Chamber Members:

Today will be the last update for 2020. We hope these daily messages have been beneficial for you and your organization. Looking back, it’s interesting to see all of the information shared on funding opportunities, shelter in place mandates, phases, tiers, and so much more.

Thanks to all of our presenters that joined us on our virtual conferences and shared their wealth of knowledge. Special thanks are in order as well to Silver Cross Hospital for being our daily update sponsor.

The update below has a little mix of what’s happening today, a recap of what we’ve gone through, and finally some items that give hope for 2021. Happy New Year to all!

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

2020 Recap of the Illinois Coronavirus Response
As concerns over the spread of coronavirus mount locally and nationally, large group events are canceled around the beginning of March.

On March 9th, Governor Pritzker issues a disaster proclamation over the coronavirus outbreak after total cases in the state rise to 11, making Illinois the 14th state to declare an emergency in response to the virus. The proclamation will allow Illinois to tap additional state and federal resources to combat the spread of the new virus and better coordinate its response. Pritzker also announces he will begin holding daily televised news briefings on the virus and the state’s response.

On March 12th, Governor Pritzker orders the shutdown of public events with more than 1,000 people. Thirty-two Illinois residents are positive for COVID-19. On March 13th he orders all public and private schools closed by March 17, meaning caregivers for 2 million students must make alternate arrangements. The Archdiocese of Chicago cancels all public Masses.

On March 15th, Pritzker orders all Illinois bars and restaurants to be closed to dine-in customers effective at the end of the business day March 16 through at least March 30. Restaurants can remain open for pickup and delivery.

The first major step taken by Governor Pritzker was a stay-at-home order that was issued on March 21st. All non-essential businesses were ordered closed and residents were asked to remain at home. Allowances included trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, or for medical care. It also bans gatherings of more than 10 people and closes playgrounds.

One week later on March 28th, the city of Chicago and the state announce McCormick Place will be converted into a field hospital to handle 3,000 coronavirus patients as the state braces for a possible surge in cases in the coming weeks, officials said.

On March 30th, Governor Pritzker extends the stay-at-home order through April 30 as part of the state’s effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The order also keeps schools closed.

On April 14th, Governor Pritzker said Illinois is “bending the curve” on the coronavirus pandemic, citing a slowdown in the growth rate of new cases and stability in the number of patients using intensive care unit beds.

On May 5th, Pritzker laid out a regional, five-phase plan to reopen the state based on public health data and health care availability in different parts of the state. The plan divides the state into four regions, which could enter different phases of reopening at different times. The fifth and final phase — “Illinois restored” — won’t come until a vaccine or highly effective treatment becomes widely available.

Phase 1 was the stay-at-home order which lasted until May 1st and then moved on once the state had the ability to conduct 10,000 tests per day as well as the availability of tests for front line workers. One May 1st Phase 2 began as a stay-at-home order with modifications. Non-essential stores were now allowed to open for delivery and curbside pickup. Some outdoor activities like golf and fishing were also now allowed.

On May 8th, for the first time, Illinois conducted more than 20,000 tests for coronavirus in one day. On May 12th, models now indicate, the state isn’t expected to start coming down from the peak of the coronavirus pandemic until mid-June.

Phase 3 was opened when three metrics in a region were met including positivity rate, hospital capacity, and contract tracing. Test positivity rate needed to be below 20% and not increasing more than 10 points over a 14-day period. Next, no hospital admission increases for 28 days needed to occur, and the last requirement was an available surge capacity of at least 14% of ICU beds, med and surgical beds, and ventilators.

Phase 3 began on May 29th with the allowance of 10 person gatherings, health care and retail opened with reduced capacity and bars/restaurants could open for outdoor dining only. In order to move to phase 4, regions had to satisfy the same metrics as the jump from Phase 2 to 3.

On June 10th, Governor Pritzker signed a roughly $43 billion state budget that relies heavily on federal aid and borrowing to plug holes created by the coronavirus pandemic. It was approved mostly on partisan lines among lawmakers, with House and Senate Republicans criticizing the plan.

On June 23rd, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) released applications for a grant program designed to offset the economic impact of COVID-19 for businesses and communities across Illinois. The new Business Interruption Grant (BIG) and the Rebuild Distressed Communities grants total $85 million and will provide relief for thousands of businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Phase 4 begins on June 26 and now allows for gatherings of 50 people with schools and childcare facilities able to reopen. Non-essential employees return to work and bars/restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters are allowed indoor patrons with capacity limits. Phase 5 would occur as a full reopening of the economy once a covid vaccine is distributed, an effective treatment is readily available, or new cases are reported over a “sustained period.” To date, we are currently in Phase 4 with no indication of when a move to Phase 5 would be possible.

Restore Illinois mitigation plans were announced as covid cases began to rise in the early fall. Governor Pritzker implemented a three-tier plan as a way to place more temporary restrictions on regions that are seeing a resurgence in cases. Regions have now been expanded from 4 to 11 and each tier beginning with the least restrictive (Tier 1) offers a menu of options that the state can enforce on ways to respond to resurgences.

Regionally, we entered Tier 2 on August 26 and skipped over Tier 1 most notably with restrictions that shut down indoor bar and dining services rather than rolling back to 25 patrons and set a limit on gatherings to lesser of 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity. Our region was able to resume activities after meeting requirements on September 18th.

Governor Pritzker announced applications for $220 million more in state Business Interruption Grant (BIG) money, part of Illinois’ allocation of federal funds from the CARES Act, will begin on Thursday, September 17th after the state issued $49 million last month in the first round to business across Illinois.

On November 11th, our region was right back to Tier 2 along with at the time the majority of all other regions in the state. This marked the second time our region faced restrictions.

On November 18th, Governor Pritzker announced additional statewide mitigation measures, effective November 20th for the entire state. This effectively moves all regions to Tier 3. Restaurants and bars will not be able to offer indoor service, casinos and museums will be required to close, and gyms will have to cease indoor group classes. Retailers will have to reduce capacity from 50% to 25%.

As we begin the new year our region and the entire state for that matter are in Phase 4 and Tier 3 for the foreseeable future. Regions have met criteria for stepping down to Tier 3, but Governor Pritzker has not committed yet to a date to allow that move. Additionally, with the introduction of two vaccines, no announcement has been made for the updating of a move to Phase 5 in the state. It’s been a long nine and a half months and this is just a snapshot of what has occurred in our state alone without looking at what happened on a national level. Thought this would be a decent “trip down memory lane” and something to keep for the archives.

Next Round of Covid Discussions
On Tuesday, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell twice objected to passage of the $2,000 stimulus checks. But, more notably, he started the process to vote on a bill that paired the checks with the elimination of Section 230 (the internet law President Trump is so worked up about) and the creation of an election fraud commission.

Sen. McConnell could bring up the House-passed $2,000 bill, but he’s not showing any signs of doing that, at this point. Senate Democrats would be exceedingly unlikely to vote for a package that combines the checks with a voter fraud commission and Section 230 repeal. Furthermore, the House would need to consider it, and they’re done for the year. Even if they weren’t, it’s highly unlikely they’d be interested in this package as constructed by McConnell. There are no parliamentary tricks available to the Senate minority here.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this in a statement Tuesday evening: “Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them. If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law — any move like this by Sen. McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”

So, that is where things stand as we also learned yesterday that stimulus checks could start showing up in bank accounts as early last night/today with paper forms hitting the mail right away too. “Treasury and the IRS are working with unprecedented speed to issue a second round of Economic Impact Payments to eligible Americans and their families,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “These payments are an integral part of our commitment to providing vital additional economic relief to the American people during this unprecedented time.”

The second round of payments will be distributed automatically, with no action required for eligible individuals. A factor likely to speed up the timeline: the IRS system is up-and-running already and those who weren’t set up to automatically get payments likely already put in their bank information or mailing address in the IRS database.

Lag in Vaccination
As recently as mid-December, the Trump administration touted an ambitious goal: 20 million COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of the year. But now, it appears that the actual number of vaccinations will fall significantly short of that mark.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows only about 2 million people have been vaccinated so far. That figure is likely an undercount, given there is a lag in reporting the data, but it is still well short of 20 million. Administration officials said Tuesday that they are still on track to allocate 20 million doses to states by the end of the year, but that is different from those doses actually making it all the way into people’s arms.

Experts are pressing the government to ramp up the pace, saying states need more support. The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed delivers vaccines to the states, but the “last mile” of getting vaccines into people’s arms has largely been left to states to figure out at a time when state health departments are strapped for cash and overwhelmed.

The Trump administration had a “misperception” that “shipping the vaccine was success,” instead of following all the way through to vaccinate people, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, which represents states’ vaccination officials. She added that the projection of 20 million vaccinations by the end of the year was “way off to start with.”

Trump administration officials themselves are acknowledging the 20 million vaccinations figure will not be met. “Exactly how fast the ramp up of immunizations, shots in arm, is happening is slower than we thought it would be,” Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said at a press briefing last week, adding that states should tell them their “asks” on what they need to accelerate the effort. “That objective is unlikely to be met, 20 million people with a shot in arm [by the end of the year],” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday cast President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as meager and insufficient, as he vowed to fully use the federal government’s powers once inaugurated to speed the production and dispersal of vaccines and protective equipment.

“Biden said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of materials needed for the coronavirus vaccines. The law, enacted in 1950, gives the president the power to compel companies to produce and distribute supplies. Trump has invoked the act several times to increase the manufacturing of ventilators, among other items. Biden said that the Trump administration has yet to fully scale up testing — ‘that’s a travesty,’ he said — and that its vaccine distribution efforts were also lagging behind what had been promised.”

Changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
Another massive change for companies in the new stimulus bill is that companies will be able to take advantage of both PPP loans and the employee retention tax credit (ERTC). It also greatly expands the ERTC in 2021, with the new ERTC credit offering a maximum of $14,000 per employee through June 30, 2021.

Originally, the CARES Act only allowed businesses to choose PPP or ERTC. U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Neil Bradley, notes that businesses should take these major changes into account for year-end tax planning purposes and start using it to help them plan out 2021. If a business used and exhausted a PPP loan early in 2020, for example, they could then use the ERTC to help them with their 2020 taxes.

“A lot of small businesses may not have taken advantage of the employee retention tax credit this year because they took a PPP loan,” Bradley said. “You now have the opportunity before the end of the year to claim that tax credit and look back at prior quarters and count those wages.”

Visit our covid resource page for documents that have been added that review the relief package as well as the PPP changes in particular:

New Live Venue Grant Program
The new stimulus bill also sets aside $15 billion in grants specifically for live venues that have been impacted by the pandemic. This includes concert venues, movie theaters, museums and more.

“This is a new grant program, and you do need to demonstrate a significant reduction in revenue as a result of the pandemic,” U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Neil Bradley said. “Then you can receive a grant for up to $10 million to help you pay for costs that a PPP loan would normally pay for. If you take one of these grants, you can’t also get a PPP loan. You have to choose, but the dollar amount of the grant might be higher and you don’t have to worry about applying for forgiveness.”

Bradley notes that the $15-billion cap means any company in the live event industry should get started on preparing for this right away in order to get a crack at these funds. Event operators should be ready to apply as soon as the applications open.

2021 Small-Business Economic Outlook
The new year is two days away and business leaders must be prepared for abrupt shifts in the needs of their customers. For example, if your business boomed during the pandemic, are you prepared for a post-pandemic slowdown? Investor fear that Zoom might not be prepared for this has cost its shareholders. Since peaking at $588 a share in October, Zoom’s stock had lost 32 percent of its value by early December.

Why? A good guess that part of it is due to good news about Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and others and means that investors are betting the pandemic will end and people will go back to the office and not use Zoom as frequently.

Zoom’s stock fell on November 30 when the company announced a growth slowdown. More specifically, for the third quarter Zoom reported 367 percent revenue growth while forecasting still blistering 329 percent growth for the fourth quarter ending this month, according to CNBC. Between then and December 9, Zoom stock fell 17.7 percent.

The point? Regardless of how the pandemic has affected your business, its end is likely to change things. You should prepare now to change your business strategy to take advantage of the new forces that could propel company growth after the pandemic.

2021: A Sideways-W-Shaped Recovery
Bearing in mind the idea that the pandemic has been great for some industries, terrible for others, and a tossup for ones in the middle, 2021 will feature a sideways-W-shaped recovery.

You should be able to find your industry in one of the three prongs of the W below. For each one, a description on how things have been going for your industry this year, what is likely to change in 2021, and the questions you should be thinking about now.

1. Covid-19 winners like Zoom and Wayfair boomed in 2020. Can they keep growing?
The first prong of the W is companies like Zoom, Shopify, Wayfair, and others that have boomed during the pandemic — thanks to the surge in people working from home.

In 2021, these companies will need to decide how to adapt to a world in which the pandemic ends and people return to a mixture of how they lived in 2019 while continuing to practice some of the new habits they adopted during the pandemic.

Business leaders in this category ought to initiate close conversations with at least 100 users of their service. Discussion topics might include:

Will you go back into the office when the pandemic ends?
If so, how will you split your time between working from home and in the office?
How will that change affect how you will use our product?
What new services or modifications to existing ones will you need as your work-style changes?
Based on the responses, leaders should reimagine their business strategy, develop prototypes of new services customers demand, get feedback, and refine the services so they can launch them as the pandemic ends.

2. Covid-19 pivoters won by aiming their product at surging demand. Will they tack in the right direction?
The second prong of the W will be companies that adapted their strategies to take advantage of the increase in demand due to the pandemic. What comes to mind here is a company that provided ultraviolet lighting for diamond retailers that enjoyed a surge in demand when it changed its ultraviolet light to kill airborne viruses and bacteria.

Advice would be for their leaders to research their current customers to gain insight into how their needs are likely to evolve and revamp their strategies as the pandemic ends.

3. Covid-19 losers like airlines and movie theaters are barely surviving. Can they ramp up when demand surges?
The third prong of the W is companies that lost 90 percent of their business during the pandemic — such as airlines, cruise ship operators, and movie theaters. While they cut back costs to survive during the pandemic, they will need to quickly add capacity and staff later in 2021 as the pandemic ends to meet what could be a surge of pent-up demand.

Once the pandemic is under control, such companies will hire back people and order supplies to handle those who return to these businesses. Make sure you’ve lined up the financing you’ll need to do that quickly.

Why the U.S. Economy Will Take Off in 2021
So, despite three major upheavals in 2020, the U.S. economy now is primed for recovery, growth, and continued adaptation to a new normal. Some industries will continue to suffer as long as the pandemic lasts—and beyond. Commercial-real-estate companies and bricks-and-mortar retailers are reinventing themselves for a new work-from-home, shop-from-home age.

But there is no society better prepared for what awaits. Startups are blossoming. There were almost 1.6 million new business applications in the third quarter of 2020, up from fewer than 860,000 a year earlier. The financial sector is solid, largely thanks to a much bigger, faster response from the Federal Reserve than during the financial crisis of 2008-09. An online economy, hardened thanks to recent surges in broadband infrastructure, kept America running through its recent dark days and will only expand. Highly effective vaccines are starting to become available, and inexpensive, rapid Covid-19 home tests should be available soon in mass as well.

When it is safe for business to resume as usual, the economy could take off. Americans have accumulated $2 trillion in new savings deposits since February, according to the Federal Reserve. That is more than 10% of gross domestic product waiting to be spent.

Vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic will now receive more attention and investment. Federal and state governments will likely shore up emergency stockpiles of beds, medicines, and personal protective equipment. They are also likely to overhaul outdated unemployment-insurance websites, which crashed during the pandemic, to be able to process a steady stream of applicants when the next recession causes a spike. And just as the Fed and financial system were better prepared for this crisis than they were for 2008, our fiscal-policy infrastructure will be better prepared for the next emergency.

We have gained valuable practice sending checks out to households, expanding, and extending unemployment insurance, using temporary flexibility in SNAP benefits (food stamps) and making forgivable loans to businesses. Policy makers are evaluating data now that will enable us to learn from our mistakes and be more effective in the future.

Meanwhile, our leap into the future of work will create new opportunities. Now that remote work is more widely accepted, many employees will no longer be tied to high-cost urban centers that previously had held a monopoly on certain kinds of jobs. They’ll be able to move to places where one can actually build houses and raise a family comfortably. And as more people vote with their feet, state and local governments will have to become more responsive, whether on taxation and housing policy, school quality or police accountability.

People will continue to save time and money formerly spent on commuting. We could start to see exciting new uses of physical space that employers no longer need. Office buildings could be converted into housing, parking garages into outdoor parks and parking lanes into bicycle paths.

Workers with disabilities or conditions that make it hard to leave the home will find new opportunities in the work-from-anywhere economy. Balancing work and parenting will be easier in a world where working from home remains an option, but schools are operating normally.

America had a rough year, but we might look back on 2020 as the start of a new, even more resilient, more inclusive, and more sustainable boom.

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? 

Here is the link to the Monday 12/21 update that contained full information on the relief package:

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 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:

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.

Advanced Business Data Research (with Shorewood Library)
January 21st at 6pm
Already familiar with Reference Solutions (formerly Reference USA)? Learn how to utilize this data even more! In this session, learn higher level search techniques, how to use the additional functionality (like the mapping, summary, and chart options), and how to combine searches within modules to get a more in-depth level of data.
Register at:

Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD)
January 28th at 9am
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
Your options:
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• Local: DBE, MBE, WBE, VBE
You will learn the details of the application process, documentation requirements, certification options, and how to market and leverage certifications for the growth of your business.
Register at:

Will County Residents Behind on Mortgage or Rent Can Access Funds
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

Finally, we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct