Jo Daviess County Board passes measures to assist local businesses

GALENA, Ill. — Jo Daviess County officials recently approved multiple business assistance measures in an effort to aid the local economy.

The Jo Daviess County Board voted earlier this month to reimburse local food establishments 50% of their health department license fees and to give 100% reimbursement for farmer’s market license fees for the current fiscal year. The county also re-established its small business stabilization grant program to provide up to $5,000 for local businesses deemed non-essential by the state during the pandemic.

Board Chair Scott Toot said the initiatives aim to assist businesses emerging from the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic and the already traditionally slow winter season.

“We’ve gotten through the winter, and we want to give a helping hand to make sure that they stay in business,” Toot said. “We want all of our businesses to make it through this, so we’ll do what we can.”

The county allocated $250,000 last year to create the small business stabilization grant program, distributing funds to establishments throughout the pandemic. However, not all of the funds were used. In total, 44 businesses were approved to receive grants, resulting in only $68,267 being distributed.

Some of the remaining funds will go toward re-opening the program in 2021. New businesses can apply for grants, while businesses that previously received them can get up to $5,000 in additional funds.

The grant program targets a limited number of businesses, but the reimbursement of food establishment licenses benefits all restaurants in the county.

The Jo Daviess County Health Department currently charges $250 to $450 for food establishment licenses, while the licenses required for vendors to sell food at farmer’s markets cost $50 to $100.

Toot said a portion of the funds allocated to the business grant program will be used to offset the cost to the county for not collecting the full food establishment license fees.

“We want to make sure the money is getting to our local businesses somehow,” Toot said. “We thought this would be a good way to help everyone out.”

Emily Legel, executive director of Northwest Illinois Economic Development, said many businesses are still struggling despite many state-imposed pandemic restrictions being lifted, so any assistance the county can provide will help keep them afloat.

“We have seen that our businesses still needed assistance,” Legel said. “This is a good way for the county to help.”

Jay Upmann, owner of JJ & Freddie’s in Stockton, Ill., said his restaurant is still not seeing the number of patrons it usually would this time of year.

“There aren’t as many people traveling who will see our place and stop by,” Upmann said. “Right now, any kind of help is appreciated.”