Graham Kilmer

Near West Side Partners Provides Small Business Grants, Rent Assistance

Non-profit organization shifts programs focused on new home owners and businesses to helping those in need.

By - Apr 17th, 2020 12:55 pm
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Keith Stanley and Mayor Tom Barrett in 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Keith Stanley and Mayor Tom Barrett in 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Near West Side Partners is pivoting from its normal programming to focus on helping residents and businesses in need.

The non-profit, backed by MillerCoors, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, Advocate Aurora Health Care and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, normally focuses on local initiatives that promote the arts, small businesses or safety in the neighborhood.

Now, using the connections and community infrastructure they have built up, NWSP is offering grants for small businesses struggling during the shutdown and rent assistance to residents laid off from their jobs and struggling to pay rent.

COVID-19 Stencil Mockup. Photo courtesy of Near West Side Partners.

COVID-19 Stencil Mockup. Photo courtesy of Near West Side Partners.

“This is why we have community organizations,” said Keith Stanley, NWSP Executive Director.

In the past 30 days, NWSP has awarded $15,000 in grants to local businesses, restaurants like Triciclo Peru and Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille among them (both restaurants, Stanley noted, currently do curbside pickup). On top of the small business grants, the NWSP has $10,000 they are using to provide rental assistance to neighborhood residents.

The NWSP partners were able to find the funding by re-tooling existing programs.

With the small business grants, NWSP partners with JP Morgan Chase on a program called Brew City Match, which connects business owners with resources with the ultimate goal of bringing businesses to the community. Then the pandemic hit. “We began to see the need to help retain our businesses,” Stanley said. 

The partners tweaked the Brew City Match program to help with rent and payroll for small businesses.

They similarly tweaked a program with partner Associated Bank to find the funds for rent assistance. The partners re-directed grants that normally go towards a down payment on a home. They’ve already provided rent assistance to 24 applicants, Stanley said.

Along with the small business loans and rent assistance, NWSP has gotten involved in spreading the word about staying home and washing hands during this pandemic.

Graphic designer Marquayla Ellison of Elastic Design created sidewalk stencils, which NWSP will install around the neighborhood in high traffic areas reminding their residents to social distance and wash their hands

Stanley said it’s his experience that it’s not always clear to everyone why community organizations are important. But the pandemic makes it clear. The NWSP could not have responded with the programs they did if they hadn’t already been in the community, building relationships, he said.

“This is a perfect example of why you need community organizations,” Stanley said.

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