Today is the last day to apply for the Will County Small Business Assistance Grant. Make sure to get your application in before the page closes. You will find a good amount of COVID related news below from shutdowns to evictions, from aid to survey results, and finally local testing and the big announcement of another successful vaccine.
Make sure you also review information for our next virtual conference as we learn about status updates on City of Joliet programs and projects. This will take place this Thursday at 11 AM.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Successful Vaccine Trial #2
Moderna announced Monday morning that its coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis, a second promising data point in the push for a successful vaccine.
The announcement comes one week after Pfizer announced its vaccine was over 90 percent effective, meaning there are now two vaccines with remarkably high levels of efficacy in interim analyses of clinical trial data.
Moderna based its data on a large clinical study involving 30,000 volunteers, half of whom received two doses of the vaccine over a 28-day period. There were 95 cases of coronavirus recorded among participants, with only 5 of them in the group receiving the vaccine.
The company said it will apply for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration “in the coming weeks,” once it has the final safety and efficacy data, which includes having two months of safety data on participants. There are not “any significant safety concerns” so far, Moderna said. Some participants experienced reactions like muscle pain and fatigue, the company noted.
The company also said the trial data show that the vaccine can prevent severe disease. There were 11 severe cases of COVID-19 in the trial data, all of which occurred in the group of people receiving placebo, not the actual vaccine.
It is important to have multiple vaccines that are shown to be effective because there will not initially be enough doses of any one vaccine to vaccinate everyone. Moderna says it expects to have 20 million doses for the United States by the end of 2020, a similar number to Pfizer, and will produce 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.
Local, Free COVID Testing Site
A drive through testing site has been established locally in the Joliet Park District parking lot. The State of Illinois Mobile Unit began testing this morning and will be available throughout the rest of this week (Sunday).
Again, this is a drive through site that will be using nasal swabs from 8 AM to 4 PM each day. Test results can be expected in four to seven days. There is no cost to be tested and those with insurance cards should bring them along. Insurance, however, is not required to be tested and you to not have to display symptoms to get a test as anyone can be swabbed.
ComEd Program Provides Bill Assistance
With many restaurants, bars, retailers, and other small businesses across northern Illinois struggling to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, ComEd today announced a new bill-assistance program to help eligible small businesses facing financial difficulties.
“Small and family-owned businesses are the backbone of our communities. When they struggle,
our neighborhoods struggle.” said ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez. “By offering a new bill assistance option targeting small and family-owned businesses, we hope to do our part to ensure
that the businesses that we all love and depend upon continue to be a part of our lives.”
ComEd’s Small Business Assistance Program provides eligible small-business customers that are
past due on their energy bills with a one-time grant equal to 30 percent of their total ComEd
balance (up to $1,000) for a limited time. Customers whose electric service has not been disconnected can then set up their remaining balance due on a payment plan of up to six months.
Small-business customers can visit ComEd.com/SmallBizAssistance or call 1-877-4-COMED-1
(1-877-426-6331) to learn more or apply for the Small Business Assistance Program.
Earlier this week, ComEd announced its new Helping Hand program to provide more immediate
aid to eligible residential customers most in need during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For a
limited time, this financial-assistance program provides an additional one-time grant of up to
$300 to help reduce past-due balances of income-eligible customers.
Assistance through the Helping Hand program is administered directly through ComEd, which
expedites the verification process so that customers can receive grants more quickly. Residential
customers can apply for Helping Hand grants at ComEd.com/PaymentAssistance.
Assistance Options to Help Residential Customers
Helping Hand and the Small Business Assistance Program are the latest in a number of
assistance options ComEd has developed since the pandemic to help customers, including a
$18 million bill-payment assistance program for residential customers announced earlier this
ComEd has continued the suspension of service disconnections for low-income customers and
those who express a financial hardship through March 31, 2021. For other customers, it’s
important that they continue to stay current to avoid higher past-due balances into the spring that
will be harder to address.
ComEd’s bill-assistance programs also include flexible payment options, financial assistance for
past-due balances and usage alerts for current bills. Any customer who is experiencing a
hardship or difficulty with their electric bill should call ComEd immediately at 1-800-334-7661
(1-800-EDISON-1), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to learn more and enroll in a
Governor Extends Ban on Evictions
As the state once again reported a one-day high for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Governor Pritzker announced he would extend a temporary ban on evictions
At his COVID-19 briefing in Chicago Friday, Pritzker said this iteration of the eviction ban will aim to exclude “tenants who may have been taking advantage of the eviction moratorium but who are in fact able to make their monthly rent payments.”
He said the new eviction moratorium will apply only to renters who have earned no more than $99,000 in annual income or $198,000 as joint filers for this calendar year.
The governor said renters will be required to submit a declaration form to their landlord certifying that they are unable to pay their rent due to the substantial loss of income or an increase in out-of-pocket expenses stemming from the pandemic.
“This new order also clarifies that enforcement of pre-pandemic eviction orders can indeed move forward if there are serious health or safety concerns,” he said.
Secretary of State Closes Driver Service Facilities
Secretary of State Jesse White announced he would be closing driver services facilities. The rising COVID-19 spread led the secretary of state’s office to once again shut down drivers services facilities, at least from Nov. 17 to Dec. 7, as the state has encouraged all Illinoisans to stay at home except for essential doctor visits, grocery trips, COVID-19 tests or work or schooling for the next three weeks.
White’s office encouraged all to use the secretary of state online services and announced that expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards will be extended until June 1, 2021. The extension includes those who have February, March, April, and May 2021 expiration dates.
In a news release, White said 19 commercial driver license facilities will remain open for driving tests scheduled by appointment by calling 217-785-3013. Seven drivers services facilities will be offering drive-thru services for license plate sticker transactions only, with more information at cyberdriveillinois.com.
State Housing Aid to Reach More than Expected
Illinois’ COVID housing relief program, possibly the largest in the nation, is on track to help 25 percent more households than initially forecast. A $300 million fund the state of Illinois set up to help COVID-impacted renters and homeowners cover their housing payments is on track to assist about 25 percent more households than originally expected.
Governor Pritzker announced at a press conference that the fund, administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, will provide emergency funds to about 50,000 households, instead of the 40,000 initially forecast.
Homeowners who applied needed a considerably lower dollar amount, on average, than IHDA planners anticipated. This left the department with about $60 million that it could shift over to renters, who applied in far larger numbers than the agency expected.
“Renters are in a more urgent crisis than homeowners” because mortgage forbearance is widely available, said Kristin Faust, IHDA’s executive director. The program is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed by President Trump in March. The same act stipulated that most mortgage lenders must offer forbearance to people who suffer financial hardship because of the pandemic.
When IHDA rolled out the program in August, the intention was to give a flat $5,000 grant to each of 30,000 COVID-impacted renters, although the payments would be made directly to their landlords. IHDA also planned to give up to $15,000 to 10,000 homeowners, paid to their lenders.
As it turned out, homeowners needed an average of $9,000 to get caught up, Faust said. “You have to miss a lot of mortgage payments to be $15,000 behind,” Faust said, and the IHDA grants can only be used to cover payments missed in recent months during the pandemic.
Faust said the agency now projects that, by about December 20, it will have made grants to 10,000 Illinois homeowners through its Emergency Mortgage Assistance program. As of today, 27,000 renters have gotten $135 million in aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance program, Pritzker will announce today. Faust expects that more than 40,000 renters will get aid through the program.
Chicago Fed Survey Finds a Sharp Downturn
In a troubling sign for the regional economy, the latest Chicago Fed Survey of Business Conditions has reversed signs of optimism that arose this spring and summer and has turned negative, even as the second COVID-19 wave hits.
According to the survey of business leaders conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the overall business activity index in October dropped to -20, the lowest since much of the Midwest regional economy was shut down in late winter amid the first COVID wave.
The figures aren’t as bad as they were then, when the index bottomed at -75. But the index was at +20 in August before beginning what now is a two-month dip. And the drop is consistent with a November spike in unemployment claims in Illinois.
Combined with other data, the survey suggests that business conditions in the Midwest still are “slightly positive,” with some growth and some optimism about conditions by late 2021, Chicago Fed economist Thomas Walstrum said.
The survey found that manufacturing sentiment is holding above long-term trends, at +7. But sentiment about the non-manufacturing sector, which includes the hard-hit retail, leisure, and related sectors, now is at -30. The one optimistic note in the survey is a finding that planned new hiring and capital expenditures still are on track, at least for now. But that obviously could change.
The Chicago Fed district covers all or portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with responses drawn from business leaders throughout that area.
National Lockdown – A Last Resort Measure
A national lockdown as Covid-19 cases tick up is “a measure of last resort,” the co-chair of Joe Biden’s coronavirus taskforce, Vivek Murthy, said Sunday. “We have got to approach this with the position of a scalpel rather than the blunt force of an ax,” the former surgeon general told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” arguing for a more nuanced approach.
“The way we think about lockdowns, I think, is different now than it was in the spring,” Murthy said Sunday. “In the spring when we didn’t know a lot about Covid, we responded, in a sense, with an on-off switch. We just shut things down because we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading.”
But “the better way to think about these safety restrictions is more as a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity, and that’s really the key here,” he went on. “It is applying these restrictions judiciously and precisely.”
What the U.S. needs, Murthy said, is a “national alert system” “that can help states and localities determine when to dial up and down their restrictions,” as well as “adequate resources for them to put these restrictions in place,” like funds for schools to hire more teachers and improve ventilation systems.
“If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the pandemic fatigue people are feeling,” Murthy said. “We are going to hurt jobs and the economy; we are going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children.”
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 SBDC@JJC.edu and we will send you a link for registration.
Business Interruption Grant
Small Business Administration (SBA) Programs
ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS (EIDL)
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.
DEBT RELIEF PROGRAM
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.
EXPRESS BRIDGE LOANS
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 projects and programs update. Interim City Manager Jim Hock will join us to discuss the progress has been made on the following:
- 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
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry