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Local News

Over 1,000 Will County businesses apply for COVID-19 relief grants

County officials track diversity among applicant pool

The seal of Will County can be seen Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Will County Coroner's office in Joliet, Ill.
The seal of Will County can be seen Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Will County Coroner's office in Joliet, Ill.

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More than 1,000 Will County businesses have applied for grants available through federal COVID-19 relief aid given to local governments to distribute.

Will County officials have been discussing how best to distribute more than $120 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act to local businesses, municipal governments, nonprofit organizations and more.

A Will County Board ad-hoc committee allocated about $24 million to distribute to small businesses affected by mitigations to slow the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that apply could receive a grant of up to $15,000.

As of Thursday, the county has received 1,060 applications. The county still would have enough money to fulfill more than 500 applications.

Board member Ken Harris, D-Bolingbrook, the committee chairman, said he hopes more businesses apply before the Monday deadline. The CARES Act mandates the money given to local governments needs to be spent by the end of the calendar year.

Harris added that the county may open another application period later this year if there is money left over.

"If we don't get more applications, we'll see what more we can do," he said.

The Bronner Group, a Chicago-based government professional services firm the county hired to help distribute the money, has updated the committee regularly with data on the kinds of businesses that have applied thus far.

Not surprisingly, the county has received the most applications from businesses in the restaurant, retail, personal care and professional services industries, according to Bronner's report Thursday.

Bronner also reported a breakdown of grant applicants by race and ethnicity. About 49% of them are white, 21% are Black and 12% were Latino. About 18% of applicants identified as multiracial or other, or said they preferred not to respond.

Harris said he was very pleased to see Bronner's efforts to reach out to as many communities as possible throughout the county. Committee members have suggested Bronner reach out to specific community and business groups, media outlets and others to ensure news of the grant applications gets to as many Will County residents as possible.

Harris said the data Bronner was presenting is useful for the county to ensure its being "inclusive" of different businesses, including those owned by residents of color.

The county still plans on opening up applications for about $6 million available for nonprofit organizations, including about $1.5 million for behavioral health programs.

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