County Leaders Request JB Pritzker ‘Ease Restrictions’ And Let Communities Decide On Reopening Businesses

STEPHENSON COUNTY, ILLINOIS — According to a press release Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller reached out to Stephenson County mayors and village presidents to continue in the steps taken by other regional mayors to urge Illinois Governor JB Pritzker to ease restrictions that are deeply affecting small businesses during the pandemic restrictions. The number one focus Miller said is on safety but says, “we need to also be cognizant of what this is doing to our local economy and the many small businesses and their employees that are significantly affected.”

The letter from Stephenson County was signed by Mayor Jodi Miller, City of Freeport, Shawn Cox, President Village of Cedarville, Jason Knox, President Village of Dakota, Robert Knoup, President Village of Pearl City, Kim Kopp, President Village of Ridott, Charles Halbleib, President Village of Rock City, LeRoy Wernet, President Village of Winslow, Dennis Bergman, President Village of Lena and Michael Siedschlag, President Village of Orangeville. The letter praised Governor Pritzker for his leadership as we face unprecedented times with the pandemic.

The letter asks for consideration for our area as it differs greatly from what a larger metropolitan area has in keeping physical distances with public transportation and larger crowd bases than what we historically have. Local officials are meeting on a regular basis to explore plans for opening back up and adjusting to our new normal.

The letter reads;

“On behalf of Northern Illinois communities of the greater Freeport region, we are writing about the impact of Executive Order Number 8 on effectively flattening the curve of virus cases and on the regional business community and to provide guidance for any possible future extensions of your order. As community leaders, we understand that the actions you took were necessary to balance the needs of ensuring public health and safety along with providing essential services to our citizens. We applaud the early leadership effort of you and your team.

As we now have had nearly four weeks operating under Executive Order 8 in our communities, we’re discovering that thousands of small businesses are in need of relief from the Order going forward. Many are literally sacrificing everything at this time in order to meet their obligations, which go beyond payroll, rent and inventory. To further complicate matters for small businesses, the need for financial assistance have far exceeded the State and Federal funding sources that are available.

Please understand that the idea of “working from home” does not apply to all businesses. Thousands of employees who work in the restaurant, service, event logistics, nonessential retail, gyms, salons, and child-care industries are being unnecessarily harmed because they have been classified as nonessential businesses. Additionally, countless business owners and employees have been asking “if social distancing is working at big box stores, then why can’t the same social distancing measures be safely applied to small businesses?” We collectively echo the concerns of struggling businesses and appeal to you for an alternative approach going forward.

Therefore, if you are considering extending any statewide restrictions beyond April 30th, we strongly request that you allow each community or region, that knows their businesses, their people, and the COVID impact on their community to make the proper decisions on reopening businesses. We would suggest the minimum requirements would be they follow the same distance guidelines in effect for “big box” retailers. To be clear, we are in no way advocating further restrictions be placed of larger ‘big box” retailers.

In addition to relaxing restrictions on small business, we feel that a one-size-fits-all set of restrictions isn’t feasible for the entire state of Illinois. Stephenson County is not Cook County, and quite frankly, counties like ours have a different culture that, by nature, normally utilizes social distancing. Stephenson County does not use public transportation to the extent that Chicago does, nor do we have buildings with thousands of workers densely packed within. Our shopping and dining habits are spread out and most of our dining options are laid out at distances greater than 6 feet apart. Stephenson County is different than high-density communities, and I’m sure many others are as well.

Please consider these commonsense modifications to the Executive Order giving counties or regions the autonomy to’ enact local self-determination for social distancing measures and protocols.

Governor Pritzker, protecting our citizens and families is a top priority for our communities. We wouldn’t be approaching you with this request if we felt that it would jeopardize all of the good work that has been done so far to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please consider our request to reopen businesses and allow us to enforce social distancing requirements. We appreciate your time and consideration, and look forward to working together to move past this difficult and unprecedented event. We would be delighted to speak with you further about our request. Please contact Mayor Jodi Miller at 815-235-8200 to arrange a zoom meeting or conference call.”

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