The Mattoon Arts Council has a new feature artist display area in the north entrance corridor at the Cross County Mall.

The state of Illinois and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have created a new program to help businesses which were hit the hardest by the pandemic.

The Back to Business (B2B) economic recovery program provides grants for businesses that were adversely affected by the pandemic with grants from $5,000 up to $150,000 to cover operating costs, staffing and/or overhead costs.

The B2B grants are to be focused on the hardest-hit businesses, including entertainment venues, salons, hotels, fitness centers, bars and restaurants. However, other businesses are welcome to apply as well. DIA’s, or Disproportionately Impacted Communities, which include all of Coles County, are also given priority.

To assist small businesses with the B2B application process, the DCEO has partnered with Community Navigator Organizations to help with technical assistance in completing the process. The good news is we have two local organizations, Coles Together and Elevate CCIC Inc., who have been designated as local Community Navigators at helping businesses through the application process.

The application process has been streamlined with an online portal that will give businesses the opportunity to view their status in real time. You can contact Angela Griffin or Kasey Considine at Coles Together at 217-258-5627 or by email at [email protected] or [email protected] for information. You can also reach out to Carlos Ortega from Elevate CCIC Inc. at 217-819-6150 or [email protected].

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The program started Aug. 18 and Coles Together has heard that two of their applicants have already qualified and are in line to receive grant funds. They should be seeing the funds within the next four to six weeks. This process has a much quicker turnaround time than other programs, which included the Paycheck Protection Program and the Stabilization and BIG grants.

The Chamber has created a brand-new, unique event to replace our Business Expo and Taste of the Expo that had to be postponed until next year. The Mattoon Eagles Club at 1917 Oak Ave. in Mattoon will be hosting our first Lobster Boil event on Friday, Sept. 24, from 5-8:30 p.m.

Tickets will include a 1¼-pound lobster with seasoned corn and potatoes, live music and one free drink of your choice for $50. The form is available on our website or as a link on our Facebook page. You can also call or visit the Chamber to sign up in advance.

We will be offering the opportunity to dine in at the Eagles and enjoy the entertainment and camaraderie. We will also be offering live lobsters for carryout along with cooked meals to go. Whether dine in or carryout, you must order in advance. The deadline for reservations is Friday, Sept. 17. The sooner you order, the sooner you reserve your spot.


Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.