Chamber Members:

President Biden appeared last night in his first prime-time address and delivered remarks urging national unity to reach normalcy as we move into year two of the covid pandemic. He also made a major announcement regarding when all adults can expect to have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Today’s update will also cover the usual Thursday jobs report that got bumped and a look at the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Also, your bank accounts may see an addition as soon as this weekend if you qualify for the stimulus payment. Finally, we’ll start to share information about the move to phase 5 as many have begun to question what the plan looks like. To our knowledge, there is not a plan in place as we ask for consideration of a ramp up in capacity as vaccine rates increase and positivity rates stay low. Oh, and don’t forget to “spring forward” those clocks early Sunday morning!

We have a busy end of the month as far as our calendar goes. Our State of the City Address with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk is back on the calendar for Monday, March 22 at 11 AM. Make sure to sign up here.

Please add the Women’s Empowerment Forum on Wednesday, March 24th. In honor of National Women’s History month the chamber has partnered with Lewis University and invites you to join an interactive, virtual, open forum with women educators and leaders from our community. Join us at 2:30 PM by registering here:

Also, you can now register to join us for a Joliet City Council Candidate forum to take place on Thursday, March 25th. We’ll have an in-person event that will be taped and released immediately as well as a published questionnaire before the 3/25 event. This event will run from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. You can register here:

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

President Addresses Nation
President Biden on Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of pandemic restrictions, urging Americans to come together and do their part to remain vigilant against the coronavirus in order to return to a semblance of normalcy by summer.

In his first prime-time address as president, Biden made an emotional appeal to Americans who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and those grappling with economic and personal hardships after a year of isolation.

The president balanced his look back at the grim year by offering a sense of optimism. He outlined steps his administration is taking to ramp up vaccine distribution, including a call for states to make all adults eligible to receive a shot by May 1.

The country has seen hospitalizations, deaths and overall cases steadily decline in recent months as the weather warms and more Americans are vaccinated. Many states have started lifting restrictions, but Biden warned that progress could be lost if Americans don’t come together with a sense of national purpose to defeat the virus.

“Even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity,” he said. “And national unity isn’t just how politics and politicians vote in Washington, what the loudest voices say on cable or online. Unity is what we do as fellow Americans. Because if we don’t say vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track.”

The president’s address came after he secured his first major legislative victory with the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which he signed into law earlier Thursday.

Plan for All Adults to be Eligible for Vaccine by May 1st
President Biden announced he would direct states to make all adults eligible for shots no later than May 1. The administration plans to surge vaccinators and increase locations where Americans can get their vaccinations, and he touted the creation of a government-run website and call center to help individuals find a vaccine appointment once they are eligible.

The Biden administration has acquired enough vaccine doses to have adequate supply for every adult by the end of May, though the president cautioned that did not mean every American will be vaccinated by then. But with each of those steps and continued masking and social distancing from the public, Biden said, the country could see an environment where it’s safe to hold small gatherings on the Fourth of July with friends and family.

In most U.S. states currently, only older Americans, front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions are eligible, though getting scheduled for a first dose has been problematic in many states even for the most at-risk. He said more people are being recruited to administer the shots, more places are being deployed where they can be received, and more doses are being purchased from drug companies.

Stimulus Checks Could Arrive in Accounts as Early as This Weekend
The next batch of stimulus checks will be deposited into some bank accounts this weekend, the White House said Thursday. “People can expect to start seeing direct deposits hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on Thursday afternoon. Psaki said that the checks are “the first wave” and they will continue to flow over “the next several weeks.”

The majority of recipients will get a direct payment of up to $1,400. Married couples who make under $150,000 will receive $2,800. Higher earners will see payments phase out and then cut off above certain incomes. Parents who meet income eligibility requirements will get $1,400 per dependent.

Some families who meet income requirements with two parents and two kids could see a payment for $5,600 in their bank account by Sunday. The first to receive their economic impact payment will be people who have direct deposit information on file with the IRS, typically done when taxes are filed.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The American Rescue Plan Act established a $28.6 billion “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” (RRF) within the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Here is what is known so far about the program:

  • An eligible business may receive a tax-free federal grant equal to the amount of its pandemic-related revenue loss, calculated by subtracting its 2020 gross receipts from its 2019 gross receipts.


  • If the business is not in operation for the entirety of 2019, the total is the difference between 12 times the average monthly gross receipts for 2019 and the average monthly gross receipts in 2020 (or a formula from SBA).


  • If the business is not in operation until 2020, it can receive a grant equal to the amount of “eligible expenses” subtracted by its gross receipts received (or a formula from SBA).


  • If the business is not yet in operation as of the application date, but it has made “eligible expenses,” the grant would be made equal to those expenses (or a formula from SBA).

Pandemic-related revenue losses for business are reduced by any amounts received from Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) First Draw and Second Draw loans in 2020 and/or 2021.

The SBA can adjust awards based on demand and “relative local costs” in the markets where RRF businesses operate. Otherwise;

  • $23.6 billion is available for the SBA to award in an equitable manner to businesses of different sizes based on annual gross receipts.


  • $5 billion is available to businesses with gross receipts of $500,000 or less during 2019.


  • Maximum: The total grant amount for an eligible business and any affiliated businesses is capped at $10 million and is limited to $5 million per physical location of the business.

For an initial 21-day period, the SBA will prioritize awarding grants for small business concerns owned and controlled by women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns.

Eligible expenses are those incurred from February 15, 2020 to December 31, 2021, or a date determined by the SBA. If all grant funds are not spent by the business, or the business permanently closes before the end of the covered period, the business must return unused funds to the Treasury.

Funds must be spent on payroll; principal or interest on mortgage obligations; rent; utilities; maintenance including construction to accommodate outdoor seating; supplies such as protective equipment and cleaning materials; normal food and beverage inventory; certain covered supplier costs; operational expenses; paid sick leave; and any other expenses that the SBA determines to be essential to maintaining operations.

Own or operate 20 or fewer establishments (together with any affiliated business), regardless of ownership type of the locations and whether those locations do business under the same or multiple names, as of March 13, 2020.

An affiliated business has an equity or right to profit distribution of 50 percent or more, or has contractual authority to control the direction of the business, provided that such affiliation “shall be determined as of any arrangements or agreements in existence as of March 13, 2020.”

  • Eligible entities include a restaurant, food stand, food truck, food cart, caterer, saloon, inn, tavern, bar, lounge, brewpub, tasting room, taproom, licensed facility, or premise of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products, or other similar place of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink.


  • Entities can apply using their existing business identifiers, as the SBA will avoid imposing additional burdens on applicants.


  • Publicly traded companies are ineligible.


  • Entities must submit a good faith certification that:

• Uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the grant request to support the ongoing operations.
• The entity has not applied for nor received a “Shuttered Venue Operators” grant (generally for performing arts, live venues, theaters, etc.).

Grants are not taxed like income and all normal federal tax deductions are protected. New Limitations on Private Funds and Anti-Evasion.

National Jobs Report
U.S. states saw new jobless claims fall more than expected to reach a four-month low last week, as impending spring weather and more vaccine-driven business re-openings allow hiring to pick up.

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended March 6: 712,000 vs. 725,000 expected and a revised 754,000 during the prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended February 27: 4.144 million vs. 4.200 million expected and a revised 4.337 million during the prior week

Initial unemployment claims held below 800,000 for a third consecutive week and improved to the lowest level since early November, following a stretch of elevated claims around the holidays earlier this year. And new claims are more than likely to continue dropping into the spring and summer, assuming the vaccine rollout and improving COVID-19 case counts extend into the coming months. Companies like Disney (DIS) have recently discussed plans to bring back thousands of furloughed workers in the spring, as more discretionary activities like theme parks and restaurants and resorts are permitted to reopen with easing capacity constraints. And last Friday’s February jobs report showed that the economy added nearly double the number of payrolls expected for the month, affirming the hiring upturn in the service sector.

“We think that the vaccine rollout and downward trend for new COVID-19 cases should allow economic activity to keep picking up over time and that this will result in a downward trend for jobless claims filings through the volatility in the weekly series,” JPMorgan economist Bruce Kasman wrote in a recent note.

By state, California saw the greatest number of initial claims filed last week at nearly 17,000 on an unadjusted basis, ending a streak of declines in new claims over the past several weeks. Ohio, which has been contending with a wave of fraud in filings for new jobless claims, saw initial claims rise by another more than 6,000 last week. However, the vast majority of states reported declines in new jobless claims, contributing to the headline improvement last week.

Continuing claims, which count the total number of Americans still receiving state unemployment benefits, also fell for an eighth straight week last week, reaching the lowest level in nearly one year.

Outside of regular state benefits, the number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits across all programs has still remained sharply elevated, however: Some 20 million Americans were still claiming benefits across all programs as of Feb. 20, the latest date for which data is available. That marked an increase over the prior week and included 13.8 million Americans on either Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — the federal program offering benefits to gig workers and the self-employed who do not qualify for other programs — or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which offers additional weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted their state benefits.

Illinois Month of January Jobs Report
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate decreased -0.3 percentage point to 7.7 percent, while nonfarm payrolls were up +9,700 jobs in January, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The December monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, from -2,500 to -9,200 jobs. The December unemployment rate was revised from the preliminary report, rising +0.4 percentage point to 8.0 percent.

The January payroll jobs estimate and unemployment rate reflects activity for the week including the 12th. The BLS has published FAQs for the January payroll jobs and the unemployment rate.

In January, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Professional and Business Services (+11,500), Leisure and Hospitality (+5,100), and Other Services (+2,400). The industry sectors that reported the largest monthly payroll declines were: Financial Activities (-6,400), Construction (-3,200), and Government (-1,800).

The state’s unemployment rate was +1.4 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate reported for January, which was 6.3 percent, down -0.4 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was up +4.2 percentage points from a year ago when it was 3.5 percent.

The number of unemployed workers fell from the prior month, a -3.6 percent decrease to 473,000, and was up +114.0 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was down -0.1 percent over-the-month and down -3.5 percent over-the-year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

In May 2020, Governor Pritzker launched Get Hired Illinois, a new one-stop-shop website to help connect job seekers with hiring employers in real time. The site features virtual job fairs, no-cost virtual training, and includes Illinois Job Link (IJL), the state’s largest job search engine, which recently showed 41,909 posted resumes with 103,844 available jobs.

Governor Pritzker “Cautiously Optimistic” on Large Events
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Pritzker on Thursday announced a new initiative focusing on vaccine access for rural parts of the state and said he is “cautiously optimistic” about future re-openings and public gatherings.

Speaking in a news conference at a mass vaccination site at Shabbona Middle School in Morris on Thursday, Pritzker said he is encouraged that the state is “getting to the end” of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he continued to stress patience as the state works to vaccinate residents.

Earlier this week, the city of Chicago announced both Chicago professional baseball teams will allow spectators at games with up to 20% capacity, and there is optimism for the return of summer events such as the Taste of Chicago and the Chicago Air and Water Show.

The state currently remains in Phase 4ofthe Restore Illinois reopening plan, which prevents gatherings of more than 50 people. Phase 5 is triggered when “either a vaccine is developed to prevent additional spread of COVID-19, a treatment option is readily available that ensures health care capacity is no longer a concern, or there are no new cases over a sustained period.”

When asked about the possibility of loosening restrictions on gatherings and potentially moving forward to the next phase of reopening on Thursday, Pritzker said that he remains “cautiously optimistic” that larger-scale events could begin to take place later this year.

However, Pritzker noted that new variants of the virus that could be transmitted more easily were of concern and could prevent a widespread immediate reopening. “I want to get to Phase 5 as fast as humanly possible,” Pritzker said Thursday. “We’re being cautious, but I’m also cautiously optimistic. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve begun to open up even more.”

Pritzker expressed optimism that “medium-sized” gatherings could take place late this summer, including conventions and outdoor events, with safety precautions in place. “We’re going to keep moving as we can, based upon the guidance of the scientists,” Pritzker said.

However, nothing has been communicated on what “medium-sized” gatherings would entail, when that date could potentially be to allow, and how soon these issues would be resolved. Re-opening and increasing capacity will take planning, restaffing, and building supply for many. Not sharing this type of information soon will only push back the ability to gather responsibly.

Program Notices & Reminders
Paycheck Protection Program Office Hours This Week Hosted by the SBA Illinois District Office
The SBA Illinois District Office is here to help you navigate the Paycheck Protection Program! Join them this week for office hours and get your questions about PPP answered. They will be hosting office hours daily until PPP closes on March 31Sign up for office hours this week below!
Office hours this week 

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Updates and Offerings
Advantage Illinois Loan Program for Small Businesses
Event Date and Time:  Wednesday, March 16, 2021 at 10:00 am
About this Event:
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn more about Advantage Illinois. Advantage Illinois provides Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs with access to the capital to start new companies and expand existing business.
Registration Link:

DCEO Veterans Series Presents Illinois Joining Forces
Event Date and time:  Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 10:00 am
About this Event:
Join DCEO’s Office of Regional Economic Development and the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment who will host a webinar with Illinois Joining Forces Executive Director Brig. General (Ret.) Steve Curda, Ph.D. and Jim Dolan, Sr. Director of Development with Illinois Joining Forces. Illinois Joining Forces serves as a statewide public-private partnership that promotes the efficient delivery of Growth and Wellness initiatives for Service Members, Veterans, and their Families at the community level throughout the State of Illinois.
Registration Link:

DCEO Angel Investment Tax Credit and Other Assistance Programs
Event Date and Time:  Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 2:00 pm
About this Event:
The Illinois Angel Investment Tax Credit Program encourages investment in innovative, early-stage companies to help obtain the working capital needed to further the growth of their company in Illinois. Investors in companies that are certified as Qualified New Business Ventures (QNBVs) can receive a state tax credit equal to 25% of their investment (up to $2 million).
Registration Link:

Illinois Department of Transportation
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops in February as part of its Building Blocks of Success series for firms interested in participating in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program strengthening their skills and bidding on state projects. The workshops are open to all, but some are tailored to specific districts/regions of the state.

The workshop dates and topics are:

• March 16: Landscape Material and Other Requirements, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 18: Prime Contractors’ Perspective, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 23: Getting Paid, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 25: Required Documents, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 29: Quick Books Part 1, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 30: Quick Books Part 2, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 31: Quick Books Part 3, 10 a.m. to noon

Building Blocks of Success will be conducted through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, will be made available through Eventbrite at Advance registration is required. Questions can be directed to the DBE resource center at (312) 939-1100.

Finally, please consider taking a few minutes to fill out the 2021 Small Business Needs Assessment.  The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Illinois SBDC at Joliet Junior College asks for your assistance in our effort to best serve small business. Your input is extremely valuable and we thank you for your time in completing this survey.

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