Chicago coronavirus: Microbusinesses try to survive stay-at-home orders

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Monday was the application deadline for microbusinesses to get help from the city of Chicago, and their owners face special challenges getting by during the stay-at-home orders.

Businesses with fewer than four people will be chosen by lottery for $5,000 grants from the city, and funds will be distributed next week.

Lawrence Humphrey's equipment is ready, but the work has stopped.

"Things now are nonexistent," he said.

Humphrey owns Integrated Solutions of Chicago. He typically installs elaborate, high-tech audio and video systems for corporate and residential clients.

With the stay-at-home order, his commercial work is on hold, including a group of new gym installs. He said financial assistance has been elusive.

"It's been really rough," he said. "A lot of the small business loans and grants, we are such a small business we just don't qualify for some of them."

Microbusinesses are defined as employing fewer than 10 people. ABC7 analysis of U.S. Census data found of all the private businesses in the Chicago area, 74 percent employ fewer than 10 people.

For microbusinesses in some industries, trying to pivot business model can be touch, but the advantage of the microbusiness is the ability to always explore options.

"We are gearing up for the future of thermal cameras, so we are going to start marketing thermal cameras to businesses so they can monitor people's temperatures coming in," Humphrey said.

Humphrey is also rethinking how to use his skills to help people now, whether that's safety, security or comfort at home. But eventually he hopes to restart installs for some of his larger commercial clients when the stay-at-home order is lifted.
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