Chamber Members:

Happy Monday! It should be an interesting week as it is back to action in Washington D.C. and the minutes are ticking away to come to an agreement (hopefully) on the next phase of federal funding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is supposed to release the Republican plans as soon as tomorrow after firming up issues with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. President Trump has indicated that starting this week, he will resume his coronavirus briefings tomorrow at 4 PM. Also, the City of Chicago has already taken steps to roll back some of the limits on businesses due to increasing cases of COVID over the past week. Read below for further details.

Restrictions Tightened in Chicago

Chicago is tightening restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, and personal services this Friday “in response to a recent increase in community cases” of COVID-19, city officials announced today.

The restrictions take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Bars without a food license will not be allowed to serve alcohol indoors. Bars that do not serve food will still be able to provide outdoor service. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open, but maximum party size and table occupancy will be reduced to six people.

At gyms, indoor fitness class size will be reduced to a maximum of 10 people. Salon and personal services that require the removal of face coverings, like facials and face shaves, will be banned again.

Residential property managers will be asked to limit guest entry to five people per unit “to avoid indoor gatherings and parties.”

“As CDPH recently announced, the city is back in a high-incidence state under Centers for Disease Control guidelines after topping 200 cases per day on a seven-day rolling average,” the city noted in a statement. “As of Sunday, July 19, that number was 233. That increase has been driven in part by rising cases among young people 18 to 29 years old, as the city has seen more social activity and interactions in bars, restaurants, parks, and the lakefront. Chicago has also seen an increase in its percent positivity rate—the percentage of people tested who are positive for COVID-19—after weeks of decline.

The Metro East region in southwest Illinois just outside of St. Louis is also approaching the “failsafe” level in which restrictions may be implemented. They have seen an increase in positive test results for seven of the past 10 days with a 7.1% positive test rate.

Items of Consideration for Phase 4 Funding from U.S. Chamber

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to lawmakers, is urging Congress to enact targeted and temporary measures that address the following five key areas:

  1. Liability Protection Against Unwarranted Lawsuits
  2. Support for Small and Midsize Employers
  3. Support for Childcare and K-12 Schools
  4. Unemployment and Job Training
  5. State and Local Assistance

Liability Protections Against Unwarranted Lawsuits

The Chamber calls on Congress to pass timely, temporary, and targeted liability relief that will provide employers, healthcare providers, non-profits, and educational institutions a safe harbor from these types of lawsuits when they make good-faith efforts to follow applicable public health guidelines.

This is a critical issue for a wide range of employers from distillers who switched to producing hand sanitizers, to manufacturers that transformed their operations to construct personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, to front line medical professionals treating the afflicted, to pharmaceutical companies that are expediting research into cures, to essential businesses that remained open, to colleges that are returning to school this Fall, to businesses that are just now reopening and seeing customers for the first time in months.

A safe harbor will ensure that bad actors can be held accountable while simultaneously protecting those entities who are working to follow public health guidance. Specifically, the Chamber calls on Congress to put in place temporary protections for the duration of the pandemic crisis and response that cover:

  • Businesses and other entities that work to follow government guidelines against COVID19 exposure claims.
  • Healthcare providers and facilities on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
  • Manufacturers that repurposed production and distribution to provide PPE, sanitizers, and other needed countermeasures.


Support for Small and Mid-Size Employers

Employers across the country continue to struggle with the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus. The impact, however, is not the same across industries. As of June, some sectors of the economy have essentially restored all the jobs lost since February. Other sectors – particularly those most impacted by closures and social distancing requirements where remote work is not possible – have faced catastrophic revenue and job loss.

At this time, it is appropriate for Congress to take a more targeted approach: closing the gaps that existed in the CARES Act programs and providing additional relief for those businesses that cannot return to more normal operations as a result of the social distancing requirements necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, the Chamber urges Congress to consider the following proposals:

Closing the CARES Act Gaps:

  • While the PPP was intended to assist all small business employers, including nonprofits, non-profits who are not organized as 501(c)(3) organizations have been excluded from the program. Congress should extend the deadline for applying for PPP funds through the end of the year and make all non-profit employers eligible to apply for a loan.
  • Congress should also make the PPP loan forgiveness process easier for the smallest small businesses by automatically forgiving loans under $150,000 or $250,000.
  • The CARES Act prohibited an employer from receiving both a PPP loan and an employee retention tax credit. While no-employer should be able to receive a PPP loan and a tax credit for the same expense, allowing PPP borrowers to access employee retention tax credits after exhausting their PPP loans will help small businesses who continue to face constrained revenue.
  • In too many cases, small businesses in low-income and rural areas, as well as those without traditional banking relationships – including minority-owned businesses had difficulty accessing the PPP. The bipartisan Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund (RELIEF) for Main Street Act would provide $50 billion to seed and scale locally relief programs for small employers. The Chamber urges Congress to pass this initiative.
  • Replenish the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and require SBA to remove the $150,000 loan cap for the program that is authorized to provide loans up to $2 million.

You can read the remaining information from the letter here:

*Also, the document is attached to this email as well for your review.

Mask Accommodations

First, thank you to our presenters Mike Wilczynski and Kevin Lynch from the Joliet Junior College Small Business Development Center for delivering some extremely useful information today. One of the questions that came up was about businesses dealing with customers who are unwilling to follow posted guidelines. Mike promised a little further information to share with all of our members:

First, the list of national and local businesses who will be requiring a mask by August 1 is long.  You are in good company, including the following: Costco, Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, Home Depot, Menards, Apple, Macy’s GAP, American Eagle, Lowe’s, Starbucks, Kroger, Aldi, Whole Foods, and CVS

Second, lead by example and make sure your staff are all wearing a mask.  Shaming a customer does not work.  Don’t assume you know why they aren’t wearing a mask.  Perhaps they simply forgot so you can have masks available for them.  If they have a medical reason for avoiding a mask, explain your policy, but offer them an alternative such as a private, non-regular hours to visit your store.  Consider curbside service and delivery as options for this customer too.

If they refuse to accept all of your offers to accommodate them, call law enforcement.  Avoid a public confrontation with someone and let local police can handle the person who declines all of your kind gestures.

Finally, the Will County Health Department has received a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health to hire contact tracers, managers, nurses, and IT support to ramp up efforts on COVID contract tracing and to ensure gathered information is kept confidential.

Beginning today, the Health Department will increase efforts for tracking the communicable disease. As part of Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, health departments must begin contact tracing in 90% of new cases within 24 hours.

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors





Mike Paone

Vice President – Government Affairs

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry

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