It is the end of another week and the beginning of action in the state to try and keep us from slipping back into heavier restrictions. Read below for the announcement from Governor Pritzker today as we hit 2,000 plus COVID cases the first time since May. Today also marks the self-imposed deadline by the negotiation team in Washington DC to get a framework of a deal done. There is more on that below. We hope that you enjoy your weekend!
New COVID Rules for Business
Governor Pritzker’s guidelines, unveiled today, appear to be an attempt at compromise rather than partially shutting down bars and other gathering spots. The rules, filed this morning by the Illinois Department of Public Health, will give local health and law enforcement officials “more leeway to support community public health in a productive manner,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Under the new rules, businesses that pack in too many people or fail to enforce social distancing mask requirements will get a written notice warning them they are out of compliance. Businesses that do not comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave. If the business continues to refuse to comply, it be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of $75 to $2,500. Pritzker stressed that the rules do not apply to individuals, but give local officials, who control enforcement, a little more power to act rather that what is on the books now which only allows license revocation.
Pritzker had floated a version of this rule weeks ago but ran into objections from a legislative panel that had to review his proposals. In today’s move, not much responsibility and blame has been put on individuals who fail to comply with the rules concerning masks. Again, his moves continue to punish businesses that are already sacrificing and adapting to constant change. Hopefully, all will be held equally accountable.
In a move that does provide some relief for workers, the Governor did sign SB471 to help protect employees who continue to serve on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. To directly protect workers in retail, the law adds a penalty for assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing. This provision sends the message that it’s vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that as part of a closed-door Thursday meeting, Democrats offered to reduce their $3.4 trillion price tag by $1 trillion if Republicans would agree to raise their roughly $1 trillion package by the same amount. That strategy, effectively trying to split the difference between the two sides, would result in legislation costing between $2 trillion and $2.4 trillion.
Asked about raising their price tag by $1 trillion, Mnuchin told reporters on Friday: “That’s a non-starter.” The cost reductions, according to Pelosi, would largely be achieved by shortening the duration of some programs in the package, such as food assistance.
It may have been an easy cut down the middle, but the package here was a bit too much for Republicans, and far too little for Democrats, but would it have easily passed? PPP renewal, direct payments, extension of enhanced unemployment, $105 billion in education funding, eviction moratorium, testing money, $200 billion in state and local, $10 billion for USPS and SNAP money is what we are looking at.
In addition to the dollar amount, the four negotiators haven’t agreed to several other key issues, including funding for state and local governments, unemployment benefits, and liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits amongst many other topics.
Pelosi, in a letter to House Democrats on Friday, outlined a list of unresolved issues, showing how far apart the two sides are from even an agreement in principle, with divisions on school funding, money for testing and funding for the Postal Service.
The White House is reported to be finalizing executive orders to try to halt evictions and student loan payments, suspend the payroll tax and extend enhanced unemployment insurance. The signing of these executive orders could come as soon as this evening. It remains to be seen if these actions push a compromise sooner. Also, a federal funding deadline coming in 50 days and an election in three months certainly would make most assume that something has got to get done sooner rather than later.
July Job Report
The U.S. gained 1.8 million jobs in July and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in July from 11.1% in June, according to the July jobs report, as the pace of the labor market recovery slowed due to surging cases and fading fiscal stimulus. July’s gains were far less than the increases of 4.8 million in June and 2.7 million in May.
PPP Ends Tomorrow
The deadline for Paycheck Protection Program applications is this Saturday, but Congress is debating extending a second round of PPP lending as part of the small business provisions in the next stimulus package.
We believe the Paycheck Protection Program Act, which has been a key stimulus measure for small businesses, requires critical changes to provide enough comprehensive assistance that owners need to sustain their businesses.
While negotiations have stalled, we are continuing to advocate for more comprehensive small business relief, including streamlined forgiveness for PPP and EIDL loans under $150,000 and allowing small businesses to apply for another round of PPP.
Will County CARES Act Funding Update
The County received a little over $120 million as part of the passed CARES Act. Since receiving the money, the county board has created the Ad-Hoc Committee, held a number of meetings designed to figure out how to disseminate the money, created a website (https://www.willcountyillinois.com/CARES-Act/CARES-Act-and-CRF-Overview), and are preparing to release details on how apply for the grants.
Here are the basics that are known as of today –
Payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund can only be used to cover expenses that:
- are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020, for the State or government
- were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020
It looks like the initial opening will be to governmental bodies on this upcoming Monday, August 10th and the likely opening date for business applications will be on the 24th. More details and confirmation are to follow. We do know that about $24 million will be available to Will County businesses and it sounds like it will those with fewer than 25 employees and $2.5 million in annual revenues. The funds will be a maximum of $15,000 in a grant form.
Stimulus Payments for the Deceased
Dead people could end up eligible for economic stimulus checks after all. A little-noticed provision in Senate Republicans’ latest coronavirus relief package would partially overturn the Treasury Department’s much-publicized ban on sending stimulus money to the departed.
So long as someone died this year, they would be eligible for the $1,200 payments included in the plan. Not just that, Senate Republicans would also make them retroactively eligible for the previous round of stimulus checks. Doing so would be consistent with how the government has long treated recently deceased taxpayers. Amid a wrenching pandemic, some lawmakers risk appearing insensitive to people whose loved ones may have been felled by Covid-19 if they’re treated differently.
It is a surprising twist in the months long back and forth within the government over whether the deceased are eligible for the payments. How the Treasury Department will react during negotiations over the relief legislation is unclear. The IRS initially said the departed were eligible before the Treasury Department reversed that.
Finally, next week we will be presenting our Government Affairs Coffee Series as part of our virtual conference series. The topic will be a “Federal Update from Congressman Bill Foster.” This will take place on Wednesday, August 12th at 11:00 AM. You can register here to participate: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-webinar-august-12th-federal-update-from-congressman-bill-foster-5936
During the government affairs coffee series, we plan to discuss the next federal funding phase including the following topics:
- Unemployment Insurance
- PPP Round 2/”P4″
- Liability Protection
- Individual Stimulus Payment
- Rent & Mortgage Assistance
- State & Municipality Funding
- Education & Testing Funding
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry