By Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) — A $20 million boost to businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reports from Hyde Park on a new Chicago grant program aimed at helping more businesses survive and compete.

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Federal dollars are behind the new program called Chi Biz Strong,  which will award $5,000 to $10,000 grants to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

It’s launch day for Nikkita Randle’s re-branded business Twisted Eggroll. But the Kenwood chef’s post-pandemic plan isn’t just catering. She’s also entering the world of e-commerce.

“I said so this is a good time to do a consumer package good,” Randle said.

Randle started Twisted Eggroll in 2015 and said catering and pop up kiosks took off. Then came the shutdown.

“Literally, day-by-day, everything just kept getting cancelled until by March 15, I made the decision, like hey we’re going to finish out this week and we’re going to have to go ahead and shutdown,” Randle said.

March 17th, 2020 was her last day of business. The abrupt stop left her with bills but no revenue. But a $10,000 dollar low-interest loan from 2020 from the city helped her tie up loose ends.

“Make sure payroll was squared away in all those types of things, so that was that was pretty much the majority of what that money went to, and it really helped keep my credit score and all that intact with my business,” Randle said.

“Last year, we’ve disbursed $69.2 million to 5,987 recipients.”

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The acting commissioner of Chicago’s Business Affairs’ and Consumer Protection Department Ken Meyer now hopes a new $20 million round of grants called Chi Business Strong, targeted for small businesses and non-profits, will help jumpstart commerce even more.

“Perhaps it’s a small business that literally had to close during stay at home orders that needs additional funding to help themselves get back into place,” Meyer said.

Meyer said federal dollars are behind the past loan and current grant program. Randle believes the city loan made this re-launch possible.

“Absolutely do not hesitate,” Randle said.

The city also announced a $2 million outdoor dining grant program, which would award $5,000 grants to small restaurants and bars to expand outdoor dining.

In a news release, the city of Chicago detailed the program and what it takes to participate:

Applications are open through Friday, November 12, 2021, at 11:59 PM. To apply, visit Chicago.gov/ChiBizStrongGrant. Grants will be awarded in December to ensure that businesses and nonprofits receive this much-needed relief as quickly as possible.
The city of Chicago will host informational webinars on the following dates to assist applicants in preparing their application:

• October 26 at 1:00 PM in English for For-Profit Businesses
• October 26 at 4:00 PM in English for Non-Profit Organizations
• October 27 at 10:00 AM in Spanish for For-Profit Organizations
• October 27 at 12:00 PM in Spanish for Non-Profit Organizations
• October 28 at 10:00 AM in Mandarin for For-Profit/Non-Profit

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To register and learn more, visit Chicago.gov/ChiBizStrongGrant. The webinars will be recorded and available for later viewing at YouTube.com/ChicagoBACP.