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Chicago Skyline

A City Council resolution calling for Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) funds to be released to small businesses dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic could appear on the agenda at the city’s Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Part of an ongoing effort to modify existing TIF laws, the proposal represents an effective and sensible way to improve the local economy, according to Fulton Marketing Association (FMA) Executive Director Roger Romanelli.

“You’ve got an emergency and you’ve got small businesses that don’t have sales and don’t have cash,” he explained. “We’re saying, ‘please, Mayor Lightfoot, please, Governor Pritzker, save our businesses.’”

Romanelli estimates that the city’s TIF funds currently exceed $500 million. He believes that those funds could save small businesses and benefit their employees if they were converted into working capital grants. Although the existing TIF law allows for small businesses to use funds to fix their properties and train employees, he believes that TIF funds must also be allocated for small businesses working in capital emergencies.

“We’re asking the mayor and governor to immediately change the TIF law and add a clause that allows for working capital financial assistance to small businesses in state-declared emergencies,” he explained. “Right now, businesses are in danger of going extinct, so there’s no reason to fix the building. We’ve got to keep them in business.”

If the measure is approved by the Economic Development Committee, it could be presented as a resolution at the next City Council meeting on May 20. Currently, 14 Alderman have expressed their intention to vote in favor of the proposal, according to 1st Ward Alderman Daniel LaSpata. If another dozen join in, it will earn the 26 votes required for City Council passage.

According to Romanelli, 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins and 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly have not yet stated their positions on the matter, but both are being lobbied intensively by voters and small businesses.  

Additionally, the idea to reform the state’s TIF law has inspired the Fulton Market Association to form the new city-wide “Chicago TIFs Coalition,” which has earned the support of 300 constituents from “about 20 different wards” who have signed a petition calling for the change.

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