Information for Small Businesses and Unemployed

During Illinois’ Shelter-in-Place Executive Order, only essential businesses and operations can remain in operation. “Essential Businesses and Operations” means Healthcare and Public Health Operations, Human Services Operations, Essential Governmental Functions, and Essential Infrastructure, and the following: 

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine.
  • Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture.
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services.
  • Media.
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation.
  • Financial institutions.
  • Hardware and supply stores.
  • Critical trades.
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services.
  • Educational institutions.
  • Laundry services.
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises.
  • Supplies to work from home.
  • Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations.
  • Transportation.
  • Home-based care and services.
  • Residential facilities and shelters.
  • Professional services.
  • Day care centers for employees exempted by this Executive Order.
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries.
  • Critical labor union functions.
  • Hotels and motels.
  • Funeral services.

If a business is unsure it if fits into one of options in the list above they can call DCEO’s helpline 1-800-252-2923 or go to to inquire whether their business is deemed essential.

Small Business Loan Programs

Business Invest — Illinois Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program- This is an impact investment loan program under which the State Treasurer would make up to $250 million in deposits available to financial institutions throughout the state, at near-zero rates, to assist Illinois small businesses and non-profits negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purpose of this program is to provide vital economic support to small businesses and non-profits to help overcome the loss of revenue they are experiencing. Through this program, the Treasurer’s Office would partner with approved financial institutions to provide loans — either lower rate loans, or loans to a business or non-profit that would not otherwise qualify — to Illinois small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more information.

US Small Business Administration The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at: Find a fact sheet about these loans here.

State Response to those Unemployed by Outbreak

Workers who have temporarily lost their jobs because of the many business closures and restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak may qualify for the state’s extended unemployment benefits if they expect to be able to return to work when the emergency ends. The emergency rule from the Department of Employment Security (IDES) is meant to assist workers whose jobs have been impacted by the unprecedented actions necessitated by the illness.

The state is also acting to assist those who are unable to work, but do not have sick leave, such as parents with children who are home from closed schools. To apply for these benefits, get in touch with IDES at 1-800-244-5631 or go to their website to apply for benefits. If you have questions about how to sign up for unemployment benefits in Illinois, click here.

As an emergency measure, Congress has lifted some requirements of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. More information about this federal program can be found here. Meanwhile, Illinois is still accepting applications for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which helps Illinois adults with children under the age of 19. To find out if you qualify or to apply, click here.

The state recently filed a waiver with the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage, with the intention of ensuring that everyone who needs medical care due to coronavirus is able to access it. People in Illinois between the ages of 19 and 64 who meet certain eligibility requirements can sign up for Medicaid benefits from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Help is also available from many non-profits and private groups. For example, the National Charity Foundation of the United States Bartender Guild is offering assistance to employees of bars who have experienced job disruption because of the statewide closures. More information is available here.

Looking for Work?

The Illinois Retail Merchant’s Association (IRMA) website on COVID-19 contains a continually updated list of employers currently seeking to expand their employment efforts: