If you go back just a few days the odds were improving of an agreement, but now the U.S. government runs out of spending authority this evening at midnight. So, is there a spending bill and aid agreement in our future? Although leaders have talked about details, they are preparing the second-largest federal rescue package in our nation’s history and no one has seen it just days before it will get a vote. This is shaping up to be a long weekend for them in DC.
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Latest on Aid and Government Funding Discussions
The federal government is hours away from a shutdown as a year-end deal on coronavirus relief remains elusive and at least one senator is threatening to withhold consent for a short-term funding measure to keep departments and agencies open. Alternately, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Friday said House Democratic leaders plan to advance a short-term government funding measure later in the day. “We’re going to keep the government open,” he said.
The last time the government shutdown was shortly before Christmas 2018 when Democrats and President Trump failed to agree on spending legislation because of a fight over funding construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The impasse caused a 35-day partial shutdown of government.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Friday said he’s not going to allow a stop-gap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to pass Friday unless leaders give him a more detailed briefing about the $900 billion relief package that is close to being finalized. “We actually have no idea what’s actually in this package. You know more than we do so I’m not gonna allow a CR to go through until I know more what’s actually in the package,” Hawley told reporters after fellow Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) rejected his request to pass by unanimous consent a bill providing another round of $1,200 direct checks to the public.
At the same time, Democrats are warning that a late push by Republicans to add language to the deal to shut down the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities is putting a deal at risk. “An agreement was in sight to deliver aid to the American people until Sen. Toomey and Republicans inserted an eleventh hour purely political, unrelated provision to tie [President-elect Joe] Biden’s hands and risk throwing the economy into a tailspin,” a senior Democratic aide said of language being pushed by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Toomey’s proposal would rescind unused funding appropriated in the CARES Act to secure Fed lending programs and close those programs by the end of the year, as Republican lawmakers intended when they drafted the CARES Act in March. “The Toomey provision would be an unprecedented change to the law to strip the Fed chair of one of their most important tools to quickly respond to any future economic crisis,” the Democratic aide said.
Senate leaders would need unanimous consent from all 100 members of the upper chamber to pass a short-term funding measure by the midnight deadline.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) warned Thursday that the government might shut down over the weekend. He thought colleagues might force a short shutdown to ramp up pressure on leaders to reach a deal. “I know people who are gonna object to that [passing a CR], that want to keep pressure on the process until we get a deal,” he said.
Negotiators are haggling over the size of the stimulus checks, who should be eligible to receive them, whether to add a $90 billion pot of money for state and local emergencies to be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as Toomey’s proposal to wind down Treasury-Fed lending programs.
Congressional leaders are discussing three different stopgap measures of various lengths, according to Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. “There are some people who are saying that ‘Well, we don’t need a [stop gap] because we need to keep the sense of urgency on,’ but I think it would be a mistake for us to go through even a temporary government shutdown,” he said. “It would not be a responsible thing to do.”
Negotiators are also haggling over a provision in the relief package known as the Save Our Stages Act to provide financial assistance to shuttered live entertainment venues. Some lawmakers want to add relief to other businesses such as museums and zoos.
Is the Current Relief Bill a “Down Payment?”
Senate Democrats are justifying their support for a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill as a “down payment” on a larger relief bill they hope to pass next year. The dilemma from their perspective is that Republicans are signaling they don’t want to pass another measure to stimulate the economy after President-elect Joe Biden takes office — and the GOP may continue to hold the Senate majority in January.
“I don’t see it that way,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) when asked about the Democrats’ characterization of the emerging $900 billion deal as a down payment. “We’ll have to wait and kind of see what circumstances are like,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. “Hopefully with more people getting vaccinated, more people getting back to work and the economy opening up there will be less need for Congress to come in.”
Nine months after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, with the $900 billion bill expected to pass before Christmas, GOP lawmakers are sounding much more skeptical about passing another relief package over the next year.
“The incoming administration is viewing it as something they can do now and they come back at this next year. A lot of it probably depends on what happens in Georgia,” said Thune, referring to two Senate runoff races in Georgia scheduled for Jan. 5 that will decide if Republicans keep their Senate majority next year. Democrats must win both races to retake the majority.
Several Republicans are describing the bill now being negotiated as a bridge to when the economy will bounce back as people get vaccinated, not as a down payment.
FDA Panel Ok’s the Moderna Vaccine
A second coronavirus vaccine is one step closer to being delivered, after a federal panel of outside experts on Thursday endorsed a coronavirus vaccine from Moderna and recommended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) move forward with emergency authorization.
The panel voted 20-0 with one abstention that the safety and efficacy of the vaccine outweigh the risks for use in individuals age 18 and older. 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.
Moderna’s vaccine is anticipated to create fewer logistical challenges, as it does not require the same ultra-cold storage as Pfizer’s vaccine. It can remain stable for up to 30 days at the same temperature as a standard refrigerator.
Gen. Gustave Perna, the CEO of Operation Warp Speed, on Monday said the administration plans to ship 6 million doses out to 3,285 locations across the country in the first week of the vaccine’s authorization. Unlike Pfizer, Moderna’s vaccine was developed with federal financial support from Operation Warp Speed, which has invested $4.1 billion into its development and distribution.
The agency earlier this week confirmed that the two-shot dose of the vaccine was safe and 94 percent effective at preventing illness. The vaccine also showed evidence of preventing severe COVID-19, in addition to symptomatic infection.
There is also some evidence that the vaccine can prevent transmission of asymptomatic disease. However, Moderna’s representatives at the meeting indicated there wasn’t enough evidence to be sure. During the meeting, panel members grappled with the question of whether Moderna should “unblind” its clinical trial and give the vaccine to people who received the placebo during the trial.
It is not an issue the panel voted on, but it could have significant implications for the future of the clinical trial. Moderna sent a letter to trial participants, informing them that if the vaccine gets authorized for emergency use, participants who were given a placebo will have the option to get the vaccine. If the trial is unblinded, it could prevent researchers from being able to track the long-term effects of the vaccine.
PPP Language Update
The biggest deal for many existing borrowers in the recent bipartisan proposal will be the new forgiveness protocols, which would be dramatically eased for the smallest debtors. Those with loans of less than $150,000 would be asked to submit a new (still to come) one-page forgiveness form with their lender. Borrowers would not be required to submit supporting documentation or certification previously described for loans under $150,000.
And accountants everywhere will cheer the clarity offered under this bill, which quells the numerous complaints among borrowers about the opacity of tax deductibility of forgiven PPP loans.
While PPP money doesn’t count as taxable income, the Internal Revenue Service had declared that any expense paid for using forgiven PPP funds cannot be counted as a tax-deductible expense. Instead, this bill says PPP expenses are deductible, as was the original intent of the Cares Act.
In other words, it means you can now take the deductions you’re accustomed to, regardless of whether you used forgiven funds. You’ll have the double benefit if the final language of the bill reflects this recent proposal. Thanks to all of you that reached out in one of our most recent calls to action.
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=
It’s Not Just Illinois … Confusion Among States on Vaccine Shipments
Officials in multiple states said they were alerted late Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been drastically cut for next week, sparking widespread confusion and conflicting statements from Pfizer and federal officials about who was at fault.
The reduction prompted concern in health departments across the country about whether Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator program, could distribute doses quickly enough to meet the target of delivering first shots to 20 million people by year’s end.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, said the revised estimates were the result of states’ requesting an expedited timeline for locking in their allocations for the following week; notification of how many doses they could order each week was consequently advanced from Friday to Tuesday. Since Pfizer is producing doses daily, the official said, fewer doses were available Tuesday than will be available on Friday.”
FFCRA Expires at the End of the Year
Unless Congress acts, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) paid-leave requirements will expire at the end of the year. But even if they expire, organizations that have generous paid-leave policies and those in states that have paid-leave laws will continue to grant time off to employees who have COVID-19 or whose children’s schools or childcare providers are closed.
The U.S. House of Representatives included an extension of FFCRA leave in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which was approved by the House in May, but was never considered by the Senate. Under the House’s language, the extension would not merely extend but also expand the FFCRA leave provisions. For example, the House bill would make FFCRA leave apply to all private-sector employers, rather than solely those with fewer than 500 employees, as is currently the case, among other changes.
Throughout congressional negotiations on COVID-19 relief proposals, SHRM has advocated for a number of workplace priorities, including leave, noting that any extension of the FFCRA leave provisions should continue to provide assistance for employers and employees and avoid any new employer mandates.
“Most states may be waiting to see what the federal government will do” before expanding their laws further, said Chelsea Mesa, an attorney with Seyfarth in Los Angeles. “It’s possible states and local jurisdictions will expand their own laws past Jan. 1 or expand them to cover more employers if the FFCRA is not extended. It’s unfortunately very unclear.”
Nonetheless, Rob Duston, an attorney with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Washington, D.C., predicted that Congress will extend the deadlines for both types of FFCRA leave. “If this does not occur before Dec. 31, it could be made retroactive,” he said. “The new administration is going to be strongly supportive of this type of leave.”
Illinois Sports Betting Handle Surges
Aided by having all five of its mobile sports betting operators available online for the entire month for the first time since operators went live in March, the Illinois Gaming Board on Thursday announced a record handle of nearly $434.6 million in October.
The figure was 42.4% higher than the $305.2 million reported in September, when both PointsBet and William Hill launched operations mid-month. It was the biggest month-over-month percentage increase of any jurisdiction with legalized sports wagering that generated a minimum handle of $10 million, and the $129.3-million increase was the largest jump of any state from September to October.
Sportsbooks in Illinois had a higher hold in October, posting a 10.02% win rate compared to September’s 3.85%. That resulted in operators collecting $42.2 million in adjusted gross revenue, more than a five-fold increase on September’s sum of $6.8 million. Illinois state tax coffers received more than $6.3 million from those revenues, while Cook County gained $480,000 in tax revenue.
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, have a great weekend and don’t stress too much about getting that Christmas shopping done.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry