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The city of Chicago’s Department of Aviation (CDA) and Procurement Services (DPS) announced a partnership to enlist established Assist Agencies in providing support for small, diverse airport businesses, including concessionaires, at Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and Midway International (MDW) hit hard by the pandemic.

The announcement follows the successful passage of the Concessions Relief Program through the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Aviation. The ordinance is scheduled for a full council vote in the coming days.

“I applaud CDA, DPS, and Assist Agencies for their collaborative effort to support our small diverse businesses, including ACDBE concessionaires, that provide travelers with the best flavor and culture our city has to offer,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This partnership represents exactly the kind of innovative solutions we need for our businesses not only to stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis but become even stronger and more dynamic as a result.”

The CDA noted that ORD, the busiest airport in the world in 2019, is operating at about 33 percent of what they would normally be during the month of May. As a result, many airport concessionaires are not operating, or operating at greatly reduced hours.

“These concessionaires – largely small, diverse and locally owned – are in many ways the backbone of our airport community, and these are incredibly challenging and uncertain times for them,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “In offering a lifeline, we want to be both proactive and creative – and leveraging the experience and relationships that have been built up over many years helps us do that.”

Upon passage, the Concessions Relief Program grants CDA the authority to provide financial relief to airport concessionaires – including restaurants, shops, advertisers and rental car operators – groups that by and large did not receive direct assistance from the federal government beyond what is generally available to small businesses.

This temporary relief can take the form of rent reductions, adjustments to minimum rent, rent deferral, reduced security deposit or letter of credit requirements, relaxation of mandatory operating space requirements, and authorization of operational alternatives (like kiosks, mobile carts, etc.), or other relief consistent with FAA guidance and legal requirements.

The CDA and DPS are already partnering to utilize the existing Service and Reimbursement Agreement Program to provide support for ACDBE-certified businesses currently operating at the airports.