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Insurance Companies Need To Give Relief For Small Businesses Hurt By Looting, Vandalism, Pritzker Says

"This is an emergency for us and many other small businesses," one store owner said.

Neighbors clean piles of debris from behind the Local Market in South Shore, which reopened Thursday morning after being looted and closed since Sunday.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The state is pressuring insurance companies to take care of small businesses quickly so they can reopen after recent looting and vandalism.

Chicago and other cities across the state have seen small businesses stolen from and damaged in recent days — just as they were trying to reopen after months of being closed due to coronavirus. Hoping to help, the state has asked major insurance companies to speed up payouts.

“Insurance companies must do everything in their power and are obligated to give their customers the funds they need to rebuild and get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Gov. JB Pritzker said during a Monday press conference. “Help can’t wait.”

Companies should expedite claims and provide advance payments, Pritzker said.

Jonathan Swain, owner of Kimbark Beverage Shoppe in Hyde Park, said business owners need help now in order to reopen — but many small businesses don’t have the kind of cash on hand they’d need to restock and repair damages from recent unrest. Black business owners in particular don’t have access to those funds, which is why insurance companies need to be quick to help, Swain said.

Felicia Goodwin, who owns clothing shop Z-Couture at 9242 S. Stony Island Ave., said their glass windows broken and the mannequins undressed. They found their cash register in the street. They tried to file a claim, Goodwin said, but the adjuster said they were restricted from coming out.

“We cannot reopen our business without inventory, glass being repaired …,” Goodwin said. “Please, insurance companies, come out and assist us so that we can reopen our doors. This is an emergency for us and many other small businesses.”

Insurance companies that don’t help could face consequences: The state can levy fines and suspend licenses of insurance providers, among other tools, said Robert Muriel, the head of the state’s Department of Insurance.

“In short, insurers must do the right thing and do it fast with all consideration to assisting business owners to get back up on their feet and reopen as soon as possible,” Pritzker said. “I won’t hesitate to hold any bad actors accountable.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had made similar overtures in recent days, saying the city will pressure insurance companies to speed up payouts to local businesses that were damaged by the unrest.

Business owners can file a complaint against their insurance company online.

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