SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — As the federal government continues to disagree on the stimulus plan's direct relief payments, one part of the bill seems to have universal approval: $12 billion specifically for minority-owned businesses through paycheck protection funding.
If the December stimulus bill passes, Illinois is set to get a cut of that money.
"Finally, they're paying attention," said Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce President Dominic Watson.
Watson said he feels like the federal government is finally recognizing the struggle minority-owned small businesses face.
"Cautiously optimistic" is how Watson described his attitude toward the potentially incoming cash.
"There's a huge daily battle, I mean, probably hourly battle," Watson said of small businesses during the pandemic. "It's overwhelming right now, but I think, traditionally, the journey of a Black-owned business owner is just as challenging."
Watson said the pandemic is shining a light on the disparity between minority-owned businesses and their counterparts, a divide he said has existed for years.
Corrine Campbell, owner of Corrine's Closet in Springfield, said she's excited for the stimulus money, but she's not relying on it to keep her downtown storefront alive.
"Coming from a country where there's no help, you just know, if there's no help, you have to put your best foot forward and work harder," Campbell said.
Campbell said she wishes the government would move faster in their deliberations and hopes the state government will make the funding applications quick and easy to understand.
Applying for every grant available, Campbell said it can be difficult to fill out complex applications and still tend to much-appreciated customers.
Restaurants have also taken a hit during the pandemic, including MJ's Fish and Chicken in Springfield.
Owner Jerome Taylor said they were lucky to have a carryout format already established, but the stimulus money will help get them back on their feet.
"We've had to make sacrifices as a business ourself to keep all our employees employed, keep the doors open, and keep the bills paid, so that bit of relief would be welcome," Taylor said.
Campbell and Taylor agree the community has played a huge role in keeping their businesses alive.
Campbell said she's had lots of customers come in to check on her because they knew she was a local business.
Taylor said the loyal MJ's customers have never given up on them and still order food in support of the restaurant.
Taylor said MJ's Fish and Chicken was actually looking to move to a more prime location in Springfield before the pandemic, but those plans had to be put on hold for the time being.
Downtown Springfield, Inc., reports more than half of the first-round Business Interruption Grants (BIG) Program funding went to minority-owned businesses.
You can find more information about small business assistance grants from the city here.