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With another indoor mask mandate in place, businesses must again insist customers wear masks or turn them away. 

National Federation of Independent Business State Director Mark Grant says it’s been a difficult year for small businesses and the mandate is another challenge.

“They’re in a tough spot,” he said. “They’re trying to adhere to the mandate, they’re trying to keep people healthy and they’re trying to stay in business, so it’s a very difficult balance.”

Illinois’ small businesses are starting to get a little exasperated, Grant said.

“They think that perhaps the mandate is perhaps the governor’s way of not shutting down the economy but appearing to do something that is safety-oriented,” he said.

Whether businesses enforce the mask mandate or not, a subset of customers will walk away, says Grant, so businesses lose out either way.

“They’re kind of forced into this position of being the local enforcement arm of the governor’s mandate, and they resent it considerably,” he said.

Added to that, many businesses are facing supply chain issues, which are driving up costs, Grant said.

“It’s complicated, but I know our businesses out there are having a hard time keeping and retaining employees,” he said. “We’ve got good employees; they’re paying them as much as they possibly can to keep them, providing benefits as much as they possibly can, and that of course drives up costs.”

In spite of the delta variant and supply chain issues, Grant says business optimism is still there.

“If we can weather this most recent storm with the delta variant, I think many of them think we’re going to continue to do business,” he said.