Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has created extensive and profound negative impacts on populations across the US. COVID-19 has not only devastated the health landscape in many ways, but at the same time, the pandemic has created a socioeconomic crisis that will likely negatively impact many Latinos for decades to come. In a recent report, the Latino Policy Forum and Brookings find that this toxic constellation of complex COVID-related conditions requires significant attention and resource allocations.
To ensure Illinois is reaching the businesses hit hardest by the pandemic in underserved communities, the NCRC Community Development Fund (NCRC CDF) is partnering with Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office to distribute $175 million to small businesses through the Back to Business (B2B) grant program. The program will provide recovery grants to small businesses still grappling with the lingering impacts of the pandemic in the restaurant, hotel, and creative arts industries.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and DCEO have consistently focused on addressing the impacts small businesses across Illinois are facing. We know the pandemic has been particularly devastating for communities of color and Latinx businesses — and for many industries across the board, including restaurants, retail stores, beauty salons, museums, cultural attractions and event venues,” said, Sylvia I. Garcia, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
NCRC CDF will work directly with the DCEO to help businesses apply, and manage application intake and review. NCRC CDF also coordinates with Community Navigator organizations across the state to provide technical assistance to businesses, focusing on businesses owned by minority, rural, veteran, and women business entrepreneurs.
“NCRC CDF is best positioned to support the State of Illinois in distributing these grants. For over two decades, we have worked closely with small businesses nationwide, so we know firsthand the challenges they faced during the pandemic and continue to face in this difficult economy,” said Marisa Calderon, the Executive Director of NCRC CDF. “We lost too many small and micro businesses during the pandemic – especially those owned by women and people of color, while many of the ones that survived still struggle to recover. With these grants, we will shore up these businesses, preserve what they have worked so hard to build, and save jobs in our communities by ensuring they have access to the capital they need.”
Latino workers are often the first to suffer the consequences of a crisis, and the
first to step up to fill essential positions, often with low-wages, job security, and protections. A report co-authored by the Metropolitan Planning Council outlined some of the ongoing challenges facing Latino workers. COVID has stymied many of the socio-economic gains Latinos in Illinois were making, the study finds. Without
concrete plans and investments to enable the economic health and growth of the Latino community, we (populous) are at risk of a downward spiral of economic consequences not just for the Latino community but for the metro region, the state of Illinois, and the nation.
“The community continues to not benefit from the prosperity it creates,” said Sylvia Puente, President and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum. “The importance of population growth for economic strength cannot be overstated. And it is Latinos whose numbers are among the most significant for ensuring that growth,” Puente said. She argued that in Illinois, for example, between 2010 and 2018, the Latino population grew annually by about 29,000, while there was an average annual decrease of about 20,000 non-Latinos.
The B2B grant program builds on the success of last year’s Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program, which directed $290 million to 9,000 businesses in 98 communities across Illinois with a focus on businesses owned by people of color in areas disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
B2B is a key component of the Governor’s $1.5 billion economic recovery plan,
aimed toward a swift and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 funding Illinois received from the American Recovery Plan.
The deadline to apply for the grant is May 10. Applicants can visit the NCRC CDF website to learn more about the B2B grant program and apply online. All applicants will be notified of their award status after reviewing all applications. Multilingual FAQs and application assistance are available from outreach partners in the following languages: Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Cover Photo: Liliana Drew
IL Latino News is a proud partner in promoting the the NCRC Community Development Fund (NCRC CDF).