SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND)- The University of Illinois Springfield is hosting a series of free, public webinars focused on the impact COVID-19 is having on small businesses. 

The Mayor of Springfield, Jim Langfelder, says small businesses are the backbone of every economy.

"The question is; what's the next steps we take to really rebuild our community, because the economic engine slowed up with small businesses, and we need to do whatever we can to keep those resources viable and going," Langfelder says.

UIS Director of Economic Development, Bruce Sommer, says COVID-19 is not only putting stress on small business owners, but the city's those businesses reside in.

"There's a high risk that many of these businesses may not come back," Sommer says. "It's going to impact the economy significantly. I think most directly just the tax increments that come from the sales."

Sommer is hosting the webinars to help small business owners navigate through COVID-19.

"It's evaluating risks and evaluating opportunities," Sommer says. "So, what are the risks of staying closed longer? How do we evaluate that risk? How do we evaluate the risk of customer base dwindling, because they don't have income coming in," Sommer says?

The discussions will focus on the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, what programs are available for aid and how to apply.

"I get many calls and confusion," Sommer says. "There's probably seven different programs, at least, out there for economic relief."

Sommer says it's important to talk about relief opportunities, both at the state and local level.

"We have limited resources from a city standpoint, but we'll take a look at our budget and probably re-prioritize things and see how things change," Langfelder says.

Sommer says the university is hoping to host two webinars per week.

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