2021 Small Business Community Navigator Program 

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) recently announced a significant expansion of DCEO's community navigator program, an outreach model leveraging community partners to help small, minority owned businesses connect with emergency resources during the pandemic.  

Illinois' community navigator model has been recognized by the Biden-Harris administration, which is using this approach nationally through the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

Well-resourced businesses have an inherent advantage in accessing government relief programs, as those companies have consultants, accountants, and trade associations that can keep an eye out for new programs and help their clients/members with applications and compliance. The 2021 Small Business Community Navigator program is designed to even the playing field by offering 1-on-1 technical assistance to small businesses in Illinois.  

Through a Hub and Spoke Model, the program is designed to strengthen access to technical assistance programs by underserved businesses and reach businesses owned by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Up to $10,000,000 in grants will be awarded to Hubs that will sub-grant to Spokes. Services will be provided from late June 2021 through December 2021. 

Community Navigators will provide outreach and technical assistance so target businesses have awareness of and access to government relief programs.

  • Examples of relief programs include PPP, EIDL, SVOG, RRF, future federal and state small business relief programs
  • Target businesses include:
    • small businesses located in rural areas or disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) designated by DCEO
    • small businesses owned by members of the following communities: racial or ethnic minorities, veterans, immigrants, women, and/or individuals with disabilities.


Grant application (application period closed)

Informational webinar


Hub & Spoke Model – How do I know if I am a Hub or Spoke? 

A good hub has the following qualities:

  • Grant management capacity
  • Funding to ensure timely payments to subgrantees
  • Ability to oversee, coordinate, and manage subgrantees
  • Experience providing training and marketing materials
  • Extensive relationships with local community organizations 

A good spoke has the following qualities:

  • Strong local community and minority business relationships
  • Robust outreach capacity
  • Experience providing business support and technical assistance 

If you are interested in participating in this program, you are encouraged to submit your contact information in order to be added to a public listing of all interested parties. Hubs and Spokes should be communicating directly with one another to submit an application. DCEO will only award grants to Hubs; Hubs will then provide sub-grants to Spokes.

Submit your contact information for the public facing hub and spoke list

Public facing hub and spoke list