We are back at it on a gloomy Monday. Hopefully, all had an enjoyable weekend. The Governor had to make a new announcement for those in Illinois down by St. Louis as you’ll read below. Also, chaos in the USPS is creating a stir in DC. In case you missed it in other news, the Democratic Convention kicks off virtually tonight as we build up to the elections in November.
The First Rollback Announced
The Metro East region (Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Randolph, Clinton, Washington, and Bond Counties) became the first Illinois health region to move backwards in the road towards reopening. The region has now seen eight days of positivity increases and has reported an average positivity rate over 8% for three consecutive days.
For Region 4, mitigation measures taking effect Tuesday, include the following:
- Meetings, social events, and other gatherings are now limited to the lesser of 25 individuals or 25 percent of overall room capacity
- All bars, restaurants, gaming facilities, and casinos will close at 11 pm, matching the newly imposed closing times for St. Louis
- All reception halls closed
- Party buses not allowed to operate
- Reservations required for each party at restaurants and bars, and no congregating indoors or outdoors
- Indoor tables reduced to six people or less
- No dancing indoors
- Removal of bar stools at bars to help prevent congregating
- Tables should continue to be six feet apart
Also, the region will need to get under 6.5% positive over a 14-day period in order to return to the current Phase 4 under which the rest of the state is operating. If the positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8% after 14 days, more stringent mitigations will be applied.
Democrats plan Saturday vote to prop up Postal Service
House Democrats will call the chamber back to Washington to vote on legislation to block recently implemented cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the agency can handle a potential flood of mail-in ballots around November’s elections.
The move, announced by Democratic leaders on a call with their caucus Monday morning, comes days after the Postal Service warned states that it might not be able to deliver ballots to election offices in time to be counted. The Postal Service warned 40 states in letters late last week that their deadlines to request, return and count ballots may clash with the realities of mail delivery at a time when the USPS is already facing financial troubles, delivery delays and an expected influx of election-related mail
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democrats on the call that the legislation is still being finalized, but members have been told formally to expect to vote on it Saturday morning. Senator Elizabeth Warren said Monday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should bring the Senate back into session amid criticism surrounding changes at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as the GOP leader faces growing calls to reconvene the chamber.
Separately, the House Oversight Committee has also asked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, to testify at a hearing next Monday about recently implemented measures to cut overtime and remove mail-sorting machines.
Illinois Sees 5th Fastest Recovery Amid Pandemic
Even as Illinois struggles to reopen its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state has had one of the fastest recoveries in the country, according to WalletHub. Of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the personal finance site ranks Illinois 5th — behind Vermont, New Jersey, Oregon, and Connecticut — when it comes to the drop in new unemployment claims filed since the start of the pandemic.
While unemployment in the state remains high at 14.6 percent, it has fallen significantly since April, when it was 17.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while April saw a record 519,269 initial jobless claims, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, by June claims had dropped to 197,192 — a reduction of nearly two-thirds.
According to WalletHub, the pandemic has wiped out every new job created since the end of the Great Recession, and then some. About 8.8 million jobs were lost from 2007 to 2009, while about 22.7 million new jobs have been created since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 55.2 million jobs have disappeared just since March.
Gambling Results Post Shutdown
The state’s 10 casinos each took a sizable hit in revenue, but not as bad as many were expecting in the first month back from the COVID-19 shutdown — and numbers actually went up for Illinois’ video gaming terminals.
The state’s 10 casinos are limited to half capacity in the age of COVID-19, but they still raked in about three-quarters of the cash they did for a comparable period last year, before the virus slashed admissions. And the looming specter of the coronavirus certainly hasn’t scared off bettors from returning to the thousands of slot machines that have been turned back on at bars, gas stations and other establishments — and which have gobbled up 24% more dollars than they did last July.
That’s according to the latest revenue reports from the Illinois Gaming Board. The casinos racked up about $82.6 million as people made more than 483,000 trips through their turnstiles during the first month back. That’s down about 29% compared to July 2019, when the house won about $115.8 million with almost double the admissions, about 931,000.
Numbers are trending the other way for the 35,680 slot machines that are installed at 7,137 establishments outside casinos statewide, though. Gamblers lost $166.1 million to them in the first month after the Gaming Board gave operators the green light to resume. Video gaming terminals brought in just $133.4 million in July 2019, though Illinois has added more than 3,000 new slots since then.
State and local governments took a bigger cut this year, too, because, with the massive gambling expansion signed last year by Pritzker, state legislators upped the tax rate on video slots from 30% to 34%. State tax revenue from video slots came out to $48.2 million and $8.4 million for local governments this July, compared to $37.6 million for the state and $6.7 million for municipalities last July.
Meanwhile, casinos pumped $13.2 million into state coffers last month, down from $36 million last July. Overall, casinos have made $333.3 million so far this year, compared to $778 million they made to this point during an uninterrupted 2019 gaming year. Video slots have churned out $548.2 million in the first seven months of 2020, compared to $970.5 million over the same period last year.
Local Rental Assistance
Two local agencies are currently offering help for tenants seeking rent money from a new state assistance program. The Emergency Rental Assistance program offers up to $5,000 to help with rent payments missed since March because of lost jobs or income because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applications for the money are being taken until Friday. The Will County Center for Community Concerns, located at 2455 Glenwood Ave. in Joliet, and Holsten Human Capital Management, which has an office at the Riverwalk Homes complex in Joliet, are local partners in the program provided through the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
People can apply directly to IHDA for the assistance at era.ihda.org. The phone number at Holsten is 815-770-5724. The phone number at Will County Center for Community Concerns is 815-722-0722.
Finally, we are going to take a week off from Virtual Conferences as many may be squeezing in last minute vacations, have children getting back to school (virtually or in person), or getting ready for a version of school next week. We will be back on track with our next offering on Friday, August 28th.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry