The new month continues to bring good news. COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates continued on a steady decline in Illinois Monday as the state reported just 16 virus-related deaths over the previous 24 hours.
Daily death counts fluctuate significantly and are generally lower on Mondays than the rest of the week, but the 16 deaths – recorded in people from their 40s to their 90s – marked the lowest one-day total since Nov. 9. It followed death counts of 40 and 65 the previous two days.
The state’s rolling seven-day average case positivity rate also dipped below 4 percent over the weekend for the first time since Oct. 9, sitting at 3.9 percent as of Monday. It has been declining steadily since hitting 8.6 percent on Jan. 4. Hospitalizations are down 50 percent from the week ending Dec. 4 as well. See more below on vaccine news.
Look below for information on both sides of the stimulus check argument, repealing SALT deduction cap, creation of a state vaccine database, and a pre state of the state view.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
U.S. Milestone: Vaccinations Outnumber Covid Cases
More Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus, an early but hopeful milestone in the race to end the pandemic.
As of Monday afternoon, 26.5 million Americans had received one or both doses of the current vaccines, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Since the first U.S. patient tested positive outside of Seattle a year ago, 26.3 million people in the country have tested positive for the disease, and 443,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. has been administering shots at a faster daily rate than any country in the world, giving about 1.34 million doses a day, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. While the rollout stumbled in its early days, in the six weeks since the first shots went into arms almost 7.8% of Americans have gotten one or more doses, and 1.8% are fully vaccinated.
“It’s worth noting that today, for the first time, the data said that more people were vaccinated than were reported as newly diagnosed cases,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of microbiology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “That’s worth celebrating. I’m all for that win.”
The goal is to eventually reach herd immunity, when so many Americans have protection thanks to a vaccine or natural infection that the virus struggles to spread and eventually dies out. Public health officials, including Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, estimate 70% to 85% of the 330 million Americans must be exposed to the pathogen through virus or vaccine to reach that level.
Region 7 Moves to Phase 4
A quick reminder in case you missed the big announcement yesterday. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Region 7, Kankakee and Will counties, moved to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. Additional information about which tier and phase regions are in can be found at the top of the IDPH website homepage. A Phase 4 Guidelines Overview can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website and attached as a PDF to this message.
Information about mitigation and resurgence metrics can be found on the IDPH website at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/regionmetrics.
Pandemic Aid Report
There are more reasons to be skeptical of a bipartisan Covid relief deal after Monday. Yes, Biden and the 10 GOP senators both seemed to enjoy their two hours together in the West Wing. But Biden showed no interest in backing off his $1.9 trillion plan — or, implicitly, using reconciliation to pass it. “He will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment,” Press secretary Jen Psaki said afterward.
Monday’s meeting at the White House was an early indicator that Biden’s team views outreach to Republicans as a willingness to talk, not necessarily a commitment to making major concessions. The meeting, which included Vice President Kamala Harris, was in line with Biden’s campaign pledge to try to work across the aisle. But it did not have the feel of serious, substantive give-and-take so much as a chance to explain current postures.
The Debate Over the Stimulus Checks
The idea to send $2,000 checks to most Americans began circulating in the spring, pushed by progressive Democrats like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal. But the proposal has never fit into a neat ideological box.
Some moderate Democrats also saw the checks as a good way to help people during the pandemic. And some Republicans liked that the checks went directly to Americans, rather than being filtered through a government program. The checks have since become a centerpiece of President Biden’s coronavirus response plan, accounting for $465 billion of his proposed $1.9 trillion in spending. Polls show that the idea is popular.
And yet some economists — and politicians, in both parties — have deep reservations. Here we lay out three main arguments both for and against the idea, based on conversations with experts and people on Capitol Hill and in the Biden administration.
First, the basic facts: Because the virus-response bill that passed in December included $600 checks, Biden is now proposing $1,400 checks, with bonuses for children. A typical family with two parents and three children could receive $4,600. Families making less than $150,000 a year would likely be eligible for the full amount.
The case for the checks
1. People need help. Almost 10 million fewer Americans are working now than when the pandemic began, and normal life is still months from returning. “Doing too little has enormous downside cost,” said Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Many households are also coping with the long-term effects of slow-growing incomes and wealth over the past four decades. The checks will let people decide for themselves how to spend the money — be it to cover medical expenses, pay tuition, save for retirement, or buy a car. Much of this spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs.
2. It’s simple. At a time when many people don’t trust the government, easy-to-understand policies can build trust. Matthew Yglesias, author of the Slow Boring newsletter, calls this the “does exactly what it says on the tin” principle. The Obama administration designed a complex stimulus program in 2009 and didn’t get much political credit for it. The Biden administration can heed this lesson.
3. It’s surprisingly progressive. A $4,600 check means much more to a poor or working-class family than it does to an upper-middle-class family. (Very affluent families don’t qualify for the checks.) The checks aren’t simply a stimulus program. They are an important part of Biden’s ambitious effort to fight poverty.
The case against the checks.
1. Many people don’t need the money. The current recession is a strange one. Neither house prices nor stock prices have fallen — and many people’s expenses have declined — leaving most Americans financially better off than a year ago.
As a result, many people will save the money the government sends them, which won’t help put other people back to work. “I think the checks are an abomination,” Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute remarked.
2. It’s possible to target the money. Biden’s stimulus could instead increase unemployment benefits even more than it now proposes. Or it could do more to help small businesses stay open. Or more to expand childcare.
3. F.D.R. wouldn’t have done it. Sending people money does little to address the country’s deepest problems — like climate change and the underlying causes of inequality. Those problems require coordinated government action. So why has Biden embraced an expensive, Trump-backed idea that’s basically a big tax cut?
“I don’t ever remember F.D.R. recommending sending a damn penny to a human being. He gave ’em a job and gave ’em a paycheck,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has said. “Can’t we start some infrastructure program to help people, get ’em back on their feet?”
Momentum Gains to Restore Full SALT Breaks
Illinois lawmakers are leading a new charge to repeal the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that has cost hundreds of thousands of local taxpayer’s money and put the state at a fair-sized economic disadvantage. The move at least has a shot.
One action came last week, as U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield joined six colleagues from other areas of the country in filing a bill to lift the current $10,000-a-year cap on SALT deductions. “Forcing Americans to pay federal tax on taxes they already paid to state and local governments is double taxation, and it’s wrong,” said Schneider, reporting that 42 percent of filers in his district have used the SALT deduction.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth announced they’re sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate. “The Republican Trump tax scam was essentially a giveaway to large corporations, the wealthy and the well-connected—all while Illinois families were forced to pick up the tab,” Duckworth said in a statement. “We must take real steps to help Illinois families . . . especially as we face economic uncertainty during this deadly pandemic” said Durbin.
Among those notably joining as a sponsor was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, which also has been hit relatively hard by the SALT cap. That’s significant, because when the Senate’s leader (Schumer) and No. 2 Democrat (Durbin) sign on a bill, you can expect it will get every break possible to passage.
A similar bill to lift the SALT cap cleared the House last year but was killed in the Senate when then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to call it for a vote. Some populist Democrats argue that the cap mostly helps wealthy taxpayers, and lawmakers from low-tax states assert that high-tax states like Illinois ought to just lower their taxes, too. Still, this issue definitely is worth keeping an eye on, with President Joe Biden believed ready to sign should the bill reach his desk.
Senator Hastings Looks to Create a Vaccine Database in Illinois
State Senator Michael Hastings joined other lawmakers in pushing for the creation of a database to support county health departments and prevent COVID-19 vaccines from going to waste. Senator Hastings joined several other state senators in making the request to Governor Pritzker via a joint letter, according to a news release.
“We know that our vaccine supply is not remotely close to adequate at the moment,” Hastings said in the release. “This makes the distribution of every single dose available all the more critical. All we are seeking is further cooperation between the state and county health departments to implement a statewide database system dedicated to improving the distribution process.”
The senators proposed a database that would allow for nearby health care providers to be notified when there are extra vaccines available that need to be administered quickly. They argued that this would simplify the redistribution process, give eligible individuals the chance to receive their vaccination and prevent the state’s supply from expiring.
“I continue to be thankful for Governor Pritzker for his leadership, and I recognize he and his team are doing everything possible to ensure the vaccination process moves along smoothly,” Hastings said in the release.
Pritzker has said in recent days that he’s hopeful the vaccine distribution to states will ramp up in the weeks and months to come. The state is in Phase 1b of its vaccine distribution plan, under which individuals older than 65 and essential front-line workers are eligible.
Data shows true ‘State of the State’ in Illinois
Although COVID-19 caused real gross economic output to decline in the second quarter of last year by 30.6 percent, annualized, what’s concerning are the pre-pandemic cracks that left Illinois extremely vulnerable to a downturn and its most vulnerable citizens even worse off.
Before COVID-19, Illinois suffered from persistently weak economic performance, a chronic exodus and greater racial inequality than other U.S. states. As Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to deliver his annual State of the State address later this month, he’s got to put some glue on these cracks. Otherwise, our economy will struggle through a painfully slow recovery.
While it is easy to blame Illinois’ fiscal troubles on the pandemic, COVID-19 cannot explain why for the past two decades, Illinois’ economy grew by 1 percentage point less than the rest of the U.S. economy on average each year. If Illinois had just kept pace with the rest of the country, its economy would have grown by an additional $154 billion during that time period, or 17.4 percent of the state’s economy in 2019. Put another way, just keeping up with the U.S. average would have put an extra $2,021 in each worker’s pocket in 2019.
Lower economic growth means lower growth in aggregate income, which matters greatly in our fiscally challenged state. Keeping up with the rest of the country would have been enough to fix Illinois’ chronic budget deficits, which have gone on for 20 years and counting.
Despite record tax hikes, two decades of rising pension and debt service costs left Illinois with fewer and less reliable public services. They also eroded Illinois’ safety net. Government pension spending skyrocketed 501 percent as spending on child protection, state police and college aid for low-income students fell by one-third since 2000. Even state general assistance was eliminated in 2011 despite the state imposing a record income tax hike that year.
A win against COVID-19 will help Illinois’ struggling economy, but it will not undo the damage from decades of mismanagement and corruption in Springfield. And if we want any real reforms to emerge, Springfield must change its culture of corruption by instituting ethics reform and changing the way the Legislature does business.
Program Notices & Reminders
Illinois DCEO’s Office of Regional Economic Development
Join DCEO for a webinar to learn more about the US Small Business Administration’s Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This federal forgivable COVID-19 Relief Loan Program will help Illinois small businesses keep their employees on payroll during this unprecedented time.
Date: February 3, 2021
Time: 2:00 pm
Presenter: Tony Rolando, North Central Manager for Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Registration Link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=ead7c9f955f6cc72953d45d5b59eee157
Date: February 5, 2021
Time: 10:00 am
Presenters: Jacqui Bevelheimer, West Central Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Registration Link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e7bfb7c60ada7f7a37a90e00da70e3d0f
Date: February 9, 2021
Time: 2:00 pm
Presenters: Kala Lambert, Southeast Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Aly Grady, Central Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Registration Link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=ece784409dbfe8e2ff55a7a1253ba9088
Date: February 10, 2021
Time: 10:00 am
Presenter: Tracey Glenn, Southwest Regional Manager for Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Registration Link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=edf5666e7f568ba6b693af980d224e132
Date: February 11, 2021
Time: 2:00 pm
Presenter: Joe McKeown, Northeast Senior Account Manager for Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Registration Link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=ed0fa7b16a8d5532fecc820656415fd48
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
SBDC at JJC Update
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