FHLBank Chicago Opens Applications for $19.5 Million in  Small Business Grants

  • June 3, 2024

Small businesses fuel the economy and access to capital is among the biggest hurdles they face in keeping their doors open. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago (FHLBank Chicago) responds with a two-pronged approach that includes both grants and discounted lending. In recognition of the importance of small businesses and the challenges they often face, FHLBank Chicago has expanded its program offerings in 2024: 

  • Increased funding to $19.5 million for Community First® Accelerate Grants for Small Business to support a variety of purposes, including purchase or improvement of property, equipment, workforce development and technology. Eligible small businesses must have a business relationship with an FHLBank Chicago member who submits the grant application on their behalf. Funding may be awarded either as a single grant of $30,000 to one business or as two separate grants of $15,000 to two different businesses. The grant round is open June 3-September 30, 2024.  

  • Expanded subsidy for the Community Small Business Advance to $15 million in 2024, up from $10 million in 2023. Through this advance, FHLBank Chicago member financial institutions provide significantly below-market rate loans to business owners in low- and moderate-income communities. The total subsidy has been fully leveraged and FHLBank Chicago will offer more discounted lending opportunities for members and their small business customers this summer.   

“Small businesses play an integral role in local communities in driving economic growth, from creating jobs to fostering community development,” said Katie Naftzger, Senior Vice President, Community Investment Officer, FHLBank Chicago. “As a leader in the housing and community development space, FHLBank Chicago recognizes that affordable housing isn’t just about the homes themselves—it’s about ensuring entire communities have what they need to thrive, including economic opportunities for the residents and small businesses who call them home.” 

Bay View Printing Co., a historical letterpress shop in Milwaukee, achieved a significant milestone in 2023 by securing a $25,000 Community First Accelerate Grant for Small Business through FHLBank Chicago member, First Federal Bank of Wisconsin. The grant was instrumental in fueling the shop's growth and enhancing its role as a vibrant community space. The funding allowed owner Ashley Town to modernize her shop, update her equipment, and work toward expanding Bay View Printing Co's retail line. 

“By leveraging our relationship with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, we're ensuring that we are a strong organization, which is paramount for a community bank,” said Michael Berry, Vice President of Cash Management at First Federal Bank of Wisconsin. “This partnership helps us maintain our liquidity and allows us to provide products and services for small businesses in our communities." 


In addition to general grants for growing or enhancing operations, access to low-cost loans is instrumental for small business owners seeking sustainable, longer-term financing.  

“Having an option like the Community Small Business Advance available in rural towns like ours in central Illinois is crucial,” said Rich Eckert, President and CEO, Beardstown Savings Bank. “It means our small business customers, like manufacturers, machinists, builders, retailers, and others providing critical community services, have a low-cost source of funding. We’re proud to partner with FHLBank Chicago to make this funding available locally.” 

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