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Pritzker announces $11 million in grants to support minority-owned businesses across Illinois

Sprinfield (HINA)—Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced that 32 minority-owned businesses and business incubators will receive a total of $11 million as part of the state’s Minority-Owned Business Capital and Infrastructure Program. These grants will equip minority-owned firms with resources to create jobs, build capacity, increase revenues, and revitalize properties in underserved communities.

 Funding will reach businesses of all sizes and types, as well as community-based incubators working to help small and start-up businesses in diverse communities across the state. The development of new grant-funded projects is estimated to create hundreds of full-time and construction jobs for the surrounding community.

 “At a time when businesses are facing significant setbacks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Minority Capital Fund will help eliminate obstacles so minority-owned businesses can rebuild and continue supporting their communities,” said Governor Pritzker. “These small, family-owned businesses are the backbone of Illinois, and capital grants will unlock funding to help them expand, create new jobs, and drive positive economic change for their communities.”

 Created by the DCEO Office of Minority Economic Empowerment’s (OMEE), the program provides a first of its kind capital grant earmarked specifically to promote growth of minority-owned businesses.  The program leverages bonded capital funds to support infrastructure investment in economically disadvantaged areas, as well as to contribute to the growth of minority-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups in priority community investment areas.

 “Too many minority businesses in our state face the same challenges—including a lack of access to capital that prevents them from seeing the full potential of their business,” said Michael Negron, Assistant Director of DCEO. “We created this grant to address what is a core priority for the Pritzker administration – ensuring that all residents and businesses across our state receive access to same opportunities so they can compete and thrive in our economy.”

 In total, 20 businesses were granted $8.1 million, and a dozen business incubators were granted over $2.9 million. This includes funding distributed to a diverse group of recipients – including community-based and youth organizations, as well as small and family-owned businesses, including restaurants, retail, manufacturing, a museum, roofing, and more. A full list of OMEE grant recipients is available on DCEO’s website.

 “Running my business in Chatham allows me to bring joy to my community – and this grant will help Brown Sugar Bakery expand to a second location on Chicago’s south side,” said Stephanie Hart, Owner of Brown Sugar Bakery. “I am adamant about ensuring the people I employ are from the community, which further instills a sense of pride and accomplishment for those who live here. With critical state support supporting the expansion of our business, we will continue to hire locally.”

Grant recipients represent underserved communities across Illinois, as defined by the CDBG program. Grant funding is being extended to Chicago, Peoria, East St Louis, Decatur, and more.  The majority of the projects planned are for property acquisition and renovation—and every project is expected to create jobs.

“We would like to commend the Governor’s Office and the staff of DCEO for their efforts in supporting minority owned businesses in southern Illinois by directing these much-needed resources,” said Donald Johnson, owner of SRM Construction in East St. Louis. “For companies like ours who are working to provide skills training and to create jobs in low-income communities, there has never been a more important time than now for this type of support.”

Grants were reviewed and evaluated on a competitive basis, with proposals evaluated against the following criteria:  demonstrated need for capital, capacity to complete the project, and potential to create social impact for the surrounding community. Minority business status was a prerequisite for eligibility of this program, as well as the project’s ability to create economic development in low-to-moderate income areas.

 “Mercado on Fifth has been at the forefront of driving economic activity in the Quad Cities region, having helped develop over 20 new minority-owned businesses since 2017,” said Maria Ontiveros, President, Mercado on Fifth. “The Minority-Owned Business Grant from Illinois OMEE will enable our expansion into a much-needed incubator facility to create more equitable growth in the community. As Founder Bob Ontiveros always says, ‘Everyone wins when someone gets an opportunity.'”

The Peoria Minority Business Development Center, operated by the Black Business Alliance Peoria Chapter, is based in a community that has struggled economically for decades.

“The Peoria Minority Business Development Center plays a key role in a community that has suffered disinvestment for many decades – and serves to provide our community members a place to launch and grow businesses that will be part of bringing back economic prosperity to our community,” said Denise Moore, Founder and CEO of the Black Business Alliance Peoria Chapter, Inc. “The OMEE Grant funds will allow us to create additional educational and training space for those individuals that struggled with learning the foundational elements of operating a successful business and provide an on-going support system to help them realize their goals.” 

 Individual applicants were eligible to receive up to $500,000 per project, and the amount of the award is based on anticipated costs associated with meeting project requirements and bond guidelines.

 “This grant by the State of Illinois will have a profound impact on our business,” said Sharon White, owner of Vets and Cowboys, a veteran-owned business in Watseka. “It will allow us to carry out our mission by expanding our capacity to train more Veterans and minorities in farming and ranching careers through our hands-on, immersive certified Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) farm/ranch training program. This in turn will help more Vets and Cowboys graduates excel and pursue land ownership in their communities.”

 Grant funding is restricted to specific working capital use – including property acquisition, renovation, purchase of essential equipment, rehabilitation of publicly owned property, and communal infrastructure works, such as sidewalks, streets or other site improvements.

 “The grant from the Office of Minority and Economic Empowerment (OMEE) was a key catalyst to moving forward with the purchase of the building that will be the new home of Xquina, one of the most innovative and culturally relevant business incubators in the country,” said Blanca Soto, Executive Director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. “Our organization will own the building and create a sustainable model for commercial corridor preservation and revitalization.”

 The Minority-Owned Business Capital and Infrastructure Program supports the goals of Rebuild Illinois—Governor Pritzker’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan, and the state’s first in a decade.

 “When I opened Forty Acres in 2018, I had no real idea what the path forward would be,” said Liz Abunaw, owner of Forty Acres Fresh Market.  “For a minority small business owner, this type of grant just doesn’t happen! Forty Acres is going to use the money to build our first brick and mortar building. With the Austin area facing some of the most-dire need for healthy fresh food, our new location will be critical for local residents and families, while creating jobs for our community.”

 DCEO has been charged with spearheading a number of Rebuild Illinois programs, including the Connect Illinois broadband expansion initiative, Shovel Ready sites, and, the Fast Track Capital grant program, providing targeted assistance for local governments to jumpstart construction on projects this summer in spite of COVID-19.

 For more information and resources available to small businesses please visit DCEO’s website.

The Little Village Chamber of Commerce Xquina Cafe business incubator receives $250,000 infrastructure grant

Chicago, HINA- The Little Village Chamber of Commerce recently received a State of Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) Infrastructure Grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) designed for incubators serving businesses of color. As part of DCEO’s ongoing commitment to supporting businesses across the state, the department has issued $11 million in Minority-Owned Business Capital Grants, otherwise known as “OMEE Grants.” These grants were distributed to businesses and business incubators across the state, with 20 small businesses and 12 business incubators receiving grant funds.

The Little Village Chamber of Commerce and The Little Village Community Foundation will apply the grant funds to the purchase of a three-story building located at 3525 W. 26th Street. This iconic building will introduce approximately 12,500 square feet of commercial retail space that will serve as a business incubator, co-working office, local café, and shared commercial kitchen.

“On behalf of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce Board, Staff and Membership, we thank Governor J.B. Pritzker and the leadership at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Minority Economic Empowerment for supporting the Xquina Café Incubator which will become an educational ecosystem for entrepreneurs in Little Village and surrounding communities,” said Blanca R. Soto, Executive Director, The Little Village Chamber of Commerce.  “The grant is an impact investment to enhance the livelihood of communities that have experienced historical disinvestment,” Soto added.

The Xquina Café Incubator is a partnership-driven commercial and cultural amenity that will improve the lives of the Little Village community residents.  The business incubator is designed to drive economic impact and revitalize a commercial corridor by providing an open, accessible and inclusive learning environment through bilingual programming and coaching.  It will serve current and emerging businesses, artists, multi-media professionals, as well as local workforce and youth.  The Incubator will provide access to resources to an estimated 40 new businesses a year in addition to thousands of hours of entrepreneurial programming and training.

For more information about the Xquina Café, The Little Village Chamber of Commerce or The Little Village Community Foundation, please visit http://littlevillagechamber.org/. For more information on OMEE grants, please visit www2.illinois.gov.

Chicago Hispanic firm part of $75 million partnership to rebuild economy

By David Steinkraus

Chicago (Negocios Now)- IGNITE Cities, a Chicago-based technology consulting firm, is partnering with Qualcomm and JLC Infrastructure in a $75 million project to invest in smart technology in cities around the country.

George Burciaga is a managing partner of IGNITE and is an international thought leader for smart and connected. He has been honored by two U.S. presidents for contributions to government and technology leadership.

“Our work is not about small calculated projects; it’s about delivering a strategic plan and solutions that reshape our future,” Burciaga said in a press release.

Each partner brings an advantage to the project. JLC has a network of municipal and construction relationships. Qualcomm is a leading maker of computer chips and wireless technology solutions. IGNITE has expertise in municipal partnerships and resolving the complex issues that arise in government.

Initially, the partnership will focus on bringing smart devices to school campuses and then using smart technologies to improve management and safety on construction projects. For cities that lack a smart infrastructure, the partnership will help develop a long-term strategy for deploying technologies.

The smart cities movement aims to save citizens time and money by adjusting systems in real-time and giving citizens better access to information. For example, a connected transportation system could adjust traffic signals to remove bottlenecks and reduce commuting time for motorists.

In an article for the National League of Cities that he wrote in May, Burciaga said deploying smart technologies should be part of the rebuilding we undertake following the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic revealed many weaknesses in our society, he wrote. As we rethink our behaviors, we need to use technologies that equally and equitably connect everyone to everything, he wrote, and by advancing public internet connectivity, safety, and transit, we will help achieve social equity and sustainability.

Governor Pritzker announces $270 million grant program for childcare providers

First in the Nation Program to Help Restore Child Care in Illinois Through COVID-19 Pandemic 

Moline, Illinois (Hispanic News Agency)–Governor JB Pritzker announced a $270 million Child Care Restoration grant program, provided for in the FY21 budget passed by the General Assembly. The first program of its kind in the nation, this program will support Illinois’ vast network of childcare providers as they continue to provide care to children across the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Strengthening child care is as much about building a strong economy as it is investing in our young people – both critical aspects of building an Illinois that truly serves our working families,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Before this pandemic hit, I promised that Illinois would become the best state in the nation for raising young children. The path forward has certainly become more complicated – but our commitment is stronger than ever.”

The Child Care Restoration grant program will dedicate at least $270 million of the state’s Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) Fund to support the economic health of childcare providers as the state’s economy continues to reopen in the coming weeks and months. As part of CURE, the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) Program is specifically designed to support businesses who endure lost revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Earlier today, the governor joined U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Representative Mike Halpin, Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri, and other stakeholders at Skip a Long in Moline to make the announcement. The Governor and Congresswoman Bustos were then joined by State Representative Maurice West, State Senator Steve Stadelman, and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, in Rock River Valley YMCA Children’s Learning Center in Rockford.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, is charged with developing the grant program for licensed childcare providers. The Child Care Restoration Grants will be administered by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA).

The “Intent to Apply” survey launched today and is available online HERE. The information gathered will help to inform the development of the grants program to be released in July 2020 and providers will receive their first installments later this summer. The opportunity to respond to the survey will close on June 19, 2020 at 5:00 pm.

The state has made significant investments in its vast childcare network during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as implementing a simple waiver process to allow providers to be paid for all of their enrolled children in the Child Care Assistance Program for March through June, so that child care staff could continue to be paid as normal through this unprecedented period. The state also increased the CCAP money that emergency center providers receive for each child.(HINA).

Latinos fighting Covid-19 to be recognized in Negocios Now Who’s Who in Hispanic Chicago

Negocios Now will pay tribute to Latinos fighting Covid-19 with a special section on its 7th edition of Who’s Who in Hispanic Chicago to be published at the end of June.

  The edition will collect profiles of doctors, community leaders, firefighters, and journalists who have been on the front lines against this pandemic.

 “We are aware that they would not reach 100 editions to recognize all those who. in one way or another, have been involved in the fight against Covid-19, even putting their lives at risk,” said Clemente Nicado, publisher.” Negocios Now could not ignore this unique historical moment in these lives;”

   The edition, which will have Wintrust as the main sponsor, is also sponsored by ComEd, BMO Harris Bank, Comcast, and Remy Martin. Other sponsors will be announced soon.

   In addition to the section dedicated to Covid-19, Negocios Now will publish a list of people in Business, Construction, Corporate, Government, Healthcare, Latinos on Board and Non-Profit. In total, more than 200 leaders will be profiled in the edition.

  We are excited to see many new faces in our issue, along with other Latino leaders who have been profiled in the past. Nothing makes us happier than recognizing people that well deserve it, “said Nicado.

  Negoicos Now –  Who’s Who in Hispanic Chicago was launched in 2014 to shine a light on the leadership of the Hispanic community in Chicago. One year later, Nicado Publishing launched “Latinos 40 Under 40 in Chicago, a very successful event that last year was also celebrated in New York.

   When the 7th edition is published, Negocios Now will have recognized more than 1,000 Hispanics in New York and Chicago in the past seven years. Due to Covid-19, Negocios Now has been forced to postpone the traditional celebrations for both events.



Deficiente la ayuda federal a pequeñas empresas

El Programa de Protección de Cheques de Pago (PPP), un paquete de ayuda federal a las pequeñas empresas ante la crisis por coronavirus, incluido en la Ley Cares, no cumplió con su objetivo en la primera entrega y difícilmente corregirá sus fallas en su segunda versión, asegura un análisis de Urban Institute.

El apoyo inicial por $349 mil millones de dólares ofrecía préstamos a bajo interés a pequeños empresas y organizaciones sin fines de lucro, con la sola condición de mantener o restaurar sus niveles de empleo y salario a tiempo completo. Un segundo paquete de alivio fue por un monto adicional de $310 mil millones.

Para el 16 de abril, 20 días después de su promulgación, el PPP  había desembolsado todo el monto asignado, dejando una larga lista de solicitantes de ayuda sin respuesta. El estudio indica que el primer error fue agregar dinero adicional a un programa con deficiencias bien entendidas, debido a que los dólares de la primera ronda no fluyeron a los sectores más afectados por  la crisis de COVID-19.

La industria de alojamiento y alimentos recibió solo el 9 por ciento de los fondos del PPP, a pesar de representar casi dos tercios de todos los empleos perdidos en los sectores atendidos con el programa. Por el contrario, el sector de servicios profesionales, científicos y técnicos, que en realidad ganó 7,500 empleos en marzo, recibió el segundo mayor monto de dólares.

Otros sectores, como la construcción recibió el 14% de dólares del PPP, y la manufactura 12%, ambos experimentaron proporcionalmente menos pérdida de empleos en marzo. La distribución de recursos tampoco se alineó con las áreas del país más afectadas por las consecuencias económicas de la pandemia, dice UI.

Precisa que los dos estados con el mayor número de solicitudes de beneficios por desempleo, entre el 15 de marzo y el 11 de abril, recibieron una cantidad proporcionalmente menor de dólares PPP. California tuvo el 14.8 % de los reclamos por desempleo del país, pero solo el 8.4 % de los préstamos, mientras que Nueva York el 10.6 % de las solicitudes y solo el 4.7 % de los préstamos.

Urban Institute asegura que el diseño del programa careció de orientación según la necesidad, y cerca de 100 empresas que recibieron préstamos no eran pequeños negocios. El escaso control del proceso permitió la inscripción de compañías, y el enfoque priorizo la velocidad y la escala sobre la necesidad. “Es posible que nunca sepamos el alcance de los problemas de equidad del PPP”, dice.

Los prestamistas que distribuyen fondos PPP priorizaron a sus propios clientes y a los que tenían líneas de crédito (en parte debido a la falta de claridad en las reglas que el Departamento del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos proporcionó inicialmente). Los bancos favorecieron préstamos de mayor tamaño primero, y el programa no proporcionó una guía efectiva y barreras de protección para deshabilitar este sesgo.

“El PPP fue una herramienta de política crítica para un colapso económico sin precedentes, y la adición de fondos era  necesaria, así como su rápida distribución”, expone UI. No obstante, insiste en que la velocidad no tenia por qué estar reñida con la eficiencia, reprueba que el programa no utilizará adecuadamente los enormes fondos otorgados, y asegura que su aplicación puede empeorar la desigualdad a largo plazo.

Local government budget plans for COVID-19 differ from Great Recession

 When local governments suddenly face recessions similar to the ongoing pandemic, there are pressures to react swiftly.

Oftentimes, the reactions are based on cutback budget habits instead of careful management of the existing or expected budget deficit.

Northern Illinois University faculty recently took part in a discussion that focused on providing leadership during financial crises.

The presentation focused on three points to guide budgeting using research from previous recessions: leadership and management of cutback budgeting decisions, framing cutback discussions, and thinking about immediate and long-term strategies.

Kurt Thurmeier, chair of the Department of Public Administration, said throughout history, recessions last, on average, about 10 months.

“It is important for us not to panic,” Thurmeier said. “We don’t know how long this recession will last, but we know the average length, and that helps us plan accordingly.”

Thurmeier said it is important for local governments to dip into rainy day funds before making any type of budget cuts such as layoffs or eliminating capital projects.

Assistant professor Chris Goodman said there is a lag in data and distributions from state-collected revenues, so the full extent of revenue losses won’t be known until much later. He also said the recent employment report may alter the near economic future.

“The encouraging jobs report might lead Congress to not enact a Phase 4 for state and local governments and other entities, so there might not be any more federal help coming,” Goodman said. (

Study finds Illinois residents among the worst financially in the country during pandemic

 A new report shows Illinoisans are hurting financially more so than most of the country during the COVID-19 outbreak,

The financial website SmartAsset compared the 50 states across six metrics, including recent measures of unemployment, housing insecurity and food insufficiency. Illinois ranked seventh in the nation for financial pain during the pandemic, according to the report.

SmartAsset spokesman Mark LoCastro said Illinois’ ranking was negatively affected by unemployment.

“In Illinois, the unemployment rate rose sharply, increasing by about 13 percentage points which is the eighth largest jump overall in our study,” LoCastro said.

With that rise, the unemployment rate in April was 16.4%, 1.7 points higher than the national average and the seventh-highest of all 50 states.

LoCastro said other categories brought Illinois down in the rankings as well.

“Despite low historic poverty rates, recent survey data shows a different picture,” LoCastro said. “More than one in four adults recently reported housing insecurity, while about one in eight were experiencing food insufficiencies.”

Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio have the most residents financially hurting during the pandemic, while Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota have the least. (The Center Square)

Illinois officials take part in discussions about police and minority communities

Discussions in the nation’s capital and Illinois’ capital city are looking at how to address concerns about police accountability and equity in minority communities.

Conversations including officials from various public positions around Illinois follow the high-profile killing of a black man by a law enforcement officer in Minneapolis last month. George Floyd was laid to rest in Texas on Tuesday. His death sparked protests across the country. There was also civil unrest, looting and rioting in cities across the state and nation.

After the dust settled in Washington D.C. on Monday, Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress was with President Donald Trump and other law enforcement from across the country. He provided suggestions, including mandatory de-escalation training for officers.

“A prohibition of all physical restraint maneuvers on or above the neck and any physical acts that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain,” Childress said.

Childress also said police should be required to provide medical aid and intervene when improper physical force is being applied. He said his law enforcement philosophy has always been about being a friend of the community and having accessible programs like “shopping with the sheriff” or “Halloween with the children.”

“Always being there as a listening ear for the community and working with the community,” Childress said.

In Illinois’ capital city on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was with a Black Lives Matter organizer, a state Senator, several Springfield aldermen, faith leaders and youth. He said the current moment provides an opportunity to “leap forward” on three issues.

“We could be the first state to get this right about investment in communities that have been left out and left behind, about police accountability, about criminal justice reform,” Pritzker said.

Little was discussed on criminal justice reform or police accountability during the event Tuesday, but Pritzker expanded on the need for more investment in “black and brown communities.”

“There’s been years, people call it disinvestment, but the reality is there hasn’t been any investment for so long, at least not enough,” Pritzker said. “It’s disproportionately not in favor of the black communities.”

State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, on Sunday at a large demonstration with Pritzker said $1 billion of investment would be a “starting point” to begin healing the decades of discrimination communities of color have seen in terms of state funding.

Pritzker urged youth organizers and others to “keep the pressure on” to make change rapidly.

“We know what that agenda fundamentally needs to be and that means that we’re very close to making real progress,” Pritzker said. “You expect a lot and a lot should be delivered.”

Permite el estado cocteles para llevar

El gobernador J.B. Pritzker autorizó la nueva medida de “cócteles para llevar” que permite a bares y restaurantes con licencias de licores vender bebidas para adultos en la modalidad de entrega rápida, con el fin de ayudar a bares y restaurantes que durante más de dos meses recibieron la orden de cerrar el servicio de comidas para evitar la propagación del coronavirus.

Para el consumidor significa la oportunidad de disfrutar en casa la bebida favorita si aún existe el temor de permanecer mucho tiempo fuera. Sin embargo, en Chicago tardará un poco más en entrar en vigencia debido a que se requiere hacer un cambio en  el código municipal.

La legislación, que obtuvo el apodo de “Booznibus” durante la sesión especial dirigida por la Asamblea General de Illinois el mes pasado, entra en vigencia de inmediato. La medida fue aprobada por unanimidad en el Senado y en una abrumadora votación bipartidista en la Cámara.

Según la nueva ley, los bares y restaurantes pueden ofrecer para llevar o entregar cócteles en envases sellados y etiquetados con sellos o tapas a prueba de manipulaciones. Las bebidas no se pueden entregar a través de servicios de entrega de terceros, como DoorDash, Grubhub o Postmates.

La medida prevé que deben ser mayores de 21 años los empleados que realicen entregas de cócteles y requieren tanto verificar la edad como el nivel de intoxicación del cliente. También retrasa cargos por pagos atrasados para licencias de licor, establece la aprobación automática de su renovación y extensiones para propietarios de esta licencia que cerraron sus negocios por las órdenes relacionadas con la pandemia.

Pritzker calificó la medida para bares y restaurantes como “una herramienta crítica para generar ingresos adicionales hasta que puedan volver a abrir sus puertas de manera segura y completa una vez más”, de acuerdo con un comunicado emitido por su oficina.

El gobernador ordenó que los bares y restaurantes cerraran para cenar a mediados de marzo, aunque permitió que los alimentos para llevar y entregar continuaran mientras se implementaron restricciones comerciales radicales, pero las empresas se han enfrentado a grandes desafíos y reducciones significativas de ingresos.

Desde el 29 de mayo, dentro de la Fase 3 del plan estatal de reapertura, se permitió a los restaurantes y bares servir comidas y bebidas al aire libre con espacio físico entre las mesas, y otras restricciones, en la mayor parte del estado, y en Chicago a partir del 3 de junio están funcionando en calles que se cerraron en seis vecindarios.