Rough week ahead with some dreary weather in store. The news to share today however is a little brighter. Take a look below for updates on economic growth outpacing hiring, news on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, J&J vaccine, the infrastructure bill, redistricting & census data, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and the EIDL program.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Economic Growth Is Set to Surge, but Hiring Might Not Keep Up
U.S. employers might have trouble hiring workers fast enough in coming months to keep up with the projected burst of economic growth. Consumer spending at restaurants, hotels and salons is already starting to take off as the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic eases and more people get vaccinated and draw on their stimulus checks and savings. But many economists expect economic activity to pick up faster than payrolls, at least initially, for several reasons, causing bottlenecks and wage pressures.
This happened last year for many manufacturers that experienced labor shortages as Americans working from home ordered more furniture, exercise equipment and other goods than before the pandemic. This year, it is likely to be the case particularly for providers of services requiring proximity to people, since they saw the biggest drops in business and employment during the pandemic and are poised to see the biggest rebound in demand this year.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal project U.S. gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced—will grow 6.4% this year, measured from the fourth quarter of last year to the same period of this year. That would lift output to nearly 4% above its pre-pandemic level measured in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, the economists expect employers to add 7.1 million jobs in the 12 months ending in December 2021, a gain of 5%. That would leave employment 1.6% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2019. Job growth will trail GDP for two key reasons, economists say. First, many companies will be reluctant to hire workers until they are convinced the pickup in consumer demand will endure. Second, millions of workers dropped out of the labor force during the pandemic and might take time to return.
Economists point to several forces behind employers’ hesitancy to hire. For one, it’s unclear when the pandemic will end. Though vaccination rates are rising, so too are the daily totals of Covid-19 cases in many parts of the country as variants of the virus spread and business restrictions ease. Further, many companies face uncertainties over whether they will see permanently weaker demand due to the pandemic’s effects. For instance, business travel might never fully return to its previous levels. A long-lasting shift to remote work could dampen business at cafes and shops near offices.
The share of Americans ages 25 to 54 who are holding or seeking jobs–called the prime-age labor-force participation rate–was 81.3% in March, down from 82.9% in February 2020, a loss of 1.9 million workers. Many of those people dropped out of the labor force to care for children while schools are closed. Others have stopped looking for work out of fear of contracting or spreading the coronavirus. The $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill enacted in March also sent new stimulus checks to many Americans and extended a $300-a-week jobless-aid supplement, which could also be deterring some people from seeking work.
The sharp fall in workforce participation shows no signs of quickly reversing. Even though job openings exceed pre-pandemic levels, Google Trends data show worker searches for jobs online declining. Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, said this recent drop “raises concerns that labor-force participation may not recover quickly even after the pandemic is over.”
Long-term unemployment poses another hurdle. There were 4.2 million Americans in March facing jobless spells of at least 27 weeks, up from 1.1 million in February 2020. “The longer people remain unemployed, the more those skills do start to atrophy and then it’s harder for them to get back into the labor force,” said Jay Bryson, chief economist at Wells Fargo’s Corporate and Investment Bank.
The result could be bottlenecks that discomfort consumers, at least temporarily, until labor demand and supply are brought into balance. For instance, lines at airport security checkpoints this summer could grow long as workers attempt to serve an influx of travelers. Salons might require hairdressers to log longer hours so they can serve the many customers who went a year without a haircut. Restaurants could raise wages to attract workers, and as a result, pass on the costs through higher menu prices.
“Over the next few months you could see really strong demand, and you could get some of these pressures…in terms of wages, etc.,” said Mr. Bryson. But he added, “our sense is it’s not like this is an upward spiral that’s going to last for years.”
SBA Announces Official Restaurant Revitalization Fund Application and Guidelines
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced key details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF). The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden, established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit small restaurants.
“Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: Help is here. With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses – irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “And, thanks to clear directives from Congress, we’re rolling out this program to make sure that these businesses can meet payroll, purchase supplies, and get what they need in place to transition to today’s COVID-restricted marketplace.”
Administrator Guzman emphasized, “We’re also focused on ensuring that the RRF program’s application process is streamlined and free of burdensome, bureaucratic hurdles – while still maintaining robust oversight. Under my leadership, the SBA aims to be as entrepreneurial as the entrepreneurs we serve – and that means meeting every small business where they are, and giving them the support they need to recover, rebuild and thrive.”
Under this announcement, details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at www.sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at www.sba.gov/restaurantes. The guide and application sample are attached to this message.
Ahead of the application launch and over the next two weeks, the SBA will establish a seven-day pilot period for the RRF application portal and conduct extensive outreach and training. The pilot period will be used to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public.
Following the pilot, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later date. For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.
The groundwork for this announcement is the result of a comprehensive effort to reach out to diverse stakeholders in order to understand the needs and barriers restaurants face in accessing emergency relief aid.
At all levels, the SBA will continue engaging with stakeholder communities to inform and design delivery of financial assistance programs. As the SBA builds and prepares to roll out the program, this dedicated SBA website is the best source for up-to-date information for eligible restaurants interested in the RRF.
Fauci Predicts J&J Vaccine Returning Friday, Perhaps with Limits, Warnings
President Biden’s chief medical adviser said he expects Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine to return to use in the U.S. by Friday, after a pause because of concerns about blood clots in several patients.
“I would be very surprised…if we don’t have a resumption in some form by Friday,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” echoing remarks he made on other networks Sunday.
J&J said Friday there wasn’t enough evidence to establish that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine causes the rare blood-clotting condition that prompted U.S. health officials this week to recommend a pause in its use. The pause is in place at least until a federal vaccine-advisory committee meets Friday to review the matter. “I would think that we’re not gonna go beyond Friday, in the extension of this pause,” said Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on ABC’s “This Week.”
Disease experts said it is possible the regulators would place age or sex restrictions on the vaccine or issue warnings to doctors about how to avoid or treat any problems linked to the shot. “I don’t want to get ahead of them, but I believe we’ll be back with some sort of indication a little bit different from before the pause,” Dr. Fauci said on ABC.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served in the Trump administration, said that “you might see a situation where the vaccine does get reserved for use in older individuals who are both potentially at lower risk of this side effect and also at higher risk of a bad outcome from Covid.” Another possibility is just bringing the vaccine back with different warnings, he said.
U.S. health authorities came close to simply warning about a blood-clotting risk from Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, but decided to recommend pausing use out of concern doctors would improperly treat the condition, people familiar with the matter said.
Over the previous four weeks, American health officials had become alarmed about similar blood-clotting conditions in Europe involving a Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the people said. The officials dug into a U.S. vaccine-safety database and identified the cases of great concern, but debated what action to take.
By last Monday night, the officials resolved that urgent action was needed, the people said. Four of six women in the U.S. who developed the blood clots days after vaccination had initially been given heparin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its use could have worsened the patients’ condition, the people said.
That night, the country’s top health officials agreed during a one-hour Zoom meeting to take the strongest step: publicly recommend pausing the vaccine’s use while probing the adverse-event cases, the people said. Since the announcement, the Food and Drug Administration has been studying other reports of additional blood-clotting cases among people who received J&J’s vaccine, but hasn’t confirmed whether any reflect the same phenomenon, the people said. Yet officials are growing more persuaded, the people added, that the six total cases reported so far are related to the shot.
Top Republican Says Senate GOP Could Be Open to Smaller Infrastructure Bill
A senior Republican senator said he and his colleagues could support an infrastructure bill of around $800 billion, underscoring GOP interest in a bipartisan fix for the nation’s aging roads and patchy broadband service. The comments by Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) on Sunday signal that Senate Republicans are seeking a compromise on infrastructure, ahead of President Biden’s meeting with lawmakers on Monday to push his own $2.3 trillion plan.
Republicans generally have raised concerns that Mr. Biden’s package is too costly and has too many what they see as non-infrastructure elements. Asked on Fox News Sunday whether he could support an infrastructure package of around $800 billion, Mr. Cornyn said: “There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass…So let’s do it and leave the rest for another day and another fight.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.), also on Fox News Sunday, said that Democrats should work to find a bipartisan agreement with Republicans on elements of the White House infrastructure plan before pivoting to a second, broader package that Democrats pass along party lines. “Then we show our people that we can solve their problems” on a bipartisan basis, Mr. Coons said. “I think in the next few weeks we should roll up our sleeves and sit down and find ways that we can support to make these critically needed investments.”
Democrats May Use Population Estimates for Redistricting, Raising Questions on Fairness
Illinois Democrats face mounting questions about what data they will use as an alternative to the federal census — and if that choice would shortchange the racial and ethnic communities that are a core of the party — as they attempt to meet a June 30 deadline to draw new political boundaries.
Groups representing African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other communities have urged Democrats to use actual federal census numbers rather than estimates or other data in preparing new boundary lines for the 118 members of the House, 59 members of the Senate and the districts for the state’s congressional delegation. But due to delays caused by the pandemic, hard census data won’t be available until mid-August at the earliest. And if Democrats were to delay the state legislative mapmaking process past a constitutionally set date of June 30, they risk giving minority Republicans a 50-50 chance of winning the right to draw new boundaries for the General Assembly that will stand for the next decade.
Democrats have said they intend to finish the legislative mapmaking process by June 30, ensuring they will be relying on alternative data to the actual federal 2020 census. “That’s our constitutional responsibility and that’s our goal to be done by June 30,” said state Sen. Elgie Sims, the Chicago Democrat who is vice chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee.
The use of less specific data and population estimates to draw boundaries would likely face a legal challenge and also could run counter to promises from Emanuel “Chris” Welch, the state’s first Black House speaker, and Senate President Don Harmon to create maps that ensure equitable representation for underserved communities.
