It was good to see a great number of you yesterday at the golf outing! So glad to hear the feedback that these updates have and continue to benefit out members. Today’s message will be packed with info as we catch up on what has transpired over the last few days and do some comparisons. We welcome August as a month to determine in many ways what direction we all move in when it comes to coping with the pandemic and planning for the remainder of the year.
Be sure to register for our next Virtual Conference tomorrow (Wednesday, the 5th of August) at 10:00 AM. This is an extremely timely issue and we’ll be welcoming Sean Noble of ReadyNation with the topic of “Childcare: Increasingly vital to our workforce & economy.” Here is the link to register for this session: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-webinar-august-5th-child-care-increasingly-vital-to-our-workforce-economy-5934
Proposal to Prevent Commercial Foreclosures
We can all surely agree that the COVID pandemic has and continues to greatly affect our many businesses and organizations. We have covered in the past the issue with covering rent and what that in turn does to the property owners defaulting on mortgages. Now, the Small Business Advocacy Council is calling on our legislators on the federal level to enact a bill that would address the following on both ends.
Rent Deferment (Tenant Relief)
Creates a standardized mechanism for eligible small business tenants, who are leasing commercial property to elect to defer up to 75% of their base rent for a period of up to six (6) months and (as applicable) to automatically extend their lease through such deferral period. Small businesses will be required to pay the deferred rent over twelve (12) months after the deferral period ends, so they may continue to recover from the pandemic and stay in business.
Rent Protection Program (Property Owner Relief)
Creates a new SBA loan program to provide forgivable loans to eligible small business commercial property owners, who have suffered (or are anticipating suffering) losses from unpaid rents during the 2020 calendar year, to pay related mortgage and certain other permanent expenses. This loan is only forgivable if the property owner uses the funds to pay eligible mortgage and other property expenses and to the extent the property owner does not actually later receive any lost rent.
We will continue to monitor the progress and add to the conversation with our elected officials. It is especially important that the owners receive aid so that the opportunity exists for tenants to have a place to call home. Those tenants are equally in need as they progress through these hardships. Finding a way to help both is critical.
Unemployment Insurance Formula Proposal
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come up with their own suggestion for unemployment benefit enhancements. As a recap, House Democrats have proposed renewing a flat $600/week federal supplement. Senate Republican leaders introduced a plan to target 70% wage replacement for beneficiaries, with a cap on the weekly federal supplement of $500.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has recommended a similarly structured plan, with target replacement between 80% and 90% of an individual’s working wages (85% is used for the analysis) and a supplement cap of $400. Under the Senate and Chamber proposals, if a state cannot conduct the individual calculations, each recipient in that state will receive a flat $200 supplement. Here are the comparisons for Illinois:
Average Weekly Benefit
As is State only benefit $357.08
House proposal $957.08
Senate proposal $755.75
U.S. Chamber proposal $863.71
Average Wage Replacement Rate
As is State only benefit 33%
House proposal 89%
Senate proposal 70%
U.S. Chamber proposal 70%
Increase vs State-only Benefit
House proposal 168.0%
Senate proposal 111.6%
U.S. Chamber proposal 141.9%
**664,763Continuing unemployment claims (as of July 4) in Illinois
Side by Side Look at the CARES vs. HEROES vs. HEALS Acts
More than two months after House Democrats passed their version of the next installment of pandemic relief for struggling Americans (the HEROES Act), Senate Republicans and Trump administration officials finally joined the debate and introduced their own: The Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act (HEALS Act).
A quick comparison of the two proposed bills reveals that Washington lawmakers are extremely far apart. Adding to the complexity of negotiations is the calendar. Read more to see areas of disagreement and then how these bills compare to the already-passed CARES Act. Key areas of disagreement include:
Extension of pandemic unemployment insurance benefits
The CARES Act, which passed in March, established a $600 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit to be paid on top of the regular, state-based benefit. Statistical data shows that some recipients earn more on unemployment than from their job, potentially discouraging a return to work. The House bill would extend the existing benefit through January 2021 whereas the Senate proposal would temporarily reduce the benefit to $200 per week and require states to transition to a program that would pay unemployed workers 70 percent of prior wages.
Federal aid for state and local governments
The job loss and reduced economic activity resulting from the global pandemic has significantly reduced the income and sales tax collections that sustain state and local government budgets at the same time the demand for local services has increased. The House-passed HEROES Act would appropriate over $900 billion for state and local governments. The Senate-proposed HEALS Act, would provide states with $105 billion for schools (K-12 and higher education), but would not provide any additional general-purpose relief. Instead, it would grant additional flexibility to state and local governments in how they spend funds available to them in the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was appropriated as part of the CARES Act in March.
Restrictions on school funding
Both House and Senate bills provide nearly the same amount for schools ($105 billion in the Senate package, $100 billion in the House), but the Senate package includes restrictions. Of the $70 billion allocated for K-12 schools, two-thirds is reserved for schools that are committed to reopening and holding classes in-person – a proposal that House Democrats have rejected. In addition, House Democrats have increased their demand for school funding considering recent coronavirus outbreaks in the southern and western states.
Liability protections for employers
The Senate’s package includes the parameters for a safe harbor from coronavirus lawsuits for employers that remain open during the pandemic. Rather than protect employers, the House bill aims to protect employees by directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish an enforceable workplace safety standard for infection-control practices.
Direct cash payments for individuals and households
Both measures would authorize a second round of the direct cash payments, and both would expand eligibility to include adult dependents. The House bill, however, would increase the one-time payment for dependents from $500 to $1,200, would make those payments retroactive to enactment of the CARES Act, and would allow undocumented immigrants with taxpayer identification numbers to qualify.
Democrats are also pushing for hazard pay for people making up to $200,000, and Republicans want to lower that threshold to closer to minimum wage.
Food aid (food stamps)
The House-passed bill includes $10 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as well as a 15 percent increase in the maximum SNAP benefit. The Senate bill includes aid for farmers but not for food programs that benefit the hungry.
The Senate bill includes billions for military weaponry, military aircraft, the construction of a new FBI building, and rescinds $120 million in funding for the southern border wall. The House-passed package includes funding for highways, state elections, pension bailouts, the US Postal Service, and would repeal the cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT). Republicans seem open to USPS money to address operational shortfalls, but they are a hard no on money going to a new mail-in balloting system. Democrats want $25 billion for the USPS, Republicans think the number is closer to $5 billion. Both chambers include additional funding for the 2020 census.
Senate Republicans estimate their package would spend approximately $1 trillion, whereas the House-passed measure would cost approximately $3.4 trillion.
The tables here summarize key elements of the enacted CARES Act (as amended) and the two recent proposals from the House and Senate.
Restaurants Join to File Lawsuit
A long menu of Chicago restaurants are suing insurers for allegedly refusing to cover losses sustained during COVID-related shutdowns. Some 42 plaintiffs, including Lettuce Entertain You, Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli and Gibsons Restaurant Group, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against 19 insurers. Insurers contend their business-interruption policies exclude act-of-god events like the coronavirus, arguing that damages must be linked to property losses from fires and other specific causes. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs are not citing the virus itself as a cause of action. Rather, they are focusing on “unprecedented” shutdown orders and “restrictive” reopening plans, according to the 160-page complaint.
Plaintiffs accuse the insurers of breach of contract and because they charged premiums without covering losses, of unjust enrichment. The complaint questions the legal status of shutdown and reopening orders, arguing, “The shutdown orders, and the restrictive reopening orders that followed, are executive orders—not statutes, ordinances, regulations or legislative acts.”
Finally, here again is an extremely short survey on a topic that can have some scrambling at the end of the year. The State of Illinois has mandated sexual harassment training and we are interested in hearing how many organizations have complied so far and for those that have not, what the interest would be in a group training. We look forward to your responses: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6F782PV
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry