As businesses continue to navigate the challenges of operating through a pandemic, Mercado on Fifth is opening its application period for its fifth round of minority equipment grants to help provide some relief.

Eligible minority-owned businesses and aspiring minority entrepreneurs in the Illinois Quad Cities may apply for up to $1,000 for equipment-related purchases, start-up costs, repairs to existing infrastructure, technology upgrades or personal protective equipment, according to a Tuesday release.

To qualify for funding (and to ensure businesses are well-supported), applicants must have had at least one appointment with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Western Illinois University – Quad Cities (SBDC) or be an existing client of the SBDC.

Interested entrepreneurs and business owners may sign up to become a client on the SBDC’s website. Appointments in English and Spanish are also available by calling the SBDC at 309-762-3999, ext. 62243.

“Our local businesses need as much support as they can get,” Anamaria Rocha, executive director of Mercado on Fifth, said in the release. “We hope that businesses will be excited to see the Minority Business Grant Program returning for its fifth year to help with providing some financial assistance.”

Since 2018, Mercado and the SBDC at WIU-QC have awarded more than $64,000 in minority business equipment grants. Mercado vendors and other entrepreneurs have used grants to purchase a wide range of materials, including a video camera, beauty salon supplies, an industrial sewing machine and kitchen supplies.

Equipment grant applications are available online in English and Spanish. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Learn more about Mercado at MercadoOnFifth.org.