THE CENTER SQUARE – Businesses of all sizes have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been especially difficult for smaller businesses.

Using data from the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, a project of Harvard University, an analysis from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute found that 35% of small businesses in Illinois are closed now compared to before the pandemic.

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Bryce Hill, a senior research analyst with the think tank, said there are two main reasons for the closures.

"No. 1, population-dense areas have been more drastically affected by COVID-19, and there are also going to be economic realities of mitigation measures that were put into place in Illinois that may have been tighter than in some other areas,” Hill said.

The analysis also showed 50% of small businesses in the food services and accommodations industry and 51% in the leisure and hospitality industry have closed. These were the most affected sectors in Illinois.

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Over 38% of small businesses in the educational and health services industry are still closed, the sixth most in the nation.

A recent Alignable Small Business Confidence Poll found that 45% of all small business owners remain “highly concerned” about keeping their businesses afloat through the rest of the COVID era.

And that number is even higher for businesses owned by minorities (59%) and women (50%), as well as small businesses in key sectors, such as beauty salons (63%), caterers (63%), and retailers (49%).

Hill notes that small businesses are the main job providers in the state, and talk of tax hikes for businesses in Springfield would be a mistake.

“Which would be coming at the absolute worse time,” Hill said. “So as businesses are trying to get back on their feet and recover, the last thing the state can afford to do if they want to see those businesses come back would be is to raise taxes.”

- Kevin Bessler is a reporter for The Center Square.

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