calendar year 2019 must be less than $20 million or prorated based on the portion of 2019 in operation.
- Due to COVID-19, must have suffered a loss of at least $5,000 in revenue in 2020.
- The business reduced operations in part due to public health initiatives, government orders, or lower consumer demand during the pandemic.
- The business complied with all government regulations and executive orders relevant to COVID-19.
Businesses that are not Eligible for the Back to Business Grant
- If a childcare provider business, they did not receive or is in process to receive Child Care Restoration Grants.
- Private clubs or businesses that limit membership for reasons not related to capacity.
- Freelance or independent contractors that do not operate as sole proprietorships.
- Speculative businesses that profit from price or value fluctuations rather than through a normal trade or business.
- Businesses that earn more than a fourth of their net income from lending activities.
- Businesses that derive more than a third of their annual revenue from legal gambling.
- Pyramid sales businesses.
- Businesses engaged in activities that are illegal locally or federally.
- Rental property owners.
- Religious organizations.
- Businesses owned by a government entity unless a Native American tribe.
- Businesses engaged in lobbying or political activities.
- Manufacturers or sellers of liquor, tobacco products, or firearms.
- Night clubs, employment agencies, pawn shops, storage facilities.
Priority Industry Definitions
Illinois prioritizes industries that experienced prolonged, special hardships from COVID-19.
- Hotels , motels, inns, and businesses providing short term lodging. Vacation rentals are not included.
- Bars and restaurants that have not received a Restaurant Revitalization Grant.
- Arts organizations and businesses including arts education organizations, performing arts, and vendors to performing arts businesses, venues, and organizations.
- Retail clothing and electronics businesses. The business must include at least one physical location deriving at least 50% of its income from selling clothing or electronics out of that location. Primarily ecommerce businesses are not eligible.
- Laundry and dry-cleaning services, except for coin operated facilities. If self service is offered, at least 50% of revenue must come from providing laundry and dry-cleaning services.
- Home health care services, including illness and injury services provided in the home. More than 80% of revenue must come from in-home health services.
- Childcare providers that have not received Child Care Restoration Grants.
- Businesses holing certificates for provision of barber, nail technician, or cosmetology.
- Indoor recreation businesses. There are some limitations on size of the facility based on type of activities.
- A physical fitness facility with a physical location open to the public or members.
- Tourism and group transportation businesses such as:
- Tourist guides
- Travel agents
- Vehicle rentals
- Charter buses
- Shuttle services
- Taxis, limousines, and rideshare
- Support services for social and spectator events, including:
- Photographers or videographers
- Event planners
- Equipment rental
- Movie theater or museum operators that have not received Shuttered Venues Operating Grant.
There are other details for some of these business types in the Eligibility Guidelines document.
Application and Required Documents for Back to Business Grants
As of August 2021, there’s an online portal for application and document uploads. Requirements include:
- Business owner information – this is contact information, name, address, email, etc.
- Demographics – this information is for reporting only and asks for gender, race, and other information.
- Business information – details about the business including:
- Address, phone number, website, email, business name or doing-business-as (DBA), Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- Business entity for tax purposes.
- Industry classification
- Other business questions – questions related to the specific products and services of the business, whether it fits into one of the priority industries listed above, whether it’s in the list of businesses not eligible.
- Business operations location – whether the business is a storefront, home based, a manufacturing facility, and other choices.
Required documents include:
- Business owner identification documents, such as Driver License, Passport, etc.
- Business bank statements indicating activity pre-COVID and post-COVID.
- Federal tax return for 2019, or Schedule C
- Federal tax return for 2020 or Schedule C
- Any documentation that accurately reflects the business address.
- W-9 information
The Illinois Back to Business Grant Program is helping businesses across the state recover from setbacks due to the COVID pandemic. Eligibility criteria are broad, and the application process is simple and accessible online.