We hope you are all staying cool throughout this period of hot days, as well as staying healthy. Sorry for the technical issue last night that led to the daily update not getting out. So, today’s message is a little longer than the usual for the past few weeks. A good number of updates are below.
Current Issues for Next Round of Federal Funding
It has been awhile since we’ve taken a deep look into what can be expected to be debated here at the end of the month as lawmakers get back to work in DC. The hope is that an agreement can be reached before the August recess. Will they stick around if it is not? Here are the issues:
- Unemployment Insurance – the extra $600 / week benefit is scheduled to run out. Discussion has been centered around an extension with the full $600 remaining, a reduced amount, and even a plan to pay people to go back to work a “bonus.”
- Rental Evictions – A moratorium on evicting tenants for failure to pay will also expire. Proposals include $100 billion in rental assistance and $75 billion for homeowners paying mortgages.
- Childcare – With more adults returning to work, childcare facilities will see an increase in attendance. Various reports indicate that some are not able to get enough PPE as required and a number are still reeling financially. The eventual plans for school in the fall will also have a major effect on this industry.
- Liability Protections – Coverage will be sought for doctors, medical facilities, schools, and businesses for up to five years unless they show great negligence.
- Individual Direct Payments – A number of different proposals have been floated, but the most popular seems to be a repeat of the $1,200 per individual. This round however may bump up the amount to children to match the adult level with a family cap.
- Increased State and Municipal Aid – Without the funding to states, counties, cities, etc. we can expect revenue to be found in other areas. The usual area? Taxes. The HEROES Act called for upwards of $1 trillion alone to government body aid.
- Paycheck Protection Program – What to do with the existing balance and how can future applications be reviewed closer for true economic need will be major questions. Ideas include proposing different types of loans targeted to small companies or those in low-income areas or those that suffered severe losses. Many lawmakers want the next round of PPP funding to focus on minority owned businesses, especially those that may not have an existing relationship to a bank.
- Alternate PPP – A different proposal includes $50 billion that would be made available in grants to state and local governments for the smallest businesses and nonprofits. Business groups and consumer advocates are lobbying Congress to rethink a model that has leaned heavily on distributing funds via private lenders because of concerns that the smallest businesses lack relationships with traditional banks
Illinois Economy News
Federal data was released yesterday that reports the Illinois economy shrank at an annual rate of 5.4% during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter. This obviously was to be expected based on the course of events in March. Nearly all sectors of the economy took significant hits during the quarter led by arts, entertainment, and recreation. That category took the biggest hit with a 36% rate of decline. Accommodations and food service fell at a rate of more than 27%.
Other sectors taking big hits included finance and insurance, down 10.6%, and transportation and warehousing, which includes airline and rail transportation, which fell at a 9.8% rate. The only bright spot in the report was the agricultural which grew quarter-to-quarter at a rate of 183%.
Governor Pritzker Signs Hospital Assessment Legislation Bringing $250 Million in Additional Federal Funding for Health Care to Illinois
Springfield – Building on efforts to expand quality and affordable health care for all Illinoisans and ensure hospitals are equipped during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker signed SB 2541, renewing the Hospital Assessment Program, and SB 1864, the Health Care Affordability Act, into law. Both laws build upon efforts to provide quality health care to communities across Illinois that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the nation’s critical need for more equitable health care access and delivery, particularly in Black and Brown communities and for those who are uninsured or underinsured,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These new laws bring safety net hospitals over $250 million in additional annual funding – to the tune of $3.8 billion in payments over the life of the program – while simultaneously uplifting residents on an individual basis through a more responsive Medicaid program, support for increasing diversity in clinical trials, and expanded access to affordable health insurance. I applaud the work of leaders in the General Assembly and the bipartisan, bicameral Medicaid Working Group for coming together to advance a vision of health care as a right, not a privilege, for all of Illinois.”
THE HOSPITAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
The Hospital Assessment Program is a $3.8 billion program that will bring in over $250 million additional federal dollars to the state. The program consists of $450 million in additional funding for hospitals since the last assessment four years ago.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) worked with the General Assembly and stakeholders to distribute funding in a manner that increased funding to all hospitals in Illinois, while prioritizing hospitals that serve a high number of Medicaid patients.
The legislation helps make the Medicaid program more responsive to the needs of individual members on where to seek care. Funding is also reserved to improve access to health care services, including diagnostic and treatment services, in under resourced communities across the state. Payments to hospitals will be more transparent and the billing system will be simplified for some services like laboratory tests performed by hospitals.
The Fixed Pool Structure:
- Safety Net Hospitals (24): Funding increased $81.4 million
• Critical Access Hospitals (51): Funding increased $14 million
Fixed Rate Structure:
- High Medicaid Hospitals (30): Funding increased $86 million
• General Acute Hospitals (69): Funding increased $62.1 million
• Psych Hospital (10): Funding increased $2.4 million
• Long Term Acute Care Hospitals (6): Funding increased $1.2 million
• Rehab Hospitals (4): Funding increased $2.3 million
To ensure physicians are fairly compensated, the plan increases rates for vital physician services to $150 million annually. The legislation also clarifies rules and regulations for hospitals by providing the following guidance:
- Simplifying the hospital billing process;
• Requiring HFS to publish all details of the assessment calculation every year within 30 days of completing the calculation;
• Granting HFS rules making authority;
• An application to close a hospital is only complete if the hospital provided 30 day written notice to the local community and local governing bodies and officials;
• If a for-profit general acute care hospital ceases to provide hospital services prior to July 1, 2021 and within 12 months of switching from not-for-profit to investor, they must reimburse HFS for payments received.
HEALTH CARE AFFORDABLILTY ACT
The Health Care Affordability Act helps expand access to quality and affordable health care in response to health and economic inequities and challenges heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the legislation eliminates or loosens requirements on who can access Medicaid through the following actions:
- Provides HFS with the authority to accept an applicant’s or recipient’s attestation of income, incurred medical expenses, residency, and insured status when electronic verification is not available;
• Eliminates resource tests for some eligibility determinations;
• Suspends redeterminations;
• Suspends changes that would adversely affect an applicant’s or recipient’s eligibility;
• Allows phone or verbal approval by an applicant to submit an application in lieu of applicant signature;
• Allows adult presumptive eligibility;
• Allows presumptive eligibility for children, pregnant women, and adults as often as twice per calendar year; and,
• Suspends premium and co-payment requirements.
The legislation also recognizes that families have experienced unique challenges as a result of the pandemic, and helps families enroll and maintain coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the ALL KIDS Act.
The Health Care Affordability Act also helps address longstanding disparities in health care access and delivery by requiring the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), in consultation with the Department of Insurance, to explore options to make health insurance more affordable for low-income and middle-income residents. This work will be compiled into a study due to the General Assembly by February 15, 2021.
The new law also supports clinical trials by requiring Medicaid to cover routine care costs for members who participate in medical trials. In addition, the legislation helps expand access to and affordability of home health care and mental and behavioral health care.
The Illinois Tollway system was up in revenue the first two months of the year before the March pandemic. So far, for the year, tollway transactions are down 27.6%. Toll revenue is extremely important as the funds are used to repair and maintain the roadways.
As the Tollway is seeing declines in the tolls on which its budget largely depends, it is taking a gentler approach toward those who drive by a collection point without paying. Drivers have long been able to go online during a two-week grace period to pay any skipped tolls without additional fees. Beyond that, customers would be charged a $20 initial violation fee.
A program approved by the Tollway board in late June gives customers a significant break: Through this year, owners of passenger vehicles will be mailed an invoice with a $3 fee for each unpaid toll. Customers need not pay any additional fines or fees for unpaid tolls incurred between March 9 through June 25, as part of relief efforts.
Meanwhile, those who have been holding out or who don’t have the money to pay past violations have the rest of 2020 to pay a reduced amount. Outstanding violations that had been $20 to $50 per unpaid toll will be reduced to a $3 fine per unpaid toll. The Tollway is banking on the approach to be revenue-neutral, in part through incentivizing those with unpaid violations to pay them during the six-month grace window.
Cannabis Sales Set New Record
Illinois marijuana dispensaries sold more than $47.6 million worth of products in June, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. That is yet another new record for the state. The May receipts totaled $44.3 million. Average daily sales statewide climbed 8 percent to $1.5 million in June from the previous month. The state is benefiting from a gradual increase in new stores and cultivation capacity.
Latest on Nursing Homes
A coalition of advocacy groups is calling on Governor Pritzker to move residents from nursing homes and other congregate care settings into community settings, like hotels, to allow for proper social distancing and to stop the spread of Covid-19. However, the administration is not a fan of the idea. They have stated that public health experts do not endorse moving these individuals with medical issues into an environment not ready to provide proper care.
Schools and COVID
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx told Bloomberg Radio on Tuesday that schools will need to oversee frequent COVID-19 testing of pupils of all ages and grade levels to hunt for asymptomatic and early onset infections as a way to keep classrooms and school buildings open. Whether most parents would readily grant permission for such regular disease testing at schools is extremely unclear. We will see how this develops.
PPE Assistance for Childcare Providers
As centers reopen to help working families, we have heard some childcare providers are struggling to acquire face masks, cleaning supplies and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Now, providers can visit a new web store to place PPE orders and they need only pay shipping costs. Further details, including info on provider eligibility, are available at https://shopinccrra.com/.
Finally, a quick reminder and an announcement. First, the reminder is that Tax Day is coming up on July 15. This is the extended deadline for both state and federal filing. Next, we would like to announce our next virtual conference for Monday, July 13. The topic is Supporting Employee Mental, Emotional and Social Health. Please join the Joliet Chamber and WorkLife Partnership for a free, interactive virtual conference to discuss:
- Resolving challenges that manifest into stress, anger, anxiety, depression and even trauma
- Confront issues that prevent employees from thriving, alleviate strain and empower employees to be more resilient
- As an employer, how can you play a part in rebuilding a stronger workplace
You can register here for the session next Monday beginning at 1:00 PM – http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-webinar-july-13-supporting-employee-mental-emotional-and-social-health-5923
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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