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YORKVILLE – Lynn Dubajic, economic development consultant for the United City of Yorkville, said during the city's Tuesday, July 7 economic development meeting that everything was a big blur for the last couple of months amid closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said it was a lot of trying to get businesses connected with resources so they could ultimately apply for the state's small business stabilization grant program in particular.
The good news, she said, is that business development projects that were being worked on prior to closure orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now moving forward – whether that’s space being leased in a new shopping center, new construction, the new gas and wash business near Raging Waves finishing up construction and aiming to open this month, closing on property purchases in industrial parks and renovations including Mandrake.
“It's taking maybe a little longer than the original anticipation date, but it's really not that much off from what people had originally were hoping for," Dubajic said. "So I think that’s really great.”
Yorkville Assistant City Administrator Erin Willrett said the applications for the state's small business stabilization program have been submitted to the state and the first round of grant awards already happened. Although none of the applications that got the city’s blessing to move on to the state were included in that announcement of first round applicants, the city has not heard from the state about whether any city businesses received the funding.
“But hopefully no news is good news at this point and that we will hear back shortly,” Willrett said.
Dubajic said a bunch of businesses also had applied for the state's Business Interruption Grants, or BIG, program, including restaurants not open for outdoor seating, salons, barbershops and fitness centers. She said the program is a lottery, meaning it's just a luck of the draw as long as everything is submitted to the state correctly, and it's her understanding announcements on who gets those grants will come in the next month.
Ward 3 Alderman Joel Frieders asked city staff what the likelihood would be if all of the city's work put into the small business stabilization program is going to be too little, too late, and whether that would mean half of the businesses that applied through city don’t get funding. He also asked what the city's course of action would be if a business receives the grant but only after they already decided to not reopen.
Frieders said business owners have a lot more on the line if a business goes under, like losing their homes. He said they can’t not pay their bills even while closed and he'd want to evaluate options about what the city can do to help businesses if they're in that type of situation where they'd be forced to pay back the grant for not remaining open, per the grant's terms.
“That’s just what I’m thinking about, because I’m watching friends’ businesses shut down,” Frieders said.
When asked whether the city has any enforcement capability to ensure people wear masks and socially distance themselves, City Administrator Bart Olson said county officials have asked the city to encourage following state health recommendations but he also knows there have been some questions among police chiefs and state's attorneys about whether enforcement could look like an arrest or issuing a ticket. He said the state has looked to local communities for enforcement but, in turn, the city has gone the educational route and he knows police officials have deferred to the Kendall County Health Department because they have additional authority to shut down food service establishments if people aren't following those regulations.
Similarly, Olson said the Illinois Department of Public Health has the authority to shut down a water park, since there are permits and a food component to deal with.
“I know that the state is monitoring what pools and water parks are doing very closely,” Olson said.
When asked what would happen enforcement-wise if the state moves back phases, Olson said he thinks that’s all going to be dictated by the state.
“That’s just be something that we’re going to have to address if and when it gets there,” Olson said.