CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday announced the deployment of the first $46 million in the state’s Business Interruption Grant program to help small businesses that have hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first round of grants will help more than 2,600 businesses in more than 400 cities and towns – spread out over 78 of 102 Illinois counties.

“These businesses represent our local barbers, our local restaurants, gyms, and much more,” said Michael Negron, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Pritzker said the initial focus is on the businesses that were most severely impacted and had to shut down completely in the spring, and also businesses in areas that suffered looting during civil unrest.

The program has also set aside a substantial allotment for child care providers, Pritzker said.

Pritzker and Negron also both emphasized that this round of grants focused in particular on minority-owned businesses and communities of color.

Pritzker said the federal Paycheck Protection Program has overlooked too many entrepreneurs and small shops.

Karen Freeman-Wilson of the Chicago Urban League said the state program amounts to the difference between a business getting through the pandemic and a business shutting down.

“I intend to do everything in my power to alleviate the pain that COVID is inflicting across Illinois,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also issued a warning about the direction that COVID-19 figures have been going lately in Illinois.

The North Central, West Central, Metro East, South Suburban, and North Suburban regions of the state have all seen increases in their positivity rates, while several others, including the city of Chicago, have seen their regions remain the same.

Pritzker warned that there is a threshold past which a region could be taken back to an earlier phase of reopening, and the governor and Ezike also reiterated that wearing masks is mandatory and works.

he Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported another increase in cases with 1,645 new COVID-19 cases, including 16 additional confirmed deaths.

Illinois has recorded 98,593 cases, including 7,672 deaths throughout the state.

In a span of 24 hours, Illinois has conducted over 42,000 COVID-19 tests.