Chamber Members:

A big announcement to wrap up quite a first full week of the year. Today, the SBA announced that the PPP application period will open next week. See below for the full press release.

After nearly nine months away, the Illinois General Assembly returned to Springfield today. The lame-duck session will open at noon and continue through the weekend at the Bank of Springfield Center because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the final session for the 101st House with committee meetings set for Friday and Saturday. The executive committee for the Illinois Senate will meet Saturday afternoon on the floor at the Capitol, with the full Senate expected to be in town Sunday.

Additionally, we look at the most recent jobs report, some more vaccine news, and a few simple strategies to gain new and/or more customers in 2021. Enjoy your weekend!

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

SBA and Treasury Announce PPP Re-Opening, Issue New Guidance
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the Treasury Department, announced today that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will re-open the week of January 11 for new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers.

To promote access to capital, initially only community financial institutions will be able to make First Draw PPP Loans on Monday, January 11, and Second Draw PPP Loans on Wednesday, January 13. The PPP will open to all participating lenders shortly thereafter. Updated PPP guidance outlining Program changes to enhance its effectiveness and accessibility was released on January 6 in accordance with the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-Profits, and Venues Act.

This round of the PPP continues to prioritize millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $284 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses through March 31, 2021, and by allowing certain existing PPP borrowers to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

“The historically successful Paycheck Protection Program served as an economic lifeline to millions of small businesses and their employees when they needed it most,” said Administrator Jovita Carranza.  “Today’s guidance builds on the success of the program and adapts to the changing needs of small business owners by providing targeted relief and a simpler forgiveness process to ensure their path to recovery.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program has successfully provided 5.2 million loans worth $525 billion to America’s small businesses, supporting more than 51 million jobs,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “This updated guidance enhances the PPP’s targeted relief to small businesses most impacted by COVID-19.  We are committed to implementing this round of PPP quickly to continue supporting American small businesses and their workers.”
Key PPP updates include:

  • PPP borrowers can set their PPP loan’s covered period to be any length between 8 and 24 weeks to best meet their business needs.
  • PPP loans will cover additional expenses, including operations expenditures, property damage costs, supplier costs, and worker protection expenditures.
  • The Program’s eligibility is expanded to include 501(c)(6)s, housing cooperatives, direct marketing organizations, among other types of organizations.
  • The PPP provides greater flexibility for seasonal employees.
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers can request to modify their First Draw PPP Loan amount; and
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers are now eligible to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

A borrower is generally eligible for a Second Draw PPP Loan if the borrower:

  • Previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will or has used the full amount only for authorized uses.
  • Has no more than 300 employees; and
  • Can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

The new guidance released includes:

For more information on SBA’s assistance to small businesses, visit or See PDF attachments as well.

Employment Report
New claims for unemployment benefits remained high last week, the government reported on Thursday. A total of 922,000 workers filed initial claims for state benefits during the final week of 2020, the Labor Department said.

In addition, 161,000 new claims were filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers freelancers, part-time hires, seasonal workers, and others who do not normally qualify for state unemployment benefits. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 787,000.

Overall in December, U.S. employers shed jobs for the first time since April, cutting 140,000 positions. At the same time, the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7%, the first time it hasn’t fallen since April. Economists expected a small jobs gain of nearly 50,000.

Friday’s figures from the Labor Department suggest that employers have rehired roughly all the workers they can afford to after having laid off more than 22 million in the spring — the worst such loss on record. With consumer spending barely growing over the past few months, most companies have little incentive to hire. The economy still has 9.9 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic sent it sinking into a deep recession nearly a year ago.

The biggest losses were concentrated in leisure and hospitality, a sector particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, which lost an astonishing 498,000 jobs. The overall loss would have been worse had it not been for gains in professional and business services, which added 161,000 jobs; retail trade, which added 120,500 jobs; and construction, which added 51,000.

Many economists, along with the Federal Reserve’s policymakers, say they think that once the coronavirus vaccines are more widely distributed, a broad recovery should take hold in the second half of the year. The incoming Biden administration, along with a now fully Democratic-controlled House and Senate, is also expected to push rescue aid and spending measures that could accelerate growth.

Economists at TD Securities estimate that more than half the states have restricted gatherings to 10 or fewer people, up from about a quarter in September. In recent months, retailers have been especially hurt by the slump in consumer spending. Debit and credit card data tracked by JPMorgan Chase, based on 30 million accounts, shows that Americans slowed their purchases during the holiday shopping season. Such spending was 6% lower in December compared with a year ago. That was worse than in October, when card spending was down just 2% from the previous year.

The $900 billion financial aid package that Congress enacted last month should help propel a recovery, economists say. It will provide a $300-a-week federal jobless benefit on top of an average weekly state benefit of about $320. In addition, millions of Americans stand to receive $600 payments, and the Treasury Department said Thursday that 8 million of those payments were going out this week.

Late Wednesday, Goldman Sachs upgraded its forecast for economic growth this year to a robust 6.4% from its previous estimate of 5.9%. Its upgrade was based in part on the expectation that the Biden administration will implement more stimulus.

Senate Democrats Pledge to Move Right Away on $2,000 Stimulus
Democrats are vowing to forge ahead with providing $2,000 stimulus payments after their party won control of the Senate this week with victories in two Georgia runoffs where the checks played a key role.

At a rally before Election Day, President-elect Joe Biden said that electing the two Democratic candidates would flip the majority, end a GOP blockade on bigger checks and allow for more coronavirus relief in the form of direct payments. Now, Democrats say they plan to deliver on that pledge.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who is poised to become majority leader when Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, said Wednesday that “one of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families.”

Biden on Wednesday reiterated his desire to pass additional coronavirus relief legislation. “We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike,” he said in a statement.

At this early stage, there are other questions about the legislation. One big one is whether Democrats would propose increasing the recent $600 payments to $2,000 or create a new round of $2,000 payments.

The House-passed bill from late last month, which would need to be passed again in the current Congress for it to move forward, would have increased the $600 payments to $2,000 and would have made adult dependents eligible for the payments. The IRS has already issued most of the $600 payments, and progressives are likely to push for as much assistance to Americans as possible.

Another key question is whether Democrats will seek a vote on stand-alone legislation for direct payments or if the checks would be wrapped into a broader coronavirus relief package. Schumer this week declined to say what route Democrats would take. Democrats will also have to decide whether they want to make any changes to the eligibility requirements for the payments.

Update on Vaccine Rollout and Funding
President-elect Joe Biden plans to release almost all vaccine doses immediately, a spokesman said Friday, a change from the Trump administration’s strategy of holding half of the supply in reserve for second doses.

“The President-Elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement. “He supports releasing available doses immediately and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”

The Trump administration has been holding back half of the available doses to ensure there is enough supply for everyone who is getting a first dose to later get a second dose as well. But the Biden transition said it is confident there will be enough manufacturing to ensure enough supply for second doses.

Governor Pritzker joined the leaders of seven other states Thursday in calling on the federal government to start distributing millions of coronavirus vaccine doses currently held on reserve by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Leaders of the federal Operation Warp Speed vaccination effort are sitting on about half the nation’s available supply of doses “for reasons unknown,” according to an open letter signed by Pritzker and the governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, New York, Washington, and California.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is doling out more than $22 billion to states and local jurisdictions by Jan. 19 to support COVID-19 containment and lagging vaccination rollouts, the federal government announced Wednesday.

Illinois and the city of Chicago, which is responsible for its own pandemic response, are getting a total of $843 million. More than $729 million will aid testing, contact tracing and other mitigation efforts, while $114.5 million will support vaccination campaigns.

Governor Announces End to BIG Program
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced more than $275 million in nearly 9,000 emergency assistance grants have been made to small businesses in over 600 cities and towns statewide through the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program. Through this historic program – the largest of its kind in the nation – grants have been made available to a wide range of small businesses– with a focus on the industries and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and with the majority of funding going to smaller and minority-owned businesses.

Today’s announcement marks the conclusion of the BIG program, which was created by Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly to assist Illinois’ hardest hit businesses with making ends meet during the pandemic. A full list of awards made can be found on DCEO’s website.

Four Strategies for Small Business to Utilize for New 2021 Customers
Small businesses are trying to get through this pandemic in any way they can. Some are planning for the upcoming holiday season, but don’t have the strength or energy to even think about what they’re supposed to be doing next year.

We’ve already seen massive shifts in how business is done, and how you, as a business owner, market your business. So, how are you going to create momentum and get new customers in 2021? Below you’ll learn four different strategies you can implement to help your business grow in the new year.

1. Market as if in-person events won’t happen
If your business primarily used to focus on in-person events as a way to get new customers, it’s important to craft a new marketing strategy as if this won’t happen.

Although restrictions are loosening, you don’t want to put all of your customer generation tactics in a single area. For example, if you’re an agency that used to rely on events to generate leads, you can start hosting virtual masterminds with experts in your niche or create webinars to sell products and services to new customers.

This doesn’t mean in-person events are out of the question, but by focusing on virtual and digital events and presentation you’ll set yourself up for success regardless.

2. Invest in your website and online strategy
The pandemic has shifted a lot of business’s energy (and customer preferences) towards the online space. This means that your website will continue to be one of the central hubs for your business.

If you don’t have a website yet, or it’s still outdated, now is the time to upgrade. With a professional website, you have all kinds of ways to monetize your business and get new customers even if your business used to rely mostly on your physical storefront.

For example, coffee shops can add ecommerce functionality to their sites, and sell packaged coffee grounds, coffee accessories, apparel, and more. Beyond incorporating new income opportunities into your website, you can generate more local customers through your website.

Here are a few ideas to make that happen:

  • Create a locally-focused blog. Your blog can act as an education channel, a way to bring your business new leads, and even help your SEO.
  • Focus on local SEO. If you still have a physical storefront local SEO can help a lot. When people search for keywords related to your business and you rank first, there’s a great chance they’ll become a customer.
  • Get customer reviews. Customer reviews are one of the best ways to drive new visitors to your business and act as social proof for new customers to give your business a chance.

3. Get active on social media
Social media use has seen a huge surge in recent months, with more people at home, and more people spending time on their phones than ever before. Social media use will only continue to grow and spread across all demographics as well. For example, Facebook started as a tool for college students and now has 68% of adults over the age of 50 using the platform.

If your business hasn’t been active on social media during this pandemic, now is the time to start. Here are some tips to get started and some content types to focus on:

  • Find the right social media network where your customers are hanging out, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. Research and explore them all.
  • Create stories and video content to connect with followers, promote content, and get them to visit your business.
  • Target micro-influencers in your local city and market to align with to-post content and stories
  • Run locally-targeted social media ads to your customers. Use retargeting to bring back people who have already visited your website or social channels.

4. Use your CRM and email list
Email is one of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers and generate new sales. For every dollar you spend on email you can expect to earn $42 in return.

It’s also a great way to generate business on a budget. For example, if you can’t afford to invest in social media, you can scrape your existing CRM or email list and create an email campaign to re-activate those old leads. Going into 2021 you can focus on growing your list, by encouraging social media followers and website visitors to join, and market to them in the following ways:

  • Create a welcome sequence that sets communication expectations
  • If you’re selling digital products create a small upsell on your more expensive products
  • Offer coupons and subscriber-only discounts
  • Send regular value-add emails, stories, and reminders about the products and services you offer

Use these strategies to spread the word about your business, engage your loyal fans, and get new customers this year and beyond 2021. We have several members that can assist as well, just check out the member directory for a fellow member to help:

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:

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? 

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 and we will send you a link for registration.

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:

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
• 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:

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, below is some timely and helpful information for the childcare sector.

Personal Protective Equipment assistance
Personal Protective Equipment help is available for childcare programs (and other service providers) who receive Illinois Department of Human Services funding.  These supplies of face masks, hand sanitizer and other materials are limited, but interested providers can pursue them — and learn more about these PPE opportunities — by completing an online survey at  The deadline is Jan. 20.

This is another short-term but important plank in the bridge of assistance that state leaders are extending to struggling providers of early care and education for young children, and their working parents, this winter.  Other measures include reduced family co-payments and extended eligibility periods for families participating in the state Child Care Assistance Program, as well as CCAP payments to programs for all their eligible children (as opposed to only those in attendance each day, which has presented challenges during COVID).

Childcare & early childhood provider town-hall meeting: Vaccines, federal relief measures 
Members of the childcare and early childhood workforce are invited to a Jan. 15 meeting to discuss and learn more about two important topics:
·      COVID vaccine distribution for the early childhood field, and
·      New funding included in last month’s federal-relief legislation to help support childcare providers during COVID-19.

When: Friday, January 15, 2021
·      In English: 11:30 a.m.
(register at
·      In Spanish: 1:15 p.m.
(register at

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