Today is Wednesday, July 15 and that means it is the new Tax Day! 90 days after the usual set in stone day is just another item to add to the list of the unforeseen and craziness that this pandemic has brought. Hopefully, this will serve as a last-minute reminder.
Governor Reissues COVID Reopening Rules and Redraws Regions
The governor laid out a series of metrics that will govern what can open when, without ordering any state rollbacks now. The new statewide thresholds include rising positive test rates in seven of any 10-day period and an infection rate about 8%. The statewide seven-day positivity rate has been rising, from a little over 2% in late June to 3.1% today.
The state reported 1,187 new cases today, returning to the four-figure totals that occurred last week for the first time in more than a month. Pritzker suggested the key metric will be whether positive test rates are rising, not whether they hit 8%. Other metrics will include a seven-day increase in hospitalizations for COVID-like illnesses and any reduction in available beds that curbs a hospital’s ability to handle surge in ICU demand. If any region falls out of compliance, the Public Health Department said in a statement, three levels of mitigation can be ordered.
The most significant change though may be the redrawing of the 11 regions into which the state has been divided. Not only will Chicago and suburban Cook County be their own regions for the new rules, but the collar counties will be divided themselves into separate regions, with Lake and McHenry counties in one region, DuPage and Kane counties in another and Kankakee and Will counties in a third.
Chicago Threatens Rollback
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that she would not hesitate to reverse the city’s reopening plan if cases increase daily by 200. The city’s current seven-day average for new cases is 192 and that is considered in the moderate to high incidence range. Chicago’s current positivity rate is at about 5.3%. The city wants it under 5%.
The mayor compared herself to a mother not afraid to not only turn the car around, but stop it and force the passenger to get out and walk. Lightfoot said now is a “moment of reckoning” that will impact whether businesses can stay open at current levels and Chicagoans can have “some semblance of a normal life.”
Uncertainty on Federal Relief Funds
A lack of oversight for more than $2 trillion in COVID-19 spending approved by Congress is creating uncertainty about whether relief programs are working as planned, adding a new layer of complications to the next coronavirus package. The three independent oversight panels set up by Congress in the bipartisan CARES Act almost four months ago have all encountered serious obstacles.
As a result, lawmakers and the public may not have a full understanding of how coronavirus relief aid is being spent until after the election. The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, set up three oversight arms: the special inspector general for pandemic recovery (SIGPR), tasked with overseeing coronavirus spending; the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, an interagency panel designed to promote cooperation among the various inspectors general; and a special Congressional Oversight Commission.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee has not received the spending data that some lawmakers thought it would when they voted for the CARES Act, which mandated that PPP recipients report in detail how many jobs were saved or created because of federal assistance.
For the SIGPR, staffing up is a problem. The inspector general does not have the authority to speed up the lengthy government hiring process. Critics also argue that while the SIGPR has subpoena power, it has limited authority over criminal matters. While it can issue search warrants, the SIGPR must refer criminal activity to the Justice Department for prosecution. The third oversight body, the five-member Congressional Oversight Commission, still doesn’t have a leader, hampering its ability to staff up.
Next Stimulus Talks Ramp Up
Lawmakers are starting to drop hints and lay the groundwork as they prepare for negotiations on another massive coronavirus relief package ahead of Congress’s return next week. Nothing is new in comparison to what we have been talking about, just the time to start getting it out publicly again. The main Republican focus continues to be liability protection for businesses, schools, and hospitals. It is a must for any proposal and ultimately final bill. The proposed liability period would last from December 2019 until December 2024. They will also consider a “return to work” bonus or a smaller unemployment added amount in an effort to encourage more to return to work. Meanwhile, Democrats will continue to push continuance of the $600 bump in unemployment payments, look to another personal stimulus payment, and funding for state and local governments.
Restaurant Association Releases Blueprint for Revival
The plan represents a strong, far-reaching plan for how Congress can advance restaurants in every city and town in this country. In addition, the RESTAURANTS Act – a $120 billion restaurant recovery fund has been proposed by Senator Wicker and Senator Sinema in the Senate. The Blueprint for Revival includes the following requests for relief:
- Create a Restaurant Recovery Fund for structured relief to help restaurants get the liquidity they need, adapt, rehire, and eventually reopen. This includes passage of the RESTAURANTS Act proposed by Senators Wicker and Sinema in the Senate.
- Build on the success of PPP by enacting a second round of application eligibility to initial eight-week loan recipients and make other changes to help extend and sustain this successful program.
- Make PPP loans tax deductible so that small businesses can deduct eligible expenses paid with a forgiven PPP loan, and eliminate the substantial tax liability many face for taking these loans in the first place.
- Establish a long-term loan program beyond PPP so restaurants can rehire, retrain, and retain valued employees by providing up to six-months of operating costs and additional support.
- Expand the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) to help restaurants get support after a PPP loan has run out.
- Improve Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) by replenishing funding for EIDLs and advance grants to support businesses with major revenue reductions due to COVID-19.
- Provide customer and employee wellness tax credits to help with significant capital investments for employee and guest safety.
- Address Business Interruption insurance claims for small businesses with a federal backstop to cover losses due to a pandemic and so that insurance remains available and affordable.
- Provide Liability Protection for American Businesses
- Prioritize testing + vaccine distribution for food supply chain employees (after health care, first responders and vulnerable populations) to help the entire food and restaurant industry continue growing, selling, and serving healthy food even in times of crisis.
- Enact payroll tax relief for essential employees to help keep frontline workers in vital sectors on the job and serving the public.
- Provide support for restaurants feeding vulnerable populations by providing incentives and payment when restaurants partner with government and nonprofits to prepare meals for seniors, children, and other vulnerable populations.
- Broaden access to restaurant meals for low-income Americans by creating state-run programs that increase food access-points during times of crisis and by expanding the population of people eligible for restaurant meal service via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Here is a link to the full blueprint:
Here is a link to the quick one pager:
Child Care Restoration Grants
Grants will soon be made available to many providers who have lost revenue because of the COVID pandemic. Struggling child care providers can find application information posted here next week, July 20-24. You can learn more through technical assistance webinars next Monday (in English) and Tuesday (Spanish). For webinar registration info and further details, please visit:
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is working with the Illinois Department of Human Services and Governor’s Office in developing this grant program, which represents at least $270 million for child care providers and will be administered by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA).
Separately, an Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund has been established by the United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office. It already has raised about $31 million in funding from individual, corporate, and foundation donors to be disbursed to nonprofit organizations across the state that serve individuals, families, and communities facing the greatest burden from the coronavirus pandemic. The application process will close at noon on July 24; for further info, please visit https://ilcovidresponsefund.org/open-application.html.
COVID-19 Panel: Reopening & Next Steps
Congressman Bill Foster will be hosting tomorrow at 5 PM to discuss Phase 4, reopening, and next steps for our community, businesses, and schools.
He will be joined by:
Dr. Stephen Streiffer – Argonne Deputy Laboratory Director of Science
Jonathan McGee – Deputy Director of Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Regional Economic Development
Darlene Ruscitti – DuPage County Regional Superintendent
Here is further information: https://www.facebook.com/events/576977213211218/
Finally, we have information to share about our next Virtual Conference on Monday, July 20. The session will take place at 10:00 AM with the newly announced Small Business Development Center (SBDC) here at Joliet Junior College.
Small Business Development Center & Phase 4 Economic Resurgence Tools
Please join the Joliet Chamber for an introduction and overview of the new Small Business Development Center and Phase 4 resurgence tools and tips.
- Introduce the SBDC’s Starting Your Business training for local entrepreneurs
- Develop a directory of local Chamber members to help startup companies in key areas
- Share new tools to help existing small businesses with their growth at no cost
- Present thought-provoking ideas to aid local companies in sales in the months ahead
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry