Chamber Members:

Big news today! We were all able to lower the positivity rate for Region 7 and we are now back officially to Phase 4 here in our area. This means the return to indoor activities in bars, restaurant, banquet halls, etc. and gatherings can go back to 50 individuals. Full press release is below. Also, some employment statistics that didn’t make the cut in our update yesterday. Finally, the DCEO’s Business Interruption Grant application link is now live. Much sure you check out the info below for direct access. Enjoy your weekend!

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Governor and IDPH Announce Return to Phase 4 for our Region 7
Here is the official press release – Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are announcing that Region 7, which includes the greater Will and Kankakee County areas, will return to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan today, September 18, 2020 at 5 p.m. This announcement follows weeks of close coordination between IDPH and local health departments, as well as a concerted effort by community leaders and residents to follow the additional mitigation measures implemented on August 26, 2020.

Region 7 moved to stricter mitigations following three consecutive days of a rolling positivity rate above 8 percent.  As of today, Region 7 has reached the threshold to lift mitigations of three consecutive days of a rolling positivity rate below 6.5 percent, with today’s rate at 5.6 percent. This means that as of 5 p.m. today, indoor dining and bar service can resume along with larger gathering sizes as outlined in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.

“Today, Region 7 – Will and Kankakee Counties – will return to the standard Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan because residents chose to be all in for each other, for their small businesses, for their bars and restaurants, for their kids, for their neighbors,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Let that be a testament to the power of a community that embraces doctor-recommended mitigations proven to reduce risk and slow the spread. We can’t outrun this virus, but with the tools we know to work – masks, distancing, handwashing, and respect for public health and each other – we can beat it back enough to keep our businesses open and our neighborhoods safer all at once. Don’t let up now, Region 7 – let’s keep this success going.”

“I want to commend and thank those in Region 7 for working together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their communities,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Moving from a greater than 8 percent rolling positivity rate to below 6.5 percent in a matter of weeks demonstrates how concerted efforts to reduce exposure risks through limiting large gatherings, increased masking and other mitigation measures can truly make a difference.  It also shows how quickly the positivity rate can move, in either direction. Because of the speed in which the rate can change, we must continue to wear our masks, watch our distance, and follow the guidance in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois. It will take all of us working together to get through this.”

Over the last few weeks, IDPH has worked closely with elected officials and community leaders in Region 7 to slow the spread of COVID-19 and bring down the number of positive cases in the area, helping bring the region from a rolling positivity rate above 8 percent to 5.6 percent. IDPH will continue working closely with the region to ensure residents continue to follow the mitigations that remain in place and wear face covering to will help prevent another spike in cases.

What the mitigation measure being removed means:
•           Bars and restaurants can go back to normal business hours.
•           Indoor service is allowed for parties up to 10 people.  Seated areas should be arranged so that tables allow for 6 feet between parties.
•           Impermeable barriers may be installed between booths which are less than 6 feet apart.
•           Standing areas should be limited to no more than 25% of standing capacity.
•           Dance floors should remain closed.
•           Meetings and social events are now limited to the lesser of 50 people or 50% of room capacity
•           Casinos can go back to normal business hours and back to 50% capacity.

Federal Job Report
Initial jobless claims dipped to a seasonally adjusted 860,000 in the week ending Sept. 12, a decrease of 33,000 from the previous week, a sign of gradual but steady improvement for the economy. Unadjusted claims fell significantly, dropping 8.8 percent to 790,021. Another piece of good news was a decline in continuing claims, which fell 916,000 to 12.63 million.

The Labor Department’s weekly report showed that claims the previous week had increased rather than remaining flat, as initially reported. The report also showed that the total number of people receiving any kind of benefit continued to increase through the end of August, reaching 29.8 million. At the same time, those receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is open to those who normally wouldn’t be eligible, fell sharply to 658,737 for the current week, a drop of 209,577.

State of Illinois Employment Report
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced that the unemployment rate fell -0.5 percentage points to 11.0 percent, while nonfarm payrolls added +66,000 jobs in August, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The July monthly change in payrolls was revised upward from the preliminary report, from +93,200 to +105,000 jobs. The July unemployment rate was revised upward from the preliminary report, from 11.3 percent to 11.5 percent.

The August payroll jobs estimate and unemployment rate reflects activity for the week including the 12th. The state’s unemployment rate was +2.6 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for August, which was 8.4 percent, down -1.8 percentage points from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was up +7.2 percentage points from a year ago when it was 3.8 percent.

The number of unemployed workers declined from the prior month, a -2.9 percent decrease to 695,000 but was up +182.6 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was up +1.6 percent over-the-month and down -1.5 percent over-the-year. Confidence in the Illinois economy has grown in recent months.  From January 2020 to April 2020, the Illinois labor force declined -4.6% (-294,000 individuals) and, yet, from April 2020 to August 2020, the labor force has rebounded 3.6% (nearly 224,000 individuals).

In August, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+16,400), Government (+15,900), and Professional and Business Services (+9,900). Only one industry sector reported a payroll decline: Information (-1,400).

State Government Latest to Announce They’re Not Following Tax Deferral
Illinois government is a no-go when it comes to participating in the payroll tax deferral that President Donald Trump instituted by executive order earlier this month.

None of the statewide offices is participating in the president’s plan that allows employee Social Security taxes to be waived until the end of the year. That would amount to a 6.2% tax cut for the employees.

“At this point, everyone has decided they will not be deferring,” said Comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose office oversees issuing paychecks to the 62,000 state workers. “At this point, all of state government is on the same page.”

That page is that the deferral of payroll taxes is a bad idea, even if it looks attractive in the short term for some workers. The break would be available to workers who make less than $104,000 a year, if the person’s employer agrees to participate. An analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calculated that the break would be worth a little more than $59 a week to a worker making $50,000 a year. The downside is that after Jan. 1, the money saved now would have to be repaid. That means Social Security taxes for participating workers would double to 12.4%.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the bulk of state workers, said it agrees with the state’s decision not to participate. Spokesman Anders Lindall said the union’s position nationally is that it is a bad deal for workers.
However, the issue isn’t a partisan one among states. A survey by the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers didn’t find any state that had committed to participating in the deferral plan. Some were still deciding, and 27 said they had no plans to participate.

Latest on Federal Negotiations
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said that she’s hopeful the parties will reach an agreement on the next round of coronavirus relief, but suggested Democrats aren’t prepared to accept anything less than her last offer — $2.2 trillion — on a deal.

“When we go into a negotiation it’s about the allocation of the resources,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “But it’s hard to see how we can go any lower when you only have greater needs.” The comments come as both sides are voicing some optimism that, after weeks of stalled negotiations, a bipartisan deal on an emergency coronavirus bill is possible before the November elections.

Again, main sticking points include state and local money. Democrats are at $900 billion over two years, and Republicans are at something like $100 billion, and $100 billion-ish in repurposed money over two years. This new idea has been floated – Democrats cut their ask to one year — so that would be $450 billion. Republicans could go up to $300 billion. Both of those do not include the $150 billion that would be repurposed. So, the total would be $450 billion — $300 billion in new money, plus the $150 billion repurposed. Democrats could explain this by saying they got $450 billion over one year and will ask for more if Biden is elected.

Then there is education. Democrats want $300 billion for schools, and Republicans were at $105 billion. This is immediate money. The two sides were relatively close on other issues when the talks broke down earlier this summer. We’ll see if next week is more back and forth talk or not. Ultimately, it’s all talk until they can come to some middle ground.

CDC Needs Extra Funds for Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it needs $6 billion that it does not currently have in order to distribute a coronavirus vaccine, highlighting a new hurdle in a massive logistical undertaking.

The agency had previously privately informed Congress of the need for more funds, according to congressional aides, but CDC Director Robert Redfield made the request public for the first time at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, calling it “urgent.”

The need for vaccine distribution funding raises the stakes for Congress to come together on a broader coronavirus deal. While both parties support the vaccine funding, there is no clear path for enacting it outside of a larger deal, which has been stalled for months.

More CDC Inconsistencies on Testing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised controversial guidance that previously stated people without COVID-19 symptoms don’t necessarily need to be tested.

In updated guidance, the agency said: “If you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and don’t have symptoms you need a test.”

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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