‘We Can’t Fight A Flood And Pritzker Back To Back’: Mayor Of Grafton, IL, Says His City Could Cease To Exist

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Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Mayor Rick Eberlin says that his small town of Grafton, Illinois, could cease to exist if Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker doesn’t allow businesses to reopen soon.

Eberlin told the Daily Caller that record flooding in recent years had forced a number of businesses back on their heels, leaving them in an already precarious position when Pritzker’s orders had closed them down. (RELATED: Illinois Governor: No End In Sight For Masks, Social Distancing)

Explaining that his town’s businesses thrived primarily on tourism — it boasts Pere Marquette State Park as well as prime spots along the Mississippi River for watching bald eagles nesting — he said, “We have successful businesses, but we can’t fight the flood and Pritzker back to back and expect to win.”

A massive flood just a year ago caused a number of businesses to spend much of the last tourist season cleaning up, with many only able to open for part of the summer.

The governor’s extended stay-at-home orders, coupled with threats to businesses and individuals who fail to comply, prompted Eberlin to write an open letter describing Grafton’s plight.

Our town has simply been devastated. Aesthetically, structurally, and economically devastated, more so than any other time in its storied history. My administration worked diligently to balance the budget only to see those efforts wiped out by the costs of fighting the flood. The majority of businesses were shut down from March until August, that coming after our tourist season was cut short by flooding in the fall of 2018. Most people were optimistic heading into this year, but the pandemic crushed those hopes. I can’t imagine any other town in Illinois that has suffered more than us.

In the letter, Eberlin pointed out just a few of the complications facing small businesses in Grafton, many of which failed to qualify for aid under the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP requires businesses to have been operating for at least three years and profitable for the last two — and rebuilding after the last several floods, even though most businesses were allowed to open for at least part of the last season, meant that most did not meet that standard.

To make matters worse in Grafton, many businesses fail to qualify for the stimulus that is being offered. The requirements are such that it makes it nearly impossible for our businesses to get the help they so desperately need. Sole proprietorships, businesses in the floodway or floodplain, seasonal business and businesses not owned for three years, or have not shown profitability for two of the last three years, businesses with more than 50 employees all find themselves ineligible.

Grafton, as Eberlin noted, has had a relatively small number of cases — only 17 in the entire county. Neighboring counties have seen similarly low numbers, but Pritzker’s statewide orders have already been extended through May 31. The neighboring county with the largest spike in coronavirus cases was Madison County, with 435 cases and 27 fatalities as of May 12.

The Madison County Board of Health voted to reopen businesses in defiance of Pritzker’s order, explaining that the majority of those deaths had been in nursing homes.

Pritzker responded to Madison County’s vote — and other calls for Illinois to reopen — by threatening to send local and state police to enforce his order.

“I felt like Pritzker was talking directly to me when he held that press conference and threatened anyone who goes against him. This pandemic and what Pritzker has put into place has been tremendously more devastating than anything the flood could have ever done,” Eberlin told the DC.

You can read Eberlin’s full letter here: