Chamber Members:

A big vote went down over the weekend sending the covid relief aid back to the House for final approval. The update looks at all involved, as well as the last-minute changes. Additionally, the CDC released new guidelines for those that have been vaccinated, the Biden administration turns to infrastructure, and the Illinois Senate will meet in-person beginning tomorrow.

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. Look for more information tomorrow on registering for a Joliet City Council Candidate forum to take place on 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.

Also, 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.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Covid-19 Aid Bill Heads Back to House After Senate Vote
The $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill faces what is expected to be a very close vote in the House as early as Tuesday after the Senate narrowly approved the aid package over the weekend with concessions to accommodate centrist Democrats.

The Senate changes to the bill, which first passed the House Feb. 27 with more generous unemployment provisions, mean House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must hold together her slim majority caucus for a second House vote to send President Biden’s top legislative priority to his desk. The House is expected to hold a procedural vote on the bill Monday night, with final passage slated for Tuesday.

There were positive signals for Mrs. Pelosi and her leadership team over the weekend, when key progressives in the House appeared poised to support the relief bill a second time even as many expressed frustration at the changes that curtailed the extension of unemployment benefits and blocked an effort to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Mrs. Pelosi cannot afford many defections. The House version of the relief plan passed last month by a margin of 219-212, with two Democrats voting against it. The two no votes came from moderates, Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

All Republicans in the Senate, like all the GOP House members, voted against the legislation, balking at the price tag and saying that some of the spending items weren’t sufficiently geared toward the pandemic. “This was not really about coronavirus in terms of the spending,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending, just basically filled with pork.”

Stimulus Package Update: What’s in the Covid-19 Relief Bill
Here’s an overview of the $1.9 trillion legislation, from stimulus checks to child tax credits, jobless benefits, vaccine distribution, healthcare subsidies, restaurant aid and more.

What is the overall size of the package?
The House and Senate passed a budget resolution in February that allowed them to craft the $1.9 trillion relief package. The size of the package has stayed roughly the same since it was unveiled by Mr. Biden during the transition period, and after he rebuffed a proposal by a group of 10 Republicans who argued for a $618 billion bill.

How big are the stimulus checks?
The package includes a third round of economic impact payments to individuals. The current House legislation contains $1,400 checks for individuals making less than $75,000 annually and phased out amounts for people with higher incomes. Married couples who file taxes jointly can receive two $1,400 checks if their combined income is below $150,000. A compromise with moderate Senate Democrats resulted in the benefit being phased out faster above the income threshold. Payments would phase out at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.

Children and adult dependents would be eligible for the full $1,400. Those adult dependents, including disabled adults and college students, weren’t eligible for the first two rounds of checks.

What about unemployment payments?
Enhanced unemployment benefits totaling $300 a week are set to expire on March 14, creating a de facto deadline for Congress to act. Senate Democrats struck a last-minute agreement Friday to set federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week, down from the $400 passed by the House, but extend their duration by a week, through September 6. In addition, the first $10,200 of the benefits for 2020 wouldn’t be taxable for those making under $150,000.

What is included for vaccines and testing?
The package contains tens of billions of dollars to facilitate the vaccine rollout. It allocates $8.75 billion to federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal public-health agencies for distributing, administering, and tracking vaccinations, with some funds specially dedicated to making sure the vaccination process reaches underserved communities.

Vaccine development would also get a boost, with around $20 billion going to federal biomedical research for vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing and procurement, along with around $3 billion for a strategic national stockpile of vaccines. Another $25 billion would be spent on testing, contact tracing and reimbursing hospitals for lost revenue related to the pandemic.

How does it expand tax credits for children?
The package makes a significant change to the social safety net through the tax code that could have an impact on child poverty rates and potentially form a pillar of Mr. Biden’s economic legacy. The plan would raise the $2,000 Child Tax Credit to $3,000, set the credit at $3,600 for parents of children under age 6 and make parents of 17-year-olds eligible. It would also make the credit fully refundable, so low-income households would get the full benefit, no matter how little they earn. For a household with a 4-year-old and 7-year-old that doesn’t earn enough to pay income taxes, the plan would boost their maximum child tax credit to $6,600 from $2,800.

The proposal would also authorize periodic payments, so that the credit becomes a near-universal child allowance like those in some other countries instead of part of a lump-sum tax refund.

While the package would make the child tax-credit changes only for one year, it is broadly expected that Democrats will seek to make them permanent in the future.

Are there other provisions targeted at certain industries or workers?
Yes. One provision would allow federal workers, including postal workers, to take as many as 600 hours of emergency paid leave related to Covid-19. Also, the restaurant industry will receive $25 billion in relief targeted at small and midsize restaurants and chains. The money would be doled out in grants that don’t need to be repaid if the restaurants use them for operating expenses, including payroll, rent, and providing personal protective equipment to employees.

How much funding is included for schools?
The plan contains around $130 billion in funds for K-12 schools. The money would go to school districts to pay for reducing class sizes to accommodate social distancing, improving ventilation, hiring more janitors, and providing more personal protective equipment. Republicans have criticized the package for not directly tying funds to schools reopening and for spreading the aid over many years.

How much state and local aid is there?
The bill would provide $350 billion to state and local governments whose coffers have been hit by a loss of tax revenue during the pandemic, causing many to plan cuts to services and warn of tax increases to allow them to balance their budgets. Republicans have slammed the aid as “blue state bailouts,” rewarding Democratic states for poor financial decisions that predated the pandemic and note that many states’ tax revenues have exceeded expectations.

The Senate changes set aside $10 billion of the state and local aid for infrastructure projects. For state and local aid, senators are mandating that individual states receive at least as much as they did from a previous aid package and allowing governments to use the funds for economic recovery efforts. They are also placing rules on how the funds can be used, barring states from using the aid for pensions or to finance tax cuts.

What healthcare provisions are in the bill?
Along with virus-related provisions like vaccine and testing funds, the bill contains the largest overhaul to the Affordable Care Act in years. The bill expands eligibility for subsidies to purchase insurance to people of all incomes and caps the maximum premium at 8.5% of a person’s income. It also takes steps to lower, or even zero out, premiums for people making less than 150% of the federal poverty line.

The bill also encourages states to expand Medicaid by having the federal government pay for new recipients. Twelve states have refused to broaden their Medicaid programs through the ACA, even though the federal government pays 90% of the costs. It is unclear whether these changes would lead states to accept the expansion after years of opposition.

Employees who lose their jobs or lose benefits as a result of working fewer hours qualify for 100% Cobra health-insurance subsidies under the Senate plan, a boost from the 85% subsidy in the House-passed bill.

Variety of Last-Minute Changes Made to Senate Aid Package
A “perfecting amendment” that the Senate adopted just before final passage of a $1.9 trillion aid package would add billions of dollars for local governments, restaurants, and childcare grants to states. The changes came in a 58-page amendment from Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., covering various sections of the wide-ranging relief bill.

The biggest changes involved restoring $10 billion in direct aid to cities and counties, which had been cut from the initial Senate substitute amendment to the House-passed aid bill. The restored funds bring the total for local governments to $130.2 billion while preserving a $10 billion fund for state broadband infrastructure projects that the earlier amendment made room for.

In addition, the final amendment would create a $1 billion annual program, championed by Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., for communities and tribal governments that have historically been harmed by federal government policies.

In a statement for the record, Wyden cited communities across the Western United States, including his home state, that are situated on federal lands without a substantial local tax base to pay for government services. Federal environmental and wildlife protection laws have sapped rural counties’ ability to benefit from revenue-sharing arrangements involved in extraction of resources like timber, oil, and gas.

The fund would presumably benefit communities that have complained of the fiscal impact of Biden administration regulations prohibiting oil and gas exploration. The money in Wyden’s program is available so far only for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years, so more would need to be appropriated in subsequent legislation.

Restrictions on direct aid to states would change somewhat under Schumer’s perfecting amendment. Gone is a requirement that the $195.3 billion be split into two tranches, with the second allotment made available 12 months later; instead, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would be given the optional authority to withhold 50 percent of the funds upfront. The language stipulates that Yellen “shall” exercise that authority based on each state’s unemployment rate.

In addition, the prescribed uses of funds for both states and localities would be revised from the earlier substitute amendment. A restriction on the uses of funds based on the need to provide government services would be tightened to stipulate that states and localities could use the money only to replace the amount of revenue lost during the pandemic compared with the prior full fiscal year.

State and local governments would gain the ability to use their allotments to provide “premium pay” to essential workers of up to $13 per hour, capped at a maximum of $25,000. Essential workers are defined as those “needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors” or others as designated by state and local officials as critical to “health and well-being” of their residents.

States would also gain more federal help with Medicaid costs associated with providing home- and community-based services. A 7.35 percentage-point boost in the federal matching percentage in the original version would jump to 10 percentage points in Schumer’s perfecting amendment. State grants for childcare services would increase by $5 billion over a decade from the underlying Senate version. And as restaurants and bars earlier celebrated on Saturday after the bill passed, an extra $3.6 billion for those hard-hit businesses was freed up in Schumer’s amendment, bringing total grants to $28.6 billion.

The flurry of activity on Friday and Saturday that resulted in trimming added unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 per week, coupled with a one-week extension to Sept. 6, also probably freed up substantial extra funds for Medicaid, childcare and state and local funds in the Senate Finance Committee’s jurisdiction.

Changes were also made in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s jurisdiction. The final amendment took $3 billion out of funds set aside for K-12 education technology grants primarily for low-income and disabled children, instead creating a new $3 billion pot for grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Of that funding, $550 million would be reserved for programs for preschools and infants and toddlers.

Also, a new workers’ compensation fund for federal workers who came down with COVID-19 between Jan. 27, 2020, and Jan. 27, 2023, removed from the earlier version, would be restored in the final Senate bill. Federal employees who only worked remotely during that time wouldn’t be eligible.

Out of $26.1 billion in the bill for urban transit agency grants, a provision that would have allowed some local transit agencies to claim an additional amount was removed, presumably to more evenly distribute the remaining funds.

And it appears the “Byrd rule” — named for former Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. — intended to restrict what can be included in filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bills, struck a couple of other provisions in the earlier substitute.

The late amendment removes language that would have restricted access to $10 billion in small-business credit allocations unless states presented plans for how minority-owned and community development financial institutions would participate. A requirement that states draw up plans for how the money would benefit “business enterprises owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” was also removed.

Democrats also shuffled tax provisions in the bill. They removed a House proposal that would have frozen the growth in annual limits on contributions to retirement accounts after 2030. They replaced it with tighter limits on companies’ deductions for executive compensation—but only starting in 2027.

Senate Democrats added a provision that would make much student-loan forgiveness free from income taxes, creating an exception from 2021 through 2025 to the normal rule that canceled debt is income.

Centers for Disease Control Releases Guidance for Those Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.

What’s Changed
If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What Hasn’t Changed
For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

What We Know and What We’re Still Learning

  • We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
    • We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
  • We know that other prevention steps help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed.
    • We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.
    • Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.
  • We’re still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
  • As we know more, CDC will continue to update our recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Biden Turns Focus to Infrastructure as Next Priority
President Biden is starting to look beyond coronavirus relief to his next legislative fight, preparing to lay out a recovery package that makes significant investments in rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. Biden met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for over an hour on Thursday afternoon, his second bipartisan meeting with the group over the past month.

While the White House has been mum on details of the recovery plan, it’s likely to at least partly mirror the $2 trillion infrastructure and climate proposal he laid out on the campaign trail and include a hefty investment in infrastructure to spur job creation. Lawmakers from both parties described Thursday’s meeting as productive, though it remains to be seen whether Biden can use his legislative chops to usher in bipartisan cooperation on major legislation. Former President Trump ran on a plan to invest substantially in upgrading America’s infrastructure but never followed through with the push while in office. “Infrastructure week” became a punch line.

The meeting participants “discussed their shared commitment to working across the aisle to build modern and sustainable infrastructure in rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country that create good-paying, union jobs and support the economic recovery,” according to the White House readout of the meeting. “He wants to move as quickly as possible. He wants it to be very big and he feels that this is the key to the recovery package,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told reporters upon leaving the meeting.

Ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) described the meeting as an “icebreaker” and said he expected discussions to continue, though he said no timeline of Biden’s proposal has been discussed. He said Biden made clear that he preferred to negotiate a bipartisan bill on infrastructure.  “I thought it was good, it seemed to be productive. The president was very engaged and very open,” Graves said in a phone interview with The Hill. “Nobody got into any fights.”

The high cost of an infrastructure package, which could increase the corporate tax rate, and the climate change component are both divisive issues for Republicans. Graves said Thursday that Republicans did not want the bill to be “a climate bill with a few transportation projects.” He said Biden made clear climate is important to him but seemed receptive to their concerns. DeFazio said following the meeting that he brought up the question of how to pay for an infrastructure bill, but declined to divulge specifics about the exchange.

The Build Back Better plan that Biden laid out on the campaign trail focused on manufacturing and innovation, as well as building a modern infrastructure that builds a clean energy economy. It would invest in roads, bridges, energy grids, schools and broadband, and includes the goal of creating millions of union jobs.

On climate, it included building 1.5 million new sustainable homes, as well as zero-emissions public transportation in major U.S. cities and a power sector that is carbon pollution free by 2035. Major business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pressuring the administration to move ahead with an infrastructure package and embracing the climate change component. That support could help sway Republicans.

The Illinois Senate Returns to Springfield on Tuesday
State Senators will be reconvening in person as soon as tomorrow and journalists planning to attend and cover this week’s Senate session in Illinois will need to present a negative COVID-19 test to do so. “You will not need a negative test to enter the Capitol building or the pressroom,” Senate President Don Harmon’s Deputy Press Secretary Liz Mitchell wrote in an email to journalists. “You will need to show a negative test to enter the press boxes, media gallery or committee rooms.”

“In order to make sure lawmakers, staff and their families are as safe as they can be during the ongoing pandemic, the Senate is working with the University of Illinois to regularly test everyone entering Senate offices, chambers and committee rooms,” Mitchell wrote. “Media intending to cover the Senate in person will be included in this testing process. Costs will be covered by the Senate. You will not be required to pay for these tests, but we would ask that you assist in keeping costs down by utilizing them only if you intend to be in the Senate.”

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 

Browse other events hosted by the SBA Illinois District Office here.

A Chance to Win $50,000 for Your Small Business – FedEx Grant Contest
The 2021 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is now open. Entries close March 9, 2021. Before you enter, have your FedEx account number handy. Or create an account if you don’t have one. Now you have a chance to win $50,000 to help you continue growing your business. Enter the 9th annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest today.

Enter here:
More info:

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Updates and Offerings
DCEO Advantage Illinois Overview
Event Date and Time:  Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at 10:00 am
About this Event:
Join DCEO’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a discussion on the Advantage Illinois program.  This loan program can provide access to capital for businesses seeking to develop their products and services and grow their company.
Registration Link:

EDGE Tax Credit 101 Webinar
Event Date and Time: Wednesday, March 11, 2021 at 10:00 am
About this Event:
Join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn the basics of the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Tax Credit Program.
Registration Link:

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 9: Extra Work (T&M), 10 a.m. to noon
• March 11: Construction Materials Requirements, 10 a.m. to noon
• 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, March is shaping up to be a busy month on the chamber calendar. 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. 

Panel to include:

Dr. Karen Trimble Alliaume, Director, Women Studies Programs, Lewis University
Dr. Kristi Kelly, Vice President of Diversity, Lewis University
Ms. Ruth Colby, President & CEO, Silver Cross Hospital
Ms. Monica Mainland, Joliet Refinery Manager, ExxonMobil
Moderated by Jen Howard, President, Joliet Chamber

Join us at 2:30 PM by registering here:

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