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CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra is Working for Chicago, helping to get money in the hands of struggling business owners. And for one program, time is ticking away.
It’s latest effort is targeting small businesses in communities and industries that COVID ravaged. And those funds are already making a difference.
Consider this your one week warning. The state of Illinois continues to distribute American Rescue Plan money.
Inside the Pilsen storefront of Rosalva Ruiz, she arranges bouquets for companies and a couple’s big days.
“It’s Flor del Monte.”
“Ninety percent is weddings, the other corporate. It brings us joy,” Ruiz said.
But the pandemic took her business from two-three weddings a weekend, to four events in all of 2020.
“It was very difficult for us to sustain the business,” Ruiz said. A federal Paycheck Protection Program loan kept them open. And though business is coming back, 2021 saw huge price increases in all of their inventory.
“Especially the floral product, by 50-65%” Ruiz said. “So even though we have work, it’s very hard to stay afloat.” So Ruiz looked for more help. And she found it, with the state’s Back to Business Grant Program.
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Ruiz represents what the program aims to target. Small businesses in areas of high poverty and high number of COVID cases in hard hit industries. More than half of the recipients so far are people of color. “We know the pandemic has exacerbated inequities that we’ve seen before so having an equity lens in everything we do is really critical,” Garcia said.
“We are just so happy,” Ruiz said. Sylvia Garcia is the director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, that’s running the effort. The first $24 million in grants went out last week. Including $20,000 to Flor del Monte.