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Illinois Awards $46 Million From Second Round Of Grants To Help Small Businesses Struggling During Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With more than half the state either currently under a ban on indoor dining and bar service, or facing those added COVID-19 restrictions by the weekend, Gov. JB Pritzker said a program to help small businesses during the pandemic is now working more quickly to get money out.

Illinois has already given out a total of $46 million in relief funds to more than 1,200 small businesses – including $19.5 million for restaurants and bars – so far during the second round of the state's Business Interruption Grants program, funded by the federal coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress in the spring.

"These types of grants that come to small businesses, they come in the size of five-, ten-, twenty-thousand [dollars], but we hope these grants are able to keep these businesses going and growing," Pritzker said Thursday morning.

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Pritzker has said restaurants and bars that have been forced to halt indoor service will be given priority for the available financial aid during the $220 million second round of the Business Interruption Grants program.

During the first round of the program earlier this year, the state provided more than $49 million to 2,800 small businesses.

The governor also said the available grants are not enough to help the state's struggling business community. He has called on Congress and President Donald Trump to approve another coronavirus stimulus plan that provides direct aid to restaurants, bars, and other small businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Due to a second surge of the virus, 8 of the state's 11 regions are either currently under enhanced mitigations, or will be by Saturday, including: Chicago, suburban Cook County, Will and Kankakee counties, Lake and McHenry counties, DuPage and Kane counties, southern Illinois, northwestern Illinois, and the Metro East area near St. Louis.

The restrictions include a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants; lower limits on gathering sizes; shutting down party buses; and requiring bars, restaurants, and casinos to close at 11 p.m.

On Wednesday, Pritzker warned that Region 3 in west-central Illinois could see added restrictions as soon as Sunday, and Region 6 in east-central Illinois could be under extra mitigations by Monday.

The governor acknowledged many small businesses won't be able to survive the pandemic without financial support, and he said Congress and President Donald Trump need to step up with another stimulus plan.

"I know this virus is very hard on everyone. The damage COVID-19 is doing to people's lives and livelihoods, and for many people the fight has gotten harder as the months have passed," Pritzker said Wednesday. "Despite what the stock market looks like the real economy for real people has been brutalized by this virus, and the Republican-controlled United States Senate has refused time and time again to give workers and those unable to work, and local governments and small businesses the kind of support that they need."

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