Businesses closing

A man looks at signs of a closed store due to COVID-19 in Niles in May. Many small businesses are simply running out of the cash reserves they may have had on hand due to the 4-month-old pandemic.

KANKAKEE — Could one quarter of all Illinois businesses be wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

There are at least a few business experts who believe that could ultimately be the case.

During a Wednesday virtual meeting hosted by State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, Clark Kaericher said up to 25 percent of state businesses will not likely survive.

Kaericher, vice president of government affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, noted the pandemic’s impact on small business is even harsher.

“Sadly, many businesses that are closing their doors due to the pandemic will never reopen,” Kaericher said. “... Not only has [COVID-19] been a daunting public health crisis, but Americans have simultaneously faced an economic catastrophe. Unfortunately, this one-two punch has been too much for many of our businesses to overcome.”

Ken Barragree, director of the Iroquois Economic Development Association, agreed on the potential devastation on small business.

These small businesses, he noted, are simply running out of the cash reserves they may have had on hand due to the 4-month-old pandemic.

“If they can open just some,” he said. “[But] another [governor-mandated] shutdown will be the end of them.”

Barragree said potentially half of small businesses will not be able to reopen. “I know that’s what you may not want to hear. They are struggling.”

Amanda Hibbs, executive director of the Watseka Area Chamber of Commerce, did not have any concrete data as of yet regarding businesses openings, but she believes the characterizations shared by Barragree and Kaericher are accurate.

“Lots of small businesses are struggling,” Hibbs said. “I can confidently say 25 percent will struggle to get through this. They simply will not have the money to pay their bills.”

Hibbs said she is fearful of what the ultimate may be on business ownership if this pandemic extend to year’s end.

“I would say there is a real good possibility of many businesses struggling to bounce back if this is continued,” she said.

Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, who was not part of the Zoom meeting, agreed with the loss assessments.

In fact, Nugent said, the loss of businesses could be greater than 25 percent.

“Businesses cannot operate like this and be sustainable,” he said. Nugent noted many businesses — particularly small business — operate on a very small profit margin. Therefore, he said, they cannot exist long on 25 or 50 percent business capacity.

“There will be a lot of pain from this down the road,” he said.

Barickman said he is getting the feeling Gov. J.B. Pritzker is heading in the direction of restricting access as COVID-19 numbers have ticked upward.

Barickman said he doesn’t oppose such a move, but what he does oppose is the governor’s lack of conversation with the elected lawmakers.

“The decisions being made are made by the governor alone. There is no oversight by the legislative branch and that’s very frustrating to me. During COVID-19, that whole [legislative] process has taken a back seat. I strongly object. This should be more of a collaboration.

“... My biggest criticism is this: All of these decisions are made unilaterally by him. The Legislature has zero oversight in all of this. It’s frustrating. ... Pritzker has taken total control.”

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