It has been quite a busy week with coronavirus items from federal relief talks to vaccine review to the announcement of the deadline of the BIG application. Today’s story changed from a government shutdown threat to news that an agreement was finally reached to push out another week. We’ll look forward to what transpires in the next 7 days! Enjoy your weekend.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Government Shutdown Threat
The threat of a brief government shutdown was a possibility as the annual defense bill and a stopgap funding measure hit snags that could’ve delayed them into the weekend or next week. Senate leadership had hoped to pass both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and a one-week continuing resolution Thursday. Instead, multiple senators were delaying the bills, meaning the Senate might fail to pass the stopgap measure before Friday night’s deadline, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.
There were multiple hurdles: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slow walking the NDAA because it reins in President Trump’s ability to pull troops from Afghanistan; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) using the continuing resolution (CR) to try to get a vote on a stimulus checks proposal; and in an ironic twist, a group of senators wanted a vote on a bill to prevent future government shutdowns.
Any action on the government funding measure is stuck behind the defense bill, unless leadership can get an agreement from every senator to let it leapfrog the NDAA. Without full cooperation, the Senate’s handling of the stopgap spending bill could’ve dragged on for days, well past Friday’s midnight deadline.
Senate Averts Shutdown with Vote
The Senate passed a one-week stopgap bill on Friday, hours ahead of a government shutdown deadline. Senators passed the bill by a voice vote, moving the funding deadline from the end of the day Friday to Dec. 18.
The one-week continuing resolution (CR) already passed the House on Wednesday, meaning it now goes to President Trump’s desk, where he’ll need to sign it by midnight. Though a shutdown is averted for now, negotiators are still trying to lock down a mammoth agreement that would include the 12 fiscal 2021 bills and fund the government until Oct. 1, 2021.
“I remain hopeful that essential progress on these items will continue. We ought to pass a full-year funding measure and I hope our committees in the Senate and House can complete their work and deliver legislation next week,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Passes Defense Bill
The Senate passed a mammoth defense policy bill on Friday, setting up a veto showdown with President Trump. Senators overwhelmingly supported the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in an 84-13 vote, approving it with more than the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a potential veto from President Trump, who opposes the legislation on two points.
The bill already passed the House this week in a 355-78 vote, meaning it now goes to Trump, where he’ll have to decide if he is going to follow through with his veto threat despite bipartisan opposition. Top Republicans touted the bill ahead of Friday, underscoring the division between the president and congressional Republican leaders.
“It does not contain every policy that either side would like to pass, but a huge number of crucial policies are included and a lot of bad ideas were kept out. So I would encourage all our colleagues to vote to advance this must-pass bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump has homed in on two issues. One is his months-long fight over a plan, included in the final version of the bill, that would require Confederate bases and military installations to be renamed within three years. Though senators had hoped that he had backed down from that fight, Trump shouted out the provision in a tweet this week.
More recently he’s hammered the bill over not including a repeal of Section 230, which provides a legal shield to tech companies and has emerged as a prime punching bag for the president and his allies. The bill also rebuffs Trump’s efforts to draw down troops in Germany and Afghanistan.
The Latest on Federal Aid
Congressional leaders are barely talking. “Rogue” centrists are trying to cut a deal that Republicans don’t like. Top Senate Republicans signaled Thursday they wouldn’t accept a bipartisan group’s efforts to craft a compromise on state and local governments and liability protections during the pandemic, undercutting the coalition’s attempt to break the months-long impasse over a coronavirus relief package.
Democrats continued to throw their support behind the bipartisan group working on a $908 billion proposal, leaving in question whether they would be willing to support an aid bill without funding for states and localities.
“My sense is that they’re not going to get there on the liability language,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) told reporters Thursday. “Even though they spent a lot of time trying to come up with sort of creative, innovative solutions to it, they’re just not going to be able to thread the needle.”
Aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night told the staff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) that he didn’t see any possible path from the bipartisan group on those two contentious issues that would be acceptable to Republicans, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the conversations.
Until this week, Mr. McConnell had said that any package that passes the Senate must include beefed-up legal protections for businesses, schools and other entities operating during the pandemic. On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell instead urged moving forward with a smaller relief package that omits both the liability provision that Republicans want, as well as state and local funding, a Democratic priority, saying they could potentially be addressed next year.
Democratic leaders have said the bipartisan group should be allowed to continue negotiating, arguing that whatever deal it reached would have the best shot at passing both chambers of Congress and being signed into law by President Trump.
“Everyone knows that this bipartisan proposal is the only real game in town at the moment, the only proposal with enough bipartisan support to hopefully pass both houses of Congress before the end of the year,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.
“Everybody kind of assumes that we’ll get back here next week and all these efforts that are going on will run into kind of the proverbial brick wall,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “Sometimes it doesn’t look that promising but we still have a week and a half to go. Maybe we’ll be here at Christmas.”
The speaker, too, sounded downbeat Thursday when she left the door open for late-December negotiations: “We have to have a bill and we cannot go home without it,” Nancy Pelosi told reporters. ”But we can’t go before the package is ready and the votes are there. We’ve been here after Christmas, you know,” she added.
People are getting impatient: Some House Democrats have privately suggested they attach the bipartisan proposal to the omnibus next week even if Republicans don’t agree, effectively jamming the Senate just before the government funding deadline.
“What you make of it is you’re probably not going to get a deal until people get together,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “The people who should be doing the negotiation are Mitch and Chuck.”
“People are certainly going to assume [that] government is broken,” said Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who has been part of those bipartisan talks and was defeated in a GOP primary battle earlier this year. “There’s a frustration and an anger in the electorate that’s starting to ripple through the United States. It’s time for us to do something to get off our damn asses.”
Republicans believe it’s unrealistic to think a Senate “gang” can force a solution to such a complicated political quagmire. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said McConnell’s arguments of dropping liability reform and state and local is the only way forward: “If they’re not going to do what we really want, then we’re not going to do what they really want.”
Many House Democrats — who passed an initial $3 trillion Covid stimulus package back in May — are in disbelief that their leaders have fought almost exactly the same fight for eight months. The last time Congress approved any substantial relief was in April.
Panel Endorses Pfizer Vaccine
A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday, putting the country just one step away from launching an epic vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans.
Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation. “This is a light at the end of the long tunnel of this pandemic,” declared Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In a 17-4 vote with one abstention, the government advisers concluded that the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech appears safe and effective for emergency use in adults and teenagers 16 and over.
That endorsement came despite questions about allergic reactions in two people who received the vaccine earlier this week when Britain became the first country to begin dispensing the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
While there are a number of remaining unknowns about the vaccine, in an emergency, “the question is whether you know enough” to press ahead, said panel member Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He concluded that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
All eyes now turn to the FDA staff scientists who will make the final decision of whether to press ahead with large-scale immunizations with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine. The FDA’s vaccine director, Dr. Peter Marks, said a decision would come within “days to a week.”
The independent review by non-government experts in vaccine development, infectious diseases and medical statistics was considered critical to boosting Americans’ confidence in the safety of the shot, which was developed at breakneck speed less than a year after the virus was identified.
State on Track to Meet Spending Deadline
The head of Governor Pritzker’s budget office said this week that the state of Illinois is on track to spend all of the money it received through the federal CARES Act by the Dec. 30 deadline. That means it is unlikely the state will have to repay any of the funds to the federal government, but whether or not Congress approves any additional funding remains an open question.
Alexis Sturm, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, told a legislative oversight panel that of the $3.5 billion the state received in April, a little less than $1.5 billion remains unspent. But she said state agencies have spent money out of their own budgets for COVID-19-related expenses that can be reimbursed with the federal funds.
“And that should be enough to … expend the balance of those funds,” Sturm told the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, a legislative group that has been meeting monthly since July to monitor the state’s COVID-19 response.
In addition to the funds that went into state coffers, the city of Chicago along with Cook, Kane, Lake and Will counties, which all have populations over 500,000, received direct aid of their own, for a total of roughly $4.9 billion that came to Illinois.
Congress stipulated, however, that the money could only be used for expenses directly related to COVID-19 response efforts and not to make up for revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. The law also requires that all of the money be spent on costs that are incurred on or before Dec. 30.
During the first several weeks, Sturm said, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency spent about $375 million for things like personal protective equipment, or PPE, setting up alternate care sites and testing sites, contact tracing and reimbursing state agencies for their increased operational costs.
When lawmakers came back for their abbreviated session in May, they established a framework for spending the remaining funds in the fiscal year that began July 1. By that time, about $3.1 billion of the CARES Act money remained.
Since then, the Pritzker administration has set up a number of grant programs that have been funded with CARES Act money. Those have included the Business Interruption Grant, or BIG, program for businesses that were forced to close or reduce operations during the initial stay-at-home order, a separate BIG program for child care facilities, financial aid for homeowners and renters, and a reimbursement program for local governments to cover their COVID-19 expenses.
The BIG program received $270 million, of which $168 million has been paid out to more than 6,300 small businesses across the state, according to the governor. The program for local governments, known as the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency, or Local CURE program, is one area where the state has had difficulty finding applicants. During his daily COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Pritzker noted that only $147 million of the $250 million available had been paid out so far. He said that money went to 688 cities, towns, counties and local health departments.
REMINDER – Illinois Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Deadline Announced
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is informing small businesses and communities that the application period for the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program will close at 5pm on Tuesday, December 15.
Program Notices & Reminders
Business Interruption Grant
Funds still remain and the program is still open for application through December 15th. Please visit the link below to get your application in before it closes:
ComEd Bill Assistance
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.
ComEd’s bill-assistance programs also include flexible payment options for residents, 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 program.
Low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are still available to Illinois small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses and private nonprofit organizations.
The SBA has opened a Virtual Business Recovery Center to apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via the SBA’s secure website at https://DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov/. Business owners and residents should contact the SBA Customer Service Representatives at
(800) 659-2955 for assistance in completing their applications. Requests for SBA disaster loan program information may be obtained by emailing FOCE-Help@sba.gov.
Tell Congress to Make PPP Loans Deductible – Call to Action
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, or PPP, was passed in order to provide small businesses across the United States crucial relief during widespread government shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These loans can be forgivable when proceeds are used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest and utilities. Congressional leaders intended for PPP funded expenses to be deductible like other business expenses.
Despite the intent of Congressional leaders, additional legislation is needed to make PPP funds used to pay business expenses deductible. The failure to allow these deductions will have a devastating impact on small businesses struggling to keep their doors open and retain their employees.
Are you a small business owner who thought salary and expenses paid by PPP loans would be deductible? In partnership with the Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC), we’re asking you to please contact your Congressional leaders and ask them to sponsor and strongly advocate for legislation that makes salary and other businesses expenses paid for by a PPP loan deductible!
You can contact your Senators and House Representative here: https://oneclickpolitics.global.ssl.fastly.net/messages/edit?promo_id=10057
See below for two articles for further information / aid on PPP forgiveness and deductibility
7 Resources for PPP Loan Forgiveness Help
Will You Owe Taxes on Your Paycheck Protection Loan?
SBDC at JJC Update
Here is a list of upcoming programs delivered from the Small Business Development Center through Joliet Junior College:
Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (CST)
A website is more than just a placeholder to occupy property in cyberspace. Your website should be the central point that your social media, SEO, email marketing, pay per click ads, content, CRM…. orbit around to generate business for your business. Join Jason McCoy from WSI to discuss how to develop a website that meets your needs. https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33652
21 Topics in 21 Minutes for 2021 Growth
Date: Scheduled one-on-one session
In less than 30 minutes, the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Joliet Junior College 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.
Finally, for decades the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate has welcomed us into their home for the holidays! This year let’s keep the tradition alive by supporting them and bring their food into our homes! Place a LUNCH or DINNER order by Wednesday, December 16th and the Chamber Staff will be there to wish you a HAPPY HOLIDAYS on Thursday, December 17, 2020.
Lunch pick up will be from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Dinner pick up will be from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Holiday Chicken: $12.00 per person
Boneless breast of chicken dressed with a delicate cranberry-orange sauce garnished with crushed walnuts served alongside wild rice and steamed vegetables. Salad and rolls included.
To choose to add:
Bottle of Wine (white or red): $10.00 each
Santa’s Sangria (16 oz mason jar): $8.00 each
Place your order with the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate by calling (815) 722-1420 or emailing email@example.com
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry