Over the past five months of this public health crisis turned economic catastrophe, one of the central roles Greater Peoria EDC has played has been connecting businesses with resources. While businesses of all types and sizes have been impacted by COVID, we’ve been particularly focussed on small businesses. These are the hometown, mom-and-pop, independent establishments that don’t have a phalanx of accountants or a troop of attorneys to make sense of the vast sea of information. When we look at some of the outcomes of the past few months, we can all be proud of the resources that were delivered:
- The federal Paycheck Protection Program was used by 4,799 different small businesses (those receiving loans of less than $150,000) within the region, totalling just over $150 million and retaining over 23,000 jobs. Cool data visual with a breakdown by zip code here.
- Thanks in large part to the efforts of the GPEDC staff and the leadership of the county boards in our region, forty-nine businesses have been awarded a total of $1.02 million in Downstate Business Stabilization Grants. Another thirty-nine businesses are still waiting for word from DCEO, representing another $875,000 in assistance.
- Twenty-two businesses were awarded Illinois Emergency Hospitality Grants totalling $530,000.
- Forty-six businesses were awarded Illinois Business Interruption Grants (BIG) totalling $750,000.
- The City of Pekin used its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to award $470,000 to 143 businesses (and is starting a second round of assistance soon).
- The City of Peoria is using its CDBG in a similar way and is preparing to award over $500,000 to nearly 60 businesses.
This seems like a lot of money flowing into the region’s businesses, and while it is certainly impressive and greatly appreciated, it is also not enough. Over these months we’ve spoken to dozens of businesses. Some were not qualified or not successful in grabbing hold of the resources that were available. Maybe just as sadly, some who did get assistance are still struggling to make it. A recent article in The Hill outlined how current assistance from the federal level has fallen short. “There is broad consensus that without additional, targeted relief, most small businesses simply won’t survive this pandemic. But small businesses don’t just need more relief, they need better relief that is directed at the people who need it the most.” They point to a New York Times article that indicates that many small businesses, some of whom went into debt to reopen, are giving up altogether.
And while additional federal action to assist businesses is desperately needed, the state of Illinois also needs to do more. It’s Downstate Stabilization and BIG programs have been great for those who received awards, but the rules often created narrow spaces into which only a few businesses could squeeze. The state of Illinois has chosen not to allow local municipalities and counties to utilize funding provided under the CARES act to create business assistance programs. The Illinois Municipal League, in concert with other state organizations, has led the charge against this decision but to no avail.
Despite the frustrations with state and federal government decisions and inaction, we know that our businesses are resilient and that our local institutions will do whatever they can to help bridge this gap. Greater Peoria EDC commits itself to uncovering any resource that might be available and connecting businesses to the help they need. (Please see information on the Business Response Program elsewhere in this newsletter.) But you can help, too. Now more than ever our small businesses need your patronage. Whether it is a restaurant, a retail establishment or even a local consultant or service provider, we all need to “think local” first. The road is long ahead of us, but we have a better chance of getting to our destination if we go there together.