NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — We don’t have to tell you – hardships from the past year have been tough all over, but especially for our local small businesses.

CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra took a look Tuesday night at the rush for help in DuPage County.

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It is the personal attention that keeps customers coming to Dean’s Clothing in Naperville.

“Those are the people that make the difference for Dean’s,” said owner Greg Degeeter. “You can buy clothes anywhere.”

But for the first time in more than 60 years in business, the family-run shop was at risk of losing the staff that makes Dean’s what it is.

“It’s been a struggle – I mean, trying to take care of the bills and meet the payrolls,” Degeeter said.

Degeeter, the second-generation owner, doesn’t sugarcoat it. The Paycheck Protection Program helped him keep all his employees on staff when his business was down 50 percent. As things reopen, he’s only down 20 percent – but you don’t dig out of a hole like that so fast.

“I mean, the amount of money that we lost last year – every little bit helps,” Degeeter said.

His next shot at financial assistance comes from the American Rescue Plan through DuPage County. The board allocated $15 million in grants to small businesses.

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The county opened the window for applications Monday at 9 a.m. sharp. They closed it at 2 p.m., and the response was staggering. In that time, they heard from 613 businesses.

“So within five hours, we received applications totaling $25 million worth of requests,” Greg Badalov of Choose DuPage told CBS 2’s Saavedra over Zoom as Saavedra expressed some surprise that that figure. “So that – number one, yeah, I see you shaking your head – that’s a strong indication of how in demand a program like this is in DuPage throughout the United States.”

Badalov is part of the program that will help vet these businesses to decide which will make the cut.

“Once we hit $15 million, we have the unfortunate task of going back to those businesses and saying, there’s just no money left in the pool,” he said.

Degeeter is confident he’ll meet the requirements.

“There’s a $50,000 maximum, and I did apply for the full amount,” he said.

He plans to use the money to catch up on bills, and keep paying his people, so Dean’s can survive another 60 years.

“Am I ever going to recoup what I lost? No,” Degeeter said. “Of course this is a help, but it’s nowhere near what I’ve lost. All I want to do is try to provide for my employees, and the community.

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DuPage County hopes to have a short list of businesses that have cleared the first hurdle by the end of this week. They will be vetted, and those that are approved could see that money by the end of August.

Marie Saavedra