COVID-19 Updates, Resources for IL Small Businesses

Date: June 25, 2020

Phase 4 of reopening begins June 16

More restrictions on small businesses will be lifted when the state moves to Phase 4 of the reopening on Friday, June 26. Click here to read NFIB State Director Mark Grant’s statement.

State to award COVID-19 grants to small businesses

Illinois will be using $60 million of its CARES Act money to provide Business Interruption Grants (BIG) to help 3,500 small businesses hardest hit from the extended shutdown. Applications for the grants will be accepted starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 26. They are due at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7. To apply for the grants, go to the Illinois Department of Commerce web site at or click here.

Illinois Moves to Phase 3 reopening

The governor’s office states that all of Illinois will move into “phase 3” of the re-opening plan on May 30. This is good news for thousands of businesses ready, willing, and able to open up again. Employers will need to adhere the strict guidelines for workers and customers. Click here for a look at industry-by-industry details.

Governor announces ‘Restore Illinois’ plan

Gov. J.B. Pritzker released his plan for safely restarting the economy on Tuesday, May 5. “Restore Illinois” calls for a phased reopening over a period of several weeks. Read it here.

Updated guidance on essential, non-essential businesses

Governor Pritzker on May 2 released updated guidance for businesses that allows for greater flexibility. New additions and clarifications to the “essential business” definition, such as drive-in movie theaters, florists, photography, and others are provided in the most recent guidelines. Click here to learn more.

Workers’ comp emergency rule rescinded

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Board met Monday, April 27th to rescind emergency rules they previously passed just a week before. A lawsuit filed by business groups about the way in which the rule was passed as well as other pressure from employers forced the WCC Board to reconsider. The emergency rule would have reversed statutory intent by allowing any employee who works for a business designated as “essential” under the Governor’s Coronavirus emergency order the capacity automatically receive workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 without proof it was through employment activity. Had the business community not taken an immediate and uncompromising stance, this rule could have cost employers millions of additional dollars in increased work comp costs in the coming years.

Governor extends emergency order

Gov. Pritzker announced an extension to the end of May of his emergency executive order with some alterations. Starting May 1, the list of “essential” businesses will now include garden centers, greenhouses, and pet groomers as long as several stipulations are met. Manufacturers and other essential businesses must also follow stricter rules to operate. Non-essential retail stores may open but sell only through phone or on-line sales and curbside pick-up. Golf courses may open but with strict social distancing rules. The entire order is here.  

Illinois Legislature still not in session

The General Assembly has continued to postpone this year’s legislative session during the governor’s emergency order was issued in March and now re-issued two more times. The Senate website says the next scheduled date is May 5, while the House has no date published. Republican leadership has made public their desire to come together sooner rather than later. There are House and Senate bipartisan working groups meeting virtually to work out the state budget and other major issues before the session ends officially. The state fiscal year ends June 30.

State assistance for small businesses

For small businesses that may not have taken advantage of the federal programs, the State of Illinois is offering grants or low-interest loans. Details here.

LISTEN: NFIB IL state director on WTAX radio

State Director Mark Grant was on News Radio WTAX in Springfield the morning of April 20. He talked about NFIB’s 10-point legislative plan to help America’s small businesses survive the COVID-19 shutdown.

Watch NFIB teleforum with Commerce Director Guthrie

NFIB hosted a teleforum on April 9 with Eric Guthrie, acting director of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Guthrie discussed Illinois’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Watch it here.

State assistance for small businesses

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is working with partners to launch emergency assistance programs for Illinois small businesses. Details here.

The state treasurer’s office, meanwhile, has announced the Business Invest-Illinois Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program. Under this program, the treasurer’s office has made up to $250 million in deposits available to financial institutions throughout the state, at near-zero rates, to help Illinois small business. Learn more about it here.

Hospitality emergency grants

To help hospitality businesses make ends meet in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, DCEO is launching the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program with $14 million drawn from funds originally budgeted for job training, tourism promotion, and other purposes. Learn more here.

$90 million in emergency aid available

On March 25, Governor Pritzker announced a new package of emergency assistance programs for small businesses in need of additional capital, totaling more than $90 million. Illinois businesses will be able to apply to these programs on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) website.

Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund

This $60 million fund will support low-interest loans of up to $50,000 for small businesses in every industry outside of Chicago. Click here to learn more.

Legislative update

With the Legislature out an extra week because of the coronavirus, the Illinois State Capitol is closed to everyone except essential personnel.

That doesn’t mean state government is closed, however:

   • Governor Pritzker has signed an emergency declaration enabling haulers and truckers to get free state Department of Transportation overweight trucking permits so they can deliver emergency relief supplies. Operators are required to carry a copy of the order and waiver, which can be found at

   • The governor has also pushed through emergency rules to allow displaced workers to immediately apply for unemployment benefits. NFIB and other business groups are seeking legislation to keep affected employers from getting hit with unemployment insurance rate hikes.

   • Illinois filed for statewide eligibility in a federal disaster loan program for small businesses facing financial hardship. The US Small Business Administration low-interest loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per eligible small business. These loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once approved by the federal government, business owners and non-profit leaders can apply at

National updates

As small businesses across the country are grappling with the current and potential impacts associated with COVID-19, NFIB is continuing to track the latest developments from healthcare officials, congress and the administration.

We know small business owners are acting now to take necessary precautions, but also need to understand how actions taken by policymakers today affect business operations down the road.

Click here for the latest coronavirus-related small business federal resources and information.


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