Federal aid is on the way … just not yet, according to President Trump. A lot of action is going on regionally regarding the actions of the Governor and the restaurant industry. Today, we’ll try to recap a majority of what is transpiring. Also, a last reminder about tomorrow’s virtual conference as we learn what is going on in downtown Joliet.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Latest on Relief Discussions
A stimulus deal is coming, but not until after Election Day. That was the message from the president on Tuesday as progress made in recent weeks has stalled over a COVID-19 testing strategy plan proposed by Democrats that has yet to be approved by the White House.
Speaking to reporters, Trump insisted negotiations will continue and predicted that the two sides will reach a deal. However, he used the opportunity to criticize Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his chief foe in Congress, saying once again that she wants “bailouts” for states and cities run by Democrats and that Democrats will lose the House majority due in part to the talks.
Trump’s remarks sparked a response from the Speaker, who argued that Trump’s comments were a byproduct of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s weekend declaration that “we’re not going to control the pandemic.”
Governor Pritzker vs. Restaurants
Chicago-area restaurants are fighting the state’s decision to halt indoor dining amid rising COVID-19 case counts, with some saying they are looking into legal action. The Illinois Restaurant Association is leading the charge. President and CEO Sam Toia said the association is “exploring all possible legal remedies.”
Restaurants are asking for a breakdown from the state of COVID cases that are tied to their industry. Many restaurant operators feel their industry is being unfairly singled out. Toia said it doesn’t make sense to revert to restrictions that were in place when the pandemic began.
“The science surrounding COVID-19 has evolved,” Toia said. “So must the metrics for mitigation.”
Restraining Order Challenged
As a follow up to what we shared yesterday about the temporary restraining order, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health are asking the Illinois Second District Appellate Court to reverse a decision by Kane County Judge Kevin Busch granting a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of an indoor dining ban at FoxFire restaurant in Geneva.
In their appeal, Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health ask for the order to be vacated and for the temporary restraining order to be dissolved. The appeal was filed on Tuesday, the day after Busch granted the temporary restraining order.
Governor Pritzker vs. Mayor Lightfoot
A clash between Governor Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot over COVID-19 restrictions eased today, at least publicly, as the mayor backed off her criticism and the governor downplayed any differences of opinion. That means the governor’s new COVID crackdown in the city, suspending indoor restaurant and bar service, will remain in place, barring any legal action.
At a news conference after the two officials met privately, Lightfoot said she “had a very frank and productive discussion” with Pritzker and his team, and came out of the roughly hour-long session with the goal “to work together.” She added, “I have no doubt that’s going to happen.”
Absent from the mayor’s remarks was any direct reference to her comments yesterday, when the mayor slammed the governor for failing to tell her in advance of his decision that takes effect Friday, and of her desire to reverse that move. The city will not join with restauranteurs who have threatened to sue Pritzker for allegedly exceeding his legal authority.
Pritzker made it clear he was not backing off. “I’ve set metrics,” he said “I’ve put them in place. They’re going to remain in place.” The governor said he’s relying on “multiple studies” that show indoor bars and restaurants are a hot spot for COVID spread. Though economic damage is regrettable, he added, the state’s economy will not fully recover until public health is secured.
Senate Republicans Question State Data
The following comes from Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady – Our state and nation were forever altered in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across America. As this tragedy began to unfold, we came together as a nation, with everyone doing their parts to slow the spread and flatten the curve of this devastating virus. By summer, we’d done just that, and slowly Illinois was able to partially reopen with safety precautions in place.
For our state’s restaurants, this reopening was a vital lifeline. While their survival, after months of closures and reduced service, was in no way guaranteed — these summer months gave them a fighting chance. Now, as these restaurants face a new round of closures, and as those who work at these establishments risk losing their job, several important questions must be asked.
Where is the data?
Contact tracing is one of the oldest and most reliable tools public health officials have to combat infectious diseases. It is a point the governor has made over and over and over again this spring. On May 1, the governor spoke of plans to hire an “army of contact tracers,” a program for which the General Assembly soon appropriated $800 million.
What’s the status of this program? Great question. Despite the administration promising transparency about this data to legislators from both sides of the aisle, we still haven’t seen data collected through contact tracing. Why does that matter? Because if we don’t know where the virus is spreading, we can’t possibly hope to stop it.
The mayor of Chicago, who has disagreed with the administration’s mitigations, said this week that contact tracers in Chicago had found that two-thirds of people testing positive in the city were contracting the virus at home or in another non-public setting. There’s no reason to believe this would be different downstate. If this is true, we are unnecessarily shutting down restaurants, many of whom will not survive this fall and winter. Governor — show us the contact tracing.
And why do the goalposts keep moving?
When the governor announced his five-phase Restore Illinois plan, restaurants were allowed to operate with a 50 percent capacity threshold in Phase Four. When he announced his mitigation plans, Tier-One, the first step in mitigation, required restaurants to reduce indoor capacity to 25 percent, while Tier-Two would close indoor dining. When it came time to implement these mitigations, he completely skipped Tier-One. Why? What science was the basis of his decision?
The vast majority of restaurants in Illinois have diligently worked to provide a safe and healthy environment to their patrons. They’ve spaced out seating and required patrons and staff to wear masks. They’ve adapted to survive, and now they’re being told, without any transparency about the science to back up the decisions, that they’re the reason mitigation measures are necessary.
What’s the answer? Transparency. We need public hearings. I’m calling for the Illinois Senate to hold a hearing and invite staff from the governor’s office to come before legislators to share the data they are using when implementing these mitigation measures.
Sam Toia, the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, has warned that 40 percent of restaurants could close for good in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are your local cafés, a favorite BBQ joint, or the Mom-and-Pop family restaurant down the street. These are people’s lives and livelihoods. If the state is going to close these restaurants again, if it’s going to take away their fighting chance to survive — the least the state can do is be transparent about why.
IHSA to Defy Governor Order and Move Forward with Basketball
The Illinois High School Association met today to discuss the status of winter sports in Illinois, but prior to meeting Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced updates to existing winter safety guidelines for recreational sports. Among the changes, basketball was moved from a “medium risk” sport for the coronavirus to the “higher risk” category amid a second wave of the pandemic spreading throughout the state.
At the IHSA meeting today, the board made the decision that the boys and girls basketball seasons are on after all. The IHSA took a stand at a special board meeting, deciding to go against the guidelines announced Tuesday by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The youth sports guidance, according to the IHSA, puts sports into three risk levels, lower, medium, or higher, based on the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play. The guidance sets four levels of play allowed based on current public health conditions. In all levels, some form of play is allowed ranging from practice and trainings in level 1 to tournaments and conference play in level 4.
- In level 1, only no-contact practices and training are allowed.
- In level 2, intra-team scrimmages are allowed with parental consent for minors, but there can be no competitive play.
- In level 3, intra-conference, intra-EMS-region or intra-league play is allowed, and there may be state- or league-championship games allowed for low-risk sports only.
- In level 4, tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, and out-of-state play are allowed. Championship games would also be allowed in level 4.
- Based on current conditions, lower-risk sports can be played at levels 1, 2, and 3. Medium-risk sports can be played at levels 1 and 2, and higher-risk sports can be played at level 1.
Stock Market Reaction
Stocks opened and closed with steep losses Wednesday amid growing fears that rising COVID-19 cases and the lack of a stimulus agreement between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats will force more U.S. cities to close or restrict businesses.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened with a loss of more than 570 points and finished the day down 900+ points. The Nasdaq composite and S&P 500 each fell nearly 4% percent.
The third wave of coronavirus cases has threatened to detail the slowing recovery from the onset of the pandemic in March, during which more than 20 million people lost their jobs as thousands of businesses were forced to close. Roughly 11 million people have since returned to work, but the impact of rising coronavirus cases could threaten many of the businesses that brought them back.
How to Optimize Your Listing on Google My Business
The percentage of customers who say they read reviews before patronizing local businesses is 82%. That’s one more reason why you need a Google My Business listing and now is the time to act if you have not set one up yet.
Google My Business is a free marketing tool that can help you manage your business’s online presence. Here are six ways to improve your business listing:
Claim and verify your business listing
To claim your business listing, log into the Google account that you want to be associated with your business. Then, go to google.com/business and click “Start now.”
From there, you’ll enter the name of your business and the address. If you work from home and don’t want your address to show up publicly, you can hide it and show the region instead. Next, choose how you’d like to verify your business: by phone, by email or through instant verification.
Make sure your information is up to date
Any information in your business listing will be indexed by Google and serve as the foundation for your local SEO, so you want to make sure everything is up to date.
It’s also important to double-check that the information in your business listing matches what’s currently on your website. If the information you share on your website differs from your Google My Business listing, it can hurt your search ranking.
You’ll also want to update your business categories. You have to choose one primary category and you can add up to 10 additional categories to highlight services your business offers. Finally, your description is a great way to explain to customers what your business does. A thorough description can help improve your search rankings.
Upload images to your listing
According to Google, businesses that add photos to their listing are more likely to have people click over to their website. They’re also more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location.
At the very least, you should add your company’s logo and a cover photo to your business listing. But it can also be helpful to add some additional photos to highlight different aspects of your business. Your photos should be at least 720 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall, and either a JPG or PNG file. Google gives detailed instructions for how to add photos from either your mobile device or a desktop computer.
Share updates about your business
All businesses have access to the Google Posts feature, so you should take advantage of it. Google Posts allows you to share relevant updates about your business.
You can share things like blog posts, upcoming events, promotions, and videos. Anything you want your customers to know about your business, you can share in Google Posts. You can even add call-to-action buttons to your posts. Google Posts is one of the best ways to engage your audience and capture your customers’ attention from the start.
Ask your customers for reviews
Reviews are the most important aspect of your Google My Business listing because 82% of consumers will read reviews before deciding on a local business. Fortunately, it’s easy to start asking your current customers for reviews. Google even encourages you to request reviews and makes it easy for you to quickly send a link to your customers. However, the real work begins after your business begins receiving reviews. That’s because you need to respond to all of them—especially the negative reviews.
When customers take the time to leave a positive review, they expect a response. And if a review is negative, you have an opportunity to make things right. Of course, even if you respond to a negative review, you may not be able to change that customer’s mind. But the way you respond to negative reviews could influence someone else’s decision about whether or not to do business with you.
Track your insights
You can see how well your listing is performing with Google My Business Insights. Insights will give you a complete breakdown of the following information:
- How customers find your business listing.
- What action they take after finding it.
- Common search terms that lead to your business.
- How many people find you via Google Search and Google Maps.
- How many customers ask for directions.
The information you receive from Insights will help you understand the customer journey better while also identifying possible areas of improvement.
Ready to Grow Your Business?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at JJC is offering assistance for existing businesses during these times.
21 Topics in 21 Minutes for 2021 Growth
In less than 30 minutes, the SBDC will help you prioritize key 2021 business plans whether it is for your people, your product, your marketing, your sales, your money, or the impact of this crisis. In this short, one-on-one exercise, we will help you determine up to three of the biggest opportunities for growth in the year ahead. We will offer no-cost tools to develop your strategy for success in those areas. Email us at SBDC@JJC.edu and we will send you a link for registration.
Will County Small Business Assistance Grant
Business Interruption Grant
Finally, due to the recent mitigations, we have moved our Thursday, October 29 (TOMORROW) hybrid member luncheon to a completely virtual event. This virtual conference will begin tomorrow at 11:30 AM. You can sign up participate here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2020-member-luncheon-october-29th-downtown-joliet-the-renaissance-continues-5965
Downtown Joliet – The Renaissance Continues
Please join the Joliet Chamber and Megan Millen – City Center Partnership Board Chair, and Rod Tonelli – City Center Partnership Economic Development Chair, for a hybrid luncheon to discuss:
- City Center Partnership Overview
- Downtown Development Project Updates
- Review of Downtown Grants & Impacts
- Preview of some of the exciting things coming to Downtown
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry