A breakthrough may have come last night in the ongoing discussions regarding federal aid. All four leaders met for approximately three hours and walked out at the end with more positive things to say than negatives for the first time in a while. For those gamblers out there, the odds may have moved in favor of a deal possibility.
Governor Pritzker dropped some big news finally on plans to try and balance out the budget with an announcement of planned cuts. Both items are addressed in further details below along with some additional topics.
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Meeting of the Leaders
There’s a good chance that there will be a stimulus deal reached. It could be reached today -maybe! Possibly! Theoretically! Here’s the reasoning: Friday is the government funding deadline, all the leaders agree a Covid relief deal should be paired with government funding, they have said they won’t leave town until a Covid deal is notched and passed, and the nation’s top lawmakers are all talking and optimistic. We’ve somewhat been here before and have seen things fall apart, but let’s hope that this one is the real deal.
Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, and House Minority Leader McCarthy all met on and off for more than three hours last night in the Speaker’s conference room in the Capitol. Reports are they were there to dig in and strike a long-awaited deal. It was the first (reported) time that they had all been together in a meeting to discuss this topic.
These talks are long overdue and from what has been brought up before, nothing was ultimately going to move until the leaders sat down and ironed things out. Credit should be due to the bipartisan and bicameral group that started this process and laid the groundwork. After the few hours together, listen to what they were saying:
MCCARTHY: “I think we’ve built a lot of trust; I think we’re moving in the right direction; I think there’s a possibility of getting it done.”
MCCONNELL: “We’re making significant progress and I’m optimistic that we’re gonna be able to complete an understanding sometime soon. … I’m not gonna get into details but we’re getting closer. And as I’ve said all week and I’ll say again tonight, you’re tired of hearing it: Everybody wants to finish. Everybody wants to get a final agreement as soon as possible. We all believe the country needs it. And I think we’re getting closer and closer.”
SCHUMER: “We’re talking, we’re exchanging paper and ideas back and forth, making progress and hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.”
PELOSI: “Tomorrow, we’ll be back early and we’ll be on schedule to get the job done.”
Sources say much of the initial time was spent haggling over the topline price tag for the bill. It was a tacit agreement that a bill needed to get done.
After a deal is reached in principle, the two sides must finalize language and that could take a bit. So, considering this finalization is still up against the clock, it is a possibility that by week’s end another stopgap is needed to buy a few extra days.
Even if Congress were to pass a bill this week, it may not be in time to prevent millions of Americans from going weeks with no source of income, given that many state unemployment offices have already programmed their systems to cut off benefits after next week, when the current pandemic programs expire.
Reinstating the benefits in those states will take time, especially because the plan being considered by Congress would make several technical changes to the programs, which the Labor Department must then incorporate into formal regulations, said Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy adviser for Employ America, an advocacy group. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when state offices are shut, will add further delays, she warned, though workers would eventually receive back pay for the weeks where their benefits lapsed.
Latest on Aid Discussions
Today, numerous reports are saying leaders are closing in on a coronavirus relief deal that would include direct stimulus payments, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The package is based largely on a $748 billion relief bill that a bipartisan group of Senate and House moderates unveiled Monday plus a new round of stimulus checks, although at an amount lower than the payments of up to $1,200 per adult included in the CARES Act passed by Congress in March.
It will leave out $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, which was originally included in a $908 billion compromise proposal that Democratic leaders endorsed in early December, as well as liability protection for businesses, a top priority of the GOP leadership.
Two House lawmakers, one Republican and one Democrat, confirmed Wednesday that a new round of stimulus payments are part of the emerging deal. The entire cost of the various items in the package is expected to stay below $1 trillion, an upper boundary set by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans earlier this year. The size and eligibility requirements for the second round of payments weren’t immediately clear. The CARES Act payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child cost almost $300 billion, but lawmakers are looking at a second round that has a lower price tag. The White House last week had proposed direct payments of $600 per adult and per child, which analysts estimate would cost about $170 billion.
A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the package will total around $900 billion, include a new round of stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment benefits and “other avenues to deliver aid to states, localities, territories and tribes” but will not include liability protections. A GOP aide said Republicans offered to provide state and local governments with an extra $90 billion to be distributed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Governor Announces $700 Million in Cuts
Gov. J.B. Pritzker today ordered $700 million in spending cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, calling it as a “first step” toward filling a budget hole that could hit $3.9 billion.
He plans a hiring freeze, grant reductions, and operational savings and is considering unpaid furlough days for state workers. Schools, public safety, and health care would take hits.
Speaking as Congress continues to balk at providing additional COVID relief funds, Pritzker said it “pains me” to mandate such steps, especially those that will come from corrections and other public safety departments. But, he added, “I promised to be a governor who balances the budget and begins paying down the bills that my predecessor left behind.” There’s still hope that the federal government may come through with help to address deficits created by the pandemic, but that’s not going to be enough.
The move sends shivers down the spines of Democratic lawmakers, while Republicans dispense outrage. For months, the GOP has called on Pritzker to lay out how he would cut the state budget.
Additionally, the state will delay by three months a promised rate hike for community care workers that was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 and will temporarily halt all vehicle purchases. Most grants will be frozen, but some grants issued by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity will be cut 5 percent.
Pritzker said negotiations have begun with AFSCME and other worker unions “to identify $75 million in personnel cost adjustments, which could include furlough days.” He also has formed a Department of Corrections “facilities closure work group” to identify savings from a reduction in the state’s offender population.
None of the cuts will affect the state’s anti-COVID-19 efforts, Pritzker said. “We’ve tried to be very, very careful.” Pritzker’s move in some ways is an opening gambit in what likely will be contentious negotiations in Springfield with Republicans and some reluctant Democrats over how to fill the budget gap.
“The General Assembly needs to come to the table here,” Pritzker declared. “I am looking forward to hearing ideas from Republicans.” The governor attributed about half of the deficit to a revenue shortfall from a pandemic-related decline in economic activity. He termed the rest “structural,” making it clear he was referring in part to solid GOP opposition to the graduated income-tax plan that voters rejected in the Nov. 3 election, saying, “The best way to fix our structural problems is to fix our unfair tax system.”
Pritzker did not directly reference his earlier suggestions that, with the graduated tax dead for now, he would move to raise the state’s current, flat income tax by perhaps 1 percentage point. Asked if he’d consider raising the state’s 4.95 percent flat income tax rate, Pritzker said he’s just focused on the cuts — for now.
Attached to this message is the pdf of the $700 million in cuts
FDA Authorizes First Rapid, Over-The-Counter Home Covid Test
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that can be taken at home without prescription and that yields immediate results.
The test could be a vital tool in the country’s fight against the virus — especially in the months before most Americans are vaccinated. Unlike previous home tests, this version does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without doctor’s orders by anyone older than 2.
The test, developed by Australian company Ellume, is just one of several positive developments for coronavirus testing. After months of failures, long lines and continued shortages, the country’s testing capacity is finally expected to increase rapidly in the coming two to three months, reaching many times its current levels, experts said. That reflects new technologies coming online and long-standing investments to ramp up production that are coming to fruition.
The FDA allowed the test under an emergency use authorization. The newly approved home test will cost about $30, and the first batches will be shipped out the first week of January, according to Ellume.
In an interview, Ellume chief executive Sean Parsons said supply initially will be limited to 100,000, with plans to increase manufacturing to 1 million by the middle of next year. Parsons said his company will be announcing a major partnership with a major retailer — such as Walgreens, CVS, or Walmart — to sell the test and create policies that would prevent hoarding by consumers. He said Ellume is in talks to supply the tests in the future directly to companies and universities.
The test uses a nasal swab to collect a sample and produces results within minutes using a plastic device similar to a home pregnancy test. One critical feature of the new home tests: the ability to capture and report test results.
For months, at least two dozen companies have been trying to develop home tests, most of them rapid antigen tests that detect proteins on the surface of the virus. Because labs are not involved in such tests, there was no clear way to report the results. Without that data, experts warned that the country would be flying blind as it navigates the later stages of the pandemic.
Ellume’s test requires users to download an app on their smartphone to learn their test result. That app automatically sends data by Zip code to the cloud — ensuring that regional health officials can learn about positive results while keeping the data confidential, the company said.
In coming weeks, more new tests are expected to be approved. Experts said that with increasing capacity, a growing need exists for state and federal officials to come up with a national strategy for how to deploy the tests more effectively and to provide federal funding for regular, dedicated mass testing in schools, hard-hit nursing homes and among essential workers.
Census Estimates U.S. Population Grew 8% in Last Decade
The U.S. population has grown about 8% over the past decade to more than 332 million people, according to a Census Bureau analysis released before the results of the decennial count.
The figures published Tuesday are separate from those gathered by the 2020 census that wrapped up in October. They are a parallel estimate of the population’s demographic contours using records of U.S. births, deaths, immigration, and Medicare enrollment that is designed to act as a quality check on the actual census results.
That estimate showed there were about 332.6 million people in the U.S. on census day, April 1, according to the midpoint figure from the bureau’s demographic analysis. The median age in the country was 38.5 years as of that day, up from 37.2 in 2010.
In 2010, the comparable population total was 308.35 million. If confirmed by the 2020 census, it would mark the slowest growth since the 1930s, when the Great Depression and restrictions on immigration slowed growth to 7.2%.
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. Small businesses need relief as soon as possible to keep their businesses. 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-19 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