Business Assistance Amid Pandemic

It's Party Time Awarded eCommerce Grant!

Sue Chasteen, certified balloon artist and owner of, It’s Party Time!, located at 919 Washington St., Highland, IL, has a lot to celebrate.  Not only is the party store welcoming its 15th year anniversary in December, it is also celebrating being awarded a $500 grant from the City of Highland for implementing an e-Commerce solution.

In March, the City’s Industrial Development Commission (IDC) agreed to sponsor grants provided to current city businesses who deploy a technology that allows customers to purchase products or services completely on-line.  This approach to advertising and sales is known as e-Commerce, or the electronic purchasing and selling product. The grant came at a pivotal time in terms of the corona virus and shutdown mandate from the Governor. 

Angela Imming, Director of Technology and Innovation, spearheaded the grant, and worked with Breann Speraneo, Director of Community Development.  Imming citied the need for technology to help businesses get through the shut-down.

“e-Commerce allows businesses to have a limitless market.  Advertising products on-line so that they can be purchased from anywhere allows all the people who visit our shops during festival or other weekend trip to Highland to continue to consume when they return home,” Imming said.  “More importantly, it also allows residents to buy products and support our local small businesses despite a shut down,” she added.

Chasteen was the first and only applicant for the grant and was awarded $500.00 by the IDC on Wed. Oct., 7th.   Chasteen said she wishes she had done it years ago.

“It was easy.  It isn’t hard,” she said, “and it was free.”  While Chasteen’s team spent time photographing and uploading inventory items to the complimentary website offered through the Square point of sale, there were no out of pocket costs to implement the e-Commerce strategy.  Square is a popular merchant services aggregator and mobile payment company.  A free website is included with the point of sales product. 

“We decided to do this to move inventory and to make room for more balloon décor and party rentals.  Our balloon and yard decoration sales are up,” said chasten.   Chasteen said one of her quarantined employees oversaw the e-Commerce deployment, being productive during the shut-down.

Imming said she hoped more local businesses would take advantage of the grant. 

“Shopping habits have shifted,” she said.  “It’s difficult for residents who want to support local businesses but can’t either because of the shut-down or because we now like to shop while waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting for your child’s practice to finish or, even in between exercises at the gym.  The consumer purchases items at strange times of the day and, if a retailer isn’t open or doesn’t have an e-Commerce solution, the businesses goes to a retailer who does.”                              

Chasteen iterated that the e-Commerce grant was money in their pockets because, with the exception of elbow grease, the solution cost nothing.  She added that it can’t hurt to do this.  “Gotta go with the times,” she said.

For more information about the e-Commerce grant, visit the City’s economic development page on the website.  You may also contact Mallord Hubbard at 654-9891 or

To shop on the It’s Party Time! E-Commerce site, click here.



 e-Commerce Grants Still Available for Small Businesses

On May 18th, City Council officials approved a grant program to incentivize Highland businesses to implement e-Commerce solutions to facilitate purchases on their website. The Industrial Development Commission and Highland Communication Services partnered to launch the program, allowing businesses a grant of $500 to be used toward the cost of e-Commerce implementation.

 Any brick-and-mortar Highland business that does not offer an e-Commerce option is eligible to apply. Once an application is submitted, applicants will be notified of approval after verification of the absence of an e-Commerce solution on the applicant’s website. The applicant will have three months to deploy the solution and, once the solution is verified, will receive the $500 grant. The Highland Chamber of Commerce has offered to provide guidance to businesses looking to implement e-Commerce.

Round Two of Business Interruption Grants

Applicatons for the second round of the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Program are open.  These grants will be available to all small businesses statewide that experienced losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Starting today, the application is available on the DCEO website.  On the afternoon of September 17th, applications will be accepted.  Grants will be awarded and funded on a rolling basis until funding is depleted. 
The BIG program is open to all eligible businesses (for profit and nonprofit) with $20 million or less in annual revenue in 2019 and experienced losses due to COVID-19.  The grant size will be equivalent to two months of expenses. 

  • Funding for this round is approximately $200 million
  • $70 million will be invested in Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs)
  • $60 million in heavily impacted industries
  • The heavily impacted industries are defined a having annual revenues of $10 million or less and have been close or operating at a very diminished capacity since mid-March and are likely to continue to do so until Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan.   

.   These industries include the following:

  • Event spaces
  • Music venues
  • Performing arts venues
  • Indoor recreation
  • Amusement parks
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums
  • Charter/shuttle buses 

The  DCEO will be hosting a series of webinars regarding this program.  You can register for any of the webinars by using the links below:


Restore Illinois Plan Resources:
Restore Illinois Plan

Phase 4 Guidelines
Phase 4 Business Toolkit & Industry-Specific Guidelines

Helpful Links:
Covid-19 Dashboard
Illinois Department of Public Health Hospital Utilization
Chamber of Commerce Covid Resources

For any questions please contact Mallord Hubbard, Economic & Business Recruitment Coordinator at or 618-654-9891. You may also contact Breann Speraneo, Director of Community Development, at or 618-654-7115. 

Emergency Small Business Grants and Loan Assistance
The State of Illinois has launched emergency assistance programs for small businesses. For more information and how to apply, click here

Small Business Development Loans are Available

All Illinois small businesses (according to SBA’s size standards) and private non-profits can now apply for loans of up to $2 million through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. If your businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, this program offers working capital to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable, and fixed debt payments until the situation improves. Interest rates are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. Your businesses may apply now at

Find more information for small businesses affected by coronavirus at Subscribe to email updates from SBA at to stay up to date on SBA news and events. SBA resource partners (Illinois Small Business Development Centers, WBDC, SCORE, Veterans Business Outreach Center) stand ready to help. Go to to find a counselor or mentor.  

Please visit or call (312) 353-4528 (Chicago office) or (217) 747-8249 (Springfield office) to talk to a Small Business Administration team member directly.