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murphy 052320SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) and other members of the Senate Commerce Committee questioned representatives from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and communicated concerns from their local business owners at Thursday’s subject matter hearing regarding the Business Interruption Grant program.

“Today’s hearing shed some light on the processes the department used to evaluate applications and distribute BIG funds, but our small businesses deserve complete transparency,” Murphy said. “We need access to all available information to properly evaluate how small business owners could be better served in the future.”

Murphy and the committee were joined by Cara Bader, chief of staff at DCEO, and other department staff to discuss how the agency reviewed applications, communicated with awardees and unsuccessful applicants, and distributed BIG funds in both rounds of the program.

Legislators used the hearing as an opportunity to offer feedback to the department on behalf of their respective small business communities. Elliot Richardson, president of the Small Business Advocacy Council, also joined the meeting to give the Illinois small business community at large a seat at the table on future recovery efforts.

During the hearing, Murphy raised questions about how the department communicated eligibility criteria to applicants and how they are currently engaging stakeholders to improve future programming.

“The vaccine rollout is underway and many businesses have reopened, but our main streets are still struggling,” Murphy said. “We must consider the needs of our small business owners at every stage of our state’s recovery.”

The BIG program was developed last spring to provide $580 million in economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. Grantees could use funding to help with working capital expenses, including payroll, rent, utilities and other operational costs.

Committee schedules, virtual proceedings, witness slips and more are available at www.ilga.gov.