THUMB research park 1 300x159CHAMPAIGN – EnterpriseWorks, a tech incubator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park, has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to support the growth and development of tech companies across the state, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Wednesday. 

The grant, which was disbursed under the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program administered by the SBA’s Office of Innovation and Technology, will be used for specialized training, mentoring, and technical assistance for research- and development-focused small businesses.

“I’m pleased to congratulate EnterpriseWorks on being awarded an SBA FAST grant,” Bennett said. “EnterpriseWorks is already a leading technology hub for research and startups, and this grant is one more tool they can utilize to help boost Illinois small business innovators and spur the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The FAST Partnership Program provides one year of funding to organizations like EnterpriseWorks that team up with a network of technology consultants, innovators and entrepreneurs in the state to help build the “innovation ecosystem” that is key to developing the tech economy. EnterpriseWorks plans to use the funds to expand the reach of its incubator services and help more companies across the state access federal seed capital through programs like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

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Webinar Flyer DCEO East Central Scott Bennett

CHAMPAIGN—State Senator Scott Bennett is urging business owners to utilize the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity’s webinar to navigate the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program this week.

Businesses across Champaign and Vermilion county businesses can register to participate in the free, informative webinar on Tuesday, September 29 at 3 p.m.

“The Business Interruption Grant program will help give our local businesses a helping hand during this awful pandemic,” Bennett said. “I urge area businesses to take advantage of this program and utilize this informative webinar to ensure they are completing applications correctly in order to receive the full amount of assistance they qualify for.” 

Registration is required for this event. Interested participants can click here to register.

Applications for Round 2 of the BIG program were launched last week. The latest round has allocated $220 million in assistance for movie theatres, performing arts venues, concert venues and more to help them stay afloat through this time of crisis and ensure they have the resources to open safely in the coming months.

The intention of the second round is to provide relief for all types of small businesses, with a focus on businesses located downstate. It also includes $60 million for heavily distressed industries, such as movie theaters, performing arts venues, concert venues, indoor recreation, amusement parks, event spaces located at banquet halls and hotels, and more. And another $70 million has been set aside for businesses in economically distressed communities that have been the most vulnerable to COVID-1

“During this pandemic, our local businesses have served our communities and worked diligently to keep their employees and customers safe,” Bennett said. “It is our duty to support our small businesses – as always I urge folks to frequent small businesses but especially during these trying times. Whether you are picking up dinner this weekend, in need of a new shirt or looking for a birthday gift, please shop local.” 

Applications open are open and can be found on the Illinois DCEO’s website. Bennett urges business owners who are unable to attend the September 29 webinar to visit DECO’s website to sign up for another webinar. 

E-learningCHAMPAIGN – School districts in the 52nd Illinois State Senate District are set to receive nearly $1.5 million in funding to give students in Champaign and Vermilion Counties more reliable access to technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Senator Scott Bennett is glad to see area schools receive this assistance to close the digital divide among students in downstate communities.

“During this awful pandemic, it is important that we work diligently to ensure our students are not falling behind academically because they don’t have the technology to actively participate in e-learning,” Bennett said. “As we continue to work to keep our children safe, we also need to ensure they are not missing out on vital learning opportunities.”

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Social Post 9 15 2020CHAMPAIGN - To highlight farm and ranch safety awareness, Senate Agriculture Chairman Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is promoting the 2020 National Farm and Safety Week, taking place Sept. 20-26.

“Farmers face a variety of risks in their work and Farm Safety Week serves as an important reminder to take safety precautions when working on a farm, especially during harvest season,” Bennett said. “Whether you are on the farm or on the road, please take that extra step to protect yourself and those around you.”

In light of the pandemic, this year’s National Farm Safety Week is honoring farmers facing tough times head on by using the theme "Every Farmer Counts."

According to the National Education Center for Farm Safety, the will acknowledge, celebrate and uplift farmers and ranchers who have encountered many challenges throughout the pandemic, yet continue to work hard to provide the food, fiber and fuel that we need.

A variety of online webinars will be available throughout the week that shed light on several farm-related topics, including mental health. Bennett is drawing attention to not only the physical risks of farming this week, but the mental health needs for farmers as well.

To raise awareness about the mental health resources available for farmers, Bennett spearheaded the Farm Family Resource Initiative and successfully secured state funding for the initiative in the last two legislative sessions.

The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Services Development is overseeing the initiative and intends to launch a hotline to assist with farmer and farm-related issues in the coming weeks.

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