Here’s the wrap to the weekend as we get ready for the Super Bowl. Not sure if you can even say that anymore, but we all know what the “Big Game” is. The SBA has announced a name change for one of their programs so read below about the Targeted EIDL Advance Grant. The Senate in Washington D.C. has moved forward on how to tackle the relief package, the January economy report is out, and the daily vaccine update covering a new entry and the local forecast as far as a timeline to cover the population.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Senate Moves Forward
The Senate approved a budget plan for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package early Friday, after Republicans tried to put Democrats on the spot on the pace of school reopenings and raising the minimum wage, among other issues, during a lengthy amendment process.
Under the special procedure Democrats are using to pass the $1.9 trillion plan, lawmakers offered a host of amendments to the budget resolution, beginning votes Thursday afternoon and ending them after 5:30 a.m. Friday. Passing the budget resolution advanced the reconciliation process, which will allow Democrats to pass the $1.9 trillion relief plan with a simple majority in the Senate.
The House, which earlier passed its own budget resolution, will take up the Senate’s version after its passage. Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking votes in the Senate to advance the resolution.
House and Senate committees will now start a weeks-long process of working on their individual pieces of the actual aid legislation, though the Senate’s work may be somewhat slower because of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump that starts in earnest next week. The House and Senate must approve identical versions of any subsequent legislation, and lawmakers hope to do so before expanded unemployment benefits lapse in mid-March.
Because the budget is nonbinding and never becomes law, the amendment votes were largely symbolic, a factor that can influence how much support they receive. Early in the process, Republicans offered amendments on cutting federal funding to states that have an active investigation into underreported deaths in nursing homes and blocking aid for schools that don’t reopen after teachers have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Another GOP amendment aims to prevent Congress from raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour during a pandemic; Mr. Biden’s relief plan calls for gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. His proposal would also bolster federal unemployment assistance, send $1,400 direct checks to many Americans, provide funds for vaccine distribution, and offer aid to schools.
The Senate approved the amendment on a voice vote after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), a leading proponent for raising the minimum wage, said Democrats want to raise it over several years.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and a group of bipartisan senators offered an amendment that seeks “to ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible” for the $1,400 payments in Mr. Biden’s plan.
Mr. Biden has said he is open to offering the payments to a smaller group of Americans.
The president is scheduled to hold an Oval Office meeting Friday morning with leading House Democrats and committee heads involved in advancing the relief package.
While the amendments were largely symbolic, several passed, in a show of what provisions have bipartisan support in the Senate. One called for creating a fund to provide aid for restaurants and dining services, while another moved to prevent tax increases on small businesses during the pandemic. The Senate voted 58-42 to prevent immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally from receiving direct payments.
U.S. Employers Added 49,000 Jobs in January
U.S. employers resumed hiring in January, putting the labor market back into growth mode, but the weak pace of job gains suggested a long road remains for the recovery.
The U.S. economy added 49,000 jobs last month. The small January gain came after payrolls fell steeply in December, the first decline since the coronavirus pandemic triggered business shutdowns last spring. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January from 6.7% a month earlier, in part reflecting fewer people searching for jobs.
“The recovery is only stumbling along at this point,” Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, said. “Yes, we managed to eke out a gain, but we’re still 9.9 million jobs shy of where we were back in February.”
Jobs grew strongly in business and professional services, mainly in temporary help roles, the Labor Department said in its January report on U.S. employment. Many sectors, though, lost jobs last month. The leisure and hospitality sector lost 61,000 jobs in January, following a steep decline of 536,000 in December. Retailers and warehouses cut jobs in January after adding jobs strongly over the holidays.
The unemployment rate decline in January was driven by two factors. More people dropped out of the labor force—meaning they weren’t actively looking for a job and may have grown frustrated with their employment prospects. Also, the number of people reporting themselves as employed increased, consistent with a generally upward trend in hiring since last spring.
The broader economic recovery significantly stalled this winter. Unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, have remained above pre-pandemic levels. Consumers cut back on spending, as some were wary of leaving their homes as virus cases surged. Others wanted to shop and dine out, but had limited options.
Economists see the winter lull as temporary. They expect growth to pick up later this year as more people get vaccinated and business restrictions further ease. Many economists also say the economy could benefit from further government stimulus. Congress is considering as much as $1.9 trillion in additional funding. The proposal would bolster unemployment aid, provide funds for vaccine distribution, and send $1,400 checks to many Americans.
Friday’s report showed that manufacturing, warehousing, and construction lost jobs in January. Sectors that build and deliver goods have fared well throughout much of the pandemic but are in some cases confronting labor shortages.
Companies might struggle to find workers in part because the share of people seeking work remains depressed. The labor-force participation rate was 61.4% in January, down from 63.3% in February 2020, before the virus hit. Some people aren’t looking for work out of fear of contracting the virus. Others are burdened by increased child-care responsibilities or discouraged by limited job opportunities.
SBA’s EIDL Targeted Advance Grant Now Open to Those Who Qualify
The federal COVID-19 recovery law enacted in December includes more funding for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance grants. SBA has begun rolling out this new, more targeted advance grant program to businesses that received a first-round advance grant in 2020 that was under the program’s limit of $10,000, and to those who applied but received no funds because the program’s funding was already spent.
Small businesses may be eligible if they are located in low-income communities and have experienced a 30% reduction in gross receipts during any 8-week period between March 2, 2020 and December 31, 2021 compared to a comparable 8-week period before March 2 or in 2019. If you meet this description and previously received a EIDL advance grant that is less than $10,000, your business may be eligible receive the difference. Eligible businesses seeking the full $10,000 grant will be approved prior to any new applicants.
The EIDL advance grant is a form of small business relief providing $10,000 dollars in grants, i.e., completely free and non-repayable money, to select small businesses. The grant program was part of the initial CARES Act in 2020, but funds were exhausted within weeks. In December, Congress allocated additional funds for the program and established more targeted eligibility criteria.
Who is Eligible:
- Business was in operation prior to January 31, 2020
- Business has less than 300 employees
- Business is located in a low-income community
- Business suffered at least a 30% reduction in gross receipts during any 8-week period between March 2, 2020 – December 31, 2021 compared to a comparable 8-week period before March 2 or in 2019
What is a low-income community? SBA says additional details on how it will identify low-income communities will be available soon.
When and How to Apply? The program is authorized through December 31, 2021, but will close when its allocated funds run out. SBA’s latest guidance tells small businesses to wait for SBA to contact them if the business is eligible (sba.gov email addresses only); SBA says no proactive outreach by business owners is needed at this time. Small businesses should monitor the SBA website in the coming weeks for more information.
- EIDL advance grants are not counted as gross income for tax purposes
- Once you apply, the SBA is required to make a determination on application approval within 21 days
- The EID loan (EIDL) program (30-year term loan with a 3.75% interest rate, 2.75% for non-profits) was unchanged by the recent legislation and is still open through December 31, 2021
County Health Department Vaccine News
The Will County Health Department shared some additional perspectives this week about the local efforts and issues with covid vaccinations. Inquiries continue to stock up and members of the county board’s Public Health and Safety Committee have posed questions on the issues. Many of the members said they’ve been hearing from residents anxious to find out when they can get vaccinated and frustrated by the slow pace of progress.
Health Department Director, Sue Olenek, stressed it will take time for the supply of vaccine doses to eventually meet the high demand. “This is going to be months,” she said. “You may register and you may not get an appointment for two months.”
About 125,000 residents signed up with the county health department to get notified when it’s their turn to get vaccinated. Olenek said with her limited staff, it takes time to get to all the eligible residents who want to receive a shot.
That’s why she and the Will County Executive’s Office are seeking about $5 million to set up a call center to help the health department simply reach out to residents and field calls. Olenek said the health department’s COVID-19 hotline, which was initially set up to answer basic questions about the disease and testing, has been crashing due to the sheer volume of calls. “The hotline is not working at all,” she said.
Olenek told committee members her department aims to outsource their call system to a company so calls get answered and to alleviate pressure on her staff. One major positive Olenek pointed to was the number of volunteers who have stepped forward to help administer shots. She said nurses and nursing students from local colleges have volunteered to help the health department at its clinic where older residents are getting vaccinated.
Olenek added she hopes the public will eventually be able to register for an appointment to get vaccinated via an online system. Steve Brandy, a spokesman for the Will County Health Department, said the state is working on such a registration system for the public to use soon, but they don’t have a specific timetable for when it will be available.
The health department is working to vaccinate residents eligible for a vaccine under Phase 1B of the state’s distribution plan. This includes persons age 65 and older and frontline essential workers like first responders, education workers, food, and agriculture workers, and many more.
As of Thursday, more than 13,000 people in Will County had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, representing about 1.9% of the county’s total population, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. About 256,000 people in Illinois have been fully vaccinated, which is about 2% of the state’s population.
Johnson & Johnson Ask Regulators to Approve Vaccine
Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies. J&J’s vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19, according to preliminary results from a massive international study.
It didn’t appear quite as strong as two-dose competitors made by Pfizer and Moderna — a finding that may be more perception than reality, given differences in how each was tested. But the Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate all the data behind the single-dose shot — just like its competitors were put under the microscope — before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option in the U.S. The panel will meet Feb. 26.
Dr. Peter Marks, FDA’s vaccine chief, has cautioned against making comparisons before the evidence is all in. “With so much need to get this pandemic under control, I think we can’t ignore any tool in the tool chest,” he told the American Medical Association last week. “We will have to do our best to try to make sure that we find the populations that benefit the most from each of these vaccines and deploy them in a very thoughtful manner.”
WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW
Overall, the single-dose vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, according to early findings from a study of 44,000 people in the U.S., Latin America, and South Africa. But it was 85% protective against the most serious symptoms — and starting 28 days after their shot, researchers found no one who got the vaccine needed hospitalization or died.
WEAKER BUT STILL FIGHTS MUTATING VIRUS
The one-dose option worked better in the U.S. — 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19 — compared with 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa, where a more contagious mutant virus is spreading.
Scientists have been looking for real-world evidence about how vaccines work as the world races to stay ahead of the rapidly mutating virus and welcomed the news that the J&J option — while weaker — did still offer protection.
J&J said it would have some vaccine ready to ship if the FDA allows emergency use of the shot, but it didn’t reveal how much. The pharmaceutical giant said it expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June.
Missing Vaccines Update
White House officials say they have had trouble accounting for all the vaccine shots sent to the states. As of this morning, 56 million doses have been delivered, and only about 34 million of them ended up in arms. That’s according to the CDC count at 9 a.m. ET at least — a separate state health organization just a few hours later cited a 36 million-in-arms number. Which is as good as any place to start.
Let’s just say straight off that — despite what some on Twitter may think about “missing” doses — there’s no massive nefarious disappearing vaccine plot here. Based on what we’ve heard from health officials, state, federal and local, it’s more mundane.
Some hospitals are keeping more shots than they probably need to in the freezer because they aren’t yet confident in the supply line as they book appointments, including for second doses. Some smaller vaccination centers in more rural areas dispense fewer shots per day, running down their stock more slowly. And a data system so byzantine that, as Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s CDC, put it, tracking vaccinations can be like comparing “apples to tires.”
So it’s really hard to know where each and every one of those vaccines is — in arms, in freezers, with a few discarded. Somewhere, perhaps something may have in fact gone wrong (unreported spoilage, theft). Knowing as much as possible is important as the country tries to do a better job of tracking who is getting vaccinated, who is not getting vaccinated, is it equitable, and how to do it better.
State and local officials bristle at being accused of hoarding or mismanagement and given any chance at all they’ll turn the subject to the supply line. They say they are delivering shots as fast as they can, and as soon as the spigots open, they’ll deliver even more. They say vaccine sites being too conservative about storage should be easing up now that the Biden administration has told them how much they can expect and when over three weeks. A few told me that some health care facilities had more staff than they initially anticipated turn down the shot — but that more of them are now baring their arms as they’ve watched their coworkers get inoculated without harmful effects. So their inventory gaps are closing.
But it’s also clear that the coronavirus vaccine tracking system is barely a system. Sometimes hospital workers enter the vaccination in a patient’s electronic medical record — without understanding that it doesn’t connect to the state vaccine registry. Sometimes second doses are double counted. Sometimes a vaccine distribution site “batches” the data, meaning they do it every few days, not in real time, so it looks like there are more discrepancies. Some reports are “delayed or missing,” the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers executive director Mike Fraser acknowledged in a press call today.
And sometimes it’s just the delivery schedule. Vaccines aren’t delivered to states every day — so, Shah said, if you have appointments scheduled for Monday, but you aren’t getting another shipment until Wednesday, you can’t use them all up on Sunday. The “gap” waxes and wanes.
Fixing the data systems isn’t going to happen overnight. But as the Biden administration asserts, cautiously, that the vaccination drive is getting better, some of the psychology of vaccine hoarding may have already begun to dissipate. State officials are telling providers not to hold back — more is on the way. “Let me worry about getting you the second doses,” Shah said he tells them. “Do not keep them on the shelves.”
Program Notices & Reminders
Join the US Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, February 11, at 12 PM ET for the first episode of CO— Roadmap for Rebuilding: Starting a New Business, an interactive discussion focused on giving you the information and insight you need to start up smartly and smoothly, even under tough conditions. RSVP here: https://events.uschamber.com/COStartingaNewBusiness?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=SFMC&utm_campaign=MO_Newsletter&utm_content=2021-02-04&i=NwZEz7aSH9wgs-lRKEBhD5D_oCWot-_z
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 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
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