More important than ever to support small businesses


Social distancing is a sensible response to the spreading coronavirus, but it’s taking a toll on Illinois’ small businesses.

A new survey from my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, says that 76 percent of small businesses report being impacted by the response to COVID-19. Not surprisingly, most small businesses say sales are down because of government restrictions, while 23 percent say their supply chain has been disrupted.

Twenty percent of small businesses surveyed said the novel coronavirus hasn’t affected them, but most think it will eventually. The survey was national in scope, so I have to think it’s as bad or worse in Illinois.

As NFIB’s state director for Illinois, this concerns me.

Small business is the foundation of Illinois’ economy. According to the Small Business Administration, 99.6 percent of businesses in the state are small businesses, and they employ about 45 percent of the state’s workforce.

And unlike chain stores and restaurants, which are owned by big corporations likely as not based someplace else, small businesses are owned by – and employ – our friends, family, and neighbors. Small businesses create jobs, and they support our schools, charities, and children’s sports teams. Small business is the glue that holds our communities together, and we can’t afford to lose them.

That’s why NFIB is encouraging people to do what they can to support small businesses at this difficult time:

Get take-out or delivery. Restaurant dining rooms may be closed, but a lot of local restaurants’ kitchens are still open. And be sure to tip your server or delivery driver.

Shop online. Stores may be closed, but local merchants may have their own websites where customers can place orders.

Buy gift cards or gift certificates to local businesses. Buy it today and spend it once the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Small business owners are showing a real determination to get through this, but it will be a challenge. No one’s coming in because of the coronavirus, but shops and restaurants are still obliged to pay their everyday expenses – rent, the light bill, taxes.

Illinois’ small businesses are committed to following the rules while still providing the goods and services their customers need as safely as they can. Supporting them now will lessen the impact this unprecedented health crisis will have on their businesses – and our communities.

Mark Grant is the Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.