For the latest local information regarding COVID-19, follow us on Facebook and see ourlocal news page

Fowler Sponsors Expansion to BIG Program

State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) / Photo: WQRL file

HARRISBURG — Seeking to offset some of the devastation many small businesses across Illinois have faced due to COVID-19 closures, State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) has filed legislation to provide these businesses with much-needed relief.

Senate Bill 1615 would allocate 25 percent of future federal COVID-19 relief funds received by the state to the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Program, a program to provide economic relief to small businesses that experienced losses due to the ongoing health crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and closures took an unimaginable toll on our small businesses, leaving many struggling day-to-day just to survive and forcing others to completely close up shop. The economic damage was crushing and to this day it remains a bleak reality that many of our job creators have to confront,” said Sen. Fowler. “Which is why supporting programs, such as the BIG program, is more critical than ever. We have to provide our business community with the tools they need to begin recovery and to keep as many employers here in Illinois as possible.”

The Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Program was implemented in two rounds, with approximately $580 million allocated to the program. Funding was evenly split between childcare providers and every other kind of business.

“We applaud Sen. Fowler for his hard work and dedication to saving small businesses and the families they help and employ in his district and throughout Illinois,” said Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch. “This initiative ensures that businesses who have suffered from the pandemic and government-imposed shutdowns will receive the funding they deserve. Sen. Fowler is a true defender of small business in Illinois and we are proud to work with him on this economic engine initiative.”

For the business grant portion, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) reported more than 40,000 applications but only awarded grants to approximately 9,000 of the applicants, leaving the vast majority (79 percent) without assistance.

“Our small-business community and job creators have been overwhelmed by the government-imposed shutdowns and a COVID 19 recession,” said Sen. Fowler. “The BIG program is a well-intentioned effort to help our businesses, but it can only do so if it has adequate funding and is administered effectively.”

Sen. Fowler additionally highlighted the geographic inequity of the Business Interruption Grants awarded last year. Out of the nearly 9,000 grants awarded, 4,510 grants (or more than 50 percent) were awarded to businesses in Cook County while an additional 14.6 percent went to businesses in the collar counties.

“The devastation experienced due to the pandemic and the subsequent statewide closures were equally felt by all businesses regardless of their geographic location, but these grants do not reflect that outcome,” said Sen. Fowler. “I’m pleased that Cook County’s business community was assisted by this program, but I firmly believe the business community of downstate Illinois needs equal assistance.”

Senate Bill 1615 is an initiative of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and is also being sponsored in the House of Representatives as House Bill 2424.