Chamber Members:

You have all probably seen the big news that has broke on the Coronavirus front by now, but we’ll repeat for those that it may have snuck by. No deal in D.C., but the House moved forward with a vote. Also, some additional job numbers that have a mix of encouragement as well as more changes to old traditions.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

President Trump Announces Positive COVID Test
President Trump is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19, a White House official said Friday. The president is expected to continue working in some capacity while in quarantine.

According to The New York Times, which first reported Trump had mild symptoms, the president appeared lethargic during a Thursday fundraiser, and he fell asleep while flying back from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows confirmed to reporters later Friday morning that the president was dealing with mild symptoms, but said his spirits remained high.

The first lady tweeted that she had “mild symptoms but overall feeling good.”

“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” the President tweeted.

The Trumps’ positive diagnoses came hours after it was reported that Hope Hicks, one of the president’s top aides, had contracted the virus. Hicks traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One on Tuesday to the first presidential debate and on Wednesday to a rally in Minnesota.

The President attended a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday. In total, dozens of West Wing staffers, administration officials, donors and support staff may have been exposed to the virus. There were no additional positive tests immediately reported in the West Wing, though the White House has not typically disclosed such developments. Vice President Pence, senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all tested negative on Friday morning.

The House Votes
House Democrats on Thursday approved a massive, $2.2 trillion package of coronavirus relief, lending political cover to party centrists in tough races while putting fresh pressure on Senate Republicans to move another round of emergency aid before the coming elections.

The vote arrived only after last-ditch negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday failed to yield a bipartisan agreement — and it sent a signal that the prospects for such a deal before November 3 have dimmed considerably.

The bill was approved by a tally of 214 to 207, but to secure passage, Pelosi and her leadership team had to stave off a late revolt from a surprisingly large number of centrists who were furious that Pelosi had staged a vote on a bill with no chance of becoming law.

Republicans in the Senate and White House both oppose the measure and are backing a proposal that is $600 billion less than the Democratic legislation.

Economy Adds 661,000 Jobs in September
The U.S. gained 661,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday in the final jobs report before Election Day. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent in September as the U.S. posted its fifth consecutive month of job gains after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic triggered the deepest and quickest economic contraction since the Great Depression.

The report, however, came in well below the projections of economists and contained several red flags about the strength of the recovery from the coronavirus recession.

Economists had expected the U.S. to gain roughly 800,000 jobs in September to push the unemployment rate down to roughly 8.2 percent from 8.4 percent in August. While the jobless rate fell below that level, the labor force participation rate—the percentage of potential workers seeking jobs—fell 0.3 percent, indicating declining confidence in the ability to find work.

Permanent job losses also increased for the second consecutive month, rising by 345,000 to 3.8 million, as the number of temporary layoffs declined by 1.5 million.

Job growth is moderating just as fiscal aid is expiring which is not a good mix and the slowing momentum in the labor market bodes poorly for the broader recovery. Even more reason for pushing continued talks for federal aid regardless of what has transpired in recent days.

Illinois Job Numbers
There were 29,390 initial unemployment claims for the week ending Sept. 26, which was an increase of 3,414, or 13 percent, from the week prior, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. New claims were more than four times higher than the same period a year ago.

Continued claims in Illinois decreased by 6 percent from the week prior, to 502,314, a decrease of more than 34,000 as COVID-19 and associated economic restrictions continue to wreak havoc on the job market.

Longer School Year Possibility
A longer school year could be a possibility for Illinois students as state education leaders and legislators weigh options to address learning loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Legislators on the state’s education committee listened as officials from the Illinois board of education, school leaders, and education advocates testified about the impact of the pandemic on learning and funding.

State Superintendent Carmen Ayala told the committee that the board is considering how to assess the extent of the losses so that there’s data showing the impacts of the shift to remote learning. But the data may not be available until the end of the school year. In the meantime, the board is looking into the learning priorities for each grade level that were created with input from educators across the state. Those will serve as the basis of where students should be.

“We don’t want to create a remediation situation. We want to create a situation where students are placed accordingly in the appropriate grade level, and we’re moving them along while filling in the gaps. If we don’t utilize that kind of a structure kids — we know through history —become further behind and some of them never catch up,” said Ayala.

Still, education policymakers want the state to start prioritizing not just assessments but how to address gaps. During a presentation to the committee, Robin Steans of Advanced Illinois, a nonprofit education policy advocacy organization, recommended that the state increase time in the classroom and provide more money to school districts to assess students academically.

The state legislature could amend the school code to increase the calendar year from 185 school days, however, it would take more money for school buildings to stay open longer. The state budget for education this year is flat. Without federal funding to ensure more money flows into the state, there could be severe cuts to education funding in the near future.

Steans suggested assessing students, “This end of year assessment may matter more this year than it ever has. We need comparable data in every school district for as many children as we can to understand what’s the impact been and how that has fallen out along lines of income lines of race, language, and special needs.”

However, the state board of education is delaying their decision on assessments until after the November election, to see if they can waive federally required assessments that hold districts accountable for students’ success.

New York City announced last month that its school system would not allow snow days this year, instead requiring students to learn from home. The change could be the beginning of the end for the snow day as we know it.

Schools that lost instructional time during the pandemic are desperate not to lose any more, and both teachers and students are now far more familiar with virtual learning. So, it’s easy to imagine how snow days will turn into virtual-learning days even after the pandemic ends. Some snow-prone states, like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, have given districts this option for several years.

Is it a good idea? Opponents of snow days point to the pressure they put on working parents, as well as the problem of missed meals for low-income students. Of course, a virtual-learning day does little to solve either of those issues. And snow days are one of the great spontaneous joys of childhood.

School administrators in Shakopee, Minn., are cleverly trying to have it both ways. They recently made the switch to virtual learning when it snows but will also set aside one day a year for a scheduled snow day. “In Minnesota,” Mike Redmond, the Shakopee superintendent, said, “it’s like a birthright you should have a snow day.”

Finally, we’re happy to announce our next virtual conference: State of the County address with Will County Executive Denise Winfrey. Please join the Joliet Chamber for an update about Will County including:

  • The wrap up of the largest capital campaign in the county’s history
  • The County’s response to the COVID crisis – the quick alteration of delivery to ensure county services were maintained for our residents
  • Balanced budget without a tax increase which will ensure a stable county government

Join us on Wednesday, October 7th at 11:00 a.m. Register here:

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
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct