Small businesses create jobs and drive our economy. They support families and communities. An entrepreneur with a good plan, grit and determination can change lives and transform local economies. For many people, building a successful small business is part of their American dream.
Supporting the small business community should be one of the highest priorities for Illinois legislators given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses have been forced to close and others are hanging on by a thread. This is a critical time for our legislators to advocate for small and local businesses.
There are legislators who understand the importance of standing with small businesses.
Too often, however, the small business community's legislative agenda takes a back seat to just about everything else in Springfield. When policies are put forth to benefit small businesses, they are often prescribed by politicians without the input or engagement of small business advocates.
This leads to initiatives that are often ineffective and may serve to undermine the confidence small business owners have in our political leaders.
The small business community needs a robust caucus with the breadth and energy necessary to foster its recovery from this pandemic. For that reason, the SBAC is creating a caucus dedicated to working with small business advocates. We will ask this caucus to ensure that small businesses and their advocates have a seat at the table when economic policies are being developed that will impact their livelihoods. We will work with this caucus to advance policies that will help the small business community recover from the pandemic and grow in the future.
The caucus should zealously advocate for a tax credit that can be awarded to small businesses that retrain and hire individuals who have lost their jobs or businesses because of the pandemic. This group should champion occupational licensing reform, so entrepreneurs are not unreasonably shut out from certain occupations.
Commercial property taxes are a huge impediment to small businesses. The small business caucus should take the lead on property-tax reform so that struggling Illinois companies are not faced with unsurmountable property-tax bills.
A priority of the caucus should also be to ensure that small businesses have a seat at the table as public policy is formulated and moved through the legislature. Any new government programs meant to benefit small businesses should be fair, efficient and transparent. For example, many small businesses applied for BIG grants and waited unreasonable lengths of time only to be denied relief.
There is still ambiguity regarding the process of funding BIG grants. Fostering collaboration between small business advocates and government employees who make and execute policies impacting the livelihoods of small business owners and their employees is crucial.
This is our call for legislators dedicated to helping the small business community through these difficult times. Political affiliations do not matter. The time served in government is not a factor.
We call on any politician reading this article to join us. Our coalition is waiting for you.
• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advisory Council.