Business Resources

COVID-19 Business Resources

The Partnership is here to help provide the most up-to-date information on health and safety guidance, financial resources and programs available to keep your business strong during uncertain times.

Today’s Updates

Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigations

View full FAQs here.

With a new wave of COVID-19 surging across the state of Illinois and the nation, the state is committed to listening to public health experts and following the science to keep people safe. Tier 3 builds on the Resurgence Mitigation Plan first released in July to suppress the spread of the virus and ensure our hospitals do not become overrun. This new tier aims to limit gatherings and encourages people to stay home to the greatest extent possible, while permitting some industries to remain open at significantly reduced capacities with proper safety measures in place. All detailed Phase 4 operational guidance remains in effect. Where Phase 4 guidance and Tier 3 Mitigations imply different standards, the more restrictive Tier 3 Mitigations will apply. School districts and local officials should follow extensive guidance released by IDPH and ISBE in August and make decisions related to in-person and remote learning at the local level, based on the unique needs of their communities. Child care facilities may continue to operate subject to DCFS guidelines.

With COVID-19 spread now exponential in every region of the state, our statewide positivity rate at record highs and hospitalizations already surpassing our Spring peak, all 11 regions moved into Tier 3 effective November 20, 2020 at 12:01am. The new mitigation requirements to combat the surge of COVID-19 across Illinois are as follows:

Bars and Restaurants
  • All bars and restaurants close at 11 pm and may reopen no earlier than 6 am the following day
  • No indoor service
  • All bar and restaurant patrons should be seated at tables outside
  • No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)
  • Tables should be 6 feet apart
  • No standing or congregating outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
  • No dancing or standing indoors
  • No tables exceeding 6 people
  • Reservations required for each party
  • No seating of multiple parties at one table
  • Indoor gaming terminals must suspend operations
  • Includes private clubs and country clubs
Health and Fitness Centers
  • Operate at no more than 25% capacity
  • No indoor group classes
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, including while engaged in individual exercise regardless of person or machine spacing
  • Reservations required
  • Locker room areas should be closed
  • Hotel room occupancy should be limited to registered guests only, with the maximum allowance being the number of individuals permissible per existing fire code for each applicable guest room
  • Fitness centers should be closed, or operated only on a reservation model, with capacity limited to 25% of the maximum occupancy for the room.
  • Grab and go food allowed
  • Event and meeting space closed
Indoor recreation, theaters, cultural Institutions (e.g. casinos, bowling, arcades, movie theaters, museums and zoos)
  • Gaming and casinos close
  • Indoor recreation centers, including theaters, performing arts centers and indoor museums and amusement centers close
  • Live streaming of performances encouraged with social distancing of performers and minimum operational staff
  • Outdoor activities allowed at 25% capacity or less
  • Outdoor group activities limited to 10 persons or less, participants/guests must wear face coverings at all times
  • Reservations required for each guest for outdoor activities
  • Additional COVID training for all employees required even if previous training occurred
  • Operators should coordinate with IDPH to implement testing protocols and contact tracing, upon request, consistent with available testing supplies
  • All employees must wear face coverings at all times unless eating or drinking. Exemptions only for safety purposes.
  • Only manufacturing staff and key personnel allowed in facilities. Non-production employees must work remotely. Non-essential staff and visitors are not permitted. Exemptions only for critical equipment repairs, supply deliveries and safety reasons (“critical visitors”).
  • All critical visitors must have an Employee Health and Safety (EHS)-approved risk-assessment done in advance, including travel history, tracking, and temperature check prior to entrance.
  • Implement additional workstation realignment when feasible
  • Stagger and space shifts, and designate shift entrances and exits (when possible) to minimize interactions of employees across unique shift groupings
  • Station sanitation required at beginning and ending of shifts
  • Review policies to ensure that workers are not encouraged or incentivized to report to work while sick or potentially contagious (this may include suspending attendance-based incentive pay and implementing temporary sick leave policies)Implement temporary leave policies to accommodate workers who are sick
  • Develop and implement safety protocols for employee travel vans to promote spacing, require face coverings, temperature checks, air circulation, and vehicle sanitization
Meetings, social events and gatherings (including weddings, potlucks, etc.)
  • Limit in home gatherings to household members
  • Meeting rooms, banquet centers, private party rooms, private clubs and country clubs may not host gatherings
  • No party buses
  • Funerals are limited to 10 family members of the decedents, not including staff, see IDPH guidance
  • All employees who can work remotely should work remotely
Organized group recreational activities (sports, indoor sports and activity facilities, etc.)
  • Pause all indoor group sporting and recreational activities including youth and adult recreational sports, individual training may remain (with facility reservation)
  • Includes park districts and travel leagues
  • Outdoor sports and recreation allowed
  • Participant groups and practices outdoors limited to 10 persons or less with social distancing
  • Face coverings required for all activities at all times
  • Locker rooms should be closed
Personal Care Service
  • Operate at lesser of 25 clients or 25% capacity
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times by clients and service providers
  • Suspend services where a face covering cannot be worn (e.g. facials, beard trims)
  • Massage therapy and body treatments allowed as deemed necessary by a medical provider, but appointments must be spaced by a minimum of 15 minutes and facilities should take steps to sanitize and circulate clean air through service rooms before and after each service
  • Virtual consultations recommended
Retail (including service counters)
  • Operate at no more than 25% capacity, including general merchandise stores, “big box” stores that offer groceries and pharmacy, and convenience stores
  • Grocery stores and pharmacies may operate at up to 50% capacity
  • Encourage delivery or curbside pickup options wherever possible
  • When in-store shopping is necessary, promote efficient trips and consistent circulation

The provisions above apply to industries/sectors with Restore Illinois Phase 4 guidance or other mitigations. Other functions (i.e. infrastructure, governments, logistics and warehousing etc.) that previously have not been subject to specific guidance may continue regular operations but are encouraged to voluntarily take proactive steps to support new mitigation strategy wherever possible. In these areas, customer serving functions should be limited to 25 percent capacity, aligned with Retail mitigations, and maximize work from home wherever possible.

IDPH will continue to track the positivity rates and hospital capacity metrics in regions over a 14-day monitoring period to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigation should remain in place. In order for a region to move back to Tier 2 mitigations, a region must experience less than 12 percent test positivity rate for three consecutive days AND greater than 20 percent available intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital bed availability AND declining COVID hospitalizations in 7 out of the last 10 days.

For reopening guidance for your business or industry, check out our Recovery & Reopening page.


BIG Grant Information

From DCEO: “A $220 million second round [of BIG focuses] on businesses downstate, in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs), and for heavily impacted industry and regions – representing businesses that have been unable to reopen or [whose operating capacity has been severely diminished since spring].”

  • Heavily Impacted Industries: includes movie theaters, performing arts venues, concert venues, indoor recreation, amusement parks, etc.
  • Disproportionately Impacted Areas: businesses near Davis Junction, Freeport, and Mount Morris may be eligible
  • Downstate Communities: in general, businesses in Illinois rural communities
  • Priority Businesses: businesses directly impacted by regional mitigations implemented by the state or local governments and independently owned retail, tourism, and hospitality-related industries (including accommodations)
  • Agriculture: livestock production
  • Grants & Loan Forgiveness for Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Recipients

Details here. Apply here.


LISC Rural Relief Small Business Grants

Apply NOW for the next round of LISC Rural Relief Small Business Grants. As part of our continuing commitment to elevate our impact in rural America, OneLISC is inviting small business owners in rural locations across the country to apply for the LISC-Lowe’s Rural Relief Small Business Grants program. Deadlines: December 29, 2020 – January 5, 2021; and January 26 – February 2, 2021. To find out more about who is eligible, to sign up for updates, and to apply, please visit the LISC website.

Illinois Department of Labor Launches Back to Business Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) today announced the launch of Back to Business Illinois, a free, voluntary service to connect small businesses of 250 employees or fewer with consultants who will help them evaluate and address workplace safety and health issues related to COVID-19. The consultants will create a plan for small businesses that promotes a safe, healthy and productive environment for workers and customers.

Back to Business Illinois health and safety consultants in IDOL’s Workplace Safety and Health Consultation Division will help local small businesses audit their physical operation, identify best practices and find ways to implement them efficiently.

“While this pandemic has affected Illinois’ small businesses in unexpected ways, IDOL remains committed to promoting health and safety during every step of recovery. We are excited to offer this new program in support of our small business owners’ efforts to keep workers and customers safe as these businesses continue to operate,” said IDOL Director Michael Kleinik.

Since every industry presents unique work environment challenges, each consultant will be paired with applicants based on their expertise and specific needs to customize the best plan for their business.

The Illinois Department of Labor will also be offering a free, voluntary “Back to Business” certification designed to show workers and customers that the small business has participated in the program.

Businesses can voluntarily complete a series of online modules and then institute the necessary practices to promote a safe work environment. The online guidance and education program will emphasize areas including basic infection prevention, physical space modification, infectious disease planning, employee monitoring and workplace flexibility.

This is a non-punitive program, and no fines or citations are associated with it. It is designed entirely as a benefit to empower Illinois small businesses to continue operating safely.

For more information on the Back to Business Illinois program, visit the official website at:

Partnership Panel – COVID-19 Webinar Series


July 15, 2020
Topic:  – New Laws for Business & Sexual Harassment Requirements – Sen. Brian Stewart and Beth Maskell
Meeting Recording Here
Webinar Slides
Sexual Harassment Training by Furst Staffing, click here

Sexual Harassment Training by Hughes Resources contact Carolyn Mitchell, Director of Sales and Marketing, for additional details. or call 815-232-2000

June 19, 2020
Topic:  – Freeport Clean Hands, Open Doors with Nicole Haas, Greater Freeport Partnership
Meeting Recording Here
Password: 4J*%k14i 

June 12, 2020
Topic:  – Growing in Tough Times: Thinking like a Startup, Richard Lamm, Lucas Group CPAs
Meeting Recording Here
Password: 4S%4946u 

June 4, 2020
Topic:  – PPP Part 2 :Loan Forgiveness Application, Jenny Blocker, Benning Group
Meeting Recording Here
Password: 5g+G6!75

May 20, 2020
Topic:  – Reopening & Recovery, SBDC
Meeting Recording here
Password: 4Y@4R*am 

May 7, 2020
Topic:  – Business Survival Coaching: Using Downtime as Growtime
Meeting Recording Here
Password: ab010834!

May 1, 2020
Topic: Unemployment Benefits
Meeting Recording Here
Password: 4V%5^04$

COVID-19: Help for businesses, workers and residents – New website from Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO)

Restore Illinois Guidelines

Overview of Phase 4 Guidance Released by DCEO – June 22, 2020

For reopening guidance for your business or industry, check out our Recovery & Reopening page.

Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program

This program will offer small businesses with at least one employee (not including the owner) and up to 50 employees the opportunity to partner with their local governments to obtain grants of up to $25,000 for 60 days of working capital.  Grant applicants should use the most current Guidebook for this program (4/14/20 version) as well as streamlined the GATA budget form for this program.  Both documents can be found on our website hereA recording of the webinar from April 3, 2020 is available on our website.  You can link to the webinar recording here.  If you have questions about this program, do not hesitate to the Office of Community Development grant manager for your county.  Their contact information may be found here.  Applications that have been submitted are under review and we will continue to make announcements.

Applicants must apply through their local government.

SBA Disaster Loan Information

Webinars from SBA


FEDERAL ASSISTANCE offered via the following programs:

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

All Illinois small businesses can again apply for the EIDL.  The SBA is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses and non-profit organizations that are suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.   While the EIDL Advance is no longer available, businesses can still apply for the EIDL loan.


  • These loans may be used to pay debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact, and that are not already covered by a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. The first payment is deferred for one year.
  • EIDL applications that have already been submitted continue to be processed.
  • FAQ for Economic Injury Disaster Loan


Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Program Update

  • JUNE 19, 2020 – Procedural Notice for Lenders – The purpose of this Notice is to provide guidance for when Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan proceeds must be used to refinance U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and to inform PPP Lenders of the procedure for remitting to the SBA any PPP loan proceeds designated for the refinance of an EIDL.
  • Partnership Webinar: PPP Part 2 :Loan Forgiveness Application, Jenny Blocker, Benning Group – June 4, 2020

Meeting Recording Here

Password: 5g+G6!75


Small Business Debt Relief Program 

Will provide immediate debt relief for existing SBA Borrowers: SBA will cover all loan payments for existing SBA borrowers, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months; this relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out an SBA loan within six months after the president signs the bill.


SBA Express Bridge Loans 

Allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.

  • Terms up to $25,000
  • Fast turnaround
  • Will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the EIDL loan

Other Financial Resources

USDA Rural Development Opportunities for Immediate Relief


Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund

The Office of Minority of Economic Empowerment was recently informed of the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund which is in partnership between Verizon and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). They are offering grants up to $10,000 to support small businesses. For full information regarding the grant, click here. 


U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Response

USDA and its Federal partners have programs that can be used to provide immediate and long-term assistance to rural communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.  These programs can support efforts for rural residents, businesses and communities through:

  • Technical, training, and management assistance;
  • Financial assistance; and
  • State and local assistance


Kiva Loan Assistance

In partnership with Verizon, the digital fundraising and advocacy platform Hello Alice is offering emergency grants of up to $10,000 for companies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.


GoFundMe has partnered with Intuit QuickBooks, Yelp, GoDaddy, and to give small businesses a $500 grant if they raise at least $500 on GoFundMe.


Beauty Changes lives is offering $1,000 grants for licensed beauty professionals who are out of work due to the coronavirus.


Spanx and The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, administered by Global Giving, are providing 1,000 grants of $5,000 to women-owned small businesses affected by COVID-19 in monthly rounds. The application will open again From September 8-15.


Lurn: The company’s COVID-19 Relief Fund will help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing emergency grants ranging from $50 to $500 to help with necessities such as groceries, medicine, transportation, etc.  To date, it has raised over $50,000 and dispersed roughly $32,000 in emergency relief grants to individuals.


Mailchimp$10 million worth of service will be offered for existing customers who want to continue using Mailchimp’s platform but need some financial support during this period. As an additional response to the crisis, Mailchimp will invest up to $100M to help drive new and ongoing business for our small-business customers through price discounts, product upgrades, add-ons and more.


Wefunder: The company’s Coronavirus Crisis Loans program enabling small businesses to crowdfund loans of $20,000 to $1 million from supporters.


Zapier: The $1 million assistance program is meant for their most impacted small-business customers. Zapier’s support team will set up qualified customers with a free month credit for a Starter plan.


Thanks to a $1 million grant from Sam’s Club, LISC will provide the emergency assistance that small businesses desperately need to stay afloat. They will deploy grants to help them bridge the financial gap, and deliver technical assistance to help them navigate the intricate web of public and private resources now available. LISC will focus these efforts on historically under-served communities—especially those enterprises owned or led by women, minorities and veterans, which often lack access to affordable capital. 


Office of IL State Treasurer: Charitable Trust Application Process

The Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund assists small non-profits with annual budgets of $1 million or less. Money comes from filing fees non-profits pay when incorporating in the state of Illinois, not personal or property tax dollars. Awardees are selected by an 11-member board, which oversees the management and guidelines of the fund. The 2020 cycle will focus grants to non-profits in three areas: Food Programs, Housing, and Workforce & Economic Development.

Unemployment & Paid Leave

Unemployment Benefits – Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES)


For Employee: 

  • Unemployment Benefits for More Americans: makes sure self-employed and independent contractors, like Uber drivers and gig workers, can receive unemployment during the public health emergency
    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
       PUA provides 100% federally funded unemployment benefits for individuals who are unemployed for specified COVID-19-related reasons and are not covered through other avenues in the unemployment insurance program, including self-employed sole proprietors and independent contractors. IDES is contracting with Deloitte to implement and maintain a web-based solution for PUA as quickly as possible. IDES will have this program fully implemented by the week of May 11.
    • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
      PEUC Provides up to 13 weeks’ worth of 100 percent federally funded benefits to individuals who have exhausted their rights to regular state unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks in Illinois. PEUC is potentially available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending December 26, 2020. PEUC will be retroactive once implemented. IDES received USDOL guidelines on April 10 and expects to have the program fully implemented the week of April 20.


Other Helpful Links: 


For Employer: 

IDES Resource for Employers.   


Paid Leave – Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) 

FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus while at the same time reimbursing businesses. 



IRS: Coronavirus Tax Relief:  The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated frequently as new information is available:


Manufacturing Resources

OSHA Guidelines

COVIID-19 Task Force Work Instructions

Facility Visitation Form


Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC)

  • Resources & Information
  • If businesses have a facility and are capable of manufacturing PPE or are able to quickly make the switch to manufacture PPE, they should reach out to IMEC here.
  • If businesses are manufacturers of PPE looking for a supplier, they should reach out to the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center here.


Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA): List of Illinois businesses that are producing PPE

  • PPE DonationsIf businesses have personal protection equipment (PPE) that they would like to donate, they can send an email to the State of Illinois’ Covid-19 Donation Intake Team ( Please note that all items should be in the manufacturer’s original packaging and unopened, as they cannot accept open products or homemade items.
  • For non-PPE related donations, businesses may reach out to
  • If businesses have PPE that they are interested in selling to the state, they can send an email to the State of Illinois’ Covid-19 PPE Procurement Team (

Key Industries

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Construction, Plumbing, Heating, & Service

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Private Label Food Manufacturing

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Restaurant Bingo – Dine Local, Win Prizes! November 19, 2020 All In, Community, Freeport, Fundraising, Service, Stephenson County, Tourism Print our download your Bingo card here! The Greater Freeport Partnership and the Freeport Park District are excited to announce Restaurant Bingo to encourage local carryout and delivery dining! The game begins on November 12 and runs through December 30. Participants can download their auto-generated Bingo Card and begin collecting receipts. Each card is different, so participants will want to […]
Stephenson County Visitor Center hosts Holiday Gift Show with even more local vendors November 17, 2020 The Stephenson County Visitor Center will host the annual Holiday Gift Show beginning on Friday, November 20 at their location, 4596 US Highway 20, Freeport. The Holiday Gift Show features a juried selection of local vendors selling jewelry, art, holiday décor, bags and other fantastic gift ideas. The visitor center is also a wonderful destination to search for local souvenirs […]