Cook County Celebrates Small Business Grants Awarded to 3,000 Recipients (Cook County, IL) — On Tuesday, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle joined small-business owners, Business Support Organizations and other partners at The Hatchery to celebrate the distribution of the 2023 Source Grant. The program represents a historic $50 million investment in both city neighborhoods and suburban communities through the Cook County Small Business Source.
“Cook County’s small businesses have faced uncharted waters in the post-pandemic economy, and this grant provides the stability they need to thrive in 2024 and beyond,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Small businesses have shown a unique tenacity and staying power in surviving the pandemic, and they are important assets to our community.”
After an application process that saw over 16,000 applications, the program’s grant administrators–the Women’s Business Development Center and Allies for Community Business–confirmed eligibility and submission of required documentation. Administrators then utilized a lottery process to select the 3,000 recipients from the pool of eligible applications.
Grant recipients received notice of their award in mid-December and the funds in January. Depending on the level of annual sales, businesses received either $10,000 or $20,000 grants. Other eligibility criteria included: a location in Cook County, less than 20 employees and having been in operation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant may be used for business expenses like payroll, operating expenses, lease or rent payments and inventory acquisition vital to the business. Funds cannot be used for capital improvements or personal expenses.
Among the recipients, 60 percent are located in suburban Cook County and 60 percent are in priority sectors, which includes arts and entertainment; childcare and social assistance; hospitality, food and tourism; retail trade; and transportation and warehousing. Forty-five veteran-owned businesses also received grants.
Cheryl Vargas, who owns Studio 928, an art-focused business in suburban La Grange, said it was “beyond exciting” to receive a grant. After serving as a sole entrepreneur, she has used funds to hire an administrative assistant.
“I’m so excited,” Vargas said. “It’s the best move I’ve ever made.”
Another recipient also expressed gratitude.
“This is incredible news, and I am beyond grateful to have been selected for this assistance,” the business owner said. “Thank you so much for what will be a huge boost as I continue to try to crawl out from under the wreckage of the pandemic. Thanks again for all of your efforts in facilitating these grants.”
In funding this grant program, Cook County utilized $50 million from a pool of $1 billion received from the American Rescue Plan Act, the economic-stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. The program originally planned to distribute $40 million but received additional funding due to the overwhelming interest in the grant.
Cook County also partnered with Next Street, a Chicago firm that supports small-business development, on the program.
For a full list of grant recipients, visit the Cook County Small Business Source website at cookcountysmallbiz.org.
Cook County Celebrates Small Business Grants Awarded to 3,000 Recipients