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Towns Offer Aid To Businesses For COVID-Related Supplies

Outdoor tables shielded by dining domes to curb the spread of the coronavirus await customers at the Hamilton Walkers restaurant in downtown Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN – Small businesses have had to deal with an added expense this year, paying for supplies and equipment to prevent the coronavirus from spreading at their stores, offices and factories.

Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul are offering state-funded grants to help with those new expenses.

The grants can be used by small businesses in the three communities, to help them pay for all the things they buy to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, from masks and sanitizer to contactless water faucets, outdoor dining domes and other enclosures at restaurants.

Businesses that have already received state Business Interruption Grants to cope with losses due to the coronavirus are not eligible

Urbana economic development coordinator Stepheny McMahon says businesses applying for the grants ask for help with a wide range of items.

“We’re looking at applications for updating HVAC systems, cleaning supplies, the UV wands, Plexiglas, masks, sanitizer, anything like that,” says McMahon, “that they’ve used to be as safe as possible for employees and patrons.”

Champaign city planner T.J. Blakeman says any businesses receiving grant money must follow mitigation rules on things like limits on building occupancy or bans on indoor dining.

“We did make that a requirement of our program,” says Blakeman. “If you are going to accept money from the city, you will be required to follow that mitigation.”

The grant programs launched by the three towns are back a combined total of $1,450,000 in coronavirus relief money, which the state receives from the federal CARES Act and distributes through the CURE-ES program, or Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Economic Support program.

Using those funds, Champaign and Rantoul are offering grants of up to $5,000 each. Urbana’s grants go up to $20,000.

All three towns use a point system for deciding which businesses receive the funding.  Hospitality businesses are rated highest, with extra points if a business had to close for a month or more due to the pandemic.

Champaign and Urbana are taking grant applications from local businesses until Dec. 30. Rantoul’s deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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