Chamber Members:

Today’s update shares the Governor’s announcement of regions moving back mitigation tiers as well as changes going forward on indoor dining allowances. Additionally, the SBA opens the application process further for PPP applications and an article talking about the push into the future from covid for businesses. Finally, as we had shared last night, President-elect Biden has shared his relief plans and we have a recap confirming what will be targeted. Don’t forget all of the attachments.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Governor Eases Grip on Mitigations and Announces Change for Dining
In a COVID briefing today, Pritzker also said he’s calling up the Illinois National Guard to speed distribution of vaccines, with the entire state to move to Phase 1B, calling for the inoculation of those over age 65 and some essential workers, on Jan. 25. How fast that occurs will depend on whether the state starts getting more doses more quickly when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week.

Under Pritzker’s latest order, three of the state’s regions—1 in northwest Illinois; 2, north-central Illinois; and 5, southern Illinois—will move immediately to Tier 2 remediation. That doesn’t allow indoor restaurant and bar service, but it does permit cultural institutions (such as museums) and some group fitness classes to open.

Pritzker said he believes all regions, including those in the Chicago area, will soon move to Tier 2. Our region, Region 7, was on pace to roll back to Tier 2 but a recent hospital patient increase/lack of decrease prevented the move. If all goes well, we should see the same move to Tier 2 status next week. Our region is hanging on 6 out of 10 days seeing a decrease in hospital patients, needing to have 7 days of decreases out of 10 to make the move as the other metrics have been met. You can follow at

Moving to Tier 1 will require, among other things, that a region has a seven-day average test positivity rate of less than 8 percent for three days in a row. Chicago and suburban regions in the last week have been at or slightly below 10 percent.

One of the most significant changes when metrics are met and regions move to Tier 1: indoor dining and bar service can resume. That’s a change from the previous rule. Bars and restaurants still would be limited to the lesser of 25 patrons per room or 25 percent of capacity under that tier, until positivity rates and other metrics improve further. The governor said he’s easing off because the state did not see a huge spike in cases following the year-end holidays, with the latest data showing improvement.

Pritzker said select Walgreens locations will join the state’s vaccine distribution effort on Monday to help inoculate health care workers covered under Phase 1A. Starting Jan. 25, National Guard-led sites, select Walgreens locations and some other retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Jewel-Osco, will start inoculating residents 65 and older, as well as frontline essential workers covered under Phase 1B. Residents will soon be able to schedule vaccine appointments at pharmacies using an online portal. Pritzker asks residents not to show up without an appointment.

Attached to this email are the following documents:

  • Press Release from Governor’s Office
  • Actions to Move from Mitigation Tiers 3 to 2 to 1 and back to Phase 4
  • Industry Recap of allowances under Tiers
  • Tier 2 Resurgence Mitigation 1 Pager
  • Tier 1 Resurgence Mitigation 1 Pager
  • Sports Guidance
  • IL Vaccine Administration Plan

SBA Portal Opens Further for PPP Applications
The U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, re-opened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan portal to PPP-eligible lenders with $1 billion or less in assets for First and Second Draw applications today at 9 am ET.  The portal will fully open on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 to all participating PPP lenders to submit First and Second Draw loan applications to SBA.

Earlier in the week, SBA granted dedicated PPP access to Community Financial Institutions (CFIs) which include Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), and Microloan Intermediaries as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to reach underserved and minority small businesses.

Today, SBA continued its emphasis on reaching smaller lenders and businesses by opening to approximately 5,000 more lenders, including community banks, credit unions, and farm credit institutions.  Moreover, the agency also plans to have dedicated service hours for these smaller lenders after the portal fully re-opens next week.

First Draw PPP Loans are for those borrowers who have not received a PPP loan before August 8, 2020. The first round of the PPP, which ran from March to August 2020, was a historic success helping 5.2 million small businesses keep 51 million American workers employed.
Second Draw PPP Loans are for eligible small businesses with 300 employees or less, that previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will use or have used the full amount only for authorized uses, and that can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020. The maximum amount of a Second Draw PPP loan is $2 million.

Updated PPP Lender forms, guidance, and resources are available at and

Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Plan
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled the details of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package designed to support households and businesses through the pandemic.

The proposal, called the American Rescue Plan, includes several familiar stimulus measures in the hope the additional fiscal support will sustain U.S. families and firms until the Covid-19 vaccine is widely available.

Further the plan focuses on mounting a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools, including by setting up community vaccination sites nationwide, scaling up testing and tracing, eliminating supply shortage problems, investing in high-quality treatments, providing paid sick leave to contain spread of the virus, addressing health disparities, and making the necessary investments to meet the president-elect’s goal of safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days.

Additionally, the plan would include providing direct housing and nutrition assistance, expanding access to safe and reliable childcare and affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, and giving families with kids and childless workers an emergency boost this year.

Finally, the plan would support communities that are struggling in the wake of COVID-19 by providing support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, and protecting the jobs of the first responders, transit workers, and other essential workers we depend on.

Here’s what Biden calls for:

  • Direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, bringing the total relief to $2,000, including December’s $600 payments
  • Increasing the federal, per-week unemployment benefit to $400 and extending it through the end of September
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • Extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until the end of September
  • $350 billion in state and local government aid
  • $170 billion for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education
  • $50 billion toward Covid-19 testing
  • $20 billion toward a national vaccine program in partnership with states, localities, and tribes
  • Making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for the year and increasing the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age 6)

The plan is the first of two major spending initiatives Biden will seek in the first few months of his presidency, according to senior Biden officials. The second bill, expected in February, will tackle the president-elect’s longer-term goals of creating jobs, reforming infrastructure, combating climate change, and advancing racial equity. Senior Biden officials, who have been working on the stimulus plan for weeks, also confirmed that the president-elect still supports $10,000 in student debt forgiveness.

A copy of the plan is attached to this email as a pdf.

Covid-19 Propelled Businesses Into the Future. Ready or Not
For many who crossed the digital divide last year, there will be no going back. The Covid-19 pandemic forced Americans to collectively swap the physical for the digital world in a matter of months. As retailers learn to operate without stores, business travelers without airplanes, and workers without offices, much of what started out as a temporary expedient is likely to become permanent.

“Covid has acted like a time machine: it brought 2030 to 2020,” said Loren Padelford, vice president at Shopify Inc. “All those trends, where organizations thought they had more time, got rapidly accelerated.” Merchants using the company’s e-commerce platform shot up more than 20% between January and June to 1.4 million, according to broker Robert W. Baird & Co.

The reverberations are already apparent in everything from the stock market to corporate spending patterns to the decline of physical cash. Investors in 2020 rewarded companies with digital-intensive, asset-light business models such as online used car seller Carvana Co., Airbnb Inc. and Inc. or firms that supply the infrastructure that makes those models possible—like Shopify, Zoom Video Communications Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Businesses are now spending less on office space and travel and more on cloud computing, collaboration software and logistics.

In many ways, digitization is simply the next chapter of a process under way for a century: the dematerialization of the economy. As agriculture gave way to manufacturing and then services, the share of economic value derived from tangible material and muscle shrunk while the share derived from information and brains grew. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan liked to note that economic output has steadily gotten lighter.

The great fake
The pandemic isn’t the only force at work here. The dominant driver is information technology. Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University, said one of its most important and least appreciated roles is the “great fake”: It enables “increasingly accurate lifelike representations of some kind of reality through analog or digital mimicry, what you could call virtualization.” In 1850, he said, “the only way to listen to music was physical presence at a concert or play it yourself.” Then came player piano rolls, vinyl records, CDs and now streaming, innovations that whittled the tangible contribution to music down to almost nothing.

At least a third of the value in a record, cassette or compact disc once went toward tangible capital: the manufacturers and distributors such as retail stores. Today, almost all of the value of a streamed or downloaded song goes toward intangible capital: the artist, the songwriter, the label, the publisher or the platform (such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes or Spotify Technology SA) that distributes it.

In filmed entertainment, the pandemic has kicked similar dynamics into overdrive. Warner Bros.’ decision to release all its movies in 2021 simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service (owned, like Warner, by AT&T Inc.) and in theaters signals the physical component of the movie experience will be permanently smaller. In many boardrooms, companies converted to remote work using virtual meeting tools like Zoom—a shift that Mr. Mokyr called technology’s greatest “fake” ever because it seeks to recreate in virtual form the physical relations between bosses, employees, and customers.

One historical obstacle to internet retail adoption was that some advantages of the in-person shopping experience couldn’t be recreated. Amazon started with books because unlike a garment or an appliance, you don’t need to touch James Patterson’s latest bestseller to decide whether to buy it.

Consumer resistance to buying online has since steadily receded and the pandemic further softened it, in part because retailers have gotten better at mimicking the in-person experience.

The shift from physical to virtual commerce went hand-in-hand with the rise of remote and contactless payments and the decline of cash. The virus prompted some bastions of cash such as casinos to introduce more cashless technology. The virus-driven shift to online naturally increased remote payments. For example, the “card not present” share of total credit card spending rose from about 40% in February to more than 50% in early December, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The network effect
The surge in the number of consumers, merchants and brands online creates what Mr. Sebastian calls a “network effect.” The more users there are, the more compelling it is for others to follow. “It would be surprising if we didn’t see the majority of that shift sustained beyond the pandemic,” he says.

That isn’t the only network effect. Another comes from the innovations merchants and technology suppliers have rushed to roll out; thanks to them, the online experience got better on an almost daily basis since the pandemic began. For example, early in the pandemic Ms. Flynn’s jewelry shop added an app to its web site from Podium Corp. that lets customers place orders and receive invoices via text message.

Digitization doesn’t obviate the need for physical assets. Amazon’s U.S. capital spending in 2019 was more than any other company, according to the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank. Rather, it changes the sort needed. Online stores invest primarily in technology and logistics such as fulfillment centers and delivery vehicles, not stores, offices or machinery. Whereas retail stores are designed around customers who may browse multiple aisles in search of a few items, fulfillment centers are designed around employees handling items nonstop. They thus use labor and space more efficiently. Amazon’s sales per employee are 50% higher than Walmart Inc.’s.

Once a vaccine is widely administered and fear of the virus fades, some of this will reverse. The rapid return to restaurants every time restrictions have been lifted attests to the desire for physical presence, as does the yearning among many employees for brainstorming and gossip around the office coffee maker.

Mr. Mokyr cautioned dematerialization can’t continue indefinitely: “Diminishing returns works here as well. We can mimic reality, but we are not digital creatures ourselves, and…, our evolutionary background will continue to demand physical experiences.”

But perhaps not as much as before. After the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a predicted shift to videoconferencing and telecommuting didn’t materialize because the necessary technology was clunky and expensive. By contrast, the pandemic arrived when many workers already had high speed internet and a device with a camera and video conferencing software.

Before the pandemic, roughly 5% of work days were spent at home, according to surveys of 15,000 Americans conducted by academics Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis. That had climbed to 50% in November, they reported in a paper for the Becker Friedman Institute, an economic research organization at the University of Chicago. Once the pandemic is over, respondents still expect to spend 22% of their work days at home.

The authors attribute the stickiness of remote work to, among other things, the investment employees and employers have made in the necessary equipment, and residual fears of physical proximity due to the pandemic. To this they add the network effect: “When several firms are operating partially from home, it lowers the cost for other firms and workers to do the same.” They also credit innovations such as collaboration software that enhance the experience. A different paper co-authored by Mr. Bloom, Mr. Davis and Yulia Zhestkova found that 1% of patents filed early in the pandemic related to working from home, nearly double the pre-pandemic share.

The accelerator
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., in Columbus, Ohio, illustrates the shift. Shortly after the pandemic hit, Nationwide had 98% of its 28,000 employees working from home. The initial impetus was safety, but chief executive Kirt Walker said it accelerated pre-existing plans to rely on virtual operations. Before the pandemic roughly 15% of employees worked from home and the company now plans for half to eventually do so permanently.

Mr. Walker used to hold town halls with employees in the auditorium at the company’s Columbus headquarters, which can hold up to 350. Now, he has regular companywide broadcasts attended by thousands of employees. They submit questions and vote on which Mr. Walker should answer using Slido, a live-polling application startup just bought by Cisco Systems Inc.

“We looked at major occurrences in the U.S.: the Great Depression, recessions, world wars, and what we found is that American reacted in two different ways,” Mr. Walker said. “First, they were forced to try new things and in many ways. Those new things became habits. Two, people became more value-conscious.”

Nationwide is closing 17 offices across the country, keeping four main campuses, reducing its real estate needs by roughly 1.1 million square feet and saving about $100 million, which it says will be used to reduce policyholders’ premiums.

Some companies, Mr. Walker said, wrote off 2020 as a lost year. “For us it was an accelerator and got us closer to some long-term objectives.”

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
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 announced soon for the first virtual programming in the new year and don’t forget about the Annual Awards taking place next Friday, January 22. You can sign up at to see the big announcements.

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