Although Democrats have held several legislative hearings on the redistricting process, they have yet to say what source of population data they will use to fashion the maps as an alternative to the delayed census figures. Illinois’ Constitution does not require the use of federal census data for legislative redistricting, and some leading Democrats question the accuracy of the final census data by pointing to efforts by former President Donald Trump’s administration to block the counting of undocumented immigrants. “There’s nothing that says that this (census) data is going to be accurate anyway because there were significant steps made to impact and influence some of that data,” Sims said.
The American Community Survey, a product of the federal Census Bureau known as the ACS, is the likely alternative to the actual results from the 2020 federal census. Other states also are looking at the ACS as an alternative. The ACS is an ongoing survey in which about 3.5 million households are asked for information. In contrast to the actual census, which is supposed to count all U.S. households, the survey produces estimates to forecast trend. The latest survey is from 2019.
A number of groups advocating accuracy in counting the population, including racial and ethnic communities, found instances of wide variances when comparing the ACS estimates with actual 2010 census counts. The ACS estimates do not go down to the block level reached by the federal census. That has various civil rights groups warning that using the survey to draw map lines may run counter to federal voting rights laws aimed at ensuring boundaries allow for representation from ethnic and racial communities. The groups also note the state spent more than $31 million on efforts to ensure an accurate 2020 census count during a deadly pandemic, particularly to ensure adding traditionally undercounted populations to the final count.
Because of Democratic control of Springfield, Republicans have virtually no say in the mapmaking process, and they also have advocated an appointed commission process in an effort to remove much of the politics out of what has always been an intensely partisan process.
The state constitution gives the legislature until June 30 to approve a new map for the General Assembly. If it fails to meet the deadline, an eight-member bipartisan commission is formed to come up with a map by Aug. 10. But that commission has largely served as a placeholder in the past, awaiting a September drawing of a tiebreaking ninth partisan member to the commission, creating a political winner-takes-all sweepstakes. Since Democrats control the legislature and the governor’s office, they have the ability to meet the June 30 deadline.
Further complicating the redistricting issue is the time frame for the March 15, 2022, primary elections that would be conducted under new map lines. By law, candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions to appear on next year’s primary ballot by Aug. 31 with filing set to begin Nov. 22.
The primary calendar leaves little time for a process some states are also considering, the drafting of maps based on ACS data and then tweaking the lines after the more detailed federal census numbers are revealed. The calendar also leaves little time for a protracted lawsuit challenging the accuracy of the maps.
A lawsuit based on the use of ACS data would be almost inevitable, advocates of using census data say. But it would be hard to make the argument without also having the actual census data in hand. Given the Illinois election calendar, it’s possible courts could rule that despite problems in the maps, it’s too close to the election to make any substantial changes.
So when will Democrats announce what data they are using to populate their maps? “That’s still under discussion. We’re working through it, trying to figure out what data we’re going to use,” Sims said. “And that’s why we keep focusing on the community outreach (through redistricting hearings) because that’s still a discussion point up in the air.”
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Update
Over the next few days, the SBA tech team and vendors will remain focused on testing the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal; it will not reopen in the next few days, rather they are aiming to reopen the portal by the end of the week.
As we’ve shared, after their vendors fixed the root cause of the initial tech issues, more in-depth risk analysis and stress tests identified other issues that impact application performance. The vendors are quickly addressing and mitigating them and working tirelessly with the SBA team so the application portal can reopen ASAP and they can deliver this critical aid.
We have and will continue to share updates regularly. For the most current updates, continue to check SBA’s Twitter feed. And, again, applicants will have advance notice so they can be best prepared. For more information about the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, visit sba.gov/svogrant.
Effective immediately, applicants can send a request for reevaluation of a Targeted EIDL Advance application that was declined to the following email address:
Applicants should follow these instructions when requesting a reevaluation:
- Send an email to TargetedAdvanceReevaluation@sba.gov
- Use the subject line “Reevaluation Request for [insert your 10-digit application number]”
- In the body of the email, include identifying information for the application such as application number, business name, business address, business owner name(s) and phone number
- Important: Include an explanation and any documentation that addresses the reason for the decline, if available. SBA will contact applicants if additional documentation is required to complete the review.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
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)
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 have temporarily closed the application portal due to technical difficulties. The hope is to reopen ASAP. 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
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 SAM.gov registration to apply for this program. Here’s a link to a video on how to apply: SAM.gov 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 www.SBA.gov/SizeStandards
- 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.
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!
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: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=mdac63fc058a28665bc12f2db155d8e81
Wednesdays from 1pm – 2pm
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=mab7683a4fd7c1b69c9aead26b0fce1ea
Thursdays from 3pm – 4pm
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=me64c9d6620b31db8645644cf588f956b
Fridays from 10am – 11am
Meeting link: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/j.php?MTID=m097b6d22cef426d023f9d5375ba167b4
Finally, make sure you get your RSVP in to join us at our first Business After Hours / Open House for our new Chamber office. Hope to see a good number of you next Thursday, April 29th.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry