Mayor Lightfoot Announces $10 Million In Grants Through 2020 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund

Rachel Pierson
January 21, 2020 - 11:37 am
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

WBBM Newsradio/Craig Dellimore

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, elected officials and community members, announced Tuesday $10 million in new business development grants provided by the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) program.

"I've heard from small businesses all over the city for two plus years that NOF wasn't really meaningful for them. It was a matching grant, and when you don't have the funds, you can't match. So we want to change this and we are changing it to make sure that we actually put money in the hands of small businesses to make it accessible and make NOF real for people in the community," Lightfoot said,

The new and improved program offers up to $250,000 of funding per small business at a variety of development stages.

These grants can be applied to a range of business development and expansion costs - including property acquisition and rehabilitation expenses, new construction costs, design and remodeling expenses, site improvement and repair costs, and other eligible expenses. 

Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox said for the first time, projects can receive up to 100 percent grant matching and more direct assistance for local business owners and entrepreneurs. Additional enhancements include access to grant funding earlier and throughout the construction process, access to lending and construction coaches, and an online application portal that helps would-be businesses owners assess the readiness of their proposals.

"We'll offer bonuses for those businesses who live in the neighborhoods they are hoping to serve," Cox said.

The availability of new NOF funds will further the city’s INVEST South/West community redevelopment initiative, which leverages $750 million in public funds over the next three years to spur economic growth in targeted areas of the city.

“As the City launches the first round of applications in 2020 for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, we are maximizing the availability to local funds and easing access to capital, which will help businesses get to work more quickly,” Mayor Lightfoot said in a statement. “Today’s announcement of additional funding builds on our commitment to drive transformative inclusive growth in neighborhoods with the greatest need. Our efforts to reform the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant process will support more local businesses and entrepreneurs, sending a clear message that every community in Chicago is open for business.”

The first round of 2020 NOF grant finalists are expected to be announced this spring. Based on community feedback on the program, the City of Chicago identified a second cycle for July, which will allow businesses and other applicants more time to plan their applications.

NOF applications will be accepted through Feb. 29 at chicago.gov/nof. This year’s second application round will open in July.