Lightfoot unveils broad relief package for Chicago businesses, consumers

Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a package of ordinances on Wednesday designed to jumpstart recovery for Chicago businesses, workers and consumers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chi Biz Strong Initiative, introduced at Wednesday's City Council meeting, aims to provide financial relief to small businesses and offer new protections for workers and consumers, according to a press release from the mayor's office.

"In order to recover from this pandemic quickly and holistically, we must take bold action and reimagine how we do business here in Chicago," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Over the last fourteen months, we have learned so much—including that the way we typically do business does not work for all entrepreneurs and workers.


"Now is our opportunity to address the structural inequities that have held us back for so long and create a post-pandemic world that fully supports small businesses across the city, protects workers, and above all, roots equity and inclusion within our city's economy," Lightfoot said.

"Thanks to this package, we will be able to do just that and set our residents, communities, and businesses up for long-term success."

The broad plan will extend the cap on delivery fees for third party services like DoorDash and Grubhub and prevent them from charging businesses more than 15%.


The city will also relax restrictions on sidewalk signage, making it easier for restaurants to advertise their specials.

The Chi Biz Strong Initiative includes the following:

Financial Relief  

  • Licensee Relief Program: Over $10 million in targeted grants will be provided to businesses that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
  • Cap on Third-Party Delivery Fees: The 15% cap on fees that third-party delivery companies can charge restaurants will be extended until after the City recovers from the pandemic.
  • Debt Relief Program: One in ten businesses currently has City debt, which makes it so they cannot renew their licenses. Under this initiative, businesses will now be able to enter into a discounted payment plan in order to renew their licenses and continue operating.

Overhaul of City Processes

  • Expedited Restaurant Licensing: New restaurants in previously closed restaurant spaces will benefit from an expedited license issuance process, helping fill our empty restaurant spaces quickly and enable new restaurants to open 2-3 weeks sooner.
  • Legalization of Sidewalk Signs: Tens of thousands of street-front retail businesses will now be able to use A-Frame signs and advertise their business safely and effectively from the sidewalk.
  • Expedited Permit Process: Currently, businesses have to wait up to 150 days to get a permit for signs, awnings, and other critical business infrastructure. This initiative will shave one to two months off of this process by removing the requirement to pass a unique ordinance for each Public Way Use Permit, building upon temporary Sidewalk Café Permit reforms enacted during the pandemic.
  • Hospitality Reforms: The hospitality industry will benefit from a series of reforms to cut red tape, including the alignment of City and State license terms, allowing cocktails-to-go and refining security requirements on charter buses to enhance public safety and make it easier to operate.
  • Taxicab Reforms: The taxicab industry will receive a lifeline through the broad cutting of red tape and cost savings.  This initiative will allow existing cars to stay on the road longer while maintaining safety standards and streamlining regulations – expanding the pool of eligible taxicabs by 20% and saving the industry up to $20M in 2021 alone.
  • Expanded Workforce Opportunities: Thousands of returning residents will now be eligible to join the public vehicles and hospitality industries through a lowering of employment barriers for non-violent offenders and new pathways to rehabilitation.
  • Consumer Protection: This initiative will address public safety and nuisance issues by limiting the nighttime sale of package goods and clarifying regulations to ensure flavored tobacco products are prohibited.

Worker Protections

  • Wage Theft Protections: An estimated $400 million in wages are stolen from Chicagoland workers by bad-faith employers every year. This initiative will create Chicago’s first wage theft ordinance and grant the City greater authority to protect its workers and recoup stolen wages for those workers.
  • Chain Business Worker Support: Ensure a fair minimum wage for chain business workers by preventing employers within a single unitary business group from undercounting their employees.
  • Domestic Worker Support: Care workers have been hard-hit by the pandemic and face high rates of exploitation. This package would support domestic workers with a written contract requirement for employers and place 8,000 domestic workers on the path to a $15 minimum wage in 2021.
  • Paid Sick Leave Enhancements: Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave law will be renamed and enhanced to include caring for a family member with a closed place of care, classroom, or school; uses for mental and behavioral health; and compliance with future public health orders, among other uses.