After yesterday’s message was scheduled to be delivered, the bipartisan group released their detailed plan on federal aid. There weren’t any surprises as we’ve covered the proposal several times, but a recap is below for those that have missed.
Additionally, the electoral college took their vote and confirmed the election of Joe Biden, meaning the next step in the process will be Congress voting to ratify the results on January 6th.
Here is a rundown of upcoming important dates as we near the end of the year / beginning of the next:
- 3 days until temporary government spending authority expires
- 16 days until several pandemic assistance programs end
- 3 weeks until voting ends in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections
- 3 weeks until the new Congress receives Electoral College results
- 5 weeks to Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
The Latest on Federal Aid
Congress has been unable to pass a stimulus bill since spring when it adopted the $2 trillion CARES Act. Since then, the $1,200 stimulus checks distributed over the summer have been spent. The $525 billion PPP program to help small businesses ended. A major source of additional unemployment aid has expired.
Without congressional action, the new year will bring the expiration of extended unemployment benefits, unemployment benefits for contract workers and relief for renters and student borrowers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue their negotiations. And Monday brought a new bipartisan proposal, which separates larger, less controversial provisions from two highly partisan measures. The bulk of the bill, at $748 billion, would include:
- $180 billion for extra unemployment insurance, at $300 a week for 16 weeks.
- $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to aid small businesses.
- $25 billion for rental assistance.
- $13 billion for farmers.
- additional aid for schools, vaccine development and distribution, testing, broadband, and other priorities.
The hot-button chaser would include a measure aimed at protecting employers for a year from liability for decisions made during the pandemic — that’s the Republican priority — plus another $160 billion aid to state, local and tribal governments, a top priority for Democrats.
Missing from both parts: checks to individuals. Those have significant support from such diverse quarters as Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, and Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican. Mr. Sanders is blasting the bipartisan proposal in part over the missing checks. Accepting a proposal that includes just short of $200 billion in new money — the rest reallocates prior aid — “is not a negotiation,” Sen. Sanders said. “That is a collapse.”
Another round of $1,200 checks would cost about $300 billion more — increasing the overall size of the bill by about third, policy analyst Chris Krueger, of Cowen Washington Research Group, estimated. That kind of price-tag could encounter significant resistance from budget-conscious conservatives in the Senate.
As in any negotiation, the stakes help drive the discussions. Recall President George W. Bush’s 2008 financial-crisis bailout bill, which failed in Congress until the market started tanking in response. In this case, the political consequences of passing a stimulus bill — whether quickly, slowly or at all — rides in large part on the economic consequences.
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=
Biden Forms Team of “Insiders”
The incoming Biden administration is shaping up to be a team of insiders filled with Washington household names. Biden has picked Obama-era officials, members of Congress, and people from his inner circle for his White House, a move that indicates he is aiming for stability and expertise as he inherits a recession and public health crisis. This tactic to staff up the White House is the opposite of the drain-the-swamp movement from four years ago, which led to lobbyists scrambling to get to know the incoming Trump administration officials.
“We’re in a transition from an unorthodox administration to an orthodox administration in such a time of chaos with the pandemic and with the transition being somewhat challenged,” said Ivan Zapien, a longtime Democratic lobbyist. “I get that draining the swamp and being against Washington insiders and lobbyists polls well but, in reality, there are times when you need experience and this is one of them,” he added.
A transition official said the Biden team is focused on constructing a group of officials who will be ready and able serve Biden and the country from day one. “Amid the crises facing the country, President-Elect Biden is building a team of qualified and competent leaders to get things back on track and advance his bold agenda to build back better. Each of these nominees are forward-thinking, crisis-tested and experienced, and they are ready to quickly use the levers of government to make meaningful differences in the lives of Americans and help govern on day one.”
Earmarks Get Makeover Before Possible Return
A bipartisan group of lawmakers makes a push to bring back a form of earmarks—lawmakers’ ability to direct federal funding to specific projects —but with more transparency and accountability. The 12 members of the bipartisan House Select Committee on Modernization, a group responsible for updating how Congress operates, are pushing to start a program of “community-focused grants,” which they hope would help restore Congress’s role in making specific decisions about spending taxpayer money.
“We laid out a framework that we thought could avoid some of the abuse of the past,” the group’s chairman, Washington Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer told The Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson. Under the proposal, local communities would work with their members of Congress to apply for a grant through a public database. If approved through the appropriations process, the funds would be subject to congressional oversight and could even be clawed back if lawmakers deemed they were being abused.
“It has to be uniquely derived from a local community,” said committee vice chairman Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.). For-profit entities wouldn’t be eligible to apply. “The member now becomes more of an advocate for or a shepherd for something that’s important to a local community.” The House banned earmarks in 2011, after the GOP won the majority in Nov. 2010.
FDA Endorses Safety and Efficacy of Moderna’s Vaccine
A coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Moderna is on the verge of authorization after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists found it to be safe and 94 percent effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19.
The evidence will be discussed during a panel meeting of independent experts on Thursday. Based on the track taken by the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, the FDA could grant emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine as soon as Friday.
The vaccine was effective across all races and genders, the FDA found, similar to the Pfizer vaccine. Both Pfizer and Moderna developed their vaccines using experimental mRNA technology, and both rely on two doses to be effective — Moderna’s must be taken 28 days apart, while Pfizer’s are given 21 days apart.
Moderna is asking for authorization in people ages 18 and over, while Pfizer’s vaccine was cleared for people as young as 16. The lack of data among 16 and 17-year-olds led some of the members of the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to vote against Pfizer’s authorization. The FDA said there appears to be some protection against COVID-19 following one dose; however, there wasn’t enough information about longer-term protection beyond 28 days after a single dose.
The anticipated authorization would give America two different vaccines against COVID-19. The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed has invested $4.1 billion in federal funds in the development and distribution of Moderna’s vaccine.
The federal government signed a deal last summer to deliver a total of 100 million doses in the first quarter of 2021. Last week the administration announced that it had purchased another 100 million doses from Moderna for the second quarter.
How to Bring Employees Back When They’re Getting Vaccinated at Different Times
With a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon, you may be wondering when and how to fully return to the office. Hold your horses. Employees are likely to get vaccinated at different times, meaning it could be weeks to months from the first to last worker’s getting a jab.
Health care workers and residents and staff of long-term-care facilities will likely be first in line. The goal is to fully vaccinate this group by the end of January; then, the elderly and essential workers–anyone from cops and meatpacking workers to teachers and grocery store clerks–by the end of March. That’s according to Paul Ostrowski, the retired Army general who currently serves as the director of supply, production, and distribution for Operation Warp Speed.
After that, vaccine priority depends on age, profession, general health, and location. For example, according to a perspective from The New York Times, as a healthy nearly 26-year-old living in Brooklyn, there are hypothetically 144.1 million people in line in front of me to get a vaccine.
Long-term, the CDC says the goal is to deliver safe vaccines before the end of 2020 and that all adults should be able to get vaccinated by late 2021. That assumes vaccines from both Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna, a Massachusetts biotech firm get Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. There are two other vaccines in late-stage, phase three, clinical trials: one by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and one by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is part of Johnson & Johnson.
These logistical issues leave business owners with a major challenge: how to bring employees back to the office when they’re getting vaccinated at different times. Here’s what experts recommend:
Continue with current health protocols and screenings.
From surveys to on-site testing systems, whatever screening protocols you currently have in place for the office should continue. Don’t stop it, even for employees who get vaccinated.
The virus is still a risk until we reach “herd immunity,” which means 75 percent or more of the U.S. population is vaccinated, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in an interview on December 8 with the Wall Street Journal. When the nation reaches herd immunity, the circulation of the virus will be so low that the threat of outbreaks in any workplace will be minimal, he noted.
Until then, don’t abandon public health measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Surveillance testing or screening the health of employees is still encouraged.
This is crucial because herd immunity alone may not keep people safe. During the vaccine trials, a person who got either the vaccine or a placebo was tested for Covid-19 only if they presented symptoms of illness, such as fever, chills, and sweats. The studies did not test people who may have been asymptomatic. So, while it isn’t likely, there’s a possibility that a vaccinated person could become mildly infected and then transmit the virus to someone who is unvaccinated, says Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, part of Northwell Health.
Communicate accurate information about the vaccine, especially to those opposed to vaccines generally.
Some workers may be skeptical of vaccines or even just this vaccine, as this particular treatment has already triggered allergic reactions in some patients in the UK, where Covid-19 inoculations began last week. Despite their worthy reservations, make sure employees understand the facts and the data around the vaccine, says Fauci. For instance, if trust is the issue, point out that vaccine safety data is reviewed first by an independent data and safety monitoring board. This group of clinicians, vaccine serologists, immunologists, biologists, and statisticians vets the data before pharmaceutical companies can provide their treatments to the FDA for consideration for emergency use authorization.
“The entire process is both independent and transparent and I think if you can get people to understand that, with an open mind, you will have essentially dissolved any reason that they might have for not getting vaccinated,” Fauci tells the Journal.
It can also help to talk about cost. The Cares Act mandates that all employer-sponsored health insurance provide coverage with no cost-share for a Covid-19 vaccine, 15 days after it is recommended by the CDC, explains Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., co-leader, North American Health Management Practice, at Willis Towers Watson, a risk management, insurance brokerage, and advisory company. For employees who don’t have insurance, the Medicare payment rates for the vaccine are $28.39 to administer single-dose vaccines, and for a series, the payment rate will be $16.94 for the initial shot and $28.39 for the administration of the final dose.
Be flexible and accommodating.
Business owners have had to be flexible in allowing employees to work remotely during the pandemic. The same approach should apply in bringing employees back.
Experts recommend bringing people back in phases. Even among people who are first to be vaccinated, retain the WFH option to ease their way back into the workspace, says Sachin Nagrani, medical director at Heal, a company that offers primary care services and telemedicine. This will ease anxiety, allow employees to figure out at-home situations like childcare, and make sure the workload isn’t being unfairly distributed across the workforce.
Set timeline expectations.
Getting people vaccinated and back to the plant or office won’t be quick, and it will likely test everyone’s patience. So, it’s important to set expectations early. That way employees can make preparations and understand that the vaccine, in and of itself, isn’t a quick fix for what will largely be an ongoing process.
“We’re going to be wearing masks probably a year from now,” says Farber. “If employees think that, and that’s the expectation, and they’re surprised that there is widespread vaccination and immunity earlier, then that’s great.”
It’s also important to note that both the Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, the second of which is three or four weeks after the first. This means that even after employees get their first shot, it will likely be a month before they could realistically return to the workplace.
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