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Illinois Small Business Grants In 2024

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

Your business may have lost substantial revenue in 2024 due to COVID-19, a circumstance that unfortunately affected numerous commercial and industrial businesses. Small businesses, families, and communities can benefit from various grant programs available to foster job creation and generate new business opportunities. Illinois small businesses, including entrepreneurs of color, have a lot to gain from the ongoing recovery initiatives, tapping into a wellspring of business ideas and resources that might just be the economic growth spur needed in this trying time.

There are $31.49 billion in grants in Illinois and $20.94 billion in additional funding sources initiated by various government agencies including the federal government, aiming to facilitate recovery grants and financing opportunities that could revitalize hard-hit industries. Eligible businesses, both commercial and industrial, can benefit immensely from these funds, providing a crucial lifeline in the ongoing recovery process. The opportunity is ripe in Illinois, a state home to 77,000 farms and 254,007 businesses.

Exploring these business opportunities further, a small business loan can significantly influence your business dynamics, aiding in job creation through expansion of marketing campaigns, hiring more employees, and bridging cash flow gaps. With a substantial portion of Illinois' annual financial flux, amounting to $233.99 billion, being expended on payroll and salaries, such opportunities hold a key to potentially reducing the considerable number of bankruptcy petitions filed every year. It is pertinent to note, though, that the federal government restricts the utilization of federal grants for startups or business expansion. However, small business grants present a promising funding opportunity for your business's needs.

What Is a Grant?

Grants are financial aids predominantly facilitated by government agencies, and occasionally by non-profit organizations, local governments, charities, or foundations, to encourage the inception and execution of new products, services, and projects. These grants are essentially non-refundable, thus presenting a low-cost growth option for small businesses. However, the application window for these grants can demand a considerable amount of time and effort, including a reasonable application fee in some instances. The pathway to securing a small business grant involves demonstrating a robust financial capability, showcasing your business’s potential economic impact.

Illinois Small Grants

Illinois residents have the option to explore various fields for grant application, ushering in fresh business opportunities that are particularly lucrative for small business owners in 2024.

Back to Business Grant Program (B2B)

Back to Business (B2B) grants will be deployed to small businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as part of Governor Pritzker's overall economic recovery strategy. Business Interruption Grant (BIG) provides $290 million to 9,000 companies across 98 communities across Illinois through a business relief program. B2B is a key component of the Governor's $1.5 billion economic recovery plan, aimed at a swift and equitable deployment of ARPA funds to assist Illinois in recovering from the COVID outbreak.

Assistance with a B2B application and other State and federal grant programs to promote economic recovery for small businesses. Every region of the state has received $9 million from DCEO to support Community Navigator organizations. Underserved businesses, such as minority, rural, veteran, and women-owned firms, will receive technical assistance from these organizations.

Award Information

Keeping track of the awarded funds, we note a release of $250 million until May 11, 2022, with more than 6,657 business awards offered, a testimony to the active role the program plays in fostering economic recovery. This also alludes to the potential business opportunities available for new applicants.

Funding Available

The following categories of businesses are eligible for funding.

  • Small businesses across the state that suffered losses in 2020 from COVID-19 will receive $250 million, including the following set-asides.
    • $100 million – Businesses located in DIAs (Disproportionately Impacted Areas). 
    • $30 million – Businesses in the arts and entertainment industry that did not receive Shuttered Venue Operator grants
    • $25 million – Taverns and restaurants that did not receive the Restaurant Revitalization Fund
    • $25 million – Hotels
    • $25 million – Businesses that did not receive a BIG grant because funds were exhausted
  • A wide range of operations/staff/overhead costs can be covered with grants ranging from $5,000 to $150,000 per business
    • Up to $250,000 for hotels

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant businesses will have to adhere to the following eligibility requirements:

  • The COVID-19 will reduce revenues for businesses with revenues of less than $20 million in 2020
    • $35 million or less for hotels
  • The following categories will receive priority:
    • Industries that are hard hit 
    • DIAs comprising 176 zip codes in hard-hit areas
    • Business owners who haven't qualified for State or Federal funding (including Paycheck Protection Programs, Restaurant Revitalization Funds, Business Interruption Grants, Shuttered Venue Operator Grants, and more)
    • The revenue of a business in 2019 was less than $5 million

A program Certification Agreement must be signed by all grantees after receiving an award. Learn more about the program’s eligibility guidelines and the related FAQs

Chicago Small Business Improvement Fund

Grants are available for building improvements and repairs through the Small Business Improvement Fund. The program is coordinated by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. A grant covering 30 percent to 90 percent of the remodeling or building costs can be applied for by local businesses. Commercial properties can receive grants up to $150,000, while industrial properties can receive grants up to $250,000. A new grant opportunity is announced each month, focusing on different neighborhoods and districts.

Chicago Recovery Plan

$1.2 million has been allocated to support the economic recovery of the city as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan. Funds from grant programs can be used for predevelopment, renovation, or new construction expenses. A minimum of 25 percent of the total project cost must be covered by the applicant. These funding rounds have passed their deadlines. It is expected that a third round will be launched over the summer.

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund

Among Chicago's underserved neighborhoods, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund supports small businesses by providing them with financial assistance. Business owners in the west, south, and southwest portions of the city are eligible to apply for this program, which covers select construction or rehabilitation costs. Larger projects may be eligible for additional funding, while smaller projects may be eligible for up to $250,000.

Illinois Restaurant Association Restaurant Employee Relief Fund

Restaurants and their employees receive grant funding from the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. People who are unable to work due to injuries, illnesses, or deaths of close family members may be able to apply for $250 to $1,500 to cover their living expenses. As part of this grant program, restaurants are able to provide employees with paid time off and additional benefits when they are unable to provide them with paid time off and other benefits.

South Side Pitch

A business plan competition called South Side Pitch is being held to help start-up businesses in Chicago's South Side come to fruition. An annual competition for companies with less than 50 employees and with less than $1 million in revenue has been organized by the University of Chicago Law School's Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship. There will be three grants awarded to the three winners, which are $8,000, $7,000, and $5,000 respectively. Applicants are required to submit their initial applications by August 22. The finalists will then pitch their ideas to a panel of judges before they are chosen.

City of Urbana Business Grants

Select new and growing businesses in the area receive grants between $1,000 and $3,000 from the city of Urbana. Owners and lessees of commercial properties receive business development grants. For those who have not yet launched, opening grants are available. A specific business district in the city is the focus of the program. It is possible to apply for funding on a rolling basis, depending on funds availability.

Metro East Startup Challenge

In addition to servicing businesses in the St. Louis Metro East area, including parts of Illinois, the Metro East Startup Challenge also extends to other areas of the Midwest. As soon as an entrepreneur comes up with the idea for his or her business, they submit an online application. Following that, the finalists will participate in a pitch contest, where the winner of the grand prize will receive a $10,000 cash prize. There is also the possibility of winning some smaller cash prizes. There will be a round of applications in 2022 starting on June 12, and they must be submitted by August 14.

Amber Grants For Women

If you search for grants for women on Google, you will be able to find an extensive list of websites that offer grants for women. As you may have noticed, there are plenty of scams and complicated government (SBA) websites on the Internet.  Information about your personal information as well as your financial records is requested on many types of forms and applications.

With WomensNet, you will be able to find the funds you need to launch your business venture. The process will still require some hard work and time on your part. This site is a great resource for those who are looking for new ways to take their business to the next level. Amber Grants are among the best grants available for women and a great place to start. 

This grant is available to business women from around the country (including Illinois) who want to grow their businesses. If you are interested in applying for the $10,000 Amber Grant, which is given away on a monthly basis, now is the perfect time. As one of their 12 monthly winners, you will automatically be able to apply for a grant of $25,000 if you qualify. The amount of grant money will amount to $35,000 over the course of a year.


The Illinois GrantWatch program offers small busibesses the opportunity to find relevant grants. It offers a unique combination of small business loans and business grants from a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, as well as this website. You can find grant writers who can assist you in preparing outstanding grant proposals by using GrantWatch, which is a free service that helps you locate new grants. There are only a few questions you need to answer in order to apply for a grant. 

The information provided by Illinois GrantWatch can only be accessed by subscribers who have subscribed. The annual subscription costs $199, and the weekly subscription costs $18. Applicants who join as free members are not eligible to apply for grants as they are not paid members.

The Bottom Line

The Illinois Small Business Development Center (ILSBDC) offers a variety of resources to assist small businesses. There are several government and private organizations that provide financial assistance to small businesses affected by Coronavirus. Financial aid for small businesses contributes to the growth of the economy by providing a boost to the economy. If you are looking for funding for your business, take a look at the list of funding sources above and pick one that works for you.

Curious about funding avenues in the southern states? Our latest blog post sheds light on the grants available for small businesses in Louisiana. Broaden your horizons and explore more opportunities for your business with our insightful guide.

Also, Learn about Small Business Grants In Austin Texas

Are you interested in learning more about different grants and programs that can help you with your living situation? Check out the rest of Gov Relations’ blog section today!

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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