Chamber Members:

Halfway through the week and tough to think we’re just about done with one month in 2021 already. Today’s update will look at a new IHSA sports announcement, Illinois General Assembly delay, state finance report, the usual vaccine news, and some tips to free your time. Also, check out the link at the bottom for a very important survey.

As a reminder, here is the information for our first Legislative Coffee session in 2021 presented by CITGO this Friday afternoon at 1 pm.

Government Affairs Coffee Series with Senators Cappel & Connor
Join the Joliet Chamber and its Legislative Committee for an introduction to newly elected Illinois State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel and State Senator John Connor. We will hear about their backgrounds, views on the recent lame duck session, and thoughts moving forward about issues in the new session & the restore Illinois phases / tiers.

Friday, January 29th, 2021
1:00 p.m.

GoToMeeting Webinar Session
Please check your registration confirmation email for webinar log-in information.
No fee to participate; however, registration is required to attend.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

High School Sports to Begin in Specific Regions
The Illinois High School Association released an updated sports schedule for the remainder of the school year following a board meeting Wednesday, and boys and girls basketball are to begin “ASAP,” according to the IHSA’s news release.

However, not all regions of the state have reached phase four in the state’s Restore Illinois plan, and that is required for basketball, a winter sport categorized as high risk. Basketball teams in regions currently in tier one — one step short of phase four — only can practice and hold intra-team scrimmages.

Suburban Cook County, Chicago, Will and Kankakee counties, DuPage and Kane counties, and Lake County are at tier one. Five other regions — Northwest, West Central, Southwest, Southern and East Central — are in phase four and can play immediately after completing seven days of practice.

“We still have regions of the state that need to make strides in order be able to play basketball this winter,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. “That underscores the importance of our schools following all the mitigations and precautions. We need to maintain a positive trajectory not only to get winter sports going, but to make sure we do not have any regions regress before spring and summer sports have their opportunity. We can all do our part by wearing a mask and socially distancing.”

The board will consider other opportunities for basketball, as well as other sports, if it can’t be played in a specific region. Ultimately, decisions to play will be made by school districts.

“We have said from day one that if and when we were allowed to play again this year, the situation would be fluid,” Anderson said. “We don’t feel great about the notion of some schools falling behind based on their Region’s status, but also recognize that we are running out of time and can’t afford to hold back the Regions that can play.”

The IHSA requires all student-athletes to participate in masks except swimmers, gymnasts on an apparatus and those in outdoor sports with sufficient social distancing.

Low-risk winter sports — such as boys swimming, boys and girls bowling, badminton and girls gymnastics — were allowed to start practicing throughout the state this week and can compete after seven days of practice. That practice requirement is the same for basketball.

As with basketball, there will be no state series in boys swimming, boys and girls bowling, and girls gymnastics. Badminton’s postseason status remains undetermined. Winter sports, with the exception of badminton, must end by March 13.

Football, categorized as a high-risk spring sport, is scheduled to begin with practices March 3, followed by games March 19. Boys soccer, a medium-risk spring sport, can start practicing March 1 and start playing after seven practices. Girls volleyball, another medium-risk spring sport, can start practicing March 8 and start playing after seven practices. None of those sports will have a state series.

Postseason status has not been determined for boys gymnastics and boys and girls water polo, which can begin practicing March 15.

“We understood the high level of anticipation surrounding today’s announcement, along with the scrutiny that will accompany it,” Anderson said. “Ultimately, the Board adhered to its stated goals throughout the pandemic: providing an opportunity for every IHSA student-athlete to compete safely this year and maximizing opportunities for traditional IHSA spring sports after they lost their entire season a year ago.”

All summer sports, with the exception of wrestling, can start practicing April 5. Those include baseball, softball, girls soccer, boys and girls track, boys volleyball, and boys tennis, among others. Those sports were canceled last spring. Wrestling can start April 19.

“The Board wants to do everything in their power to prevent spring sports from going two consecutive years with no postseason IHSA play,” Anderson said. “There are obviously no guarantees, as risk levels by sport and local region mitigation statuses will factor significantly. Postseason could mean being limited to a Regional or Sectional level of competition, but we have not ruled out the idea of playing a full state tournament in these traditional spring sports if possible. The overwhelming feedback we have heard from athletic directors and coaches was that returning to play in all sports should be the main goal.”

The winter season originally was scheduled to run from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, followed by the spring season Feb. 15 to May 1 and the summer season from April 19 to June 26.

COVID Hasn’t Hurt State Finance as Much as Expected
Illinois’ woozy fiscal condition hasn’t been hurt by COVID-19 as badly as expected, but “tremendous uncertainties” remain from the pandemic, on top of the state’s long-term financial woes.

That’s the bottom line of a new report from the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government & Public Affairs that offers a bit of mid-pandemic news, but only a bit.

The core conclusion of the report (read it here: ) is that, as other state agencies have begun to find and report themselves, the state’s operating account (general funds) bounced back pretty quickly after stay-at-home orders were lifted and federal stimulus payments kicked in.

“For example, by the end of the second quarter, spending on apparel and accessories rose from a low of a nearly 100 percent annual fall in expenditures to between 25 percent and 30 percent below 2019 levels,” the report says. “And restaurants bounced back to only 15 percent to 20 percent below 2019’s spending rate,” the report said.

That means that while at one point estimates were that state tax receipts could plummet as much as $4.8 billion, General Funds revenues were off just $868 million, or about 2 percent, up to November, the report says. “That is good news from a budgetary perspective. . . .Illinoisans can meet the small net loss in revenue . . . with relief.”

Still, higher-income families in the state generally have been able to deal with COVID financial issues far better than lower middle-class people, many of them working in stores and restaurants that even now are doing less business than they did, the report concludes. And above and beyond uncertainty as to when and if COVID finally will fade away, the state has a structural budget deficit and will have to do without revenue from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s defeated graduated-income tax plan.

Lawmakers Delay Return to Springfield
Despite creating a robust legislative calendar, the General Assembly will not be returning to Springfield until Feb. 9, with plans beyond that week uncertain.

Lawmakers and staff members are still trying to sort out plans for gathering at the state Capitol for session in a way that prioritizes the health of everyone involved and allows lawmakers to do their jobs.

Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, sent a joint letter on Jan. 21 canceling the Senate session from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 and committed to returning on Feb. 9.

“Legislating in the midst of a global pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, and we are diligently working together to overcome each one. Our goal is to conduct a Spring Session that is as normal as possible while ensuring the safety of legislators, staff, and the public,” the letter read.

The House will also be delayed after spending the lame duck session at the Bank of Springfield Center. Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Chris Welch, D-Hillside, told The State Journal-Register on Wednesday the House would not meet again until Feb. 10. House members were scheduled to be back next week and work Feb. 9 through Feb. 11. Plans beyond Feb. 10 are also uncertain. “Future House session days will be announced as scheduled,” Brown said.

After Feb. 9, the Senate will begin committee work remotely, as is allowed by its rules. However, the House rules currently do not allow for remote legislating. The Feb. 10 session will likely address this when members debate making other changes to the rules under a new speaker. A bill that would have allowed lawmakers to vote remotely failed to pass both houses during the lame-duck session.

The first order of business for the House is still expected to be discussion of its rules. Republicans in particular are hoping to see changes that allow for a fairer legislative process that gives Republicans a chance to have their bills voted on and changes rules from the Madigan era. Other matters surrounding the pandemic and state’s budget will be the legislature’s main focus this spring. The state’s problems with unemployment assistance, relief to businesses, and revenue losses will dominate debate.

Tracking COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution by State
Click here ( ) to see the map compiled by the USA Today based on CDC data to see where Illinois stacks up against our neighbors and country wide.

About 6.2% of people in the US have received at least one COVID-19 shot. About 1.1% of people have received both doses of the vaccine. About 47.8% of the shots distributed haven’t been used yet. In Illinois, 48% of delivered shots have been administered, 4.8% have received one shot, and 1.2% have received both shots. Illinois is in the bottom 10% of states with population percent vaccinated (one dose or more).

Vaccines Alone Will Not End the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic in the United States has raged almost uncontrollably for so long that even if millions of people are vaccinated, millions more will still be infected and become ill unless people continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing measures until midsummer or later, according to a new model by scientists at Columbia University.

