Today being Thursday, the usual jobs report is shared below. There are several additional items such as the most recent vaccine news, economy notes, stimulus money, and another postponement in Springfield.
As a reminder, here is the information for our first Legislative Coffee session in 2021 presented by CITGO tomorrow 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
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
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell but remained at a historically high 847,000 last week, a sign that layoffs keep coming as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage. Last week’s claims dropped by 67,000, from 914,000 the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Tempering last week’s bigger-than-expected drop in claims: The four-week moving average — which smooths out week to week gyrations — rose by more than 16,000 last week to 868,000, highest since September.
Overall, nearly 4.8 million Americans received traditional state unemployment benefits the week of Jan. 16. That is down from nearly 5 million the week before and far below a staggering peak of nearly 25 million in May when the virus brought economic activity to a near halt. The drop suggests that some of the unemployed are finding new jobs and that others have exhausted state benefits.
Altogether, 18.3 million people were receiving some type of unemployment benefit the week that ended Jan. 9, the latest period for which data is available.
Illinois to Receive Cash Infusion for Vaccine Effort from Federal Government
The state is getting an additional $43 million from the federal government to support its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said today. The money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to come a couple weeks after the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced that Illinois and the city of Chicago—which is responsible for its own pandemic response—would get $114.5 million to support vaccine distribution.
In addition to the federal government’s promise of 16 percent more doses for Illinois, Pritzker said Pfizer is sending special syringes to all providers so they can extract the extra sixth dose that was unexpectedly included in vials from the manufacturer.
Illinois’ vaccine rollout is expected to accelerate with the arrival of new money, more doses and mass vaccination sites launching across the state. “In alignment with President Biden’s plan to respond to COVID-19, FEMA is supporting vaccination sites by providing expedited financial assistance, federal equipment and supplies and deploying federal personnel to states, tribes, territories and other eligible applicants for vaccination efforts,” FEMA said in a press release.
Pritzker, CVS/Walgreens Point Fingers Over Long-Term Care Facility Vaccine Program
Like other governors nationwide, Gov. JB Pritzker has recently taken to criticizing a slower-than-anticipated COVID-19 vaccination effort at Illinois’ long-term care facilities by pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens. The companies last fall entered into a federal partnership under the Trump administration aimed at administering vaccines to long-term care facilities beginning in late December. But last week and this week, Pritzker joined a chorus of governors bemoaning both the program’s slowness and alleging it has trapped viable vaccine doses in the process.
“That program has gone exceedingly slow,” Pritzker said Monday. “All the vaccinations that are necessary for that entire group have been taken out already of our allotment and they sit on shelves because that federal pharmacy partnership is so slow at the job.” The governor made similar comments on Friday, saying he was “very troubled” by the program’s slow pace, and admonished the companies to “accelerate the pace of vaccines to our most vulnerable residents.”
But CVS is pushing back on Pritzker’s comments, claiming it was the state that made the choice to not “activate” the vaccination programs in half of its long-term care facilities until Monday of this week, thus slowing its own program.
Long-term care facilities are split into two broad categories: skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. The CVS/Walgreens vaccination program began at Illinois skilled nursing facilities on Dec. 28, along with most other states. But only Illinois, Wisconsin and the city of Philadelphia had “activation” dates for the vaccination program in its assisted living facilities on Jan. 25 — the latest in the nation.
According to CVS and Walgreens data, 17 other states, the District of Columbia and the city of Chicago had activation dates for their assisted living facilities concurrent with their activation dates in late December. Other states staggered their activation dates for assisted living facilities through January. But the Pritzker administration and CVS disagree on which entity set that late activation date.
“As made clear by regularly updated data CVS Health makes publicly available, most states chose activation dates for assisted living and other facilities – meaning, when CVS Pharmacy teams could first visit – well into January,” CVS said in a defensive press release Tuesday.
Walgreens and CVS’ daily spreadsheets also stipulate the activation dates were chosen by states in plans submitted to the Centers for Disease Control before the program began.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh maintained the pharmacies were in charge of the scheduling, and an Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune last week also said it was Walgreens and CVS who set the timing. “If they could have made it through the (skilled nursing facilities) sooner, they could begin vaccination clinics at other (long-term care) facilities sooner,” the spokeswoman is quoted as saying.
Both vaccines currently on the market require two doses three or four weeks apart. In order to achieve full vaccination status in nursing homes, the pharmacies must travel to long-term care facilities three separate times in order to make sure all residents and staff get the chance to receive both the initial and booster shots.
CVS and Walgreens have already made it through their first round of vaccinations in all Illinois skilled nursing facilities. According to CVS data, 49% of the nursing homes CVS has partnered with in Illinois have also received their second dose visits, which is about average among states, whose second visit status ranges widely. Walgreens does not give a percentage for skilled nursing facilities, but says that out of the 269 nursing homes they’re partnered with, they have 102 additional clinics scheduled for the next seven days.
Despite the Jan. 25 official activation date, Walgreens said it was able to begin vaccinations at Illinois assisted living facilities in mid-January “based on further direction from the Illinois Department of Public Health and CDC,” according to spokeswoman Kelli Teno, as the pharmacy was able to “pull forward vaccinations in these facilities.” As a result, Walgreens has made first visits to 50% of Illinois assisted living facilities. CVS has visited 8% (40) of the 516 assisted living facilities it’s partnered with in Illinois since Monday.
Pritzker last week said he’s received assurances from Walgreens and CVS that the pharmacies will make their first visits to all assisted living facilities in Illinois by Feb. 15. Even so, the state pulled its four veterans’ homes and congregate care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services out of the program due to its pace. Abudayyeh said the administration is focused on moving forward and getting long-term care facility residents vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Beyond the pace of the rollout, Pritzker is also not alone among governors criticizing the Walgreens/CVS vaccination program for requiring states give up some of their federal vaccine allocation up front in order to give it to the pharmacy partnership.
The federal partnership, accepted by all states but West Virginia, means that for each shipment of vaccine given to states and large cities, those jurisdictions must reserve a certain amount for the Walgreens/CVS program. But that’s left thousands of doses unused so far in the 30 days the program has been active in Illinois.
IDPH says that out of 537,050 vaccine doses allotted for long-term care facilities, only 110,403 had actually been administered as of Monday, according to the state’s provisional data. “[The doses] sit on shelves because that federal pharmacy partnership is so slow at the job,” Pritzker said Monday.
CVS, however, says states like Illinois overestimated their long-term care facility populations, and insists vaccine allotment is not an accurate depiction of the program. “Think of it like a paycheck: it’s like getting a lump sum payment, versus a weekly paycheck,” a Midwest spokesman for CVS said in an email to NPR Illinois. “Pharmacies under the CDC get ‘paid’ weekly in vaccines to administer to partner long-term care facilities, whereas the health centers are getting it in lump sums.”
The spokesman said health centers “are spending their entire supply, but we only receive it weekly and therefore spend it weekly — even though our annual salaries are being posted. As we move 5 weeks into the program, we have been paid 5 weeks of our total salary of vaccines.”
But some states have moved to recoup vaccine doses allocated to the Walgreens/CVS partnership for use among the population eligible for vaccines in Phase 1B, which began Monday in Illinois. This phase includes frontline essential workers like teachers and daycare employees, grocery store workers, first responders, postal workers, public transit employees, corrections staff, and inmates and those in manufacturing and agriculture, as well as seniors 65 and older.
According to reporting from POLITICO, states like Oklahoma, Utah and Minnesota, Michigan and Maine have decided to go this route, and other states are considering it. Utah, for example, is halting new shipments for long-term care facilities this week — instead redistributing nearly 9,000 doses to local health departments, according to POLITICO. Minnesota is reallocating 30,000 doses from the CVS/Walgreens partnership and distributing them to teachers and childcare providers instead.
CVS has also pointed to reluctance among nursing home staff as one reason vaccine doses allocated for long-term care facilities have gone unused. In a CNN interview Monday, CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troy Brennan said 40% to 50% of long-term care facility staff has refused vaccines on the pharmacy’s first visit to sites. CVS’ Midwest spokesman said the same for Illinois. “Based on feedback from our teams in the field we’re seeing more vaccine hesitancy among long-term care facility staff when compared with residents,” the spokesman said. Walgreens has reportedly said the vaccination refusal rate in nursing homes it’s visited across the U.S. is even higher.
Pritzker on Friday said his administration is aware of the phenomenon and has reached out to union representatives for better collaboration on vaccine education efforts.
Democrats Could Begin Next Week on Pandemic Aid
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday warned that Democrats were willing to go it alone on the next coronavirus relief package, potentially starting the process as soon as next week. Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor, said that it was the “preference” of Democrats to work with Republicans on a sixth coronavirus relief package, but that if GOP senators wanted to move too slowly, or go smaller than Democrats think necessary, they will move more aid without GOP support.
“The dangers of undershooting our response are far greater than overshooting … so the Senate as early as next week will begin the process of considering a very strong COVID relief bill,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. He added that if Republicans “decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them.”
“We have a responsibility to help the American people fast, particularly given these new economic numbers. The Senate will begin that work next week,” Schumer continued.
To pass more coronavirus relief without Republican support, Democrats will need to use reconciliation, a budget process that lets some bills bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Democrats would first need to pave the way by passing a budget resolution that provides instructions to committees for drafting legislation.
Democrats want to pass more coronavirus relief before beefed-up unemployment benefits expire in March. The Senate will also need to juggle passing legislation with former President Trump’s second impeachment trial that will start the week of Feb. 8.
As Democrats appear poised to pass coronavirus relief with a simple majority, Republicans in a bipartisan Senate group appear frustrated that they could be sidelined. The bipartisan group had a call with the White House last weekend and GOP senators said that the administration had provided them with data about their $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan.
Meanwhile, The White House Looks to Split the Next Relief Package into Two Parts
Progressives in the Democratic party are wary that President Joe Biden is too eager to cut a deal. Moderates are wondering why the administration hasn’t circled back with information they’ve requested. Here’s what we’ve heard is the current White House thinking:
The mission is to figure out what a “60-vote package” looks like. Biden aides are clear-eyed that such a deal will be far short of his $1.9 trillion proposal. A 60-vote deal would have skimpier funding for state and local relief (if any), and less money for vaccine distribution, unemployment insurance and nutritional assistance, or SNAP. It would have far more targeted relief checks. We are told by administration sources that a bill of this sort might be in the $600-$800 billion range.
The left would revolt. That’s where Part 2 of the Biden strategy comes into play. Its goal for now is to get the best deal possible that accomplishes a bipartisan result — a high-priority personal goal for the president — and then take everything that’s left out of the skinny relief package and add it to Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. That would be passed using reconciliation, which requires a simple majority.
Voila! Biden can satisfy moderates with bipartisanship and progressives with the subsequent jobs bill. BUT … The White House right now seems much more optimistic about the two-bill strategy than are Democrats on the Hill.
Said one progressive Dem senator: “My own judgment is that the space for a deal just doesn’t exist.” Even senior Democrats agree that a bipartisan deal is unrealistic.
The number that everyone keeps mentioning: 8.
That’s how many Republicans are involved in the current talks, which have produced nothing so far. Biden needs 10 Republicans for a 60-vote package. But according to White House sources, if a 60-vote package never emerges, the backup plan is obvious: use reconciliation for both a large Covid bill and the follow-on jobs bill.
Illinois House Now Cancels All Session Days Except One in February
When lawmakers do return to Springfield for one day Feb. 10, it could be at the capitol building and could be to adopt House Rules for the new General Assembly. In an email to members of the Democratic Caucus, House Speaker Chris Welch’s Chief of Staff Jessica Basham said feedback from members of the Democratic caucus “suggests the House should find a balance between remote and in-person work.”
“Great question,” said Steve Brown, a longtime spokesman for former House Speaker Michael Madigan who now works with Welch. “I will let you know when there is something to tell.”
“Please be advised that the following session dates are cancelled: February 2-4, 9, 11, and 16-18,” Welch, D-Hillside, later said in a memo to the Clerk of the House.
“The public health recommendations on quarantine, both before and after a large gathering like session, makes the notion of weekly trips to Springfield impractical, especially for members and staff carrying for young and school-aged children and/or older family members,” Basham wrote in the email.
“Therefore, with the health and safety of members, staff, and the public being the priority, the Speaker plans to cancel the session dates set for February 2-4, 9, 11, and 16-18,” she wrote. “Members should plan to return to Springfield on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, for a 1-day session for one purpose: to adopt House Rules for the 102nd [General Assembly].”
Basham said House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, will be working with members on both sides of the aisle to gather and consider potential changes to the rules. The rules dictate things ranging from how bills get heard in committee, to the conduct of members and more.
Basham said when the House returns Feb. 10, it will be at the Illinois State Capitol building, rather than the Bank of Springfield Center where previous House sessions were conducted to allow for social distancing amid COVID-19 concerns. That cost taxpayers an additional $330,000 in space and equipment rental and catering.
Some Republicans have been critical of meeting at the Bank of Springfield Center rather than the capitol. “I don’t think it is necessary for us to be spending additional taxpayer dollars to go to the Bank of Springfield [Center],” said state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna. “Minimize the staff on the floor, don’t open the capitol to the public, the Senate seems to have figured it out.”
Reform For Illinois, a government transparency advocate, said lawmakers should approve remote voting and enhance public participation through remote hearings, but that the public should have the same level of access to the capitol it had before the pandemic.
“Let us go back to the House chambers,” McCombie said. “Let us go back to committee hearings, there’s enough room there. If you have to put some of us in the gallery, so be it. Plenty of room.”
“For floor action, a system of rotating members between the chamber and their offices will be implemented to maintain social distancing,” Basham said. “The outcome of this work will inform how the House moves forward in March and beyond.”
Basham’s email also laid out some guidance on what committee structures could look like. “Please keep in mind that the committees for the 102nd GA will likely change,” Basham said.
The Senate canceled the days it had scheduled for this week. A spokesperson said the next scheduled session date for the Senate is Feb. 9.
It’s unclear how the chambers’ schedules will impact the governor’s combined State of the State/Budget Address set for Feb. 17. That is to be delivered in front of a joint session of the General Assembly.
Economy Shrank 3.5% in 2020
The U.S. economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, schools, and events, marking the first annual contraction since the Great Recession, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.
U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) suffered its largest annual decline since 1946 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Commerce Department release. The outbreak of COVID-19 caused the steepest economic collapse since the Great Depression, wiping out more than 20 million jobs and years of economic growth within two months.
U.S. GDP increased by an annualized rate of 4 percent in the final three months of 2020, according to the data released Thursday, following an annualized gain of 33.4 percent in the third quarter and a 31.4 percent annualized decline in the second quarter. But the economic rebound staged in the second half of 2020 has been dampened by the continued rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.
The U.S. economy came into 2020 remarkably strong. Unemployment reached a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in the previous year, inflation remained low and the U.S. had just set a record for the longest economic expansion in its modern history. While the U.S. was likely to face some headwinds from slowing economies overseas, the stunning emergence of the coronavirus pandemic shattered the strong labor market and forced thousands of businesses to shutter.
Consumer spending — which makes up nearly two-thirds of the U.S. economy — fell 2.6 percent in 2020, driven mainly by a 3.4 percent decline in spending on services. Spending on goods rose 0.8 percent, however, as purchases shifted from gatherings to products that could be used during lockdowns.
Economists expect the U.S. economy to bounce back quickly in the second half of 2021, assuming enough Americans are vaccinated to prevent large coronavirus outbreaks. Both economists and health experts insist that a full return to normal is not possible until the pandemic is defeated.
Program Notices & Reminders
SBA Page Links for Direction and Questions on PPP
1st draw info: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/first-draw-ppp-loans
First draw app: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-paycheck-protection-program-borrower-application-form?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
2nd draw info: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/second-draw-ppp-loans
Second draw app: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-sd-ppp-second-draw-borrower-application-form?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
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
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 (ecenterdirect.com)
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 (ecenterdirect.com)
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.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry