Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have announced $3.5 million in available grant funding for local grocers through the Equipment Upgrades Program as part of the Illinois Grocery Initiative. These grants will provide funding for energy-efficient equipment upgrades for existing grocery stores, with priority given to those located in food insecure communities across the state. Grantees will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
The Equipment Upgrades Program is the first program rolled out as part of the Illinois Grocery Initiative's multi-pronged efforts to combat food insecurity by supporting local grocers and combatting food deserts. Additional funding opportunities for new municipal and independent grocery stores will be announced to the public soon.
This program is designed to strengthen existing grocery stores and preserve access to fresh food in food insecure communities, in an effort to stop the formation of new food deserts. In order to support businesses most in-need, eligible applicants must be independently-owned grocers with fewer than 500 employees and no more than four grocery stores. Grocery stores located in food deserts as defined by the USDA map will be prioritized for this initiative.
With rising energy costs, outdated equipment presents a major expense for small community grocers. Under the Equipment Upgrades Program, eligible grocers may be eligible to receive grants for the following equipment upgrades:
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment
- Refrigeration units and freezers
- Lighting systems
- Other systems providing significant energy savings
Qualified applicants can apply for grants between $25,000 to $250,000, with a 1:3 match required. Applications for this round of grants will be accepted until March 25, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. To apply for the grant, visit the DCEO website.
To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will be holding a webinar at 10 a.m. on January 31 and a webinar at 2 p.m. on February 8. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to [email protected] for application assistance.