Small Business Resource Guide

Updated Oct. 26, 2020

DPD's Small Business Advocacy division is tracking all available resources from the public, private and nonprofit sectors that can help Chicago entrepreneurs re-open and grow following recent civil unrest and the ongoing public health crisis. Program questions can be directed to Deputy Commissioner Mary O'Connor at mary.o'connor@cityofchicago.org.

Know about a program that should be listed here? Let us know at DPD@cityofchicago.org. And be sure to review the resources listed on the City's coronavirus website.

City of Chicago

Reopening

Effective Oct. 23, the City of Chicago is instituting a series of new restrictions that will be in effect for at least two weeks. This includes:

  • All non-essential businesses must be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Last call for liquor at restaurants and bars must be at 9 p.m. nightly, including cocktails to-go
  • Take-out and curbside pickup of food and non-alcoholic drinks is still permitted
  • Sale of packaged liquor must still cease at 9 p.m. nightly
  • Bars, breweries, and taverns without a retail food license may no longer serve patrons indoors

For detailed information, visit www.chicago.gov/reopening.

Restaurant Winterization Grants

The City has partnered with DoorDash's Main Street Strong initiative and the Illinois Restaurant Association to provide $5,000 grants to help local restaurants defray winterization expenses, including heating equipment, air filtration upgrades for indoor dining, bulk orders of blankets and more.

The application is now live at doordash.helloalice.com. To qualify, restaurants must be located in Chicago with three or fewer locations operating currently, 50 employees or fewer in 2019, and $3 million or less in 2019 annual revenue per store.

The application will be open through Friday, Nov. 6, and grant recipients will be notified by the end of December.

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund

The small business grant program, now in its fourth year, offers up to $250,000 to entrepreneurs on the South, West and Southwest sides seeking to start, grow or rebuild their business.

The program awards grants to projects that have a catalytic impact on the neighborhood and lead to the construction or rehabilitation of new and existing, publicly accessible, commercial spaces or cultural establishments. It does not award grants for the construction or rehabilitation of residential uses, manufacturing uses, industrial uses, or places of worship that do not identify commercial as the primary use of a project.

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is accepting applications for the next round of funding through Friday, Nov. 6. More than $5 million is available. For more information or to apply, visit www.chicago.gov/nof

Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF)

The Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) program uses Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues to help owners of commercial and industrial properties within specific TIF districts to repair or remodel their facilities for their own business or on behalf of tenants.

Program participants can receive grants to cover between 25 percent and 75 percent of the cost of remodeling work, with a maximum grant of $100,000 for commercial properties and $150,000 for industrial properties.

For more information on current and upcoming application rounds, visit www.chicago.gov/sbif

Texting Alerts and Property Damage

Local business owners should text "CHIBIZ" to 67283 or visit chicago.gov/chibizalerts to opt in to targeted alerts for their neighborhood from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication. 

Through this program, business owners will receive targeted emergency alerts specifically for the business community. In the event your business is damaged, consider the following steps:

  • Notify your insurance company and your broker/agent about the facts of your claim
  • Collect documentation, such as photos, inventory documentation and security footage
  • Prevent further damage by boarding/covering windows and removing items of value
  • Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy

Together Now Fund

The “Together Now” was designed by Mayor Lightfoot to help Chicago small businesses and non-profits that have experienced economic distress due to COVID-19 or recent property damage. 

The $15 million fund is supported by an initial commitment of $10 million from the City of Chicago, a $1 million contribution from Jewel-Osco, and several million dollars in additional private donations.

The initial round of grants is expected help more than 2,500 small businesses. For more information, visit www.chicago.gov/togethernow.

Anyone who wishes to make a tax deductible donation to the Together Now fund can do so on the Chicago Community Trust's website.

Together Now is a collaboration between the City of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust and One Chicago Fund.

PPE Marketplace

The City of Chicago's Personal Protective Equiment (PPE) Market provides Chicago's small businesses, community-based organizations, and not-for-profits with transparent pricing and direct access to local PPE suppliers. For more information, visit the program's website.

Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit

This new permit has been created specifically for temporary outdoor dining.

Existing, fully-licensed restaurants and food establishments may apply to temporarily use streets and private property to extend dining space, where proper social distancing and adherence to public health guidelines are observed.

Applications will be accepted from Chambers of Commerce, SSAs, Business Associations, or a minimum of three establishments (on a contiguous city block) applying together for full-service restaurants, limited-service restaurants and non-alcoholic beverage bars to serve food, beverages and liquor for consumption. Applicants may request full street closure (maintaining a 12-foot fire lane) or use of private property, as long as:

  • Establishments only allow outdoor dining and drinking;
  • Seating is for parties of 6 persons or fewer;
  • Food and drinks are prepared inside the licensed establishments;
  • The proper social distancing of six feet between customers is observed; and
  • Health guidelines set by public health officials are followed.

To apply for the permit, see the permit portal.

Small Business Resource Navigator

The Small Business Resource Navigator program from BACP will provide individualized counseling for business owners who need help navigating the resources available for those impacted by the pandemic. More information on the locations and services of these navigators can be found on BACP's website.

Chi COVID Coach

The Chicago Department of Public Health has launched "Chi COVID Coach," a mobile-friendly, web-based application designed to support residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. You can find the app at chicago.gov/COVIDCOACH.

Cook County

Community Recovery Initiative

Cook County has launched a comprehensive initiative to provide economic relief to small businesses, non-profits, community service organizations and independent contractors in response to the pandemic. More information can be found on the county's website.

State of Illinois

Small Business Relief

The State of Illinois is currently offering two programs for small businesses: the Business Interruption Grants Program (BIG) and the new Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC) program. In its upcoming second round of funding, BIG program will provide $220 million to businesses who have experienced losses or business interruption due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The RDC program will provide $25 million in funding to cover the cost of civil-unrest related repairs while also supporting new investments in economically distressed communities across Illinois.

For the latest information on both programs, visit the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)'s website.

Economic Injury Loan Program

All Illinois small businesses are currently eligible to apply for loans of up to $2 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Loan Program. These loans can go toward working capital to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable and fixed debt payments until economic conditions improve. Interest rates are 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for non-profits. Applications are open now on the SBA's website.

The Illinois SBA District Office is also hosting free webinars to discuss eligibility, use of proceeds, terms, filing requirements and additional small business resources. Small business coaching may also be available, visit sba.gov/local-assistance to find a resource near you, or email any questions to Illinois.do@sba.gov.

Federal Government

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program from the SBA can help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic. Visit the SBA's website for more information.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The EIDL is available to provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses experiencing difficulties due to the current pandemic. SBA will resume processing EIDL Loan and Advance applications that are already in the queue at a first-come, first-serve basis. Visit the SBA's website for more information.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC is suggesting steps that small business owners can take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonprofit and Private Sectors

North Branch Works

The Local Industrial Retention Initiative group is offering low interest loans to businesses in Avondale, East Garfield Park, Hermosa, Humboldt Park, Irving Park, Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Near North, Near West Side, North Center, West Garfield Park and West Town.

Startup businesses that have been operating three years or less are eligible for loans up to $25,000. Existing businesses operating for more than three years are eligible for loans up to $50,000.

To learn more about the loan program and application process, visit northbranchworks.org, or contact Steve Simmons at North Branch Works at 773.929.5552, ext. 2226 or Steve@northbranchworks.org.

World Business Chicago

The city's leading economic development agency is hosting a series of webinars in conjunction with ChiBizHub. Recordings of previous sessions are available on the ChiBizHub website.

Tock

The City has partnered with the restaurant reservation app Tock to give restaurants located in low-income areas a free six-month subscription to Tock Plus Lite. For more information, contact Tock.

Google

The world's largest search engine is offering $340 million in Adwords credits to affected businesses. More information is available on the company's website.

Facebook

The social media giant is offering $100 million in cash grants and advertising credits to small businesses during the pandemic. More information is available on the company's website.

GoFundMe

The company's Small Business Relief Initiative is providing small matching grants for COVID-related business fundraisers on its website. More information is available on the company's website.

University CoWork

The South Side-based business development center is regularly updating a list of local, national, public, and private grants and loans related to the pandemic. For more information, visit their website.

Spanx By Sara Blakely Foundation

The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation established the Red Backpack Fund to support female entrepreneurs. GlobalGiving will oversee the fund, making grants of $5,000 to female entrepreneurs to cover immediate costs and support long-term recovery.

Grant applications will open up each month. Upcoming application rounds will open May 4, June 1, July 6 and Aug. 3. For more information, visit the Red Backpack Fund website.

Small Business Hotline

Seated offers free advice from finance, law, accounting, human resource and business experts for entrepreneurs who need help navigating the current crisis. For more information, visit Seated's website.

Small Business Listings

Several websites are offering free listings to make it easy for consumers to find local businesses to patronize during this crisis. Check out 37 Oaks and Dining at a Distance.

 Service Facts