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posted: 7/14/2020 1:00 AM

Commentary: Small business community looks for leadership and action

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  • ELLIOTT RICHARDSON

    ELLIOTT RICHARDSON

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the small business community. Without swift action, small businesses may be forced to permanently close their doors. Politicians, who too often neglect small businesses, must step up to the plate now. Resilient entrepreneurs and their employees are ready to rally behind the right message and prompt action.

Illinois initiatives

Politicians should pave the way for displaced employees, and entrepreneurs unable to resume their businesses, to launch a new career. Making it easier to start a new profession is crucial during these difficult times.

Politicians should pass legislation that will provide tax credits to small businesses that retrain and hire individuals who lost their jobs or saw their businesses fail because of the pandemic. Under a current proposal, businesses with between 100 and 500 employees could receive a $2,500 tax credit to train and hire net new employees. Businesses with under 100 employees could earn a $5,000 tax credit for such hires.

New jobs create long-term revenue and spark the economy. Providing an incentive to small businesses for training and hiring new employees will also drive down unemployment. It will stimulate our struggling economy and empower individuals whose jobs were lost because of circumstances beyond their control.

Illinois politicians should have deferred sales tax payments shortly after the onset of the pandemic so that businesses could retain revenue as they fought to stay in business and keep valued employees. It is not too late for policymakers to move such legislation. It will certainly be necessary should there be a reversal of the state's reopening. Occupational licensing reform should also be passed now. This will remove barriers so that displaced employees and business owners can launch new careers.

Politicians must also address rising property taxes because they will further hamper small businesses struggling due to the pandemic. This has been a discussion topic for too long. Springfield politicians must find solutions or risk the loss of more businesses and jobs.

The small business community drives the Illinois economy and additional legislation should be passed to ensure struggling small businesses have a fighting chance to make it through the pandemic. Leadership in Springfield will be needed to make that happen.

Supporting small business and preventing foreclosures

Many small businesses cannot pay their rent. As a result, property owners are at risk of defaulting on their mortgages. Federal politicians should immediately take action to allow small businesses to defer 50% of their rent for six months and property owners to defer mortgage payments during that same period. A uniform process should be utilized to facilitate these deferrals.

Property owners cannot pay their mortgages when small businesses are unable to pay rent. Should this occur in mass, foreclosures will skyrocket, businesses will fail and there will be increased unemployment. Federal policymakers can provide both small businesses and property owners the runway needed to help them stay solvent. This is a much better option than lawsuits and foreclosures.

Politicians must send the right message and act

Policymakers must work together to send the right message to the small business community. Politicians must assure small business owners that they will work together, in a bipartisan manner, to help them through these unprecedented times. In Illinois, there are contentious issues that will be debated this summer. As business owners and their employees struggle, there will, however, be little patience for partisan nonsense.

Along with sending the right message, politicians must also enact policies that will help small businesses through these unprecedented times. The small business community is counting on their legislators. Politicians must act now.

• Elliot Richardson is president & co-founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council, based in Chicago. Contact him at elliot@sbacil.org