Policies for a post-pandemic economy

The post-pandemic economy will be different. As we look toward a return to normalcy, enacting policies that are responsive to the changing economic landscape is crucial.

One of the most important things politicians can do as we emerge from this pandemic is support commercial property owners. Many commercial property owners have already sustained significant losses because their tenants have struggled to pay rent or went out of business. Now the prospect of small businesses downsizing their physical offices or retail establishments further threatens their viability.

While some small businesses will fully occupy their space once again, others will allow employees to continue working from home. Many commercial property owners will struggle to fill the void created by the nonrenewal of leases and downsizing.

Foreclosures will hurt not only property owners but the local communities they support. It is imperative that politicians at all levels of government begin enacting policies to keep commercial property owners out of foreclosure. Chicago-area politicians should be especially engaged given the number of professional service firms that will continue allowing their employees to work from home.

There is a link between the economies of Chicago and the suburbs, and providing relief to struggling commercial property owners will be important for both. Proactively addressing this issue could improve the prospects for commercial corridors throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

Passing legislation that empowers home-based business owners is another way to spark the post-pandemic economy. An astonishing number of new businesses have been started in Illinois since the onset of the pandemic. This is good news. Without a doubt, many of these businesses have been launched in the homes of entrepreneurs.

The city of Chicago just passed an ordinance making it easier to own and grow a home-based business. Among other things, this ordinance increases the amount of space that can be used in the home for a business and allows unfinished goods to be stored in a garage. Across the state, any unnecessary regulations that prevent entrepreneurs from safely starting a business from home should be eliminated.

States across the country are enacting occupational licensing reforms to eliminate unnecessary red tape that shuts people out of new professions and industries. In the wake of the pandemic, Illinois must enact occupational licensing reform to unleash entrepreneurs and its workforce.

Illinois has far too many unreasonable occupational licenses. Changes are needed that will make it more difficult to require restrictive occupational licenses and allow unnecessary licensing requirements to sunset. It is also important that Illinois allow for the portability of licenses in a considered and prudent manner. We often hear about the number of individuals leaving Illinois. Allowing individuals with occupational licenses in other states to practice their profession in Illinois can drive people and commerce into our state.

Our policymakers will need to be forward-thinking to help small businesses recover from the pandemic and thrive in this new economic reality. The small business community will be active and engaged as we work with politicians to proactively position Illinois as a leader in the economy that ultimately emerges out of the pandemic.

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

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