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SIU workshops to help Southern Illinois businesses apply for COVID grants

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Southern Illinois business impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for financial assistance through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s new "Back to Business" grant program.

They can also learn more about how to obtain these grants, thanks to free online workshops offered by the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Greg Bouhl, director of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at SIU, said the Back to Business grants are an opportunity for businesses left out of other pandemic-relief packages to potentially gain assistance.

“We have seen many businesses that haven’t previously gotten to apply for many of the COVID-related business grant and loan funds due to the complexity of the programs,” he said. “This additional funding and the Back to Business program will focus on helping those businesses that haven’t received funding and that are still struggling.”

Bouhl said grant applicants from the hardest-hit industries such as hospitality, health care, tourism and the arts will receive priority.

To help business owners apply for the grants – which range from $5,000 to $150,000 – the SBDC is hosting four free workshops about the program via Zoom. Bouhl said the workshops will include information on eligibility, the application process and how funds can be used.

Additionally, a new “Community Navigator Program” to help businesses better access COVID-related assistance programs has been launched thanks to a grant to Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Corporation for use by the SIU Office of Innovation and Economic Development along with small business development centers at Shawnee Community College, Southeastern Community College and other institutions.

“At SIU, this funds a few positions to directly work with business and work one-on-one with people to help them with applications and to help those hardest-hit small businesses,” Bouhl said.

The four Back to Business workshops are set for 11 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 12; 1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 13; 1 p.m., Monday, Aug. 16 and 3 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18.

To register for a workshop, learn more about the Back to Business grant program or to begin work with the Community Navigator program, visit https://sbdc.siu.edu/, call 618-536-2424 or email gbouhl@biz.siu.edu.

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