Opportunity to assist Small Businesses via expansion of Community Navigator program

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO), making up to $10 million in additional grant funding available for community partners who can assist the State in reaching more small businesses. This is a significant expansion of DCEO’s community navigator program. Since the program’s launch last fall, tens of thousands of small businesses have received additional help applying for emergency grants.

With many small businesses still struggling from the impact of COVID-19, the expansion of community navigator services will play an essential role in helping more disadvantaged businesses benefit from ongoing federal relief efforts and future business relief programs to aid in economic recovery.

Leveraging community organizations through a hub-and-spoke model, the navigator model has assisted the State with providing comprehensive outreach and services focused on small businesses facing barriers to accessing emergency pandemic relief. Through the NOFO, DCEO will expand the program by issuing approximately 15 additional grants to reach small businesses in every part of the State through partner organizations.

Navigator partners provide businesses with several amenities, including direct assistance on funding applications, language assistance, on-the-ground outreach, webinars, technical assistance sessions, and more. This tailored approach includes assistance for minority-owned, very small businesses and those located in rural communities – companies that may be at a disadvantage in competing for grant programs alongside larger and more well-resourced companies. Community navigators will provide specialized outreach to target businesses that typically face barriers in accessing capital and funding opportunities. This includes small businesses located in rural areas or disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) designated by DCEO and small businesses owned by members of the following communities: racial or ethnic minorities, veterans, immigrants, women, and individuals with disabilities.

DCEO will accept applications from a wide range of organization types, including but not limited to: chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, community organizations, business incubators, and more, with a goal of helping grant recipients ramp up outreach to begin this summer.

To learn more or apply for this grant, please visit DCEO’s website.

Applications are due on Wednesday, June 9.