Peoria (WEEK) -- In the lead-up to the Feb. 23 primary election, 25 News asked all five candidates on the ballot to be Peoria's next mayor how they would help business owners struggling to stay open amid state-imposed restrictions.
Here are their answers in full.
RITA ALI: I really sympathize and empathize with our our business community, especially those small businesses that are really struggling. But first, I encourage them to maintain hope, hope that help is coming. And that things will get better in time, the vaccine will be offered more widely, thank God. And we've recently moved to lighter restrictions under COVID-19. So I encourage businesses to apply for relief through the stimulus funds, and to continue to let the city know how we can help them during these very unusual times in our history.
ANDRES DIAZ: Well, we have to do a better job of getting the money that's being sent to Peoria, from DC and Springfield into the hands of businesses. I've actually helped some small businesses here in town get through the paperwork and the process to take advantage of the programs that we've offered. And it's just cumbersome. And in talking with staff and the grants teams, it seems that a lot of the rules and the process that we have put in place is not something that's dealt to us by regulations and stipulations of the money. It's regulations and stipulations that our department heads are putting on the residents of Peoria. So we have to do a better job of streamlining those processes, and making sure that every dollar that is allocated to the city of Peoria is handed out as quickly as possible, so that these businesses can make payroll can buy inventory, and can keep their lights on.
JIM MONTELONGO: One of the things that was really important for at least our restaurants. And so I met with the hospitality association. I certainly understand what their biggest concerns are right now. They've only been operating around 25% [capacity]. And they asked if there's anything that the city council could do, which at our last meeting, we passed. We reduced the [liquor] fees by 50% across the board for anybody who's in that industry of the restaurants and taverns. So I know that was something that they were looking for, and they were very happy to receive that.
SID RUCKRIEGEL: We need to make sure that we can reopen our businesses as soon as possible, we need to be able to let their cash registers be able to start again. And it's not just for the period of during the pandemic, we really need to make sure that job creation and business security is something that we have top of mind, it needs to not be a priority to be something that we're talking about. And in meeting with businesses, I find that there again is no one answer. For some it is strictly stay out of my way, let me be able to do my thing, and I will make it successful. For others, it's making sure that our capital investments are put into place that can actually help them that may be in transportation, it may be in other things. But it's actually making sure that our spending priorities with the city can help them on others, it's being able to bridge the labor gap, making sure that we have the talent that is coming out that is skilled in the endeavors that they need. And in others, it may be coming through with other entrepreneurial pieces that we can put into place. Innovation, I always like to say is one of those things that we talk about a lot. And it is probably the most important thing as you grow an economy. And we really need to think about jumpstarting our economy here. innovation, entrepreneurship is nothing that is happening only in one part of the city. It actually happens in all of our city. And so we need to make sure that there's equity there so that small businesses can grow. During the pandemic, this is even more important that we don't let up on these philosophies. We've got to talk to our businesses individually to find out what it will take to be able to keep them open, single businesses right now that are deciding to close. And for most of those, it's a temporary closure. My goal would be to make sure that each and every one of them reopens for businesses. It's possible.
CHAMA ST. LOUIS: This is tough. As a business owner, myself, it's been very, very hard. I think offering more support on how to apply for the state grants would be really helpful. I think the city could, you know, help publicize that option a little bit more. But then also, you know, offer more support to businesses who are who are looking to get funding. I think, you know, a moratorium on rent, if you have a commercial property that you're renting for your business would be helpful. Maybe it's not eliminating rent altogether, because we don't want to hurt landlords who are also business owners. But I think working something out to where it's less strenuous on the business owner as well. And then also lobbying legislators, the city can actually lobby our state legislators for more resources for our businesses as well, and be more active in that way and take a more aggressive approach towards getting the types of funding that we need to help us here.