This article was updated on June 25, 2020.
What Is Illinois Doing To Help?
Illinois is progressing through Governor Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan. As each of the state’s four regions meet health and safety criteria, businesses including retail, restaurants, and bars will reopen and gradually increase their capacity. For local businesses that aren’t yet included, or need financial aid in order to reopen, here are the financial assistance programs for small businesses in the state:
- Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund – For businesses outside of Chicago, the state is offering a nearly identical loan to the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund. The application is available online from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
- Illinois Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program – This impact investment loan program was made to offer deposits at a near-zero rate, either in $1 or $5 million increments up to $25 million per financial institution, which are then used by small businesses for affordable loans. A list of participating financial institutions to partner with and a description of the application process can be found at the Illinois State Treasurer’s website.
- City of Chicago Small Business Resource Navigators – The City of Chicago has established a network of partners to help Chicago businesses understand their grant and loan eligibility. Some past initiatives like the Small Business Resiliency Fund closed to applications quickly. Therefore, this program's one-on-one guidance is a valuable tool for small businesses navigating the shifting relief landscape.
The Illinois Department of Revenue is also waiving any penalty or interest fees that would come from late sales tax payments, in an effort to help any eating and drinking establishments. It’s also a good idea to visit your individual county’s website, as many of them are working on Payment Protection Programs to help small businesses keep their workers employed.
What Type of Programs Are Being Offered By The Federal Government?
Local options are great for small business loans, but if your main concerns are employee or debt payments, you should look to the federal government for assistance. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds the following programs:
- Paycheck Protection Program – The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is currently offering a loan to prevent small business owners from having to lay off employees. If all employees are kept on the payroll for at least eight weeks, the loan will be forgiven. To apply, visit the SBA website’s Paycheck Protection Program Loan section.
- SBA Debt Relief – The US Small Business Administration also has debt relief available, and is willing to pay principal, interest, and fees of small business’s current loans for six months. The details and application process are explained on the SBA Debt Relief web page.
- SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans - All small businesses are eligible for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and an Economic Injury Advance Loan through the US Small Business Administration website. However, the program is on hold due to lack of funds.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Illinois?
Home to a bustling capital and one of the largest cities in the US, Illinois has been deeply affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (see Google’s case tracker for up-to-the-minute case numbers). Many of the infected are African Americans, shedding light on the role of race and healthcare inequality in the pandemic.
This has caused the state’s public health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, to address disparities in care with health officials and direct resources to areas that need it most.
Additionally, with the majority of small businesses forced to close down until restrictions lift, the unemployment rate in Illinois has skyrocketed alongside the rest of the country.
Illinois’s decision to address its weak points and ramp up healthcare, in combination with the state’s seriousness of its initial stay-at-home order, is “flattening the curve”—slowing the exponential spread of the virus. This has led Governor JB Pritzker to make some changes to the current lockdown.
Reopening Businesses in Illinois
On April 23rd, Governor Pritzker announced a new order that extended social distancing measures while beginning phased reopening. Under this order:
- Masks are required – Anyone older than two years old has to wear a face covering in public wherever a six-foot distance can’t be maintained.
- New “essential” businesses – Greenhouses, garden centers, nurseries, and animal grooming services can reopen full-time as long as employees and customers wear face coverings.
- Updates to “nonessential” retail – Retail stores can reopen for phone and online orders with outside pickup and delivery of products.
All of the state’s four regions had entered Phase Three, “Recovery,” by May 29th, and the following businesses began reopening:
- Restaurants (outdoor seating)
- Restaurants (indoor seating)
- Schools and childcare centers
- Personal care businesses
- Gyms and fitness studios
- Movie theaters
The Department of Commerce offers industry-specific guidelines, as well as toolkits for individual employers. At a minimum, employers must:
- Allow work-from-home to continue whenever possible
- Train all employees in safety protocol
- Require employees wear masks when social distance is not possible
- Provide hand sanitizer to employees and customers
- Display signage (in multiple languages as needed)
- Create wellness screening programs and provide thermometers on request
Masks and social distancing measures will continue to be the norm through Phase Four of the five phase recovery plan.
Note: Not all counties of Illinois will be under the same state guidelines. Be sure to contact your local county office to determine the regulations for your specific business.
Think Local, Think The Neighborhood Hub
In Illinois, the best financial assistance programs right now are local. Hopefully, your small business is reopening in some form this May. Either way, you’ll need to ensure it stays relevant in your community.
What sets Illinois’ COVID-19 experience apart is that when the community discovered certain people were struggling more than others, changes were made to accommodate their situation.
You can be part of the local conversation. Reach out to your community with a platform like Nextdoor, the neighborhood hub that brings small businesses and local residents together. Nextdoor supports local businesses—create a free Business Page and get one recommendation from a local customer who wants to support you, and your business will be discoverable when people search for your services in the neighborhood. From there, your whole community can support you, too.
United States Census. Majority of African Americans Live in 10 States. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/census_2000/cb01cn176.html
BBC. Coronavirus wreaks havoc in African American neighbourhoods. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52194018
Connect2Capital. Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund. https://www.connect2capital.com/partners/chicago-small-business-resiliency-fund/
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Emergency Small Business Grants and Loans Assistance. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Pages/EmergencySBAIntiatives.aspx
Michael W. Frerichs. Illinois State Treasurer. https://illinoistreasurer.gov/Invest_in_Illinois/Small_Business_COVID-19_Relief_Program
US Small Business Administration. Paycheck Protection Program Loan. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program
US Small Business Administration. SBA Debt Relief. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/sba-debt-relief
US Small Business Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19#section-header-3
CBS Chicago. Over 44,000 Unemployment Claims Filed In Illinois For Week Of June 1, Amid COVID-19 Pandemic. https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/06/11/draft-over-44000-unemployment-claims-filed-in-illinois-for-week-of-june-1-amid-covid-19-pandemic/
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.