Pritzker Announces $90 Million in COVID-19 Relief For Small Businesses

Screenshot of J.B. Pritzker via Blue Room Stream

CHICAGO – Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker announced new measures to help businesses stay afloat during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Smith reports from Springfield.

The governor said starting Friday, small businesses across the state will be eligible for more than $90 million in emergency loans and state grants. State Treasurer Michael Frerichs says it’s aimed at providing businesses a “soft landing.”

“We understand business has slowed,” Frerichs said. “We do not want businesses to close forever. We want them to make payroll and pay their own bills. It is easier to ramp up a business that is struggling than a business that has shuttered.”

Businesses will be able to apply for a share of $60 million in 5 year low-interest loans. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois’ official coronavirus response website are hosting the applications, and the program will be administered by nonprofit lender Accion.

Pritzker is also pushing back Illinois’ tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. He said this year’s tax refunds will be distributed in a “timely fashion.”

These are just the latest in a series of actions state government has taken to try and combat the damage inflicted by COVID-19. But top officials said long days and a growing caseload are taking their toll.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike fought back emotion at a press conference Wednesday, telling reporters how much she empathizes with those experiencing hardship.

“I just buried my father last month, and so when I think about people who can’t do what I did for my father last month, I feel it very real as to what people are going through and the sacrifices that they’re making,” Ezike said.

Governor Pritzker, meanwhile, says he and others continue to work long hours and late into the night.

But both say they’re most worried about overwhelming healthcare workers, who experts warn may be flooded with coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. In a bid to stop that from happening, Illinois hotels are offering up some 20,000 rooms where COVID-19 victims can be treated if need be.

So far, 1865 people have COVID-19 in Illinois, but since testing remains limited, many more may have the virus as well. It has so far claimed 19 lives across the state.

Mike Smith is a reporting intern for NPR Illinois in Springfield.
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