Advocating during the fall legislative session

Illinois' fall legislative session is rapidly approaching.

This short session is generally focused on addressing vetoed bills, tweaking legislation and addressing bills that should have been passed but stalled earlier in the year. The fall session is a time for advocates to be laser-focused on a few policy initiatives that need a significant push to get passed the finish line.

This fall the SBAC is working tirelessly to pass legislation that will support local chambers of commerce and provide incentives to businesses that hire formerly incarcerated individuals.

Chambers of commerce have played an amplified and important role during the pandemic. They absorbed and disseminated crucial information about relief programs at the outset of the economic shutdowns that devastated so many businesses. Chambers helped explain these programs to local businesses.

They have continued to provide educational services, create opportunities and foster commerce for businesses fighting to recover and thrive in our new economic landscape. They have been champions for small businesses and their communities.

Ironically, while chambers have scrambled to help their business and nonprofit members, few have received financial relief from our state. Membership losses and fundraising challenges have caused many chambers to endure severe economic hardship. Over two years after the onset of the pandemic, politicians should prioritize the organizations that support their small businesses and serve as economic engines for local communities.

There is legislation pending in the Illinois General Assembly that will support local chambers struggling to recover from the pandemic. House Bill 4993 will provide grants to chambers that total two months of lost revenue from 2019 to 2020. This legislation was passed out of the House last winter and has 17 co-sponsors in the Senate. This bill should be passed, or the program included in a supplemental budget, when the legislature convenes in November so that local chambers can obtain the support they need.

Given that Illinois received over $8 billion in ARPA funding, the request for $5 million to fund the entire relief program is reasonable and necessary to help local chambers. We are encouraged by our conversations with legislators because they are showing significant support for this initiative.

Small and local businesses rely on chambers for education, information, exposure and to help foster relationships in the community. They should be provided this relief so the chambers are able to continue supporting small businesses and local communities.

We are also pushing for the passage of House Bill 3215, which will provide incentives to businesses that hire formerly incarcerated individuals. This bill will support small businesses struggling to hire employees, provide opportunities to returning citizens, proactively address public safety and reduce incarceration costs for our state.

The SBAC will be heading to Springfield to advocate for these two pieces of legislation in November. We will also solidify our relationships with policymakers and preview our 2023 initiatives, which will focus on issues such as stabilizing the costs of health insurance, property tax reform, occupational licensing and procurement reform.

Feel free to contact the SBAC if you would like to join us. The best way to have a seat at the table is to be in the room.

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

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