Happy Friday everyone! Some big announcements today. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one step away from final approval and shipping possibly as early as Monday. Federal minimum wage has hit a roadblock, the United Center opens up as a vaccine site for all Illinois residents, not just Chicagoans in 1B+, and a federal judge rules that eviction moratoriums are unconstitutional.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
FDA Endorses COVID-19 Vaccine from Johnson & Johnson
U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday.
While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June. J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen.
Senate Parliamentarian Rules Minimum Wage Inclusion Doesn’t Meet Requirements
The Senate parliamentarian told lawmakers Thursday night that a proposed increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour didn’t comply with Senate rules, dealing a blow to Democrats’ efforts to include it in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The parliamentarian, the neutral arbiter of the chamber’s rules, issued guidance saying she thought it didn’t meet the guidelines for reconciliation, the process that Democrats are using to pass their relief plan with a simple majority in the Senate, and would be ruled out of order.
After two tense days of waiting, the ruling from Elizabeth MacDonough, the chief parliamentarian, comes as lawmakers make final changes to the bill so that it falls within the Senate’s rules. The reconciliation process places a number of restrictions on what policy measures can be included in the legislation. It also allows Democrats to pass the legislation without GOP support, provided that they lose no votes among their own ranks.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced shortly after the ruling that the House would plunge ahead with including it in its coronavirus relief bill, which is set for a vote on Friday night. But Democrats in both chambers acknowledge that the policy will be stripped out in the final version of the bill — a setback for the left wing of the party, which has pushed for the policy for a decade.
Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 has been a priority for the party’s progressives, though some moderate Democrats in the Senate had raised concerns about including it in President Biden’s coronavirus relief package. Some had advocated for a smaller increase or voiced concerns about the sharp jump the proposal would mean for tipped wages in restaurants.
In order to comply with the Senate’s rules for reconciliation, a measure must be determined to have a meaningful fiscal impact that can’t be “merely incidental” to the policy proposal. Ms. MacDonough ruled the budget impact of the minimum wage increase was “merely incidental” to the policy change. Republicans applauded the parliamentarian’s decision Thursday night.
The parliamentarian’s ruling against the wage increase now puts pressure on Democrats to decide if they will abide by the guidance or seek to overturn it. Some progressive Democrats already have pushed to ignore the parliamentarian’s recommendation and approve the measure, an unusual step that the White House and some Senate Democrats have said they would resist.
Under the chamber’s rules, the presiding officer of the Senate—in this case Vice President Kamala Harris —can disregard the parliamentarian’s advice. But such a step would likely give both parties more license to ignore the parliamentarian in future fights. Several Democratic senators have said they would be uncomfortable with rejecting the parliamentarian’s advice in order to raise the minimum wage, as has the White House.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr. Biden was disappointed in the outcome but “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.” She said Mr. Biden “will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward, because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty.”
‘Plan B’ for Minimum Wage Pitched
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden said Friday he’s drafting a “Plan B” to boost the federal minimum wage through the tax code since the parliamentarian shot down language included in a pandemic relief package. The Oregon Democrat issued a statement saying his proposal would impose a 5 percent penalty on the payroll of “big corporations” if any of their workers “earn less than a certain amount.” The penalty would increase over time and also apply in cases where companies replace those workers with contractors, he said.
For small businesses, Wyden said he would offer an income tax credit equal to 25 percent of wages, up to $10,000 per employee, if those businesses “pay their workers higher wages.” Details of the proposal were not immediately available.
The move came in response to guidance from the Senate parliamentarian Thursday evening that a proposal to raise the hourly federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 would violate rules under the budget reconciliation process, which Democrats are using to avoid a Republican filibuster. The so-called Byrd rule prohibits including measures in a reconciliation bill if their budgetary impact is “merely incidental” to their underlying policy objective.
Wyden said he was offering an alternative plan to raise wages through the tax code in an effort to avoid a procedural objection. “We couldn’t get in the front door or the back door, so we will try to go through the window,” he said in his statement.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said Thursday night that he planned to offer an amendment that would seek to remove tax deductions from large companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and provide incentives to small businesses. “That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill,” he said.
United Center Vaccination Site
The mass COVID-19 vaccination site at United Center, launching March 10, will administer up to 6,000 shots a day—and those doses are in addition to Illinois’ regular allotment from the federal government, officials announced today. The effort will help increase the city’s current vaccination capacity level by more than 40 percent, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during today’s news conference announcing plans for the site.
Operating seven days a week for eight weeks, the site will be open to residents from every part of the state, but it will prioritize seniors and medically underserved communities that are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The United Center is being transformed into a vaccination site managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with support from the Department of Defense, as well as the state, the city of Chicago and Cook County.
Here’s how it will work: Seniors will have first access to appointments, and any remaining slots will be open to residents eligible under Phase 1B+, which includes people 65 and older, as well as people 16 and older with disabilities or underlying conditions.
“The goal of establishing these joint federal pilot centers is to continue to expand the rate of vaccinations in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind,” the White House statement says.
House Appropriators to Cap Earmarks as Work Continues to Bring Back the Ability
House Democrats’ earmarks proposal will include a cap on total project funding and more guardrails than lawmakers had to adhere to before “congressionally directed spending” was banned more than a decade ago.
According to a copy of the proposal, Democrats are planning to cap the total amount of money that can be spent on earmarks to 1 percent of total discretionary spending. It would also limit the earmarks in each of the dozen appropriations bills to 1 percent of the bill’s topline funding level.
For-profit entities will not be eligible for earmarks and the Government Accountability Office will audit the process, though exactly how is still being determined by House leadership. Members will be capped at submitting 10 earmark requests per fiscal year, though members aren’t guaranteed to get those earmarks included in the annual government funding bills.
The House will continue to require the oversight and transparency restrictions Democrats put in place before the ban took effect in 2011, though there is a chance other rules are agreed to before Democrats release their official guidance for earmarks ahead of the fiscal 2022 budget process. Those rule changes included requiring members to make their requests and the justifications for them public, and requiring them to certify neither they nor their family members have any financial interest in a particular earmark.
Both House and Senate Republican party rules include a prohibition on earmarking. Democrats’ move to bring back earmarks in the House and Senate this session has set off an internal debate within the GOP about whether members should try to secure money for their districts or states through the process or sit it out.
The House Freedom Caucus is firmly opposed to a return to earmarking, while senior Republicans like Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and House Rules ranking member Tom Cole both back a controlled return to a transparent process. “When focused on core infrastructure and community service needs, this tool can vitally help members to ensure their constituencies are not overlooked,” Cole, R-Okla., said in a statement.
Judge Rules CDC Eviction Moratorium Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday that an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporarily halting evictions amid the pandemic is unconstitutional.
In a 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge John Barker sided with a group of landlords and property managers who alleged in a lawsuit that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeded the federal government’s constitutional authority. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker, a Trump appointee, wrote.
The CDC order, initially issued by former President Trump in September, generally made it a crime for property owners to evict tenants who were unable to pay rent and had no options for affordable housing. Those protections were extended by Congress and later under President Biden to last through March. But in Thursday’s decision, Barker ruled that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to grant CDC the power to halt evictions nationwide and said the agency’s order threatened to encroach on landlords’ rights under state law.
Conservative groups involved in the litigation hailed the decision. “The court’s order today holding the CDC’s interference with private property rights under the veil of COVID-19 serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” said Kimberly Hermann, a lawyer with Southeastern Legal Foundation, one of the groups that represented the plaintiffs.
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
A Chance to Win $50,000 for Your Small Business – FedEx Grant Contest
The 2021 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is now open. Entries close March 9, 2021. Before you enter, have your FedEx account number handy. Or create an account if you don’t have one. Now you have a chance to win $50,000 to help you continue growing your business. Enter the 9th annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest today.
Enter here: https://smallbusinessgrant.fedex.com/enter-now
More info: https://www.fedex.com/en-us/small-business/grant-contest.html?CMP=SOC-1006521-1-16-1003-1111000-US-US-EN-FXALISBGCKIT200&LINK=LEARNGCLI315120
Finally, following up on the article above with the economic outlook news, we would like to announce our next virtual conference. It will take place on March 11th at 11 AM with John Ferguson, Senior Vice President & Senior Portfolio Manager with Northern Trust.
Economic Trends & Reopening of the Economy
- History: Economic and Market Review through the Pandemic
- Current Events: Market and Economic Signs that we are at an inflection point
- Outlook for the Future: Is this a remake of the roaring 20’s?
Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Register here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-webinar-march-11-economic-trends-reopening-of-the-economy-6016
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry