This will be the last update before Christmas. It seems as if the big present that we all thought we would be receiving is now in serious jeopardy. President Trump is in position to hold this up and possibly derail the whole thing. See below for a further explanation.
We’ll squeeze a jobs report in here today as well. Next week we’ll share some recaps of the year and post some articles with advice and outlooks for next year. Merry Christmas!
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Wait a Minute . . . Relief Package and Government Spending Isn’t a Done Deal
Senate Republicans are waiting to hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about what they’ll do if President Trump vetoes a massive coronavirus relief and omnibus spending package, which could set the stage for a government shutdown.
Two Republican aides on Wednesday said McConnell has yet to offer any guidance to the Senate Republican Conference on whether there will be an attempt to override a possible President Trump veto of the coronavirus relief and year-end funding bill, which leaders from both parties hailed as a major accomplishment this week.
President Trump slammed the relief bill on Tuesday night and called on Congress to increase the stimulus checks to $2,000 each. In doing so, he suggested he might not sign the legislation, but stopped short of saying he would veto the measure. “A few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people. It’s taken forever. However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace,” Trump said in a video posted to Twitter.
“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package,” he said.
Senate sources say that Trump could ensure the demise of the 5,593-page coronavirus relief and spending package by simply refusing to act on it before the new 117th Congress convenes on Jan. 3 at 12:00 PM. The Constitution gives the president 10 days — not counting Sundays — to act on legislation or it automatically becomes law. If Congress adjourns “sine die” and Trump doesn’t act before that 10-day period expires, then the coronavirus bill would fail on a “pocket veto.”
Trump is not due to receive the hug relief and omnibus spending package until Thursday or Friday because it takes time to enroll the voluminous bill.
If the new 117th Congress convenes and Trump hasn’t yet signed the coronavirus relief package, which includes a new round of $600 stimulus checks, the legislation would die and Congress would need to pass a new bill in January.
If that happens, Congress will need to still pass another stopgap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown after the current stopgap expires at the end of the night on Dec. 28.
The Senate is scheduled to convene for a pro forma session on that day and leaders could pass another short-term funding bill by unanimous consent at that time — assuming no lawmakers object. Senators have been told that the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday Dec. 29, for a period of morning business and that roll-call votes are possible later in the day in case they need to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill and others if they occur.
Democrats said Mr. Trump should sign the current bill and then work with them to pass additional aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said on Twitter she would try to pass a bill with unanimous consent to approve $2,000 direct checks. That vote is expected Thursday, an aide said.
“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks, but Republicans blocked it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said. “Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need.”
In a meeting with congressional leaders on Dec. 15, Mrs. Pelosi repeatedly asked Mr. Mnuchin what Mr. Trump’s position was on the direct payments, but he declined to answer, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Even Before Passage of the Relief Package (or not), the Next Debate Begins
Millions of Americans are struggling mightily. Nine million fewer people are employed than a year ago. Others are coping with big medical bills. Many small businesses have closed or may soon. State and local governments are planning deep cuts.
The $900 billion stimulus bill that Congress passed will provide a lot of help to the economy. But many economists believe that it also has major flaws. Among them: It isn’t especially targeted at the parts of the economy that need help.
A central part of the stimulus are one-time checks that the government will mail to people. Any household with income below $150,000 will likely receive at least $1,200. Families with children will receive more. Much of that money will go to Americans who are doing just fine and who will save the money they receive, which in turn will do nothing to keep struggling businesses afloat or keep workers employed. Already, the personal savings rate had risen to about 14 percent this fall, from 8 percent at the start of the year.
At the same time, the bill provides only 11 weeks of expanded unemployment insurance. “That’s not enough to bridge us to when a vaccine is widely distributed,” Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department economist commented. In all, the bill spends less on the expanded jobless benefits than on the stimulus checks.
An even bigger issue is the lack of help for state and local governments. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, insisted on excluding such aid, saying it would be a bailout for fiscally irresponsible states. Many economists disagree and point to the pandemic’s toll on state budgets.
“Economists are especially concerned that the final deal stripped out new funding for state and local governments, which is likely to lead to more job cuts and higher taxes in parts of the country,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long wrote. Larry Johnson, a county commissioner in the Atlanta area, said, “Congress leaving out local aid is like the Grinch that stole Christmas.”
And Tracy Gordon of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center told Bloomberg CityLab, “I’m incredulous that they’re not providing state and local aid.” Among the likely areas for the cuts that state and local government will have to make: public transportation, police and fire departments, schools, and health care programs.
More on the Next Round
McConnell said amidst the waiting game on the signing of the current package that he’d insist the next bill include liability protections for businesses — the same demand that helped scuttle negotiations earlier this year. And he told the Courier-Journal in an interview published Monday that he is open to more infrastructure but “we still have to figure out how to pay for it.”
Biden outlined his own asks: another round of checks; another extension of unemployment benefits; an eviction moratorium; more help for small businesses; money to help with vaccine distribution; and an infrastructure program.
Biden team officials including Transportation Secretary pick Pete Buttigieg have made clear that green energy projects such as nationwide electric vehicle charging stations ought to be part of their infrastructure approach.
The president-elect believes Republicans will ultimately come to the same conclusions he has on the need for another stimulus. “I think the dawn has broken for the vast majority” of lawmakers, Biden said. “There are still people who don’t want to help. There are still people who are insisting my way or the highway. But the vast majority of the members of Congress, I believe, will be able to work out those specific issues that are of national consequence.”
Some Democrats are cautiously optimistic. “If the Biden administration runs a disciplined, persistent strategy on infrastructure and the benefits it would bring to each state, I think in the long term it would be very difficult for enough Republican senators to oppose it,” said Gene Sperling, who ran the National Economic Council during the Obama and Clinton administrations.
Countrywide Layoffs Slightly Decline
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 89,000 last week to a still elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress nine months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy into recession and caused millions of layoffs.
The total number of people who are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits fell to 5.3 million for the week that ended Dec. 12 from a week earlier.
The number of jobless people who are collecting aid from one of the two federal extended-benefit programs — the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don’t qualify for traditional benefits — rose by nearly 27,000 to 9.3 million in the week that ended Dec. 5.
The number of people receiving aid under the second program — the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides federal jobless benefits to people who have exhausted their state aid — fell by nearly 8,200 to 4.8 million.
All told, 20.4 million people are now receiving some type of unemployment benefits. (Figures for the two pandemic-related programs aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.)
Illinois is First in a Good Way – Leading the Nation in Vaccine Rollout
Illinois’ distribution of the new COVID-19 vaccine is off to a fast start, with more people inoculated here in the first week than in any state, Governor Pritzker said today.
So far, just under 110,000 doses of the first vaccine, produced by Pfizer, have been distributed in the state and used to inoculate frontline medical workers and some others, Pritzker said. That likely won’t last as other larger states get their allocations out, but is a good sign as the first batch of 174,600 doses of a second vaccine from Moderna arrives this week, he said.
The more than 100,000 doses distributed makes Illinois “number one in the country right now” in vaccinating frontline medical workers, said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. The governor’s office said it is basing its data off of a Bloomberg tracker of vaccinations around the country.
The governor said his administration will not decide until January who will be the top priority for vaccines once front-line medical personnel and nursing home residents are inoculated.
It is unfortunate that this has not yet been decided as many await the next phase and businesses look for the green light to reopen considering many regions have lowered positive rates below the 12% mark.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended that some essential workers and those over age 75 be the next top priority, with other essential workers, those with serious medical conditions and those over age 65 in the next group. IDPH “is reviewing” the recommendations, Pritzker said, with state’s decision coming “in the new year.”
The governor was a bit more restrained as to when the state might begin lifting restrictions on bars and restaurants, as the number of new COVID cases in the state starts to drop. See the latest state and city COVID figures in the charts below.
The latest Illinois Department of Public Health data indicates that the number of new cases in the state has dropped to relatively low levels, 6,762 yesterday, after peaking at more than 12,000 a day in November. On a 7-day rolling average, the statewide test positivity rate is down to 9 percent after weeks in the late fall when it was in the mid-teens. Still, Pritzker said, those figures are too high to allow inside dining and bars to reopen. And the figures could bounce back up as more gatherings occur over the holidays.
“We’re getting there,” Prtizker said. “Let’s see how Christmas goes.”
AFSCME Balks at Governor’s Budget Cuts
Governor Pritzker said in a news conference Dec. 15 that he would institute $711 million in cuts to the current fiscal 2021 budget, including a potential $75 million in worker furloughs and other personnel cost adjustments that would need to be negotiated with unions.
Included in the governor’s cuts, which don’t need approval from the General Assembly, are $25.4 million in additional projected cuts at the Illinois Department of Corrections related to a decline in the inmate population both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pritzker said in a news release and through other materials from his office that he is forming an Illinois Corrections Transformation Advisory Team to consider a “phase down of wings” at prisons and planning operational and grant reductions of $45.6 million at Corrections, State Police, and other public safety agencies.
The parts of Pritzker’s plan that directly affect workers were criticized as useless and counterproductive by AFSCME, the state workforce’s largest union. Any savings from furloughs would be erased by the need for additional overtime, said Mike Newman, deputy director of AFSCME Council 31.
“State services are so stretched,” said Newman, whose union represents almost 40,000 state employees. “Any cuts in state personnel or having employees take off work will just exacerbate an already very serious situation. State employment is already down significantly from where it was a couple of decades ago. The residents of Illinois are depending on state of Illinois employees now more than ever before. “This is a revenue problem, it’s not a spending problem, and it’s a problem that goes beyond just this fiscal year,” he said. “So, you’re not going to solve a revenue shortfall by targeting state employees.” Pritzker said last week that his staff was “in conversations with AFSCME” regarding negotiations on potential furloughs and other reductions in personnel costs.
The state borrowed $1.2 billion to cover expenses in the previous fiscal year that ended June 30. Pritzker has said the state will borrow another $2 billion to help cover shortfalls in the current budget. More cuts will need to be worked out with members of the General Assembly in the spring session, he said. The governor sidestepped a question last week about whether he would support an increase in the state’s flat income tax.
Will County Residents Behind on Mortgage or Rent Can Access Funds
Will County residents behind on their mortgage or rent because of the pandemic have several options to reach out to local agencies to apply to for payment assistance.
Funds are available to those at least one month behind on rent. Utility assistance is also available for those who qualify. Renters having difficulty working with their landlords and facing eviction are encouraged to contact Prairie State Legal, another HUD CARES funded program, at (815) 727-5123.
Owners behind on their mortgages are encouraged to work with their mortgage companies on forbearance options. If those options are not available or exhausted, assistance is available for families behind on mortgage payments as well.
The local agencies helping are:
- Will County Center for Community Concerns, (815) 722-0722
- Spanish Community Center, (815) 727-3683
- Catholic Charities, (815) 774-4663
- Community Service Council, (815) 886-5000
No Late Fees for Food Permit / Liquor License Extension in Will County
Restaurant owners in Will County who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and do not pay their permit fee by Dec. 31 will not be charged a late fee, officials announced Tuesday.
The Will County Board of Health has passed a revision to the Will County Health Department Food Ordinance that will postpone late fees for food operators.
“Anyone not paying their regular fee will be considered ‘operating without a valid food permit’ and will need to cease operations until it is paid in full,” said WCHD Environmental Health Director Tom Casey in a prepared statement. “Only food operators operating without a permit after March 1 will be assessed the late fee.”
The postponement of late fees will also apply to mobile food operators who operate throughout the year. For more information, visit https://willcountyhealth.org/food-safety/
The Will County Board also voted to amend its liquor license ordinance to extend the renewal fee due dates to March 1, 2021 and September 1, 2021. The current deadlines for renewal fees are January 1 and July 1. This change only applies to liquor licenses issued in the unincorporated areas of Will County.
“We want to provide some temporary relief to local bar and restaurant owners who have facing tremendous hardship due to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, who also serves as the county’s liquor commissioner. “Many of these establishments have been able to implement carry out service but without dine-in customers, their profit margins have been greatly reduced. Some are on the verge of closing their doors for good.”
The Will County Board voted at a special meeting, held on Dec. 22, to extend this payment period. County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan acknowledged small business is the backbone of the local economy and it is important to show the county’s support.
U.S. Reaches Deal with Pfizer for Additional Vaccines
The federal government has reached a deal with Pfizer Inc. to secure 100 million more doses of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, an agreement that will bolster the vaccination campaign under way in the U.S., Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech SE, said Wednesday.
Under the terms of the deal, Pfizer will provide an additional 70 million doses by the end of June, with 30 million to follow by the end of July, the companies said. Pfizer and BioNTech will receive $1.95 billion for the additional doses, consistent with the pricing for the initial supply of the vaccine.
“This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
In July, the U.S. government agreed to pay Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion for the first 100 million doses of the vaccine, or $19.50 per dose. Following the expansion deal, the government also has the option to acquire up to an additional 400 million doses.
Update for Small Business Relief and New Stimulus Package
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Join Small Business Majority and the SBA Illinois District Office for a free webinar to learn more about what’s in the new relief package, including a PPP forgiveness overview, and ask questions about what this could mean for your small business.
- PPP reauthorization and important changes
- PPP Forgiveness
- Advance grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program
- SBA Debt Relief Program
- Additional policies and resources for small businesses
Program Notices & Reminders
U.S. Chamber Guide to New Pandemic Relief Package
How Do These Changes Impact My Existing PPP Loan?
I Exhausted My Initial PPP Loan, How Does This Help Me?
What If I Never Received a PPP Loan?
Which Changes to Other Programs That May Help My Small Business Have Been Changed?
- Expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit
- EIDL Grants
- Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators
- SBA Loan Debt Forgiveness
Here is the link to the Monday 12/21 update that contained full information on the relief package:
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.
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.
Selling for Non-Salespeople
Date: 1/7/21 Time: 2pm
Is your B2B product or service really awesome – BUT – you aren’t confident in your ability to sell it? Most of us feel like introverts at times, but you can join us for a simple session to act like an extrovert. Hear tips on how to do the prospecting, presenting, and closing to help you get new customers to say YES! Join Mike Wilczynski for the no-cost webinar by registering at: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33822
Starting Your Business in Illinois
Date: 1/14/21 Time: 9am
Thinking about starting a business in Illinois? This informative workshop helps entrepreneurs understand many of the steps and requirements. In this no-cost overview of Starting Your Business in Illinois, we will touch on many aspects of your business plan, including legal, accounting, banking, marketing, and sales.
Finally, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season!
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry