Today continues an interesting week of events after a new Congress was sworn in on Sunday, as control of the Senate will be decided in Georgia and then we turn attention to what’s shaping up to be the most dramatic Electoral College count in generations.
Also, below, a few articles on testing/vaccines, facility opening, census report, and the extension of the EIDL deadline.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Georgia Runoff Races Will Determine Senate Control
Georgia will be the center of the political universe today, when voters head to the polls to cast ballots in two runoff elections that will determine which party holds the Senate majority.
Republicans are scrambling to defend Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) — and consequently their hold on the Senate — against challenges from Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. A pair of Democratic wins on Tuesday would create an evenly divided Senate in which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be able to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Both races are expected to be close. Ossoff currently leads Perdue by a scant 1.4 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average of the race, while Warnock carries a 2-point lead over Loeffler. More than 3 million votes have already been cast in early in-person voting and mail-in ballots underscoring high interest in the two races, which have drawn unprecedented campaign spending and national attention to the Peach State.
Unlike some other states that allow vote counting to begin days or weeks before Election Day, election workers in Georgia won’t be able to begin tallying ballots until polls close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. If the runoff results are close — and they’re very much expected to be — it could take days to determine the outcomes.
EIDL deadline extended
This week, SBA announced that the deadline to apply for a COVID-19 pandemic Economic Injury Disaster Loan has been extended to December 31, 2021.
To date, SBA has approved $197 billion in low-interest loans, which provide U.S. small businesses, non-profits, and agricultural businesses working capital funds. Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications will continue to be accepted through December 2021, pending the availability of funds.
Loans are offered at affordable terms, including a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profit organizations, a 30-year maturity, and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. All eligible small businesses and nonprofits are encouraged to apply. Learn more and apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan
Census Bureau to Miss Deadline
The Census Bureau will miss a year-end deadline for handing in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats. “The Census Bureau plans to deliver a population count of each state in early 2021, as close to the missed deadline as possible, the statistical agency said in a statement late Wednesday.”
‘As issues that could affect the accuracy of the data are detected, they are corrected,’ the statement said. ‘The schedule for reporting this data is not static. Projected dates are fluid.’ It will be the first time that the Dec. 31target date is missed since the deadline was implemented more than four decades ago by Congress. Internal documents obtained earlier last month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show that Census Bureau officials don’t expect the apportionment numbers to be ready until days after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Driver Services Facilities Reopen
Today marked the reopening of driver services facilities across the state. Driver’s licenses and ID card expiration dates have been extended until June 1 as well. As a result, people do not need to rush to visit a facility.
Many transactions can be conducted online at www.cyberdriveillinois.com instead of waiting at a driver services facility. Some of these services include:
• Renewing a license plate sticker
• Renewing a valid driver’s license for qualifying drivers
• Renewing a valid ID card for those age 22-64 (seniors 65 and older have free,
• Obtaining a driver record abstract
• Filing Business Services documents, such as incorporations and annual reports
In an effort to reduce facility visits for in-person service, the Secretary of State’s office has expanded online renewals for driver’s licenses and ID cards. Not everyone qualifies, particularly those who are required to pass a written or road test. For qualifying drivers, individuals will receive a letter with a unique PIN about 90 days before the expiration date. The PIN is required to renew online.
For more information on determining one’s eligibility for online renewal, visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com and click on “Read more on how to renew your driver’s license or ID card online” near the top of the main page.
University of Illinois’ COVID-19 Saliva Test Nears FDA Approval
The University of Illinois has completed a critical step toward obtaining federal approval for its saliva-based COVID-19 test, but some lawmakers worry it’s taking too long to help other state colleges, school districts and companies struggling to operate amid the pandemic.
The test, developed by faculty at the state’s largest public university, was validated in a clinical study and last week submitted to regulators for emergency use authorization, a designation that enables broader distribution, according to Jay Walsh, interim vice president for economic development and innovation at the U. of I. System.
Nearly six months after its unveiling, the test remains largely confined to the school’s campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield. With an emergency use request submitted, other parties will be able to use the test while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews the application. It’s unclear how long that will take, but the emergency authorization is desirable because it provides liability protection among other regulatory benefits.
Public and private universities in Illinois will be among the first to deploy the tests this month, though some might opt to wait until federal approval is granted, officials said. About $20 million in federal stimulus funds will be used to purchase 1 million tests for the state’s 12 public universities, according to U. of I. spokesman Ben Taylor.
If universities need more, they can buy tests for $20, and additional subsidies might be made available, Taylor said. The tests are also being sold to public school districts for $20 each, to some private universities for $25 and to companies for $30. Prices vary for customers out of state. An effort dubbed “Shield Illinois” is responsible for implementing the test statewide.
News of the FDA submission comes after a public snafu in which the university and Gov. J.B. Pritzker mistakenly stated the test had received federal approval in August.
The FDA informed the university in September that such statements, shared in a news briefing and on the U. of I. website, did “not appropriately represent the status of your test and which may be contributing to the misunderstandings regarding your test.”
The university, however, blamed the FDA for confusing protocols. The school erroneously thought it obtained approval by comparing its test to one developed at Yale University, which had been granted emergency use authorization.
In the months that followed, U. of I. worked to conduct a clinical study for its test, which ended in December and involved 120 people. Results showed the saliva tests were accurate when compared with nasal swabs from the same individuals, according to Walsh.
Why Many Bosses Won’t Require Workers to Get the Covid-19 Vaccine
Some of America’s largest businesses say they will encourage—but not mandate—employees to get Covid-19 vaccines, using a mix of incentives and consequences to ensure as many workers as possible are inoculated.
Facebook Inc, Marriott International Inc., and Discover Financial Services are among big employers saying they will urge vaccinations and highlight the benefits of doing so but stop short of requiring them. Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be available to anyone in the U.S. who wants one by the end of the second quarter.
Some employers plan to provide 401(k) or other cash incentives to staff, as they do to encourage use of other wellness benefits, or bar unvaccinated employees from certain activities. Several executives have said they would offer their corporate facilities to public-health officials as vaccine administration sites in making shots convenient for workers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance noting that employers can generally require their workers to get vaccinated and may ask employees for proof that they have done so. Employers are bound to accommodate employees who object because of religious beliefs or because they have a medical condition that makes it unsafe for them to get a vaccine.
Human-resources leaders and chief executives say they aren’t mandating vaccinations because they want to respect the views of those who lack confidence in the new vaccines, avoid liability if there are adverse reactions and not infringe on religious or personal beliefs. The approach is similar to how large companies often handle seasonal flu shots, though this vaccine targets a novel virus that shut down many workplaces across the country, corporate medical advisers say.
Some corporate leaders are still considering how to proceed. Duke Energy Corp. CEO Lynn J. Good said at a virtual gathering of business leaders hosted by a Yale School of Management professor last week that it was too soon to decide upon a mandate, but that the company would look closely at requiring vaccination for customer-facing employees.
American Airlines Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker said at the same virtual event a decision about mandating vaccinations would be based on the vaccine distribution and acceptance rates. Airlines need to plan for potential country mandates, he added.
Discussions are under way at Marriott International about whether the company could bring vaccine providers into its bigger hotels to administer the shots, CEO Arne Sorenson said at a Wall Street Journal event. The company hasn’t yet decided whether the vaccines should be required, he said.
“I think all of us know that we need to respect personal freedoms and liberty,” Mr. Sorenson said. “But at the same time, we need to make sure we’re protecting each other.”
Vaccine Rollout Differences
In Florida, people camped out in lawn chairs to wait in line for their first dose of a Covid vaccine. In Ohio, 60 percent of nursing home workers offered the shot refused to take it. That split-screen — the vaccine frenzy that coexists with high vaccine hesitancy — is typical of what’s complicated the country’s vaccine rollout so far.
Simple logistics slowed down the Covid vaccine rollout — and put the pandemic’s end further out of reach. Too few states have figured out how to get vaccine doses into the arms of people who need them and want them the most. The CDC has distributed more than 15 million first doses so far, but only 4.5 million people have received the first half of the two-shot cocktail, according to the agency, far short of President Donald Trump’s goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020. At least 1 million Americans need to be vaccinated every day in order for the pandemic to end by Sept. 1.
Some governors, including Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, say doses are sitting on shelves waiting to be administered. New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said hospitals must use their doses this week or face fines. “It’s total chaos,” said Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “It’s increasingly looking like we had a plan that was well-suited to vaccinate Singapore.”
In the U.S., the actual task of connecting syringe to skin relies on providers and patients finding a way to meet, rendering the CDC’s tiered system or any other top-down plan pretty much pointless. In some cases, providers are just offering unused doses to whoever is around so that they don’t get wasted. Even experts who argue for the delayed-second-dose idea say it’s out of sheer desperation: No studies show the safety and efficacy of delaying a second shot, and many people might just forgo it all together.
Many other countries are struggling to vaccinate residents as well. The fractured and overburdened U.S. health care system is particularly ill-suited to execute any sort of mass vaccination plan for adults. Nearly 11 percent of American adults below the age of 65 don’t even have health insurance. Few people outside of hospitals and nursing homes are being actively offered a vaccine and not all of them want to be first in line. States have left it up to vulnerable patients to find a provider and sign up using sometimes questionable methods. Patients might not even know they are eligible.
“People are confused,” said Rupali Limaye, director of behavioral and implementation science at the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University. She said distrust in the coronavirus vaccines has actually grown since the start of the pandemic, especially among Black and Hispanic Americans already deeply skeptical of the country’s health care providers. Some incorrectly worry that the vaccines won’t be effective against the new virus strain, first identified in the U.K.
Limaye said some insurers and doctors are calling or emailing patients to encourage them to sign up for a shot, but for the most part there is no mass federal campaign to reach people who might be eligible for the vaccine and convince them to take it. And if all the people who want a shot get one, reluctance may fade among those who are hesitant, she said.
The nation’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said the country will soon ramp up to 1 million vaccinations a day. Joe Biden has pledged to deliver 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office. But Hotez believes there is no way to get to those numbers with the current plan. He told me today that the country should just throw out the tiered system rather than forcing drugstore pharmacists to enforce the rules. He said in addition to getting shots into the hands of nursing homes, hospitals and other providers, states should just set up outdoor tents in sports stadiums or other places with lots of parking to vaccinate whoever shows up. This is in the works in some states. We need to “get the vaccine in people’s arms,” he said. “The only other choice is to continue with 3,000 deaths a day.”
Transformed Landscape After Vaccines
With a larger remote workforce, expanded delivery options and lingering health fears likely to last long after the pandemic is under control, business owners and entrepreneurs are asking tough questions and bracing for an uncertain future.
Businesses that pay richly for offices and storefronts in bustling downtowns are reconsidering whether high rents and tight crowds still make sense. A national wipeout of small businesses may leave plenty of vacated real estate for major companies to fill. And shortfalls in federal aid for struggling businesses could deepen the economic damage to be repaired when the pandemic subsides.
“We know that we’ve lost a lot of small businesses. New businesses are the way that we should be focused on filling those gaps,” said John Lettieri, president and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a think tank focused on entrepreneurship.
“You really have to put the pedal down on jobs, on business creation both to help fill the loss —the missing pieces of small businesses that have died off — but also to pick up the slack in the labor market,” he added.
The coronavirus pandemic delivered the biggest shock to the U.S. economy since the Great Depression and forced thousands of businesses to figure out how to survive in a world where gatherings in close quarters could be deadly.
Many businesses have shifted most or all of their staff into working from home, accelerating a rise of teleworking that began long before the pandemic. Others turned to contactless delivery and pickup options to serve customers unable to jam into crowded dining rooms and narrow aisles.
The recent beginning of coronavirus vaccinations has fueled hopes that the U.S. can return to some semblance of normal life by the second half of 2021. Even so, some pandemic-era adaptations are likely to last long after COVID-19 is contained and leave an enduring impact on how American businesses operate.
Nearly 42 percent of the U.S. workforce is working from home, according to a survey of managers conducted by job recruitment firm Upwork. While only 12.3 percent of the US workforce teleworked before the pandemic, roughly 27 percent is still expected to work remotely by December 2021, according to the survey.
John Worth, an executive vice president at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, expressed confidence that quarantine-weary workers will be eager to return to the office once it’s safe. Even so, he ceded that companies are already making tough decisions about renewing leases for large or expensive offices, moving to areas with lower costs, or permanently reducing their footprints.
“We’re going to see changes. Those changes are going to have a material impact, but I don’t see the post-COVID world being so dramatically different from the pre-COVID world that we can’t recognize it,” he said.
While some large offices and metroplexes will survive the pandemic, experts fear that the small businesses that depend on them may not. Restaurants and bars that depend on lunch rushes, business meals, happy hours and office parties have been some of the earliest casualties of COVID-19. The pandemic also bolstered the rise of e-commerce and non-store retailers, which were among the only sectors of the industry to see positive sales growth in November — typically a massive month for stores.
Major corporations, on the other hand, have leaned on cash reserves, the benefits of scale, low interest rates and massive Federal Reserve lending facilities to stay afloat. Those dynamics position big businesses to scoop up the remains left by smaller competitors that couldn’t make it to the other side, replacing mom-and-pop shops and restaurants with chains and franchises.
Lettieri added that he’s more optimistic in U.S. entrepreneurship the time around because the resilience of the financial system has set the country up well for making investments in its future. Even so, he warned that allowing too many small businesses to close and failing to end the pandemic as quickly as possible will make the recovery harder than it needs to be.
“The task of returning to normal, the challenges that businesses face post-pandemic are really made worse if the large crop of vulnerable businesses now in hard-hit sectors are not given the bridge that they need to pass the remaining months,” he said.
Program Notices & Reminders
SBA Loans and IRS Tax Implications for Small Businesses
Join representatives from the SBA Illinois District and the IRS for a discussion and presentation of tax treatment for COVID-19 relief programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Paycheck Protection Program, employer tax deferment, and Small Business/Self-Employed incentives with SBA and IRS. This is a tax information webinar and should not be considered as tax advice.
Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.
Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sba-loans-and-irs-tax-implications-for-small-businesses-tickets-132859788203?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
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?
- Expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit
- EIDL Grants
- Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators
- SBA Loan Debt Forgiveness
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 SBDC@JJC.edu 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: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33822
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: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33678
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?
• 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.
Register at: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33909
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, as we move into 2021 please keep in contact and send your feedback on the issues your business faces, the aid you may need dealing with IDES or the Business Interruption Grant, and questions you may have moving forward.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry