It's crunchtime in Springfield for small business

Springtime is upon us. As the weather improves and vaccinations increase, many small businesses are hopeful for a resurgent summer.

The small business community will be watching Illinois politicians closely over the next two months to see whether they prioritize policies that will foster the recovery of small businesses.

Small business advocates have worked with politicians to formulate legislation in Springfield. The question is whether politicians can get these policies past the finish line.

Business grants

About 40,000 businesses applied for Business Interruption Grants but only 8,974 were awarded before the program ran out of funds.

The process took too long for many businesses struggling to keep their doors open, many of which did not ultimately receive a grant. Many small business owners do not understand why their application was denied.

President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1391) and the state of Illinois is expected to receive more than $7.5 billion in funds to foster recovery from the pandemic. Senate Bill 1982 will allocate 25% of those federal relief funds for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer.

The legislation also creates an improved and transparent business grant program. This newly proposed program can help small businesses across Illinois pay debt incurred during the pandemic, pay rent, purchase inventory and cover other expenses as they fight to recover this summer.

The RISE Act

Small business advocates are pushing to pass a tax incentive for businesses to retrain and hire individuals who lost their jobs or businesses because of the pandemic.

While politicians are often inclined to pass tax incentives for large companies, moving any small business tax incentive is always a remarkable hurdle.

However, this legislation makes perfect sense. It provides an incentive to technology, manufacturing and other businesses to retrain and hire individuals struggling because of the pandemic.

Senate Bill 2490 is pending in the Senate Revenue Committee. Passing this tax credit should generate income for the state in the long run, will reduce unemployment and create jobs.

Government and local school district consolidation

High property taxes impact small businesses and homeowners. Excessive property taxes reduce the amount of money individuals can spend with small and local businesses. Property taxes are too high in Illinois. Thankfully, a bipartisan group of legislators is pushing to make meaningful reforms that should reduce expenses that contribute to Illinois high property taxes.

House Bill 7 will create a process for local school district consolidation. House Bill 433 makes it less difficult for taxpayers to eliminate unnecessary units of government. As always, there is significant resistance to the structural changes needed to reduce property taxes. However, legislators are coming together to push for common-sense consolidation because Illinois small businesses and residents cannot continue to withstand excessive property taxes.

Getting engaged

The engagement of the small business community is necessary to pass this legislation.

The small business community can have a big and impactful voice if we come together now. The time to get engaged is now. Please reach out to get involved.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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