Today is going to be a short update as COVID issues have slowed down for the time being. We do have a few important issues to share and an important reminder too.
Did you know a federally authorized program that encourages employers to temporarily reduce the hours employees work during economic downturns instead of laying them off exists? The federal government is offering funds to states with programs that encourage employers to temporarily cut staff hours instead of resorting to layoffs.
Workshare programs which are also known as short-time compensation programs allow employers to keep staff on the payroll part-time, with workers retaining health and retirement benefits while collecting prorated unemployment benefits to help make up for their reduced hours. In the country, twenty-seven states are marked as participants with Illinois being one of them. There is actually a statute that allows for such a program that was passed back in 2014, but never really implemented by IDES.
So now with the recent pandemic IDES is in the process of getting the program up and running, but it may take two years until it is fully operational. Unfortunately, it seems as if Illinois will not be able to take advantage of reimbursement funds from the CARES Act for this type of a program.
According to an April report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois Project for Middle Class Renewal, implementing and promoting the state’s workshare program could save up to 124,000 jobs in Illinois, increase worker income, reduce turnover costs for businesses and save state government up to $1.1 billion in unemployment insurance costs this year alone.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly is set to introduce a new bill today that would mandate a study to gather data on telehealth’s impact on health and costs to support expanding its use. The Evaluating Disparities and Outcomes of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Emergency Act, directs HHS Secretary Alex Azar to oversee a telehealth study. The final report would include the number of telehealth visits, the types of services patients received, and what kinds of clinics offered those services during the pandemic, among other details. The bill also directs Azar to award grants to states so they can do their own studies on Medicaid telehealth use.
Today’s PPP Update
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will attempt to expedite approval of changes to the popular Paycheck Protection Program this week by receiving unanimous consent. During our Virtual Conference this afternoon, the U.S. Chamber’s Ryan Gleason remarked on the changes that H.R. 7010 would bring to those who’ve received and those that are still thinking about applying. The House has left Washington with the next scheduled vote on June 30. Agreeing to the House bill without changes would be the fastest way for the PPP bill to become law.
As of last Friday evening, SBA reported that almost 4.5 million loans had been approved worth $510.2 billion. This amount was almost $300 million less than the net amount the day before and more than $3 billion less than through May 16, despite the number of loan approvals increasing during that time.
The SBA and Treasury Department have not yet provided a comprehensive accounting of cancellations, which include duplicate loans. Some returns are from larger publicly traded companies that sent back hundreds of millions of dollars following outrage over their getting aid at the expense of small businesses.
Contact Tracing in the Workplace
New reports are surfacing that thousands of employees around the world are already submitting to contact-tracing apps deployed by their workplace. It seems to work like this – before you’re allowed to clock in, you have to complete a series of questions on your phone or tablet that asks if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. If you are healthy, you get to walk in. Once inside, you go about your day while your phone uses Bluetooth beacons, GPS tracking, or both to determine the people you have been near. If one day you do come down with symptoms, the app alerts HR, which then alerts the people you’ve been in contact with. Since this is relatively new, exact outcomes are still unknown. Most apps are adapted from location tracking technology and several false positives and false negatives are possible. These can have an extremely negative impact on a company’s decision to close down or reduce production. This is likely a topic to continue to monitor to see if it catches on more in the country and locally.
State Budget Feedback
S&P Global Ratings did not change its rating on state debt, leaving it at BBB- with a negative outlook, just above junk status. However, the agency did not necessarily have positive reviews of the state budget. Here are some notes:
- S&P points to the fact that the budget is technically balanced only with $5 billion in borrowing from a special Federal Reserve fund, money the state expects to tap unless it gets more help from Congress.
- The budget potentially allows any borrowing to be repaid over a 10-year period, S&P notes. But in fact, the Fed program now requires repayment within 36 months.
- The budget allows some of that to be repaid from proceeds of a graduated income tax. But the graduated income tax first would have to be approved by voters this fall.
- S&P says the state still is “structurally misaligned,” with $7.2 billion in outstanding bills, mostly to vendors.
- This budget does not cut operating spending, with most departments held to 2020 spending levels, the report says. That can be meaningful since grade and high schools statewide will receive $350 million less than expected under the state’s new need-based school funding formula.
Eight states and the District of Columbia held primary elections today, making it the single biggest day of nominating contests since Super Tuesday in early March.
Finally, we remind you to make sure you register for the next Virtual Conference focusing on the Illinois Special Session recap. We will be joined this Thursday by Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and Representative Natalie Manley at 11:00 AM. You can register to join us here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-webinar-june-4-il-special-session-recap-5909
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry