Amid the ongoing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant House Minority Leader Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, announced today that he will sponsor legislation to help support small businesses in Illinois.
The legislation, called the Fair Business Treatment Act, calls for small businesses to be given the same opportunities that larger, big box stores currently have. The proposal is meant to alleviate the existing disparity that allows large retailers to sell items available at local small businesses, but preventing those small businesses from opening to in-store shopping under restrictions imposed by Governor Pritzker’s Stay at Home order.
“Small businesses deserve the right to be open now! We have all seen how small business owners and employees innovate in order to compete and they can do that safely. Big box stores have provided for us and we are grateful, but our local small retailers throughout the Fox Valley and the State of Illinois need state government to take action to level the playing field,” Rep. Wheeler said.
Wheeler continued, “Just this week our neighbors to the north in the State of Wisconsin reopened their small businesses with specific guidelines in place to protect public health including social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering, and limiting the number of customers in-store at one time. Our local business leaders here in Illinois have said they’re ready to do the same, if only the State will let them. We should do so without further delay.”
In a recent statewide poll conducted by Ogden and Fry, Illinois residents strongly support opening small retail businesses, if they follow the same social distancing requirements as big box stores. Of the 493 polled, 75% agreed that small retail stores should be open.
A small business owner himself for 28 years with offices in Oswego and Chicago, Representative Wheeler is keenly aware of the challenges faced by small and family-owned businesses, both prior to and during COVID-19. Wheeler is a former Board Chairman for the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce and former Chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business Fox Valley Area Action Council for small business.
“The Governor’s current policy arbitrarily picks winners and losers in Illinois’ retail economy,” Rep. Wheeler added. “Corporate giants are the winners, while the backbone of the economy, our mom-and-pop independent retailers, are limited to filling curbside pickup orders. This is an untenable situation with devastating consequences to the millions of families across our state who depend on jobs created and sustained by small business.”
Representative Wheeler serves the 50th District, which includes portions of Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Campton Hills, Elburn, Montgomery, Oswego, Plano, St. Charles, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.