Hopefully, everyone was able to enjoy their weekend. This week the coronavirus and political front should be just as exciting as last week, beginning with today’s electoral college vote. In addition, after events listed below, government funding ends this Friday. So, appropriators and leadership are going to spend the week working toward a deal to fund the government either for the rest of the fiscal year — an omnibus — or until sometime in the first quarter of next year.
At the same time, as well all know, they’re trying to line up a Covid relief bill to ride alongside averting a shutdown.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Electoral College Vote
Here’s how the Congressional Research Service describes the process for those of us that can’t recall back to junior or high school: “Electoral college delegations meet separately in their respective states and the District of Columbia at places designated by their state legislature. The electors vote by paper ballot, casting one ballot for president and one for vice president. The electors count the results and then sign six certificates, each of which contains two lists, one of which includes the electoral votes for the President, the other, electoral votes for the vice president, each of which includes the names of persons receiving votes and the number of votes cast for them.
“These are known as Certificates of the Vote, which the electors are required to sign. They then pair the six Certificates of Ascertainment provided by the state governors with the Certificates of the Vote, and sign, seal, and certify them. … The six certificates are then distributed by registered mail as follows: (1) one certificate to the president of the U.S. Senate (the Vice President); (2) two certificates to the secretary of state (or equivalent officer) of the state in which the electors met; (3) two certificates to the Archivist; and (4) one certificate to the judge of the U.S. district court of the district in which the electors met.”
After reading that, maybe trying to follow the back and forth of the continuing resolution and federal aid wasn’t so bad after all.
The Latest on Federal Aid
U.S. lawmakers are still struggling to hammer out another economic relief package before Congress adjourns this week (or later). But for millions of Americans, the deadline may have already passed. There’s now growing skepticism about the prospects for a sweeping agreement. With the clock ticking, lawmakers are warning there are too many moving parts and too many competing factions.
Even if Congress reaches a deal, some 12 million unemployed people could see their benefits lapse after Christmas. Worker advocates say it could take weeks for the jobless aid programs to get back online as lags in programming for outdated state systems cause delays in relief checks.
“We’re already too late,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert at the National Employment Law Project. From the time Congress passes an extension of unemployment aid, she said, many states wouldn’t be up and running for “three weeks or four weeks” at the earliest. That would not only fuel the desperation of unemployed households, but could also cut into consumer spending, jeopardizing the economic recovery just as the Biden administration gets underway.
Congress has been battling for months over a coronavirus package. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have said they want a deal, they’ve yet to reach a breakthrough. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and the White House have at times sent mixed signals about what they would accept.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), adding that he didn’t want to be a cynic, said, “We’re stuck in the same place we were four months ago.”
“[McConnell] ought to just turn to the members of the Senate and say, ‘Look, we can stay here forever and not reach an agreement. It’s time to vote. Have at it, dog. If you want to vote against it, vote against,’” Kennedy said. “We’re right where we were when we started three or four months ago. … The Senate only works when everybody’s not crazy at the same time.”
Frustrated by that lack of movement, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers has been trying to flesh out a $908 billion framework it introduced last week. But it is running into hurdles of its own on both policy and politics. “I think that the bipartisan group has made real progress in putting together a robust framework that addresses a very wide range of issues. We have an eight-month impasse around liability issues, and it’s proving to be extremely difficult to close it,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the bicameral group.
The bipartisan “908” group — the name lines up with the bill’s price tag — is going to unveil its bill at 4 p.m. today. A report has the group splitting its bill in half: “One would be a $748 billion piece of coronavirus relief with less controversial items like schools and health care; the other would marry $160 billion in money for local governments with a temporary liability shield.”
This move is basically similar to Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s plan to push state and local aid and liability to next year, which was panned by Democrats. Theoretically, if this two-track program made it to the floor, the “less controversial” piece could pass, while the more controversial piece with state and local and liability would fail. Usually, the whole game with big-ticket legislating is you put the controversial with the non-controversial, so you ensure they both get across the finish line.
Then there’s also the fact that Senators. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are still pushing for direct payments this week. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another member, has rejected a push to drop state and local aid and liability protections — the first a top priority for Democrats, the second a key provision for McConnell. “We’re still working on it. Nothing is coming out,” Manchin said.
But even as the group digs in, GOP senators have pointed to Senate leadership, not the bipartisan group, as the place any agreement is going to have to be worked out.
“If this group thinks they’re actually going to negotiate a final bill, they’ve spent a lot of time on something that won’t result in a final bill,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, adding that if McConnell and Pelosi “can’t work this out between them, it really doesn’t matter what eight members of the Senate or 38 members of the Senate do.”
Vaccine Passes FDA Review
The country’s first coronavirus shots became one step closer to getting injected into the general public after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization late Friday to the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Now that the FDA has given the vaccine the green light, the federal government is able to start distributing it to states. However, vaccinations won’t begin until after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee recommends the vaccine and the CDC accepts that recommendation.
Once that decision occurs, vaccinations can begin. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on ABC News Friday that vaccinations could come as early as Monday or Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the same CDC vaccine panel recommended that the first doses should be administered to health workers as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities. However, each state can make its own decisions about whom to prioritize and where to administer the vaccines. The decisions are complicated by the vaccine’s logistical challenges, including the extreme cold storage temperatures it requires.
CDC Director Accepts Recommendation of Advisory Panel
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has signed off on an advisory panel’s recommendation to use Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in people 16 and older, clearing the way for inoculations to begin.
“As COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the U.S., CDC’s recommendation comes at a critical time. Initial COVID-19 vaccination is set to start as early as Monday, and this is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans, reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country,” Robert Redfield said in a statement on Sunday.
Redfield’s recommendation comes shortly after Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning that he was unsure why Redfield had yet to sign off on the authorization but expressed confidence in him. “I don’t know the answer to that question,” Hahn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I do know I’ve had a lot of conversations with Director Redfield and he is certainly on top of this and has a lot of confidence in the process.”
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend approval for the vaccine Saturday, although Redfield’s approval was required before the vaccine could be administered.
The panel recommended that health care providers monitor anyone with allergies for up to 30 minutes following the injection and that long-term care residents and health care workers be the first to receive the vaccine. It also recommended that the second phase of inoculations comprise essential workers, people with underlying medical conditions and people older than 65.
The first shipments of the vaccine left Pfizer’s Michigan plant Sunday morning, with about 184,275 vials carried in 190 boxes. The plant is set to deploy another 390,000 vials Monday.
Governor Pritzker Announces Vaccine’s Arrival
Governor Pritzker today tweeted that Covid vaccines officially arrived in the state today. “I’m proud to report that Illinois’ first vaccine doses have arrived safely and are now being processed to go to our hospitals. I was elated to witness our first shipment arrive at the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile and have great appreciation to those who made it possible.”
Illinois is expecting 109,000 initial doses the first time around from Pfizer and would anticipate additional vaccine supply if the Moderna vaccine is approved using the same steps as Pfizer beginning this Thursday, the 17th.
Right now, nearly 60 percent of Americans say they would get the shot, according to a November Gallup poll. The rushed timeline was the main reason that people didn’t want to get the vaccine. Only 48 percent of nonwhite adults said they would be vaccinated.
That means doctors and state health workers will eventually need to sway millions of skeptical Americans about the benefits of Covid vaccinations. State leaders say they are short billions of dollars in funding needed to successfully provide Covid-19 vaccinations to all Americans who want to be inoculated by health officials’ June goal.
The federal government is providing the vaccine, along with syringes, needles, face masks and shields. But state leaders say they must hire medical workers, provide community outreach and education, set up vaccination clinics and ensure storage capacity for vaccines. Some states are also concerned about having enough supplies, such as gloves and gowns, to protect health-care workers as well as people getting vaccinated.
Officials in several states said they would spend whatever is needed to get residents vaccinated. Some said that might force spending cuts in areas like education, unless Congress provides additional funding, or the federal government reimburses a large chunk of their rollout costs.
President Trump Signs Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown
After facing a series of delays, the Senate approved by voice vote a one-week temporary funding measure Friday afternoon to avert a government shutdown hours before a critical deadline. The president signed the bill Friday evening. Without it, federal agencies would have run out of money at midnight Friday (Dec. 11). This now pushes the deadline to this Friday, December 18th.
The Senate’s move came as Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, relented on his demands to vote first on a measure to allow direct payments to Americans. “I am not one of the members of the Senate who shuts down, does this or does that and keeps people for weekends, I don’t do that,” Sanders said on the Senate floor ahead of the voice vote.
The effort de-escalates an extremely dramatic scene raised in the Senate overnight, creating worries that a sequence of fights among various members could trigger a shutdown. However, Sanders said he’ll raise his demands again when the stopgap measure, also known as a continuing resolution, is set to expire in one week. And he said Congress should not go home for the holidays without addressing coronavirus relief aid.
It was one of a series of efforts that delayed the Senate passing the legislation before Friday afternoon. A group of Republican members were pushing for a provision to stop members of Congress from receiving pay during government shutdowns in the future.
Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said he was among the GOP members seeking a vote on his “no budget, no pay” bill ahead of the vote on the stopgap measure. However, the measure was not addressed on the Senate floor before approval was given to the temporary funding measure.
The stopgap measure also met delays as the result of a traffic jam in the Senate. The legislation was passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. When it arrived in the Senate, it was stuck behind the National Defense Authorization Act.
That remained the case Friday. “The Senate needs to pass a stopgap funding measure today to prevent a lapse while the bipartisan, bicameral efforts close in on a full-year funding bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in opening remarks Friday on the chamber floor.
Another key holdout, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, withdrew his demands Friday for the defense bill, saying he only wanted it held up for a day. That allowed an afternoon vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, clearing the way for the temporary funding measure.
The defense bill passed by an 84-13 vote.
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. Please visit the link below to get your application in before it closes:
Call to Action: Tell Congress to Pass Pandemic Relief Before the End of the Year
It is critical that Congress pass pandemic relief for small businesses and families before the end of this year. Enacting a bill will require bipartisan compromise. The release of a proposal from a bipartisan group of Senate and House members as well as the revisions to the Senate GOP proposal provide an opening to break the current impasse.
Small businesses need relief as soon as possible to keep their businesses running and need liability reforms that provide meaningful protections like in the ‘Safe to Work Act.’ While it is critical that lawmakers get the details right, time is of the essence. American families cannot wait until next year.
Tell Congress to work together and pass pandemic relief now: https://action.uschamber.com/1MkG1Q1?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=SFMC&utm_campaign=&utm_content=&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=SFMC&utm_campaign=&utm_content=
Program Notices & Reminders
Workforce Center of Will County
The WCWC held a business services webinar with the Division of Rehabilitation Services talking about vocational rehab and home services programming last week. Attached to this email is a pdf document of that informative presentation. Also attached is a pdf document that reviews the Will County economy and labor force. You can also access them on our covid resource page.
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. You can contact your Senators and House Representative here: https://oneclickpolitics.global.ssl.fastly.net/messages/edit?promo_id=10057
SBDC at JJC Update
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry