Today’s update will cover some new language on an eventual move to the Bridge Phase, new legislation signed by Governor Pritzker impacting a variety of companies, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant finally gets an opening date, Biden teams rolls out some more info on $3 trillion plan for the next economic package, and question on your stimulus check coming soon enough.
Some reminders for this week –
There is still time to join register for the Women’s Empowerment Forum TOMORROW, 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: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-webinar-march-24th-women-s-empowerment-forum-6018
Also, you can still register to join us for a Joliet City Council Candidate forum to take place this Thursday, March 25th. We’ll have an in-person event that will be taped and released in partnership with WJOL 1340 AM 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: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-member-lunch-march-25-joliet-city-council-at-large-candidates-6027
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Update on Bridge Phase
Illinois is getting closer to reaching a COVID-19 measurement that would mean more businesses can reopen further from COVID-19 restrictions. But a recent rise in cases in Chicago casts doubt that the city will match that pace.
Restaurants, retailers, and convention groups reacted with relief when Governor Pritzker announced last week a path toward further reopening across the state: Once 70 percent of residents 65 and older statewide have received their first dose of the vaccine, and there are no increases in COVID-19 metrics, the state could move into the bridge phase—an interim level before the full reopening that would come with Phase 5. Currently, Illinois is in Phase 4 of the reopening plan.
As of March 21, 63 percent of those 65 and older have been vaccinated statewide, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. New hospital admissions are increasing, according to the state’s reopening metrics tracker, and average cases per 100,000 people need to decrease slightly before the bridge phase can be enacted. But other indicators—including deaths, COVID hospital patients and the availability of ICU beds—are on track for the state to enter the bridge phase within days.
The move to the Bridge Phase is ultimately based on the vaccination rate and the data for test positivity and ICU bed availability. We will most likely not know immediately an exact date for the move. A lot of questions have been coming in on this topic as we know a good number of you are looking at staffing levels as well as ordering & supply levels. When the state hits the 70% vaccination rate in 65+ individuals, IDPH will review the data for the past 28 days. If the trend was decreasing or stable, then the move would be relatively quickly towards the Bridge phase. If it were increasing, then every day they would evaluate the trend for the last 28 days to see a decrease. So the picture has become a little bit clearer, but still nowhere near being crystal clear.
Governor Pritzker Signs Equity-Centric Legislation Expanding Economic Access and Opportunity Across Illinois
Building on efforts to create more equitable access to economic growth and recovery, Governor Pritzker today signed landmark legislation that expands economic opportunity in Illinois. The legislative package further advances the administration’s priorities of establishing strong economic policies and programs for all Illinoisans, with a heightened equity focus on communities and residents that have been disproportionally impacted by longstanding disinvestment.
This package is comprised of four bills: Senate Bill (SB) 1480, SB 1608, SB 1792, and SB 1980. The legislation includes measures that aim to prevent employers from discriminating against people with criminal records, expand access to state contracts for minority-owned businesses, women, and individuals with disabilities, reduce interest on payday loans, and improve access to public housing. We’re going to focus here on SB 1480 and SB 1608 as they cover information on changes that our employers will need to be aware of as well as expanded opportunities in lending for economically disadvantaged communities and procurement updates for minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.
Extended Human Rights Protections
The Employee Background Fairness Act, Senate Bill 1480, extends protections outlined in the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to any Illinois resident with a conviction record. Under this new law, Illinois employers can no longer disqualify a job applicant or employee with a conviction record unless it is substantially related to the job.
Illinois currently has measures in place to protect justice impacted individuals, including barring discrimination based on arrest records and inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until later stages of the application process. SB 1480 adds another layer of protection for anyone who has come into contact with public law enforcement. Any person who believes they are experiencing discrimination at work or with a potential job because of their conviction record can now file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).
“The IDHR is proud to have supported this fundamental, long-overdue piece of legislation,” said IDHR Director Jim Bennett. “Today’s SB 1480 signing is a major step in ensuring anyone – no matter their past – is treated with dignity and respect when searching for work in Illinois. The IDHR is looking forward to working with Illinois employers as we implement these changes.”
To assist Illinois employers and jobseekers, the IDHR has developed a comprehensive FAQ. For more information, please visit IDHR’s website.
Senate Bill 1480 also strengthens the Illinois Equal Pay Act, requiring private-sector employers of more than 100 employees to obtain equal pay registration certificates from the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). The legislation requires qualifying employers to provide proof of the total wages paid each employee during the prior year as well as the gender, race, and ethnicity of the employees.
The law also contains audit provisions and whistleblower protections and provides for a civil penalty in an amount equal to 1 percent of the business’s gross profits for a business that does not obtain a certificate, or if a business’s certificate is suspended or revoked after an investigation by the Illinois Department of Labor.
Businesses subject to the new law are required to recertify with the Illinois Department of Labor every two years.
“The Department of Labor is in the process of implementing the new requirements of the law. We continue to meet with stakeholders on this new law and will be communicating instructions for registration,” said Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik.
The legislation takes effect immediately.
Expanded Economic Opportunity
The Economic Opportunity Bill (SB 1608) creates the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This new act sets state standards for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to examine low- and moderate-income lending by state-chartered banks, credit unions and non-bank mortgage lenders. The Act aims to incentivize more safe lending into low- and moderate-income communities by Illinois financial institutions. Illinois becomes the first state in the Midwest to pass a state level CRA and is just the second state in the country to include non-bank mortgage lenders-institutions that are not covered in the federal CRA.
“The Illinois Community Reinvestment Act gives IDFPR the authority to ensure that the financial institutions of this state, including state banks, credit unions, and non-mortgage lenders, are incentivized to provide lending and general banking services to economically disadvantaged communities,” said Chasse Rehwinkel, IDFPR Acting Director of Banking.
Senate Bill 1608 also amends the existing Business Enterprise for Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities Act (BEP Act), updates the state’s procurement code to increase the diversity of businesses contracting with the State and establishes policies and commissions that strive to increase economic opportunity for all Illinois residents, regardless of race or background. The legislation grants the BEP Council the ability to review contracts granted by state agencies or public institutions if the contract has a history of disparities and establish a strategy to remove the root-causes for the disparity.
To ensure state contractors are reflective of Illinois’ communities, the legislation amends the Illinois Procurement Code to include diversity for consideration during the request for proposal (RFP) process. The bill also establishes new criteria for the evaluation of RFPs, requiring 20 percent of points given during the scoring of state contracts to be awarded based on the vendor’s commitment to diversity and additional equity measures.
Other provisions outlined in the legislation include, but are not limited to: creation of a Commission on Equity and Inclusion, the establishment of an African Descent Citizens Reparations Commission by the Illinois Central Management Services (CMS), a new annual required report from all state agencies and public higher-education institutions on race and gender that includes salary information, and the development of a new community development loan program that will guarantee small business loans and consumer loans to borrowers of color or who reside in low-income communities and would not otherwise qualify.
“Our nation’s systems were designed to keep Black people from owning businesses, buying homes, and fostering economically prosperous communities. To achieve real equity in Illinois, we must dismantle these systems and rebuild them in a way that gives African Americans the chance to succeed,” Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) said. “This package of legislation is a critical step toward leveling the playing field and empowering Black Illinoisans to rise to their full potential as entrepreneurs, homeowners, company executives and more.”
SB 1608 takes effect immediately except for Articles one and 40, which take effect January 1, 2022.
SBA Launches Portal to Begin Accepting Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Applications
The SBA just announced the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will open for applications on Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act.
The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues. Prior to the opening of the program, the SBA will be hosting an informational webinar on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 for potential eligible entities from 1:30 to 3 p.m. CT. You can register for the webinar here.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a splash page for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application portal today in anticipation of opening applications for the much-anticipated critical economic relief program on Thursday, April 8, 2021.
“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA has worked diligently to build the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program from the ground up to assist and address the diverse eligibility requirements of each type of applicant and we will open for applications on April 8,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “The SBA knows these venues are critical to America’s economy and understands how hard they’ve been impacted, as they were among the first to shutter. This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline for live venues, museums, movie theatres and many more.”
Prior to the official SVOG application opening, the SBA will host a national informational webinar to highlight the application process for potential eligible entities from 2:30 to 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Those interested in participating can register here.
The SVOG program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, which appropriated $15 billion for it. The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, appropriated an additional $1.25 billion, bringing the program funding to a total of $16.25 billion, with more than $16 billion allocated for grants.
To ensure eligible venues do not miss a window to receive assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, the American Rescue Plan Act also amended the SVOG program so entities that apply for a PPP loan after Dec. 27, 2020, can also apply for an SVOG, with the eligible entity’s SVOG to be reduced by the PPP loan amount. The PPP loan applications have been updated to reflect this.
As the SBA builds and prepares to open the program, the dedicated SBA website, www.sba.gov/svogrant, which includes frequently asked questions, video tutorials and other SVOG details, is the best source for information for those looking to apply for a grant. To prepare in advance of the SVOG application portal opening on April 8, potential applicants should get registered in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM.gov), as this is required for an entity to receive an SVOG, and reference the preliminary application checklist and eligibility requirements.
Biden Administration Officials Put Together $3 Trillion Economic Plan
Administration officials are crafting a plan for a multipart infrastructure and economic package that could cost as much as $3 trillion and fulfill key elements of President Biden’s campaign agenda, according to people involved in the discussions.
The first proposal would center on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and include many of the climate-change initiatives Mr. Biden outlined in the “Build Back Better” plan he released during the 2020 campaign.
That package would be followed by measures focusing on education and other priorities, including extending the newly expanded child tax credit scheduled to expire at the end of the year, childcare, drug costs, and providing for universal prekindergarten and tuition-free community college, the source said.
The packages could face a difficult path through the narrowly divided Congress, and Democrats aren’t all in agreement on how they should move forward with their spending and tax proposals. Mr. Biden is expected to be briefed on the details of the proposals this week, and the people warned that the strategy is preliminary. Mr. Biden would need to sign off on the legislative strategy for it to move forward. Some details of the strategy under consideration were reported earlier.
The White House declined to elaborate on the proposals under consideration. “Those conversations are ongoing, so any speculation about future economic proposals is premature and not a reflection of the White House’s thinking,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The price tag of the next package is sure to draw objections from Republicans, who opposed the recently signed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law as too costly. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), speaking on the Senate floor Monday, panned the idea of including other Democratic priorities in an infrastructure package. “We’re hearing the next few months might bring a so-called ‘infrastructure’ proposal that may actually be a Trojan horse for massive tax hikes and other job-killing left-wing policies,” he said.
Senior administration officials have discussed raising taxes on companies, among other options, to offset the cost of the spending packages. If the proposals add up to $3 trillion over a decade, that would represent 1% of GDP and a 5% increase in federal spending beyond current projections.
Democrats are also exploring raising the top marginal income-tax rate for high-income individuals, increasing capital-gains taxes, and tightening international tax rules on companies, according to lawmakers and aides. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is expected to detail more international-tax proposals soon.
House Democrats Look for Answers on $1,400 Check Slow Rollout
A group of House Democrats is calling for answers on reported delays in getting the current round of $1,400 direct payments under the recently passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan to people who do not have to file a tax return, including veterans and some Social Security beneficiaries.
In a letter released on Twitter by one of the Democrats who signed it, Rep. Bill Pascrell (N.J.), the lawmakers ask the heads of the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA) to issue the stimulus payments with speed.
“The American Rescue Plan was intended to provide much-needed economic stimulus and assistance to people across the country — immediately — and we are counting on your agencies to ensure that beneficiaries are not left behind in the seamless delivery of those payments,” wrote the Democrats, who also included House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (Mass.), and Reps. John Larson (Conn.) and Danny Davis (Ill.).
Program Notices & Reminders
Hollywood Casino Joliet Partnering with Illinois Dept. of Public Health to Host Covid Mobile Testing Program
Hollywood Casino Joliet announced that it is partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) to host a COVID-19 mobile testing program in the casino’s parking lot. The IDPH will set up and operate the mobile testing program at Hollywood Casino every Sunday in March and the first Sunday in April.
“We are incredibly proud to be partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide our parking lot as a COVID-19 testing site to help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Lydia Garvey, Vice President and General Manager at Hollywood Casino Joliet. “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our community as we all work together towards ending the pandemic.”
The IDPH’s mobile testing program in Hollywood Casino’s parking lot will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm on March 27 and April 3. Individuals seeking COVID-19
tests will not need a photo ID nor need to be showing signs of symptoms to receive a test. The
mobile testing program accepts insurance, however an insurance card is not necessary to be
tested. For the uninsured or if insurance does not cover the cost of the test, the state of Illinois will cover the cost.
The COVID-19 mobile testing program will use anterior nares swabs to test patients, with specimens being shipped to a lab to run on a polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) testing machine which makes it possible to detect COVID-19 with a very high degree of accuracy. Individuals tested will receive a phone call between 4-7 days from the date of their test from the number 888-297-7208. Patients who miss the call will be requested to call back in order to receive results as they cannot be left via voicemail.
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 31. Sign up for office hours this week below!
Office hours this week
- Monday, March 22, 11:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
- Tuesday, March 23, 11:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
- Wednesday, March 24, 10:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
- Thursday, March 25, 10:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
- Friday, March 26, 11:00a.m., Click here to sign up.
Browse other events hosted by the SBA Illinois District Office www.sba.gov/il.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
Starting Your Business in Illinois on March 24th at 2pm
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)
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing (with Joe Sanders) on April 1 at 11am
Are you taking advantage of the opportunities and changes in Social Media? Learn the five-step process: Find the Right Audience; Create the Right Content; Promote Your Business as a Brand; Use Ample Resources; and Analyze the Results. Digital Marketing expert, podcast host and author Joe Sanders, from Relevant Elephant, will share a powerful overview of how to improve your social media strategy and WHY you need to take action.
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing! (with Joe Sanders) (ecenterdirect.com)
Video Marketing for Small Business (with Mike at Acclaim Media) on April 8 at 11am
Video production once meant bringing in a full production crew to produce a television commercial. Now, a child can produce a quality video on their phone. And that video is a very important component to your website, social media pages, product information, as well as your local advertising. Learn the benefits of video marketing and hear from Mike Poglitsch at Acclaim Media about how easy the process can be.
Video Marketing for Small Business (ecenterdirect.com)
Funding Your Business (with Nancy Kuzma) on April 14th at 2pm
Funding your business is critical for start-ups as well as companies who are looking to expand. Establishing business credit is the first step. Get a basic understanding of what banks look for to qualify for a loan from Nancy Kuzma of Old Plank Trail Community Bank/Wintrust Community Bank.
Funding Your Business Webinar (ecenterdirect.com)
Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD) on April 27th at 1pm
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
• 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.
Webinar: The Certification Process (ecenterdirect.com)
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 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 bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required. Questions can be directed to the DBE resource center at (312) 939-1100.
Finally, for those residing in the City of Joliet, here is the link to view the answers to our city council candidate questionnaire. Remember that in person voting takes place on Tuesday, April 6 and view www.thewillcountyclerk.com for information pertaining to deadlines for vote by mail ballots and early voting locations.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry