Chamber Members:

Busy day today as impeachment vote takes place, state Senators and Representatives are sworn in and then the new general assembly begins with the first item of business in the House being the election of speaker.

Also, we share below the policy items for 2021 from the U.S. Chamber, President-elect Biden’s plan on student debt relief, and a reminder about the FFCRA extension. Stay tuned for more information on the PPP application process as details emerge.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Impeachment Update
For the first time in the country’s 244-year history, the president will be impeached for a second time. Wednesday’s historic 232-197 vote was supported by all Democrats, as well as 10 Republicans, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking GOP leader in the House.

Speaker Pelosi will now determine how quickly to send the impeachment article to the Senate for a trial. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has rejected Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s plea to agree to bring senators back for an emergency session and start the trial before Jan. 20 when Trump leaves office and President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

President Trump has hinted at possibly running for president again in 2024, but his political future was uncertain. In addition to the political damage he’s sustained, Trump could be legally barred from holding federal office again if found guilty. He also faces potential criminal and civil legal jeopardy for encouraging supporters before the Jan. 6 riot.

Illinois House Speaker Selected
Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, has secured the votes to succeed Mike Madigan as speaker of the Illinois House. On a fourth vote of caucusing House Democrats just before noon, Welch got the support of 69 reps – 60 were needed – after his only remaining foe, downstate Rep. Jay Hoffman, dropped out of the race.

The official vote occurred after the swearing in of the new General Assembly and the House voted 70-44 in favor of Welch, with 44 votes going to House GOP Leader Jim Durkin. Another Democratic candidate, downstate Rep. Jay Hoffman, dropped out of the race.

Welch becomes Illinois’ first Black speaker. He is a 40-year-old attorney and has close ties to Madigan. He served as chair of the ComEd probe committee as well as heading the powerful House Executive Committee. You can expect to hear lots of talk in coming days about whether Madigan quietly maneuvered behind the scenes to help his lieutenant, but Welch also picked up backing from the Black and Latinx caucuses, putting him most of the way toward winning the speakership.

Before the full House vote, the Illinois Republican Party was ripping the choice, terming Welch “a loyal Madigan ally” who recently served as “Madigan’s human shield in legislative hearings investigation the sweeping (Commonwealth Edison) corruption scandal that ultimately brought Madigan down.”

The departing speaker said in a statement: “It is time for new leadership in the House. I wish all the best for Speaker-elect Welch as he begins a historic speakership. It is my sincere hope today that the caucus I leave to him and to all who will serve alongside him is stronger than when I began. And as I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built—full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color and members representing all parts of our state—I am confident Illinois remains in good hands.”

Time will tell if the change of leadership will lead to changes in coalitions, objectives, and a new leadership team. One of the items to keep a close watch on is how the political process and structural changes occur under the new speaker. The assumption is in the beginning, we will not start with a blank slate because wholesale changes likely won’t happen immediately. However, with that said now is certainly the time to engage aggressively so that the business voice is heard. Watch for more information to follow in the coming weeks regarding initiatives to be pushed within the new session.

2021 U. S. Chamber of Commerce Focus: Economic Recovery
While the topline numbers of the economic recovery are impressive and underscore of the American business community’s overall resilience, beneath the headlines is an uneven, K-shaped, recovery. Some businesses and sectors have not only recovered from the pandemic’s impact, they are outperforming their pre-COVID baseline. Other businesses and sectors continue to struggle. Business closures and unemployment are heavily concentrated in just a few sectors. It is critical that public policy continues to support the hard-hit sectors until the vaccine’s wide-spread availability allows the economy to fully reopen.

We also know that the post-COVID economy will be different in many ways. The U.S. Chamber’s 2021 agenda includes several priorities focused on positioning the economy for the strongest possible recovery. Our agenda includes the following:

  • A robust, broad-based infrastructure package to not only support the economy today and place the U.S. on a higher growth trajectory.
  • Expansion of skilling and reskilling opportunities to help those who are out of work acquire the new jobs that are being created now and in the future.
  • Immigration reform to ensure that innovators create jobs here and to help our nation meet its workforce needs.
  • Updated rules of the road for the increasingly digital economy and the new ways millions of Americans choose to work.
  • Creation of new opportunities for American companies to sell to the 95% of consumers that live outside our borders.

It has not been frequently reported, but something remarkable has happened amid the pandemic: New business formation is booming—up nearly 50%. These new businesses will help fuel our economic recovery. Still, many of these entrepreneurs and innovators won’t see their businesses reach full potential if they face an onslaught of new government regulations. The Chamber will continue to fight on Capitol Hill, through the rulemaking process, and in the courts if necessary, to prevent regulatory overreach.

Attached to this email and/or by clicking here, you can access the full policy booklet covering the following topics:

  • TAX

U.S. Chamber Economic Analysis Underscores Uneven Recovery
Thirty-seven business leaders, ranging from healthcare to finance and energy to entertainment, shared where their industries are on the K-shaped recovery. Of the 37 responses, 19 (51%) say they are doing slightly or much worse than pre-pandemic, 15 (41%) slightly or much better, and three (8%) the same.

“Ten months after COVID-19 caused an unprecedented disruption in economic activity, some industries have fully recovered while others are in the equivalent of a depression,” said Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The full reopening of the economy that widespread vaccinations will make possible offers a light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be dealing with the fallout from the pandemic for years to come. As we rally for recovery, it is critical that policymakers pursue pro-growth policies that can help business, families, and communities fully recover.”

These findings will be explored during the Chamber’s annual State of American Business program. Join us on Tuesday, January 12, as thousands of business leaders from across the country and around the world convene to explore the most important challenges and opportunities on the horizon in 2021. Register here.

Industries report the following:

  • Airports: At least $23 billion loss expected from March 2020 to March 2021 for the U.S. airport industry.
  • Construction: Although residential and infrastructure construction were strong in 2020, data indicates that construction spending for office, industrial, warehouse and retail buildings was down 29.8% from 2019.
  • Energy: After the initial COVID-19 shock, total U.S. petroleum demand returned to 19.1 million barrels per day and the five-year range by November 2020.
  • Finance: During the second quarter, credit union deposits grew 15 times faster than they did during the same period one year prior.
  • Food Retail: Consumer spending was up 25% from February to March. Most food retailers (61%) said strong demand had positive impacts on their businesses even if the new dynamics stretched their capabilities like never before.
  • Gaming: The closure of all 989 U.S. casino properties impacted more than one million American gaming and small business employees and caused a total economic loss of $43.5 billion.
  • Hospitality: 63% of hotels have less than half of their typical pre-crisis staff working full-time today.
  • Housing: Projections show up to $70 billion in rental debt by the end of 2020.

Small businesses, which span all industries and regions, report a similar split and K-shaped recovery. According to the most recent MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, 48% of small businesses say their businesses’ health is average or poor and 50% of small businesses say their business is in good overall health. However, 80% or more of small business are concerned about the virus’s impact on America’s economy.

Student Debt Relief Plan
President-elect Joe Biden will ask Congress to immediately cancel $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers and to extend the payment pause that’s scheduled to lapse this month, an aide told reporters.

The $900 billion pandemic aid package passed in December didn’t include an extension of the payment pause for student loan borrowers that has been in effect since March and expires at the end of the month, concerning advocates who say the financial pain wrought by the pandemic has left many borrowers unable to make their payments.

In a recent Pew survey, 6 in 10 borrowers said it would be difficult for them to start paying their student loan bills again in the coming month. The vast majority — or around 90% — of federal student loan borrowers have taken advantage of the government’s option to pause their payments during the pandemic, data shows.

It remains unknown for how long the payment pause will be extended by Biden. The president-elect’s commitment to forgiving $10,000 in student debt falls in line with his promises on the campaign, although he’s facing mounting pressure to cancel more of the debt and to bypass Congress to do so.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling on Biden to forgive $50,000 per borrower on the first day of his presidency. “All you need is the flick of a pen,” Schumer said in December. “You don’t need Congress.” Not everyone agrees. Experts say Biden would likely run into court challenges if he moved to cancel the debt on his own.

Not all Democrats may be on board for student debt forgiveness and even if they were, procedural rules in the Senate generally require legislation to garner 60 votes. It will be hard to get nine Republicans in support of a debt jubilee.

Still, there may be a way around those rules. A once-a-year legislative process called budget reconciliation will allow Democrats to pass bills with their simple majority. That’s how Democrats pushed through the final version of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. It’s also how Republicans passed their massive tax cuts in 2017.

But there are limits to this method, said Ryan D. Doerfler, a law professor at the University of Chicago. “Democrats can only make use of reconciliation procedures three times over the next two years,” he said. Because this process can only be used once a year, there’s usually a lot of competition over what to include, and that will be particularly true during the pandemic.

Reconciliation legislation also must be related to budget changes, and senators can try to block any provisions they argue are not. Given all the uncertainty of trying to pass legislation to forgive student debt, advocates and Democrats continue to call on Biden to cancel the loans administratively, saying borrowers can’t afford to wait for the relief.

General Assembly approves criminal justice overhaul
The Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday approved a sweeping overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system that would end cash bail and eventually require every police officer in the state to be equipped with a body camera.

The measure was approved just before 5 a.m. in the Senate, and the House voted in favor with less than an hour to go before the scheduled noon inauguration of the new General Assembly.
The legislation, one component of the Legislative Black Caucus’ wide-ranging social justice agenda, must still be signed by Governor Pritzker before becoming law.

The bill was the focus of strong opposition from law enforcement groups and labor unions in the opening days of the legislature’s five-day lame-duck session. The final package approved by the Senate eliminated some of the more controversial measures, including a provision removing protections for police officers in lawsuits alleging civil rights violations, and one that would withhold state funds from municipalities that fail to comply with body camera requirements.
The package incorporates a proposal from Attorney General Kwame Raoul that would create a more robust system for decertifying officers who engage in misconduct.

The changes weren’t enough to satisfy opponents in law enforcement. “In the dark of night Illinois legislators made Illinois less safe,” the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition said in a statement.

Senate Republicans were unified in opposition, among other things raising objections to receiving a new version of the bill that ran more than 700 pages about an hour before it came to the floor for debate. GOP Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington argued that prohibiting the use of cash bail could lead to situations where individuals commit crimes while awaiting trial.

Congress Extends FFCRA Tax Credit into 2021, Declines to Extend FFCRA Leave
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which requires that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide sick and family leave benefits for certain COVID-19 related reasons, sunsetted on December 31, 2020. Many believed that the FFCRA’s sick and family leave provisions would be extended into 2021 as part of the pandemic relief package that was signed by the President on December 27. However, these provisions were ultimately not extended, meaning that employers will not be required to provide paid leave under the FFCRA after December 31, 2020.

Despite that the FFCRA’s leave provisions were not extended into 2021, the relief package extends the FFCRA tax credit, which reimburses employers for the cost of providing FFCRA leave, through March 31, 2021. As a result, beginning on January 1, 2021, employers are no longer required to provide FFCRA leave; however, covered employers who voluntarily offer such leave may utilize payroll tax credits to cover the cost of benefits paid to employees through the end of March. The relief package does not change the qualifying reasons for which employees may take leave, the caps on the amount of pay employees are entitled to receive, or the FFCRA’s documentation requirements.

The law also does not change the amount of leave that employees are entitled to take under the FFCRA. Under the FFCRA, full time employees are entitled to a one-time allotment of 80 hours of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave. Therefore, an employer is not entitled to a second tax credit for an employee taking leave in 2021, when that employee already took leave in 2020. However, if an employer allows an employee to take a second period of expanded FMLA leave because the employer’s calendar year has reset – for example, because the employer uses the “calendar year” under its FMLA policy – the employer may be able to claim a tax credit for the second round of expanded FMLA benefits paid to the employee in 2021.

Updated PPP Loan Applications
First draw app:

Second draw app:

Program Notices & Reminders
SBA Page Links for Direction and Questions on PPP

1st draw info:

2nd draw info:

SBDC at JJC Update
Starting Your Business in Illinois  January 14th at 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.

Introduction to Researching Competitive Businesses (with Shorewood Library)  January 14th at 6pm

  • Doing some research for your Business? Trying to find out information about local consumers and competitors? Join us for an introduction to Reference Solutions (formerly Reference USA). Learn how data is compiled, how to run searches for business and consumer data, how to focus searches for best results, and how to export data.

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.

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
    • State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
    • 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.

Finally, look for more information to be shared on issues regarding businesses and covid related items such as unemployment insurance rate impact, workers’ comp premium relief, state rules on limited liability, business loss coverage, and tiers & phases. 

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