Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr.

Small businesses get a seat at the table at Senate Democrats' joint committee hearing

CHICAGO – As the state prepares to launch the new Back to Business (B2B) small business relief program, Senate Democrats called a joint hearing of the Illinois Senate Appropriations and Commerce Committees to give small business owners a platform to provide feedback and direction to program administrators.

“I am proud to lead Democratic efforts in the Senate to ensure needed dollars reach the communities hardest hit by the pandemic,” said State Senator Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss, but the losses our small businesses experienced have put a tremendous strain on growing local economies. I will remain committed to helping all small businesses build back better.”

“Local businesses of all sizes and industries have faced various economic disruptions over the past year,” said State Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This hearing was a collaborative effort to encourage open conversation and provide the small business community an opportunity to address DCEO and their elected officials directly.”

The B2B program, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is expected to distribute $250 million in economic relief to small businesses across the state to help offset losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leveraging relationships with regional partners established through the recently expanded community navigator outreach program, DCEO will conduct outreach locally for the B2B grant program and prioritize hardest-hit industries and communities.

“Small business owners have suffered unimaginable stress over the past year. State and federal grant programs offered them some relief, but funding didn’t reach everyone who needed it,” said State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines), a member of both committees who was instrumental in planning the hearing. “We approached this hearing seeking answers and solutions for the businesses that felt left out in the cold.”

At the hearing, lawmakers questioned representatives from DCEO, heard testimony from local and state business leaders, conveyed feedback from their local small business owners, and offered suggestions on how the B2B program could learn from the successes and shortfalls of previous relief programs like the Business Interruption Grant program to better serve the needs of the Illinois small business community.

“Over the course of the pandemic recovery, we’ve seen that some businesses and industries have made progress faster than others,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs, and who helped play a key role in negotiating Illinois’ Fiscal Year 2022 budget. “We want to make sure that the Back to Business program is positioned to reach the industries that need the most help before it launches.”

Applications for the B2B program open Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. More information, eligibility requirements and applications are available on DCEO’s website at



Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford's Uplift Our Future 12th Annual free Back to School Event

Lightford provides over 800 community residents with backpacks filled with school supplies

BROOKFIELD – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) hosted her Uplift Our Future 12th Annual free Back to School Event serving over 800 community residents with a fun-filled free day at the Brookfield Zoo with no admission fee, no parking fee, no cost for lunch, and no charge for backpacks filled with school supplies for students from Pre-K to college.

“As we continue to fight this pandemic, our families still need fun experiences, especially if they help our students get prepared for the upcoming school year,” Lightford said. “The Uplift Our Future 12th Annual free Back to School Event turned out amazing, and I am thankful for all the sponsors, vendors, volunteers, and families who came out and supported our kids this year.”

Since 2009, Lightford has hosted a free Back to School Event for youth and families in the 4th Senate District at the Brookfield Zoo.

This year Lightford also had the honor of partnering with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Our state needs to get back to normal, and the only solution right now is to ensure that all eligible Illinois residents have access to vaccinations,” Lightford said.



Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins

Collins' plan to fight human trafficking signed into law

CHICAGO – The final pieces of a legislative package aimed at fighting human trafficking will become law after Gov. JB Pritzker signed three key measures sponsored by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago). Collins’ plan comprises House Bill 588 and Senate Bills 1599 and 1600.
Collins is particularly concerned about the issue because a disproportionate number of the missing people in the United States are Black. According to the National Crime Information Center, there were 609,275 missing people in the U.S. in 2019. Nearly 34% of that number – 205,802 – were Black.

“We cannot deny that human trafficking is here in Illinois, and it thrives on invisibility,” Collins said. “Today, we have taken steps toward raising awareness about this crime against humanity and studying the means to fight it. As a state that serves as a major international transportation hub, this is our duty to the people of the world.”

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Senator Ram Villivalam, Chicago: New law allows educational support staff to take family leave | WGEM



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