Coronavirus: Champaign County sets up fund to aid impacted businesses

A grant fund has been established in Champaign County to aid businesses impacted by the ongoing COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, pandemic.

That program was established by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) and $75,000 has been allocated to it by the Champaign County Board of Commissioners.

That money has been earmarked for costs associated with starting and running the program as well as ongoing marketing designed to increase consumer confidence for when businesses impacted by the pandemic began to reopen, said members of the CEP.

County commissioner Dave Faulkner said that money comes from the county’s economic development funds that is generated from a conveyance fee from local real estate transactions.

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A committee has been recently established to award local small businesses grant money as they work to bridge a gap in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as from a state stay-at-home order that called for nonessential businesses to close their doors.

That preventive measure also limited some of the operations for those that were considered essential and allowed to stay open. Restaurants for example had to transition to only providing carry out, curbside or delivery options for customers. Some of those businesses have chosen to temporarily close as a result.

Businesses in the county that have been impacted can apply for local grant money at Physical copies of the application form can be dropped off at the CEP's mailbox located next to its office door at 3 Monument Square, Urbana.

In order to be eligible for the grant program, the business must be either commercial or retail, have a storefront in the county and have fewer than 50 employees.

In addition, applicants must also be current on local, state and federal obligations such as taxes and assessments and have been directly impacted by the pandemic, said Marcia Bailey, the director of the CEP.

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In order for franchises to apply, they must not have more than two store fronts in the county and must not be corporatly owned, she added, noting that they must have local ownership.

Businesses whose applications are accepted can be awarded up to $2,500 and the deadline to apply is May 15. The grants may be used for operating expenses such as rent, utilities, payroll and the cost of supplies and modifications needed to comply with state guidelines as some businesses plan on reopening their doors soon.

“Our grant committee desires to make this a self-perpetuating fund so that money will be available to support future economic sustainability in our community,” Bailey said.

“Through the Pay It Forward provision of the program, we will encourage grant recipients to contribute financially to the Champaign County Small Business Grant Fund once their businesses are back on their feet, in an amount equal to or greater than their grant,” she added.

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