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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ for Businesses

Where does the Advantage Illinois funding come from?

On Sept. 27, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act, the most significant piece of small business legislation in over a decade. The new law provides critical resources to help small businesses and entrepreneurs continue to drive economic recovery and create jobs, including lending support, tax cuts, and other opportunities. Part of this law is the “State Small Business Credit Initiative” (SSBCI) which provides each state with an allocation of funds for state capital access programs and other credit support programs designed to increase access to credit for small businesses. Advantage Illinois is our state's program to leverage SSBCI funds.


On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which reauthorized and expanded the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to provide $10 billion to support small businesses and empower them to access the capital needed to invest in job-creating opportunities as the country emerges from the pandemic. SSBCI provides funds to states, the District of Columbia, territories, and Tribal governments to promote American entrepreneurship, support small business ownership, and democratize access to capital across the country, including underserved communities. The State of Illinois will receive up to $354.6 million to administer four programs as part of the SSBCI, including Advantage Illinois.

What is the purpose of these programs?

Advantage Illinois supports small businesses by enhancing access to capital.


Advantage Illinois programs make eligibility as flexible as possible, maximizing the impact on Illinois economy and especially encouraging loans to Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals (SEDI) and Very Small Businesses  (VSB), or businesses with fewer than 10 employees.


The Participation Loan Program (PLP) helps Illinois businesses get term loan financing at lower rates by purchasing a portion of the loan and lowering risk for lenders.


The Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) will provide a guarantee of partial repayment to the lender if a loan goes into default.

Can my business apply directly to DCEO for a loan?

No. DCEO partners on the Advantage Illinois loan programs with participating lenders. Businesses must apply to Advantage Illinois through their participating lender. After working with your lender, your lender will submit your Advantage Illinois application to DCEO.

How do I know which program is right for me?

A consultation with a participating financial institution will include an assessment of your current or potential business strategy, expected performance and a review of the way your business will operate. The lender should be able to assist you in finding the right program and maximize its returns.


You can find a participating lender HERE or email CEO.SSBCI@illinois.Gov for assistance.


If you have a great idea but don't have a business plan, you can receive assistance at your local Illinois Small Business Development Center.

What is the likelihood of an application being approved?

Advantage Illinois programs have been designed to accelerate credit distribution by helping lenders manage the risks inherent in lending to small and start-up companies. The goal is to ensure timely and an increased number of private investments.


To expedite processing, applicants should make every effort to ensure that their applications are complete and include all supporting documentation, as applicable.

What if my bank is not participating?

If your local banker or lending institution isn't familiar with Advantage Illinois, you can point them to our web site. If they aren’t enrolled as a participating lender, and you have already developed a business plan with help from your local Illinois Small Business Development Center and are ready to approach the institution for a loan, you can email us at so that we can reach out to your institution regarding enrollment. Banks simply need to complete a Master Agreement or other similar document for each component they choose to participate in.

I’m a lender. How do I sign up for Advantage Illinois?

Please email We will send you the Master Agreement to review, and we can schedule a meeting with you to review the programs and answer your questions.

What is a Socially and Economically Disadvantaged (SEDI)-owned business?

  1. Business enterprises that certify that they are owned and controlled by individuals who have had their access to credit on reasonable terms diminished as compared to others in comparable economic circumstances, due to their:
    • Membership of a group that has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society;
    • Gender;
    • Veteran Status;
    • Limited English Proficiency;
    • Disability;
    • Long-Term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society;
    • Membership of a federally or state-recognized Indian Tribe;
    • Long-term residence in a rural community;
    • Residence in a U.S. territory;
    • Residence in a community undergoing economic transitions (including communities impacted by the shift towards a net-zero economy or deindustrialization); or
    • Membership of an underserved community (see Executive Order 13985, under which “underserved communities” are populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, as exemplified by the list in the definition of “equity,” and “equity” is consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality);
  2. Business enterprises that certify that they are owned and controlled by individuals whose residences are in CDFI Investment Areas, as defined in 12 C.F.R. § 1805.201(b)(3)(ii);
  3. Business enterprises that they will operate a location in a CDFI Investment Area, as defined in 12 C.F.R. § 1805.201(b)(3)(ii); or
  4. Business enterprises that are located in CDFI Investment Areas, as defined in 12 C.F.R. § 1805.201(b)(3)(ii).


The term “owned and controlled” means, if privately owned, 51 percent is owned by such individuals; if publicly owned, 51 percent of the stock is owned by such individuals; and in the case of a mutual institution, a majority of the board of directors, account holders, and the community which the institution services is predominantly comprised of such individuals.


Certification is required with regard to items (1) to (3) above. Item (3) is intended to cover a business taking out a loan or investment to build a location in a CDFI Investment Area that the business will operate in the future.


With regard to item (4), a jurisdiction may reasonably identify businesses located in CDFI Investment Areas based on the businesses’ addresses from the relevant loan, investment, and credit/equity support applications without additional certification.

Where can I call for more information?

You may email