Policymakers should prioritize established and new small businesses

The pandemic has profoundly impacted our economy in ways unimaginable in the winter of 2020. Many employees have reevaluated their priorities and resigned from their jobs. Some have become entrepreneurs and with the help of technology, started businesses from home. Established businesses that anchored local business districts have closed. The work-from-home phenomenon continues to transform our economy.

Policymakers must proactively respond to our changing economy. That includes supporting established small businesses struggling to hire employees, along with new entrepreneurs during these changing and challenging times. Politicians must have the vision to enact policies that foster the growth of current and future job-creators to help our economy thrive in a post-pandemic economy.

Small businesses are struggling to procure enough employees as the costs of operating a business increase. This column has focused on state legislation designed to support small businesses by supplementing the workforce. This includes incentivizing small businesses that hire and train formerly incarcerated individuals and passing a child-care tax credit to help parents get back to work. Legislators should prioritize these policies and others designed support small businesses struggling to secure employees. This remains one of the most pressing concerns among the small business community.

Politicians should also provide regulatory relief to established brick-and-mortar establishments. They should revisit onerous and restrictive zoning regulations so businesses have the space needed to pivot, be innovative and reinvent themselves. Illinois politicians should cut any red tape not truly needed to protect the public so small businesses have the best chance to succeed. Policies should also be explored that will permit small businesses a better opportunity to compete for government contracts. Politicians should take a hard look at the economic incentives provided by the state and level the playing field for the small business community.

Policymakers should also focus on reducing red tape for new entrepreneurs who launched businesses during the pandemic. Occupational licensing reform can remove barriers and ensure unnecessary obstacles are not erected that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from launching and growing their businesses. Policies should be enacted that support home-based businesses while also protecting the safety and integrity of communities. Politicians should convene "solopreneurs" to determine how best to assist this emerging group of one-employee business owners.

The rising costs of health insurance are impacting both established businesses and new entrepreneurs. Politicians should address rising health insurance premiums in collaborative, innovative and thoughtful ways. The cost of health insurance is a major impediment for small businesses and solopreneurs, impacting their cash flow and ability to recruit employees. This is the time for all stakeholders to collaborate and offer solutions that will stabilize the costs of quality health insurance.

Entrepreneurs who followed their dreams during the pandemic have joined the ranks of the small business community. They can grow and foster economic growth. Established small businesses continue to drive our economy. Enacting policies that support small businesses and new entrepreneurs is crucial so they can succeed, thrive, and grow our economy.

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

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