The coronavirus pandemic has left many small business owners wondering how they are going to pay rent or their employees.
A new federal stimulus program kicked off Friday to help, with emergency loans available to put money in the hands of businesses that desperately need it.
A survey of suburban Cook County businesses found that nearly 80% were worried about paying their workers, their rent and staying afloat during this crisis.
A new initiative launched by Cook County and several community partners want to make sure small business owners know about the federal dollars available starting Friday.
“We will beat this virus, but we got to communicate, educate all our small business and restaurants from the south Cook County to the west Cook County to the north Cook County," Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said.
It's called the Paycheck Protection Program and amounts to roughly $350 billion up for grabs in emergency loans.
Businesses with 500 or fewer emoloyees can apply for the loan offered through their existing banks or approved lenders, and repayment will be forgiven if all employees continue to be paid.
Cook County made several resources available to guide business owners through the loan process.
"I can tell you this: we’re doing everything we can in Cook County to ensure that businesses, non-profits and gig workers survive this crisis and thrive when it’s finally over," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.
Banks do appear to have some questions about the program, though, with Chase saying it still needs more guidance from the federal government before it can start processing loan applications.
Banks were directed to start accepting applications at 12 a.m. and the money is first-come, first-serve - so anyone who could benefit should apply as soon as possible.
More information on Cook County's guide to applying can be found here.