Chicago mayor says ‘suffering’ small businesses need access to capital
Access to capital and technical assistance are key to helping small businesses and local economies that are suffering, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said Tuesday.
“Our small and micro businesses are really hurting, they’re suffering,” Lightfoot said at an event hosted by The Hill titled “Understanding the Venture Economy: America’s Hidden Resilience Factor.”
Chicago Mayor @LoriLightfoot on the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy: “Our small and micro-businesses are really hurting. They’re suffering.” #TheHillVentures https://t.co/SHBrTDlfmF pic.twitter.com/YFiQRIdrh7
— The Hill Events (@TheHillEvents) September 15, 2020
Lightfoot told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that the needs of employers helped spur Chicago’s $100 million small business loan fund to focus on “small and micro businesses, particularly those that weren’t able to take advantage of the federal dollars” and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans distributed earlier this year.
The PPP was created through a March coronavirus relief bill to provide loans to struggling small businesses that could be entirely forgiven if used for payroll, rent and other essential expenses. The program has approved more than $525 billion in loans to more than 5.2 million businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
House Democrats released a study Tuesday that found more than $3 billion in loans may have gone to firms that already received support or should have been excluded from the program.
Lightfoot said other loan programs were not accessible to small businesses because they required high thresholds for matching funds. Policymakers in Washington, she said, “need to listen to mayors” in order to properly support local economies.
“We want to help shape federal policy because we know what is going on in our cities,” Lightfoot added at the event sponsored by GoDaddy. “Having mayors with a seat at the table in federal policymaking to me is one of the surest ways to ensure those businesses won’t be passed over.”
At the local level, Lightfoot said Chicago’s business administration department now hosts weekly seminars aimed at helping prospective small businesses entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. The “how-to webinars” include advice on how to write a business plan or become a digital business.
“We’ve made sure that our small business centers are really focused on providing technical support at the application stage and throughout,” Lightfoot said. “We will spend less on the front end if we invest now in human capital and people’s lives than we will on the back end trying to correct problems.”
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