Special Service Area (SSA) 61, the business improvement district branded Downtown Hyde Park, announced a rebate program for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with free window advertisements also available soon.
"The program is posed as 'Reopen, Rebate, Reboot,'" said Brandon Evans, program administrator of the South East Chicago Commission, the SSA's service provider. "We've got two main elements as the city is moving into the fourth phase on Friday, looking at ways to spur activity in the corridor and provide some concessions for this new normal that you all as business-owners are going to be dealing with."
Applications for the rebate program — for business expenses incurred after the shutdown began on March 15, up to $300 for each business — are due to open soon after Independence Day and run into September or until the $27,000 in funds are depleted. Money will also also be available to supplement costs for increased sanitation and a supply of personal protective equipment.
Downtown Hyde Park-branded stickers to mark social distancing in stores, developed with the CEI Media Group, 1513 E. 53rd St., will also be available to local business owners.
Nancy Stanek, who owns Toys et Cetera, 1502 E. 55th St., questioned the timing of Downtown Hyde Park's support, given that many businesses reopened on June 3.
"Isn't this behind the eight ball? People have already set their little distances apart. Exactly what are you doing?" she asked. "It feels like stuff you should have done two months ago or a month ago."
Evans said the SSA moved cautiously to ensure its response to support struggling local businesses under the city's terms, calling the period since March "a very touch-and-go situation."
Stanek, in turn, urged the SSA to think beyond social distancing; SSA head George Rumsey of the Computer Resource Center, 1525 E. 53rd St., Suite 902, reminded her of the rebate component and the money for buying masks. Stanek furthermore complained about the quality of the SSA's website, www.downtownhydepark.com, saying she could not find any information on the page. Evans said revisions to the online business list are forthcoming.
On area beautification, tattered banners that were removed previously are due to be replaced this week. The organization's submitted budget was not approved at the meeting, as it is pending revisions from the city regarding estimated revenues due to the pandemic. The SSA also has three open spots for new commissioners.
The next Downtown Hyde Park meeting will be in August.