Despite deficit, Emanuel offers new small-business loans

October 9, 2013 (CHICAGO)

On Wednesday morning, he met with a group of small-business owners to get their input on the budget problems.

The mayor's office has billed the series of three, closed-to-the-general-public events as getting input on the 2014 budget. The two sessions so far appear to be focused on other matters.

The mayor's second "budget roundtable" focused on Chicago's many small businesses.

"We have more business licenses on our books than L.A., Phoenix, Philadelphia and Atlanta combined," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

The mayor, with an assist from Treasurer Stephanie Neely, told their friendly, handpicked guests the city would add $1 million to its micro-lending program for desperate small businesses that can't find bank loans.

"When we get to the micro-lending program, we are in dire straits," said Mae Whiteside, Cheri K. Lewis Engineering.

"We can go as low as $500 and as high as $50,000. Typically, our loans are right around $8,000 to $12,000," Neely said.

The mayor also announced the coming end to paper filings at City Hall's small business center.

"By 2016, the Small Business Center, the one-stop and the whole apparatus, is going to go electronic, paperless," Emanuel said.

That's good news for Zuli Turner, the owner of Flecks Coffee Shop in Chatham. She says trips downtown to buy permits and file paperwork hurt business.

"It takes you away from taking care of the really important things, day-to-day business items," Turner said.

As happened during the first roundtable last week, the friendly panelists mostly complimented the administration. Emanuel would not reveal what tax and fee increases will fill the budget deficit, citing only those he will not recommend.

"No increase on property taxes, no increase on sales tax, no increase on gas tax and that will be three years in a row, as I said we were going to do," said Emanuel.

There's no word on when or where the third and final "budget roundtable" will be held or what the theme will be.

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