Rep. Wehrli, House Republicans to File Legislation Leveling Business Playing Field during COVID-19 Crisis

Assistant Minority Leader Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville), and a group of House Republicans are finalizing legislation that will support small businesses that are at risk of permanent financial ruin due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fair Business Treatment Act seeks to provide all Illinois small businesses with the same opportunities that are currently afforded to larger, big box stores like Walmart and Target. The proposal would alleviate the existing disparity within Governor Pritzker’s stay home order, which allows large retailers to remain open, while small businesses that sell the same goods are forced to remain closed.

“Small businesses in the 41st District and across Illinois are suffering significant losses while they see big box stores that sell the same products continue to operate,” said Wehrli. “Our small businesses employ the majority of Illinoisans. They are our job creators, and we must do whatever we can to allow them to reopen their businesses safely and responsibly.”

Wehrli pointed to neighboring states, like Wisconsin and Iowa, which are relaxing restrictions for small businesses. “Small businesses in states all around Illinois are reopening with safety regulations in place to protect public health,” added Wehrli. “If people are deemed ‘safe’ by wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing in big box stores, they will certainly be equally safe if those same regulations are enforced for small businesses. It’s just common sense.”

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.

“Governor Pritzker created four extremely large regions for his reopening plan, and he did so with no input from the General Assembly or experts from the business community,” Wehrli said. “He created an arbitrary map that lumps communities with much lower COVID-19 cases and deaths in with the City of Chicago. As a result of his arbitrary map, people who rely on jobs created by small business owners are suffering unnecessary job loss.”

The language of the Fair Business Treatment Act is being finalized, and the bill should be filed by the end of the week.