Chamber Members:

Today’s update takes a look at the real possibility that we could be slipping backwards into a new virus surge. We’re basically at the needed 70% vaccination level for those 65+, but additional red flags have emerged. Additionally, we should finally have a much clearer picture of President Biden’s infrastructure plan tomorrow as more pieces have been shared and/or confirmed leading up to a Wednesday press conference. Finally, an alarming report for employers on the number of workers looking for a change of scenery in 2021.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Almost to Bridge Phase
We’re knocking on the door to open into the “Bridge” Phase, but we’re just not there yet. While almost 70% of Illinois residents 65 and over have received at least one dose of a vaccine, an increase in COVID-19 cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations will keep the state from cracking the door any further under Governor Pritzker’s gradual reopening plan.

“The number of people being admitted to the hospital in Illinois due to COVID-19 continues to increase,” the state’s Department of Health said in a press release. “As long as new hospital admissions continue to increase, the state will not advance to the Bridge Phase and on to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan.  The number of cases of COVID-19 has seen an increasing trend as well.”

Just over 69 percent of seniors have received their first dose of the vaccine, shy of the 70 percent threshold to move to the bridge phase. But new hospital admissions of people with COVID-like illness have increased daily since March 14, rising from an average of 95 admissions per day to 139 as of March 27. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID has also grown from 1,082 on March 12 to 1,396 on March 29.

The statewide percent positivity has climbed as well, from as low as 2.1 percent on March 13 to an average of 3.9 percent for the past week. Health officials are urging residents to wear masks, socially distance, and avoid crowds “to reduce transmission and bring the metrics back in line to transition to the bridge phase.” State officials will be looking for a sustained decrease in measures of virus transmission over the course of at least 10 days before considering loosening restrictions on businesses and other activities, a Pritzker spokeswoman said.

CDC director warns of ‘impending doom’ on potential new COVID-19 surge
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday warned of “impending doom” over rising coronavirus cases, telling the public that even though vaccines are being rolled out quickly, a fourth surge could happen if people don’t start taking precautions.

“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing Monday. “We do not have the luxury of inaction,” Walensky added. Walensky’s warning comes a day after the United States surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19, and cases are continuing to increase.

A fourth wave of coronavirus infections is beginning to mount in states across the nation as health experts and officials beg pandemic-exhausted Americans to stay vigilant. The United States has reported an average of 65,000 new cases in the last seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up about 10,000 cases per day since the most recent nadir two weeks ago.

Those figures are well below the January apex of the third wave of infections, when a quarter million people a day were testing positive for the virus. But while millions of Americans are receiving vaccinations, progress toward herd immunity has not kept pace with the new spike. Cases are rising in about half the states, led by big spikes in New York and especially New York City, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Walensky said hospitalizations have also increased over the past week, as the most recent seven-day average is about 4,800 admissions per day, up from 4,600 admissions per day in the prior seven days. She said that the country has come “such a long way” with three authorized vaccines and pleaded with the nation to keep following mitigation measures and “just please hold on a little while longer.”

White House Confirms Infrastructure Plan Divided Two Ways
White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated Sunday that the Biden administration would pursue two pieces of legislation as part of its push to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Psaki was questioned by host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” about whether infrastructure reform would be handled in one or two bills introduced by congressional Democrats.

“Two separate proposals, and we’ll work with the Senate and House to see how it should move forward,” she answered. The first proposal will likely address physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and efforts to expand rural broadband access, according to the press secretary, while a separate bill unveiled in April will cover issues such as childcare and health care.

News that the push will be split into two pieces of legislation comes just days after a source close to the White House revealed to The Hill that the price tag for Democrats’ next legislative push would be $3 trillion and that it would be a wide-ranging effort aimed at funding a host of domestic programs such as community college tuition, health care subsidies, pre-K programs and more.

Democrats have discussed a range of ways to fund the expansive legislation, including increasing the corporate tax rate as well as higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. “President Biden and his team are considering a range of potential options for how to invest in working families and reform our tax code so it rewards work, not wealth,” Psaki said of the planned legislation early last week. “Those conversations are ongoing, so any speculation about future economic proposals is premature and not a reflection of the White House’s thinking.”

President Biden to Deliver Speech Tomorrow on Infrastructure Plans
President Biden’s focus on COVID-19 and the economy has been splintered by a thousand other worries and developing policy challenges. After weeks of buildup, the president will talk about something on Wednesday he hopes can attract Republican support and swing the national conversation back into his wheelhouse: infrastructure.

Biden in the last week has been peppered with emotional questions about the migrant surge at the U.S. southern border, pending federal gun background check legislation and his call for resumption of an assault weapons ban, plus a new voting rights law in Georgia he called “un-American.”

The president’s plan to rescue decaying roads, bridges and airports involves an estimated $3 trillion plan so mammoth that he will break it into at least two presentations this spring, possibly also including a budget summary to send to Congress.

The administration’s infrastructure ideas, intended to be largely bipartisan, are expected to form the centerpiece of Wednesday’s speech. Another Biden proposal in April would include childcare and health care programs, among other investment priorities, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.”

The president’s team and progressives in Congress envision tax increases on higher-income households and businesses to help pay for the programs, although the White House has yet to lay out its tax strategy. The president declined to discuss his approach with reporters. Psaki left open the possibility that elements of the president’s next spending proposals could be pursued in one legislative package.

Simultaneously, Congress is preparing for a major battle over a voting rights bill. At issue is the fate of the House-passed For the People Act that would remake American elections from start to finish. It would force states to offer at least 15 days of early voting, universal access to mail-in voting and same-day registration for federal races. It also would make Election Day a national holiday.

President Biden and Democrats say federal intervention is needed to stop Republicans from reviving racist Jim Crow-style restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. Republicans say Democrats are executing a power grab to remove necessary protections on the voting process and usurp authority from states.

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Compromise Bill on Pretrial Interest in Personal Injury Cases
The Illinois Senate passed a bill to allow victims in personal injury and wrongful death cases that reach a verdict to collect interest on money they receive from court, with the intent of incentivizing settlements in these cases.

Governor Pritzker had just vetoed an earlier version of the bill last week that was approved by both chambers in the January lame duck session. The current version of the bill, Senate Bill 72, will now head to Pritzker’s desk for his signature after passing the House at the end of last week.

Senate President Don Harmon, who sponsored the current version of the bill, said the purpose is to level the economic playing field in personal injury and wrongful death cases in which the defendant — or the entity being sued — is usually a hospital or health care provider. Most often, the insurance company representing the entity being sued will cover the costs of the defense in court. Meanwhile, Harmon said, the plaintiff — or the person who is suing the entity — often faces loss of income while he or she awaits the verdict.

“This simply tilts the scale a little bit in favor of a prompt settlement of a meritorious (personal injury or wrongful death) claim. It encourages the settlement,” Harmon, D-Oak Park, said.

SB 72 reduced the amount of interest charged from the previous version of the bill, from 9 percent to 6 percent. It would only apply in personal injury and wrongful death cases that reach a verdict. It passed the Senate Thursday, 37 to 17.

Illinois currently has a 9 percent post-judgment interest, which is collected in cases after the court issues a judgment award. The only prejudgment interest under current Illinois law is a 5 percent interest that applies to damages in specific cases that do not include personal injury or wrongful death cases.

SB 72, like the previous version, would not apply to cases that are resolved by settlements out of court. The bill also would not apply to lawsuits filed against the state, a local unit of government, a school district, community college district or any other governmental entity.

Under the earlier version of the bill, the interest would begin to accrue once the entity or individual being sued “has notice of the injury from the time of the incident itself or a written notice,” the bill states. This would have resulted in the interest beginning to accrue even before the injured party had filed a lawsuit in court. Under SB 72, interest would begin to accrue once the lawsuit is filed.

In adopting prejudgment interest, Illinois would join 46 other states that currently have some form of this type of interest. Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said making a comparison between Illinois’ proposed prejudgment interest and that of other states is misleading because many other states place caps on the amount of total damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases. In Illinois, there are no such damage caps.

New Report: Half of Employees Plan to Leave Their Job This Year. Here’s How Leaders Can Prevent Mass Turnover
A global crisis at the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of work. As employees’ needs have changed, many organizations have not followed suit with their policies, perks, and culture. This misalignment may be why 52 percent of employees are planning to look for a new job this year — a concerning 43 percent increase from 2020 and 2019.

That’s according to Achievers’ fourth annual Employee Engagement and Retention Report, which uncovers what it will take to retain and attract employees in 2021. The report surveyed 2,000 employed adults across the U.S. and Canada, to discover what employees are really looking for in an organization, and what is bringing them to this breaking point.

With a post-pandemic world on the horizon, and the job market predicted to make a major rebound by the end of the year, what areas should employers consider when revamping retention strategies?

Act on feedback
Feedback from employees is crucial for companies to understand when rebuilding policies and strategies, especially during a time as tumultuous as the pandemic. Three in five employees (60 percent) surveyed reported their organization has sought feedback on at least one of the following key issues:

  • How to improve the employee experience (60 percent)
  • How to improve company culture throughout the pandemic (54 percent)
  • Remote/hybrid work preferences after the pandemic (52 percent)
  • How to improve diversity and inclusion (48 percent)
  • How to get involved with racial and social justice matters that are important to employees (44 percent)

However, many employees also report little to no action based on the feedback they provide. Nearly one in five (19 percent) say their company is horrible at acting on feedback and they never do anything with it. If employers do not make an effort to dissect the feedback they receive and make changes to cater to employee needs, they’ll risk losing employees for good.

Foster a culture of recognition
Achievers’ research found 71 percent more employees are disengaged in 2021 than they were at the beginning of 2020, and 66 percent of employees said they would be more engaged at work if their employer improved company culture. Nearly half (46 percent) of employees feel less connected to their company or colleagues since the start of the pandemic, and most employees blame a lack of communication (26 percent) or lack of effort to make remote employees feel connected (25 percent).

Creating a culture of recognition is also key for retention. Twenty percent of employees reported that feeling underappreciated for their contributions was hindering their engagement at work and 74 percent wish they received more recognition at work. More than three-quarters (80 percent) of employees also felt a strong recognition culture makes a company attractive to work for.

To drive company connection and culture moving forward, employers must consider creating more transparent and open communication, including increasing recognition, while also prioritizing connection for remote workers — especially if they plan to keep a portion of workers remote post-pandemic.

Weigh the realities of work-life balance versus productivity
“While many employees have gained significant flexibility during the pandemic as a result of working from home, that flexibility doesn’t mean they have a better work-life balance,” said Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers.

The report found one in four employees (25 percent) reported work-life balance as the reason they would search for a new job. Additionally, more than half (51 percent) of employees who are currently working remotely said they worried their manager doubts their productivity, causing nearly half (44 percent) to start work earlier or stay online later.

Employee concern over productivity, leading to early mornings and late nights, can eventually cause burnout, disengagement, and turnover. Baumgartner added, “Leadership and HR teams can help managers curb employee fears by providing training on results-oriented management that focuses more on the outcomes of employees’ work rather than the time spent in the home office. Additionally, managers should lead by example, shutting off their computer at night and making sure to both encourage vacation time and take it themselves.”

As we look ahead to the second half of 2021 and beyond, it will be critical that employers are working to take action from employee feedback, commit to building back culture, and help employees strike a better work-life balance if they hope to keep employees on board.

Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
American Rescue Plan and Funding Updates for Illinois Small Business Owners
Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 4:30pm (CT)
Register for the webinar to learn more »

The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill that includes $50 billion for new and existing small business relief programs, has now been signed into law. Join Small Business Majority and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois District Office for their bi-weekly webinar to learn more about what the American Rescue Plan will mean for your small business and to hear updates on federal funding as well as new federal support funds, loan forgiveness and the free federal and non-profit resources to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

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’s mobile testing program in Hollywood Casino’s parking lot will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm on 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.

Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
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) (

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 (

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 (

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?
Your options:
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• 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 (

Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
The Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) Grant program was established by The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-Profits, and Venues Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020.   The SBA has announced that they will begin to accept applications under this program on April 8, 2021.  The application portal will open in a tiered approach.  Please check the SBA website (link below) for more information. 

Eligible applicants may qualify for SVO Grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees.  Eligible entities include:
o    Live venue operators or promoters
o    Theatrical producers
o    Live performing arts organization operators
o    Relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria
o    Motion picture theater operators
o    Talent representatives, and
o    Each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements

This program is not yet open for applications. SBA has issued more guidance on this program in the past week.  Applicants can apply for PPP prior to applying to the SVOG program.  If they do receive a PPP loan after 12/27/20, they will have the SVOG reduced by the PPP loan amount.  To follow updates on this program, please click here to go to the SBA’s website.  Applicants must also have a valid registration to apply for this program.  Here’s a link to a video on how to apply: Entity Registration Training – YouTube .

Small Business Administration Program: Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)
This week SBA announced that for loans approved starting the week of April 6, 2021, the maximum loan amount will be increased to $500,000.  For loans approved prior to the week of April 6, 2021, please click here for information from SBA on loan increases.

The SBA is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses and non-profit organizations that are suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.  These loans may be used to pay debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact, and that are not already covered by a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. The first payment is deferred for one year.  Applicants must be physically located in the U.S. or designated territory and suffered working capital losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, not due to a downturn in the economy or other reasons.  Eligible applicants include the following:

Businesses with 500 or fewer employees or defined as small per
Cooperatives with 500 or fewer employees
Agricultural enterprises with 500 or fewer employees
Most private nonprofits
Faith-based organizations
Sole proprietorships and independent contractors

The deadline to apply for this program has been extended to December 31, 2021.  The SBA has also extended deferment periods for all disaster loans including EIDL until 2022.  All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2020, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 24-months from the date of the note.  All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2021, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 18-months from the date of the note.  For more information and the application, please click here to go to the SBA’s website.

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity
Team RED will be hosting numerous program webinars over the next few weeks.  Please join us and learn about these programs.  While different team members from around the state are hosting the webinars, they are open to anyone to attend.  You can view the full list of upcoming events on our website here.

Overview of WIOA Workforce Business Services
Date and Time:  Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 2pm
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn more about Illinois Workforce Programs that can benefit both Employers and Employee’s with items like hiring, training, Apprenticeship programs, and other Business Services.
Registration Link:

Overview of DCEO Programs
Date and Time:  Friday, April 9, 2021 at 10:00 am
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar as we give an overview of the agency and talk about the programs available to help businesses.
Registration Link:

Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA)
Date and time: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 10:00 am
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn more about the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA) Pre-Award Process.  The Department uses an accountability program to take a customer-centered approach to grants management and monitoring.  The agency, which administers and oversees nearly 10,000 grants each fiscal year, manages various economic, community and workforce development programs, services, and initiatives.  The Department of Commerce partners with businesses, local governments, nonprofit organizations, workers, and families to enhance the state’s economy.
Register Here:

Advantage Illinois Loan Program for Small Businesses
Date and time: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 6:00 PM
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn more about the Advantage Illinois Loan Program.
This program enhances capital for Illinois businesses, which is a top priority. By working with the state’s banking community and venture capitalists, DCEO will help entrepreneurs and small
businesses start-up, expand, and create new jobs at a faster rate.
Register Here:

Advantage Illinois: How local community banks can partner with the State of Illinois to help small business
Date and time: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:00 am
Enhancing access to capital for Illinois businesses is a top priority. The Brookings Institution has noted that more than 95% of new jobs are derived from business expansion or start up activity. Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and the Advantage Illinois program is here to assist. In this webinar you will learn how the state’s banking community can help entrepreneurs and small businesses start up, expand, and create new jobs at a faster rate by partnering with the State of Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity through this participation loan program. Guest speakers include John D. Hill and Mark Schultz, Advantage Illinois Team for the Office of Business Development. Local community banks are encouraged to attend!
Register Here:

Team RED Office hours
DCEO’s Regional Economic Development Team is hosting weekly office hours on the days and times listed below.  These sessions are designed as open times that the Team is available.  The Team will provide you with the latest updates and answer any questions you may have on state or federal programs.  Feel free to drop in for any assistance you need.  If these times do not work for you, please reach out to your regional Team RED representative.  We’re always here to help.

Mondays from 3pm – 4pm
Meeting link:

Wednesdays from 1pm – 2pm
Meeting link:

Thursdays from 3pm – 4pm
Meeting link:

Fridays from 10am – 11am
Meeting 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 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, for those residing in the City of Joliet, here is the link to view the answers to our city council candidate questionnaire and here is the link to view our recent in person candidate forum. Remember that in person voting takes place on Tuesday, April 6 and view for information pertaining to deadlines for vote by mail ballots and early voting locations.

Also, here is the link to the recording of our State of the City address with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.

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