Illinois policymakers need to give small businesses rescue plan money
Illinois received over $8 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the federal government. However, policymakers have allocated only $250 million for Back to Business grants to help struggling small businesses. Over $5.5 billion federal dollars remain unspent. Considering the critical role small businesses play in our economy, those figures are stunning.
The small business community needed much more support prior to the emergence of the Delta variant, which is causing further economic concern and uncertainty. Given the resurgence of the pandemic, allocating additional funds for Illinois Back to Business grants is critical.
Here’s what’s wrong with allocating only $250 million for the Back to Business grant program: Many struggling businesses will likely be denied grants. While they will qualify and deserve the funds, the program will run out of money. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has been charged with the regrettable task of picking winners and losers from grant applicants. In some cases, these grants may determine whether some businesses can keep their doors open and others must permanently close.
Businesses unsure whether they have a realistic chance to receive a grant face remarkable uncertainty about their future. We heard so many stories about businesses that waited lengthy periods of time only to learn they were denied Business Interruption Grants last year. Uncertainty about whether small businesses will receive an injection of needed capital will hamper their ability to plan for their future.
The business grants are being heavily marketed and hence, many small businesses will have a false sense of hope. Qualified businesses that do not receive grants will feel deflated and frustrated. This will further undermine the business community’s confidence in Illinois policymakers.
Politicians have the means to do so much more for small businesses, including by adequately funding the Back to Business grant program. The Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) is strongly advocating for more ARPA money to be immediately allocated by Gov. Pritzker and state legislators to help small businesses in Illinois. This will keep people employed and communities from losing more local businesses. Politicians should not contemplate more funding when the Back to Business grant program runs out of money. Time is of the essence and policymakers should begin working on this now.
Consider where our economy would be without the restaurants, retailers and other small businesses, many of whom adapted their business practices in creative and thoughtful ways to serve their customers and keep doors open through unprecedented upheaval. Don’t the businesses which are struggling deserve all the support we can give them?
Politicians like to say that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are spot on. However, too often the actions of policymakers are not always consistent with the lip service they give to the small business community. As we go forward during these uncertain times, politicians must be there for the small businesses which have been there for Illinois. Not another small business should fail because of this pandemic.
Elliot Richardson is president of the Small Business Advocacy Council, a non-partisan, member-driven organization that promotes the success of small business through political advocacy, support support services and educational programs.