HIGHLAND PARK, IL — Local businesses that have incurred operational costs due to the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for a new matching grant program created by the Highland Park City Council.
The Financial Assistance for Retailers and Restaurants, or FARR, grant program consists of $255,000 in funding to go toward covering the cost of making sure restaurants and retailers can provide a safer environment for staff and customers and comply with state and federal public health mandates, city officials announced.
“The City Council and staff deeply understand that our businesses are in survival mode," Mayor Nancy Rotering said in a statement announcing the program. "After months of working together, offering reduced fees, easing restrictions, and coordinating other assistance, the City Council was compelled to create the FARR Grant Program."
Small businesses can apply to be reimbursed for up to half of the cost of any expenses related to COVID-19 public health mitigations incurred from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, 2021. Eligible expenses include hand sanitizer, barriers, cleaning equipment, filtration systems, heaters, tents, new signage and more, according to city staff.
The maximum matching grant for restaurants is $10,000. Retailers can have up to $5,000 of their expenses covered.
To qualify, businesses must be located in a commercial building within the boundaries of Highland Park, must have a net worth below $2 million and must generate less than an average annual profit of $200,000 per year, after taxes, for two years.
Applications are available online and will be reviewed by city staff, with final approval decisions left to the city manager.
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To finance the program, the City Council approved the reallocation of $227,500 from the city's Sustainability Fund and $27,500 that had been set aside for planned expenditures from the general fund.
According to city staff, moving the money around will not hinder the city's planned sustainable infrastructure improvements planned for the coming years after the money is offset by contributions from other funds.
“We carefully reviewed our budget and made adjustments to help our valued restaurants and retailers. They are the heart of our community and need all of the help they can get," Rotering said. "This limited-time grant program enables the City to help qualifying businesses make the operational changes necessary to continue to provide service, offer employment, and generate revenue during the pandemic.”