URBANA — After Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrapped up speaking Thursday at Wood N’ Hog Barbecue in Urbana, local activist Haki Shabazz had one more question.
The member of the Champaign County Anti-Racist Coalition called for “public housing for all” and expressed concern about homeless shelters not having masks.
“We need to ensure that homeless people have a place to stay and that they are safe as well,” Shabazz said.
Pritzker said he agreed and asked his staff to follow-up.
“We want to make sure they have the masks that they need,” he said. “We want everyone to stay healthy and safe.”
He also used the opportunity to tout a program launched Monday that would provide $300 million for rent and mortgage relief.
“We just launched the largest rental-assistance program in the country,” Pritzker said. “We want everybody to have a place to live.”
And Pritzker encouraged people to reach out “particularly to Republic Congressmen from Illinois” as a coronavirus relief bill is negotiated.
“We need the funding that they should be sending here to support these kinds of programs,” Pritzker said.
He and Shabazz then elbow-bumped as Pritzker departed.
The governor was in town to announce the first recipients of the state’s Business Interruption Grant program, including Wood N’ Hog, which received $10,000.
“After we digest all of this, we will pay payroll, we’ll try to rebrand and advertise,” restaurant co-owner Michael McDonald said. “We hope that the grant that we received from the government today will just give us an opportunity to remain relevant.”
Wood N’ Hog opened in 2016 at 904 N. Fourth St., C, took over the Li’l Porgy’s location at 101 W. University Ave., U, last year and opened a new location at 500 N. Walnut St., C, earlier this year.
About $46 million of the Business Interruption Grant funds has been awarded to 2,655 businesses throughout the state, including 50 in Champaign County totaling $910,000, and more rounds of funding are planned.
Other local recipients include Merry Ann’s Diner, Joe’s Brewery, Caribbean Grill, Broadway Food Hall, Sushi Kame and Basil Thai.
“These funds are going to be crucial in helping businesses offset some of the negative impacts of the pandemic, especially in the industries that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down,” said Carly McCrory-McKay, executive director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.
The grants went to businesses that had less than $3 million in revenue and were shut down in the spring by the pandemic, and prioritized businesses that didn’t receive federal Payment Protection Program loans.
“COVID has highlighted our resolve, our resiliency and our ability to tackle the unknown,” McDonald said. “We didn’t apply for the PPP loan — not because we weren’t eligible, but because because we didn’t have a relationship with banks.”
Businesses were also prioritized if they were in “COVID-impacted areas and experienced property damage amidst the looting and civil unrest in June,” Pritzker said.