In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests of up to 30,000 people, many of Chicago’s small businesses are facing steep financial difficulties. And although the city is cautiously reopening, which will lead to increased profitability, too many small businesses are still in need of assistance.
On June 5, 2020, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that her administration would allocate $10 million to a fund dedicated to rebuilding non-profits and small businesses affected by looting and other forms of vandalism during Chicago’s recent protests. The product of a joint partnership among the City of Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust, and One Chicago Fund, the Together Now fund is expected to serve as a resource to assist with clean-up, boarding up, construction, and other repairs needed to restore businesses to their previous state, and thus help them thrive again as the city allows increasing access to patrons.
The assistance is available to business-owner applicants throughout Chicago, but the city recognizes that “the economic burden is not shared equally and often sits on top of existing historical inequities and damage.” As a result, the city will conduct “equity weighting” to address uninsured businesses and those located in neighborhoods that have endured divestment. The city plans to give special consideration to businesses located on the south and west sides.
In addition to the amount provided by her administration, Lightfoot encouraged private companies and philanthropic organizations to make their own contributions to the effort. Grocery giant Jewel-Osco quickly stepped up. Several of its stores were damaged by looting and vandalism but were able to be repaired within about a week. In a demonstration of solidarity with smaller businesses that faced damage and financial losses, Jewel-Osco pledged $1 million to Together Now. The grocery chain has also launched a pin pad campaign throughout its Chicago stores, allowing customers to donate to the Together Now fund during checkout. The initiative will run through July 31.
Another initiative has been championed by the local youth advocacy group My Block, My Hood, My City. It recently raised over $1 million in just two days for its Small Business Relief Fund, dedicated to helping small businesses that have suffered from looting, vandalism, the coronavirus pandemic, or any combination of the three. The fund is geared toward Black-owned businesses and businesses in underserved areas of Chicago, and will focus on “essential businesses, like stores with healthy foods, over spots like liquor stores,” according to Jahmal Cole, the group’s founder.
The results of My Block, My Hood, My City’s fundraising is an outstanding show of unity and support by the community not only for the City of Chicago, but for the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. Cole indicated in a recent statement that he plans to direct his organization to provide digital training to Black-owned businesses and anti-discrimination resources to small businesses in Chicago. If you are interested in donating time or funds to My Block, My Hood, My City’s programs, you can do so here.
Additional resources for relief related to COVID-19 or small business rebuilding can be found here: