Oak Park businesses and non-profits will get a piece of the village’s share of America Rescue Plan Act funds in the form of a new grant program, for which $550,000 has been allocated. Called the “Oak Park Business and Non-Profit Coronavirus Recovery” program the grant program was designed by village staff to be easy to apply for and accessible to many entities.

The village board approved the use of the Rescue funds for the program Aug. 30, although Trustees Arti Walker-Peddakotla and Chibuike Enyia voted against doing so out of concern that the not enough had been done to gather the community’s input.

Out of the $550,000 allotted to the program, $300,000 will be go toward helping small businesses make past-due rent or mortgage payments. The village will provide individual organizations vying for this assistance up to $5,000, on the condition that the business has less than $3 million in annual average gross business receipts. The village estimates that $300,000 in grant funds could result in helping at least 60 Oak Park businesses.

The village will make $150,000 available out of the $550,000 to reimburse small businesses for personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases and safety equipment installation expenses incurred since March 2020. Each individual business, providing they have less than $3 million in annual average gross business receipts, can receive up to $2,500. Program guidelines state that the $150,000 could provide assistance to 60 businesses at least.

Finally, $100,000 will be set aside to provide grants of up to $3,000 to Oak Park non-profits for reimbursement of PPE purchases and safety equipment installation expenses incurred since March 2020.  The village estimates $100,000 could result in at least 33 non-profits receiving assistance.

Trustee Susan Buchanan told the board that she, prior to the meeting, had discussed the grant program with the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce personnel and relayed they were “generally supportive” of the grant initiative.

The grant program has a simpler application process than COVID-19 relief grants the village provided to businesses through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Coronavirus Aid, for which the federal government had very strict and specific income eligibility requirements. Those requirements are not attached to current grants, according to Tammie Grossman, Oak Park development customer services director.  

The new grant applications are only one page and can be found on the village’s website. In addition to filling out an application, program guidelines state that non-profits and businesses must attest they qualify for the grants, as well as provide copies of receipts for PPE and safety equipment installations or provide an assigned letter from a landlord or mortgage holder to confirm past-due payments. The latter requirement is specific only to businesses.

“The benefit of the current program, as we currently have structured it, is that it’s very simplified, very easy,” Grossman told the board.

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