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Cook County launches $10 million loan fund to help small businesses, gig workers struggling during coronavirus pandemic

Tuesday, April 07, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Abdel Jimenez

Cook County unveiled a $10 million Community Recovery Fund Tuesday that will offer no-interest loans to suburban small businesses, gig workers, and independent contractors whose livelihoods have been battered by the new coronavirus.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the program, which will provide one-time, five-year loans of up to $20,000 for small businesses and up to $10,000 for independent contractors.

To be eligible, small businesses must have less than $3 million in annual revenue and fewer than 25 workers. Independent contractors like hair stylists, nail technicians, service repair workers, and freelance writers must have less than $100,000 in gross annual income and earn at least half of their income from contract work. Small business, gig workers and contractors must have locations or reside outside of Chicago in Cook County to be considered for those loans.

Interested companies that want to be notified when applications are open should fill out a form on Cook County’s website. The funds will begin accepting applications on a first-come, first-serve basis later this month.

“This is an unprecedented time,” Preckwinkle said at a news conference. “Small businesses, gig workers and entrepreneurs are at the heart of municipalities throughout Cook County and we are doing all that we can to support them. This virus may dictate our present, but it will not write our future.”

The Chicago Community Loan Fund will administer the loans, and a network of community lenders will be involved, Preckwinkle said.

Cook County is launching the $10 million fund with a mix of county funds and federal funding received through the Community Development Block Grant program. Preckwinkle said the county hopes to augment the fund with donations from philanthropic and private sector organizations.

“This fund has been designed to meet the immediate need of the most vulnerable local businesses and workers during the pandemic," Preckwinkle said.

Cook County officials encouraged businesses owners to register for a webinar scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on how to access federal assistance from the stimulus bill.

Twitter @abdel1019



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