State Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) sent a letter to the members of the Illinois congressional delegation today urging them to prioritize a COVID-19 relief package that will provide support to independent and family-owned restaurants, taverns and their employees; those hardest hit by COVID-19 mitigation policies across the state.
“Safety is always our top concern. Protecting our communities from wider spread of this virus is critical. Local restaurants and taverns support tens of thousands of employees dependent on tip income; and many employers have leveraged life savings in an effort to preserve their dream of restaurant ownership,” Rep. Keicher said. “This week it was reported that 5,000 establishments have closed, and 120,000 fellow Illinoisans are out of work in the industry. The Illinois Restaurant Association estimates that 40% of restaurants will permanently close; and those will generally be the small and family-owned ones and not the corporate chains. Uniquely our small restaurants and banquet centers are being mitigated out of existence. Action is needed soon if there is any hope for them to survive. I am urging our federal representatives to take action on an immediate COVID-19 relief package with specific provisions for these businesses,” Keicher added.
A large portion of Illinois has been placed under enhanced COVID-19 mitigation status by Governor Pritzker this month, policies that include increased restrictions on restaurants and taverns. Those under mitigation include Region 1 (nine counties in northern/northwest Illinois including DeKalb and Boone); Region 8 (Kane and DuPage Counties); Region 7 (Will and Kankakee Counties); and Region 5 (20 counties in southern Illinois).
A copy of Representative Keicher’s letter to the members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation is below:
October 23, 2020
Dear Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation:
We are all concerned about the health and safety of our citizens by limiting then stopping the spread of COVID-19. Combating the pandemic and protecting our economy to the fullest extent possible should not be mutually exclusive goals. I am concerned that the livelihood of thousands of Illinoisans is being lost amidst the vitriolic partisan rhetoric and gridlock both in Washington, DC and within our state.
I am writing today to urge your engagement and advocacy on a federal package of support for Illinois’ small business community, specifically the “mom and pop” restaurants that call our cities and towns home. Uniquely our small restaurants and banquet centers are being mitigated out of existence. Action is needed soon if there is any hope for them to survive.
Like you, I have heard from employees, owners, and patrons of these establishments fearful of permanent closure. The resulting devastation in our towns and cities will be a long-lived hollowing of our most cherished local restaurants and taverns. This week it was reported that 5,000 establishments have closed, and 120,000 fellow Illinoisans are out of work in our service industry. The Illinois Restaurant Association estimates that 40% of restaurants will permanently close; and those will generally be the small and family-owned ones and not the corporate chains.
As we now approach the winter months and a resurgence in COVID-19 positive cases, restaurants and taverns are restricted from indoor dining. These restrictions do not generally impact the viability of national chain establishments but the local mom and pop locations.
In Illinois, as you may be aware, the General Assembly has been largely sidelined during COVID-19; not meeting to address the critical support needed in our state except for a four-day emergency session in late May. Instead we have been operating since mid-March on a succession of executive emergency orders issued by the Governor that are questionable due to a lack of clarity in the authorizing statute.
The people’s elected representatives in the state legislature are being denied the opportunity to vote on policies to protect public health, shore up our economy, and provide relief to families who desperately need it. Unlike those of us in the General Assembly, you, our federal representatives in Congress are not constrained by the Governor of Illinois. You have the ability to provide relief from the federal level.
My district, like many others, features great downtowns where some of families’ most significant celebrations and evenings are spent. As we think about our downtowns, we tend to focus on the small restaurants or taverns we enjoy visiting with friends and family. These are the places where local traditions endure. These are the institutions that support our sports leagues, schools’ fundraisers and employ our friends and neighbors. We urgently need to help them survive this pandemic.
My request is simple. Please work aggressively to achieve a bipartisan relief package specifically for local restaurants and taverns. These businesses support tens of thousands of employees dependent on tip income; and many have leveraged life savings in an effort to preserve their dream of restaurant ownership. Other businesses are hurting and need attention as well. However, small businesses in the restaurant industry face a much bleaker future and more significant impact on the places we call home.
I look forward to hearing your efforts in this regard.
State Representative, 70th District