Chamber Members:

The full update is back in your inbox today with the weekly anticipated report on employment numbers. A lot of warnings and suggestions coming from the Governor and IDPH over the last two days have focused on the possibility of a statewide shutdown. See more below on that, as well as news on the cancelling of the Illinois veto session and a new relief program for those in Shorewood.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Job Report
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, a still-high level but the lowest figure since March and a sign that the job market might be slowly healing.

The figures coincide with a sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high above 120,000 a day. As colder weather sets in and fear of the virus escalates, consumers may turn more cautious about traveling, shopping, dining out and visiting gyms, barber shops and retailers. Companies in many sectors could cut jobs or workers’ hours. In recent days, the virus’ resurgence has triggered tighter restrictions on businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, in a range of states, including Texas, New York, Maryland, and Oregon.

Last week’s new applications for unemployment benefits was down from 757,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The still-elevated figure shows that eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs.

The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits fell to 6.8 million, the government said, from 7.2 million. That suggests that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.

Government stimulus, in the form of federal unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses and checks to most individuals has largely run out. Without further assistance, economists worry that more restaurants and other small businesses will close, and the plight of the unemployed will worsen. Unless Congress extends their benefits, millions of jobless people will run out of aid entirely by year’s end.

COVID-19 Suggestions and Restrictions
Illinois health officials on Wednesday issued a call to all companies to allow employees to work from home unless necessary as coronavirus metrics continue to surge across the state.

The Illinois Department of Public Health released new guidance asking everyone in the state to “stay home as much as possible” for the next three weeks and leave only for essential activities like grocery shopping and coronavirus testing, among other necessary tasks.

As part of that guidance, IDPH said residents should also work with employers to “plan to work from home unless it is necessary for you to be in the workplace.” “We ask employers to make accommodation for this,” IDPH said. “Our goal is to reduce transmission as we head into the holidays so businesses and schools can remain open.”

The new recommendations issued Wednesday follow a warning from Governor Pritzker that the health department was looking at the possibility of added restrictions on a region level or possibly even statewide.

Today, with the number of COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals exceeding its peak from the spring and new coronavirus infections rising rapidly in every region of Illinois, Governor Pritzker warned the state appears headed for a second stay-at-home order.

“If things don’t take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point where some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order will be all that is left,” Pritzker said Thursday. “With every fiber of my being I do not want us to get there, but right now that seems like where we are headed.”

Although they are still in Tier 1 mitigations, the city of Chicago will impose new restrictions limiting meetings and social events to 10 people, both indoors and outdoors, per a city statement. This capacity limit goes into effect Monday morning and “applies to events such as weddings, birthday parties, business dinners/social events and funerals, and is applicable to any venue where a meeting or social event is taking place, including meeting rooms,” the city said in a statement.

That capacity limit “does not supersede industries that have specific capacity guidelines in place, which include fitness clubs, retail stores, personal services and movie theaters (generally, 40 percent or 50 individuals max, whichever is fewer).”

“Residents are strongly advised” to stick to these measures starting Monday morning:

  • Only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up take-out food or receiving deliveries.
  • Do not have gatherings in your home with anybody outside of your household (except for essential staff such as home health care workers or educators), even with trusted family or friends.
  • Avoid all non-essential, out-of-state travel; if travel is essential, quarantining or testing negative prior to travel is required, depending on which state a traveler is originating from.
  • Use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family, especially on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

Illinois Veto Session Cancelled 
The decision to postpone the fall veto session was announced Tuesday afternoon after a “strong majority of members” said they’d prefer delaying the meeting because of the state’s rising COVID-19 rates and upcoming holidays, according to a statement from Jessica Basham, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief of staff.

The session, which was scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3, was the last scheduled meeting before new members take office in January, but lawmakers plan to convene sometime before new members are inaugurated on Jan. 13.

Governor Pritzker said Wednesday he’s “disappointed” lawmakers decided to postpone their upcoming veto session and warned that some “serious and, frankly, painful cuts” are coming to address the state’s fiscal problems.

“We’ve trimmed across the executive branch throughout the last two years, and there’s more to be done than just trimming,” Pritzker said. “Now we’re going to have to make some serious and, frankly, painful cuts. Those aren’t things that I can do alone. The Legislature has to be right there with us.” Pritzker said he’s already called for a meeting of House and Senate leadership because there’s “so much work that needs to be done” on the budget and other areas, like criminal justice reform.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin took aim at the governor and the Democrats, who hold a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature, saying they passed “a budget based on hypothetical revenue and false promises.”

“Now we see the effects of Democrats’ failure to live in reality: a $9 billion bill backlog, a budget that promises much and delivers nothing,” Durkin said in a statement Tuesday. “We also see no reforms on issues like ethics and property taxes to restore trust in government caused by corruption in your Democratic Party of Illinois.”

Though he didn’t provide specifics on where the cuts may come from Wednesday, Pritzker said in September “middle class, working class and poor families” in Illinois and the U.S. “will likely suffer from cuts to public safety, education, human services and environmental safety — and the potential layoffs will make the economic recession worse.”

Pritzker also said in September cabinet directors were advised to prepare for a “nightmare scenario,” including budget cuts of at least 5% for the current fiscal year and 10% for the next one should the state not receive any more federal help.

Without a coronavirus relief package, the state’s finances will reach a “critical juncture,” Pritzker said at the time.

Village of Shorewood Announces CARES Small Business Relief Program
The Village of Shorewood has recognized the significant impact that efforts to combat the coronavirus have taken on our business community.  As a result, the Village has implemented a temporary outdoor seating program to expand outdoor dining options, enacted a moratorium on temporary signage to allow greater exposure for small businesses and expanded liquor license privileges to support increased revenue opportunities.  Despite the Village’s continued support of our business community and the availability of different financial assistance programs, there is still uncertainty as to the future of some Shorewood businesses.

The goal of the Shorewood CARES Small Business Relief Program (“Program”) is to provide financial support for the most impacted Shorewood small businesses in order to support their continued success as they navigate the coronavirus pandemic into 2021.  Providing a monthly reimbursement for payroll and rent/mortgage (two of the most expensive operating costs) through this Program will ensure that business owners are not only able to keep the business open but also to focus on the future of their business.  This Program coupled with the 2021 Business Fee Waivers are intended to encourage business owners to look to the future and set the stage for a successful new year.

Learn more about the program by clicking here –  or attend a webinar on Friday, November 13th at 10:00am.  If you’d like to join the webinar by phone, call 1-415-655-0001 using meeting/access code: 126 449 7158 and password: 62876394.

5 Pandemic-Friendly Business Strategies
The pandemic has challenged businesses to meet consumer needs that change seemingly from week to week. In reality, pandemic planning is just a way to build resilience in your organization. Here are a few pandemic-friendly business strategies that can prepare your company for the many waves of COVID-19 and beyond.

Plan for remote work
It’s impossible to predict when regular work schedules will resume, if ever. Don’t run away from this reality. Address it, and plan to ensure your business won’t suffer if you go back into lockdown.

By creating a thorough work-from-home strategy, you can avoid a glitch in productivity. Your plan should include ensuring everyone has the capabilities to work from home. Whether it’s laptops, internet connections or access to online servers, spend some time making sure your company’s remote tools areas up to date as possible.

Integrate online and offline
If you’re in retail or hospitality, your brick-and-mortar location probably experienced a drastic decrease in revenue. Instead of riding out the storm and hoping for a vaccine, shift your attention to online sales and embrace an omnichannel approach.

Consumer buying habits have shifted and by investing in an omnichannel presence, you can optimize a customer’s interaction with your business. Companies like Amazon and Whole Foods have developed distribution networks, taking full advantage of both online and offline networks. Even Starbucks has recently announced a strategy to integrate physical stores with a digital coffee experience.

Small businesses like Fort Orange General Store in New York have done this on a smaller scale. This shop has spent time ensuring its online presence is top-notch, funneling as much traffic as possible to its online store. Its online presence also includes an Instagram strategy focusing on regular IGTV live content and optimizing the “Swipe Up” feature wherever possible. With the introduction of a blog and a newsletter, the company’s new online community will continue well after the store reopens, serving its offline strategy simultaneously. By adjusting and adapting to the current circumstances, Fort Orange General Store addressed the short term with a long-term revenue stream.

60% – The percentage of shoppers expected to curtail store visits this holiday season

Leverage sales insights to meet customer needs
The economy may have changed, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t growth opportunities. The shift in lifestyle has created new markets and, with that, new sales prospects. RV sales have skyrocketed, with an increase of over 600% from last year. A purchase like this suggests a lifestyle change. So, companies like Omaze have shifted their strategy towards trendy “van life” prizes—turning insight into opportunity.

Companies need to shift their strategies to speak to consumers’ changing needs. Use this time as an opportunity to rework your business plan, identifying the options available to you. Take the new trends and see how you can optimize them to drive revenue for the foreseeable future.

Use future-proof sales channels
According to new research released by McKinsey & Company, digital interactions are now twice as meaningful as traditional sales. Many organizations have adapted by moving sales online and encouraging virtual interactions, but there’s a long-term opportunity here. Businesses need to break out of the rigid ways of thinking and embrace what they’ve learned in the past few months.

“So, to go back to the old ways of leading and managing businesses would be to assume that there will never be another traumatic shock. We can and must shape our businesses so that they are resilient and less vulnerable,” says Lord Deben, chairman of sustainability consulting giant Sancroft.

Resilience means optimizing future-proof channels and embracing digital marketing, online sales, virtual learning, and remote working. Moving with the times, preparing for the unknown and adopting a hybrid approach to business will stand you in good stead.

Expand your niche
Not only is digitization future-proof, but it provides scope for niche businesses to expand their markets. If you’re a store owner who has just opened online shopping, think how much you’ve already increased your customer reach.

Take VIPKid, a Chinese company that links English teachers to children. By switching from physical to online, the company saw the opportunity to expand well beyond China’s borders, reaching teachers and students globally. The same goes for businesses like and My Local Token. With increased reach comes increased opportunity.

Program and Event Notices & Reminders
Will County Small Business Assistance Grant
As a reminder, Will County has reopened applications and expanded eligibility criteria for businesses with annual revenue below $5 Million and those that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees. Businesses that meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply.

The deadline for applications is Monday, November 16.

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 and we will send you a link for registration.

Business Interruption Grant

Small Business Administration (SBA) Programs
Expanded by the CARES Act, the EIDL program has been around for a couple of years and is intended to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue during a declared disaster. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

The SBA will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all current 7(a), 504, and Microloans in regular servicing status as well as new 7(a), 504, and Microloans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020.

These loans allow small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.

Click here for the Small Business Administration’s website, where you’ll find additional programs as well as more resources and guides for coronavirus-impacted businesses. 

Finally, we would like to announce our next Virtual Conference. Please make plans to join us next Thursday, November 19 at 11 AM for a City of Joliet project update. Interim City Manager Jim Hock will join us to discuss several projects to hear what progress has been made.

  • 2021 City Budget
  • City Water Source
  • NorthPoint and Cullinan developments
  • Houbolt Road Bridge
  • I80 Bridge / Highway
  • Truck facility PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program
  • Single residential rental inspections
  • Downtown flood plain
  • Chicago Street opening, beautification, and straightening
  • Van Buren Street plaza

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