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DeKalb County UNITES in response to COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order to close nonessential businesses and the statewide mandate for residents to shelter in place has changed life as we know it, but there is one thing that remains unchanged.

Members of DeKalb County Unites meet online to discuss ways to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In DeKalb County, we come together to help our neighbors. In good times or challenging times, DeKalb County unites.

In response to the coronavirus and the unprecedented challenges that come with the pandemic, a group of Northern Illinois University (NIU) and DeKalb County leaders have banded together to form DeKalb County University and Neighbors Investing Together for Economic Success (DeKalb County UNITES), a task force focused on helping small businesses remain viable during this period of restrictions and economic uncertainty.

“As an anchor institution in the community, NIU has a deep commitment to ensuring the economic viability and quality of life in DeKalb County,” said Rena Cotsones, NIU associate vice president of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. “Small businesses are the heart of any community, and they need help right now.”

Cotsones and Cohen Barnes, president of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation and owner of SundogIT, are co-chairing DeKalb County UNITES. The group is reaching out to businesses and local residents to urge them to direct their purchasing power to small businesses in DeKalb County. They have also created an online source that provides small businesses with updates, resources, tools and tips for getting through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our business community employs our neighbors and family members, they support our schools and our nonprofits, and they provide products and services that help define what a great county we live in,” Barnes said. “They are a vital part of the lifeblood we call DeKalb County; they are in crisis right now and need all of us, no matter in how small a way, to do our part.”

Cotsones shared the sentiment.

“Many are struggling to keep their employees employed and paid,” Cotsones said. “DeKalb County UNITES is developing strategies and moving to quick implementation to support them in these efforts.”

Community members can go to the DeKalb County UNITES website to keep up to date with the latest resources. A webinar is planned for Friday, April 3, at 10 a.m. and will be the first in a series to help small businesses as they navigate their way through these uncertain times.

“As a small business owner, I am going through my own COVID-19 trials and tribulations with my organization on a daily basis,” Barnes said. “We have heard from a lot of organizations that knowing there is a group out there who is doing everything they can to drive additional business to those small businesses during this time is great. Just knowing that helps.”