County to help small businesses, nonprofits access federal relief funds to weather coronavirus storm

County to help small businesses, nonprofits access federal relief funds to weather coronavirus storm

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle discusses help for businesses hit hard by coronavirus containment efforts at a news conference last week. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times files

“Cook County would be nothing without our restaurants, our mom-and-pop stores and, most importantly, our workers,” Preckwinkle said. “We’re launching a technical assistance program … so that Cook County can take advantage of as much of that $377 billion as possible.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday promised to provide technical help for “mom-and-pop” businesses, nonprofits and community service organizations seeking to get their share of federal funds designed to keep them afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The county intends to help small businesses and others tap into as much of the $377 billion appropriated for such aid in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act as possible, Preckwinkle said at a news conference Thursday.

County officials are launching a technical assistance program and will work with the Illinois Restaurant Association, the American Business Immigration Coalition and the National Partnership for New Americans to host webinars and help businesses and others apply for the federal dollars.

“Cook County would be nothing without our restaurants, our mom-and-pop stores and, most importantly, our workers,” Preckwinkle said. “We’re launching a technical assistance program … so that Cook County can take advantage of as much of that $377 billion as possible.”

Preckwinkle said 80% of county businesses are “concerned about paying workers, staying open and meeting their bottom line.” Nonprofits, gig workers and others also said they were struggling to survive during the pandemic.

Sam Toia, the president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said “restaurants are the cornerstone of every community in Cook County” and said it’s “vital” that government works with small businesses and others to help them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Preckwinkle said the county would waive some fines and fees and defer the collection of some home rule taxes to help businesses as they deal with coronavirus containment efforts.

Those taxes, which include the alcoholic beverage, amusement, tobacco, gasoline and hotel accommodations taxes, were deferred for the February and March tax periods until May.

No penalties or interest will be applied during the extension period.

Consumers will still be required to pay the taxes when making purchases, but the store or other business will get a break in the time frame for forwarding the revenue to the county.

“This is no ordinary time,” Preckwinkle said last week. “The [coronavirus] pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but also an economic, financial crisis. … We hope this can provide some breathing room for businesses that are struggling. We recognize that you are worried about rents, about payroll about mounting bills — you should not be worried that the tax collector is coming after you as well.”

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