The leaders of five municipalities in Winnebago County are asking Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to give them the authority to reopen businesses in their communities after May 1.
However, the leader of the county’s largest city is not on board with the request.
Thousands of small businesses need relief from the governor’s three-week-old shelter-in-place order, according to a letter sent to the governor Friday by Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury, Machesney Park Mayor Steve Johnson, Durand President Robert Corwin, South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and Cherry Valley President Jim Claeyssen.
"Many are literally sacrificing everything at this time in order to meet their obligations, which go beyond payroll, rent and inventory," the letter says. "To further complicate matters for small businesses, the need for financial assistance has far exceeded the state and federal funding sources that are available."
The letter argues that thousands of employees who work in the restaurant, service, event logistics, nonessential retail, fitness, salon and child care industries are being unnecessarily harmed because they’re classified as nonessential businesses.
"Additionally, countless business owners and employees have been asking ‘If social distancing is working at big box stores, then why can’t the same social distancing measures be safely applied to small businesses?’"
The authors of the letter are asking Pritzker to "allow each community or region that knows their businesses, their people and the COVID-19 impact on their community to make the proper decisions on reopening businesses."
"In addition to relaxing restrictions on small businesses, we feel that a one-size-fits-all set of restrictions isn’t feasible for the entire state of Illinois," the letter says.
The local mayors and village presidents who signed the letter applauded the "early leadership effort" of the governor and his team, adding, "As community leaders, we understand that the actions you took were necessary to balance the needs of ensuring public health and safety along with providing essential services to our citizens."
The letter asks Pritzker to "please consider these common sense modifications" to his shelter-in-place order to allow counties or regions "the autonomy to enact local self-determination for social distancing measures and protocols."
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara did not sign the letter sent to the governor.
"Earlier this week, I reached out to Gov. Pritzker about safely and responsibly opening more local small businesses, which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Protecting the health of our residents remains the top priority, but we need to ensure that small non-essential businesses are treated fairly," McNamara said in a statement. "Now is the time to follow science and medicine. What we have been doing is working. Now is not the time to reverse course. A plan to open all businesses on a single day – or to allow a hodgepodge system where each city makes its own rules — is not responsible when we know it will be right in the middle of our surge."
The governor’s shelter-in-place order is scheduled to run through April 30. Pritzker has said the state makes a daily assessment of whether to extend the stay-at-home order.
Ken DeCoster: email@example.com; @DeCosterKen