Poll: Illinois Small Businesses Support Expanding Access to Licensing for Justice-Impacted Individuals

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

New poll finds strong support for licensing reform measures that would help to expand the candidate pool and boost opportunities for entrepreneurship

Chicago, IL — Today, Small Business Majority released new research that reveals strong support for licensing reform measures that would expand opportunities for justice-impacted individuals in Illinois to start or work for a small business. A majority (78%) of Illinois small business owners support solutions that would allow individuals with previous criminal records to have fairer access to occupational and professional licensing. 

Small businesses are a crucial part of the Illinois economy and support 44% of the state's private sector workforce. However, Small Business Majority research reveals more than 6 in 10 small business owners say the top challenge they face when hiring is finding quality candidates. This challenge is made worse because 1 in 4 Illinois adults have a criminal record, which impedes their ability to access professional and occupation licensing often critical to working within many industries in Illinois. In fact, nearly half of Illinois small business owners (47%) say their business requires occupational or professional licensing to own or work for the business. 

The poll reveals that Illinois small business owners strongly favor a number of reforms to expand access to occupational licensing. For example, 84% of small businesses say state licensing boards should consider the nature of the offense when deciding whether to deny a license, rather than deny a license broadly for any felony conviction.

"There is a large, underused population who want to work but are hindered by restrictions on access to occupational licenses because they are justice-impacted,” said Tasha Brown, Midwest Director for Small Business Majority. “Our research shows that this is counterproductive to combating the state’s current workforce challenges. We’ve heard stories from small business owners who found that justice-impacted people prove to be some of the hardest workers. Expanding occupational licensing for this community is a good way to diversify the candidate pool and break down barriers to employment and entrepreneurship.” 

The survey also reveals small business owners’ views on reforms to driver’s license fees and ending debt-based driver’s license suspensions based on fines and fees (63% support), which can hinder the ability to get to and from the workplace. 

This poll reflects a survey of 100 small business owners and decision-makers in Illinois. The poll was an online and phone survey conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting from February 5-11, 2024. The margin of error is +/-10% at a 95% confidence level. Click here to read the full report. 


About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to advocate for public policy solutions and deliver resources to entrepreneurs that promote equitable small business growth. Our deep connections with the small business community along with our scientific research enable us to educate the public about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on advancing the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequalities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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