NORMAL — A total $450,000 was distributed to 50 Normal small businesses for COVID-19 assistance through the town's Small Business Relief Program.
Three also received support through a partnership with students enrolled in Illinois State University's College of Business.
"As a long-standing business owner, I know how important these funds are in sustaining many small businesses during these unprecedented times," said Mayor Chris Koos, who owns Vitesse Cycle Shop, on Wednesday. "I proudly support all efforts to bring financial assistance back to our community.”
The grant program, using funds allocated to the town through the state Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Support Program, launched in November to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic. Grant awards ranged from $807 to the $15,000 maximum, and the average award was $9,000.
The three categories for funds were:
- Operational Assistance Grant: For expenses related to sustaining business operations, such as rent, mortgage and utilities
- Digital and Marketing Support: For businesses increasing digital systems and marketing, such as social media marketing, creating point of sale systems or website enhancements
- Business Modification Grant: For COVID-19-related modifications to ensure continued service, such as building modifications or additional cleaning supplies
Sixty-seven businesses applied to the program seeking a total $760,045 in assistance, said Normal Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson. That is more than $300,000 beyond what the town could provide.
Several businesses who applied to the program were ineligible due to receiving funds through the state's Business Interruption Grant.
Awards were given to various businesses across the service industry, such as restaurants, retail, hospitality and others. Restaurants received a total of $192,755, or 68% of funding.
Those receiving the highest awards are Destihl Beer Hall, D.P. Dough, Los Potrillos, Moe's Southwest Grill, The Original Pancake House, The Rock, and Windy City Wieners. Each received $15,000.
Partnering with ISU, three local business received help from students for digital and marketing support.
Through the unique program the town partnered students seeking experience with businesses in need of additional marketing. The three participating businesses were Fabulous Affairs, Uptown Gifts and Wild Country.
“Working with the ISU students was very helpful and an overall great experience,” Kristin Moore, owner of Uptown Gifts, said in a statement. “The students made astute assessments of our social media/online presence that will help us make informed decisions going forward. It was a very worthwhile exercise.”
The program was available to businesses who applied for the Digital and Marketing Support grant. Students were contracted for about 30 hours of work to be completed by Dec. 30.
“This was a win-win,” said Aaron Charlton, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at ISU. “Our students consulted with interested business to identify how best they could help. They identified several opportunities to improve search engine optimization, increase online visibility, improve digital transactions and enhance social media marketing.”
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Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.