The arrival of highly effective vaccines in December lifted hopes that they would eventually slow or stop the spread of the disease through the rest of the population. But vaccines alone are not enough, the model shows. And if precautions like working remotely, limiting travel, and wearing masks are relaxed too soon, it could mean millions more infections and thousands more deaths.

There is no doubt that getting vaccinated protects the recipient. Still, several infectious-disease researchers contacted by The New York Times cautioned that it would be months before enough people in the United States will have gotten the shots to allow for normal life to begin again.

Only then will the number of people with immunity — those who have had the disease and recovered, plus those who have been vaccinated — be large enough to take the wind out of the pandemic, said Jeffrey Shaman, a public health researcher at Columbia who shared his team’s modeling calculations.

Shaman estimates that more than 105 million people have already been infected across the U.S., well above the number of cases that have been reported. And his projections show millions more infections are yet to come as the vaccine rolls out. Social distancing, masking and other measures should remain in place until late July, “and that may be optimistic,” Shaman said. Otherwise, yet another resurgence of the virus is possible.

The coming months are critical in the race to reduce new infections and deaths, since there will ultimately be fewer people for the virus to infect as the pandemic drags on. Lifting restrictions in early February, after most health care workers and nursing home residents are set to be vaccinated, would still mean far more infections in the long run than keeping restrictions in place until mid-March, for example.

Even with current precautions, some areas of the country have let the pandemic rage so uncontrollably that it is too late for the vaccine to have a major effect, Shaman said. His group estimates that 60% of the population in North Dakota has already been infected. Vaccines will help, but the pandemic will mostly burn out on its own, as fewer and fewer people are available to infect, he said.

On the other hand, in Vermont, with roughly a 10% infection rate, the vaccine could protect nearly the entire population if it is deployed quickly enough, Shaman said. California is teetering somewhere in between as new outbreaks take place.

The model takes into account factors like the speed and order of vaccine distribution, the effectiveness of the vaccine after one and two doses, current social distancing measures and the transmissibility of the virus. It assumes that groups like health care workers and older adults will be prioritized according to CDC guidelines, and vaccination will continue at a pace ramping up to 5 million doses per week.

The group considered scenarios in which current social distancing measures were relaxed earlier or later in the vaccine rollout, and what might happen if they were strengthened. The research was financed by Pfizer, one of the vaccine-makers, as well as the National Science Foundation and the Morris-Singer Foundation.

Of the scenarios the researchers examined, those in which restrictions were strengthened and then kept in place until much of the population could receive the vaccine resulted in some of the fewest total infections.

Other researchers said they agreed with Shaman’s broad conclusions, although the model involves a number of approximations, and it has not yet been published or subjected to formal review.

10 Things You Can Outsource to Free Up Time
The number of self-employed workers in the U.S. has steadily grown in recent years, with as many as 44 million Americans falling into this category in 2019. Many of those self-employed workers run small businesses — a daunting task for a single person. However, many day-to-day tasks that used to cause headaches for business owners can now be outsourced by hiring other self-employed people or using technology.

Here are 10 things your small business can outsource to free up more time.

When it comes to scheduling appointments and calls, the back-and-forth can take more time than it’s worth. Thankfully, several apps have been launched in the past few years that can help you streamline and track appointments. These applications, including Calendly and X.AI, can integrate with your calendar and send available time slots to people with whom you’re working. Best of all, it can help reschedule appointments if one party needs to cancel.

Bookkeeping and tax preparation
Most small business owners are not experts in accounting, bookkeeping and tax preparation. While bookkeeping has become significantly easier with software like FreshBooks, Intuit QuickBooks and Xero, it can still take quite a bit of time to do things like tracking finances and reconciling expenses. This is where it may help to outsource your general accounting needs with services such as Upwork and Bookminders.

When it comes to writing copy for your business’ website, blog posts, sales materials, or case studies, not every business owner has the time or creative juices to tackle this. However, copywriting remains a popular craft for small businesses to outsource. Online sites such as Contently, Freelancer and Scripted can all help you hire writers that can make your copy pop.

Graphic design
There’s no doubt that graphic design can be an incredibly challenging task for the average business owner. Whether it’s designing a logo, website, mobile app, advertisements, clothing or email templates, freelancers and agencies can be hired to get your designs quickly put together. Websites such as 99designs and Fiverr make it easy to connect with designers of all specialties from all over the world.

In-person shopping
While online shopping has drastically reduced how much time business owners need to spend out buying essentials, there are still some situations where in-person shopping is required. Thankfully, providers such as Instacart, Postmates and Shipt can send someone local to a nearby store to buy groceries, electronics, office supplies or just about anything.

IT management
Small business owners, especially those who are running things solo, should seriously consider outsourcing information technology services given how complex some IT needs are. Services such as website and database management, software and hardware support and data analysis are often best left to those with particular skills. Business owners can look in their local markets for IT providers or use sites like Upwork and Guru to find freelancers.

Personal styling
While “figuring out what to wear” might not top the list of pressing tasks for business owners, it’s undoubtedly an essential part of presenting yourself — especially for in-person and online sales meetings. Hiring a personal stylist can help you come up with better outfits and save you time on finding appropriate and affordable clothes to buy. Online services such as Stitch Fix and Nordstrom Trunk Club can provide personalized recommendations and send clothes to you directly in order to reduce how much time you spend on shopping.

The simple act of answering a phone call can be incredibly disruptive when you’re trying to focus. With this in mind, solo business owners could consider hiring a virtual receptionist to take calls and flag important issues or opportunities. Web services, including My Receptionist and Ruby, can assign virtual receptionists that can answer your calls 24 hours a day to make sure your customers and prospects are best served.

Social media marketing
While social media remains a vital way to connect with current and potential customers, the amount of time needed to create content and engage with online communities can be prohibitively high. Given this, it may be worth hiring a freelance social media manager or agency to write and manage all of your social posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter. Services such as Upwork and Guru can let you hire social media marketers and managers at hourly rates.

Virtual assistant
Finally, one of the top things every solo business owner should consider is a virtual assistant for outsourcing tasks unrelated to managing your business. A virtual assistant can help you manage your calendar more efficiently and help you coordinate and track your projects with other freelancers. Services such as Assistant Match, Time Etc and Zirtual can connect you with potential virtual assistants.

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

1st draw info:
First draw app:

2nd draw info:
Second draw app:

Am I ready to apply for the PPP Second Draw Loan? This webinar will discuss how to apply for the PPP Second Draw loan and the PPP forgiveness process. This event will also cover eligible use of loan proceeds and best practices to follow for PPP recipients. Thursday, Jan. 28, 11 a.m.

SBDC at JJC Update
PPP Seminar
January 29th at 11am
Carole Harris, Lead Economic Development Specialist for the Small Business Administration will update our clients and local companies about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other programs that support our local businesses in 2021.  Local bankers will also participate and share everything you’ll need to prepare.
Register at: PPP Seminar with the SBA (

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business (with Mary Wu)
February 3rd and 2pm
Facebook is a powerful tool to connect with and communicate with your current clients and your prospective clients. In this workshop, we’ll cover some of the top tips you need to have a solid Facebook business presence. Mary Wu is a Social Media Consultant and Educator, she understands current trends in social media, and will help you determine the best ways to make use of your “social media real estate”

Quick Books (with Annette Szobar)
February 10th 2pm
Learn why keeping track of your finances is important, what information can you get from QuickBooks, and which version should you get!  Join independent entrepreneur and small business expert Annette Szobar who will help you solve your QuickBooks problems.

SEO (with Jason McCoy)
February 17 at 2pm
More consumers are doing research and shopping online than ever before due to circumstance, convenience, and cost. Businesses that wish to remain relevant and profitable need to adapt to the shift in consumer behavior. Creating optimized content for your website that will deliver interested consumers is critical now more than ever. Crafting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan is imperative and second only to building a website in ‘getting your business online’.

Starting Your Business in Illinois
February 23rd at 11am
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.
Starting Your Business in Illinois Webinar (

Finally, we would like to ask that you take a few minutes to fill out a new survey that we’ve put together. This member survey is intended to gather feedback on the continuing issues, opportunities, and perceptions based around covid, the economy, and your business.

As we move forward during the pandemic and shifting political landscapes, please share your feedback so that we can best serve our membership.

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