Final update for the week as we’ve hit Friday. Today we’ll take a look at two big announcements. First, that the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant portal will reopen this weekend and second, that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is recommended to resume. Also, information about more money for the self-employed under the PPP, capital gains tax proposed, the latest on infrastructure, and Chicago casino talk pops back up.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Portal to Reopen on Saturday
The SBA has completed rigorous testing and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal will reopen on Saturday, April 24 at 12:30pm ET. Updated guidance documents have been posted below. Applicants may continue to register for an application portal account.
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, to be administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance.
Eligible applicants may qualify for 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.
- FAQ regarding Shuttered Venue Operators Grant
- SVOG preliminary application checklist
- Cross-program eligibility on SBA COVID-19 relief options
- SVOG-specific version of IRS Form 4506-T
- SVOG applicant user guide
Who can apply – Eligible entities include:
- Live venue operators or promoters
- Theatrical producers
- Live performing arts organization operators
- Museum operators
- Motion picture theater operators (including owners)
- Talent representatives
Other requirements of note:
- Must have been in operation as of February 29, 2020
- Venue or promoter who received a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020, will have the SVOG reduced by the PPP loan amount
Grant amount – Grant amounts will reflect either of the following instances:
- For an eligible entity in operation on January 1, 2019, grants will be for an amount equal to 45% of their 2019 gross earned revenue OR $10 million, whichever is less.
- For an eligible entity that began operation after January 1, 2019, grants will be for the average monthly gross earned revenue for each full month you were in operation during 2019 multiplied by six (6) OR $10 million, whichever is less.
Allowable use of funds
Funds may be used for specific expenses, which include:
- Payroll costs
- Rent payments
- Utility payments
- Scheduled mortgage payments (not including prepayment of principal)
- Scheduled debt payments (not including prepayment of principal on any indebtedness incurred in the ordinary course of business prior to February 15, 2020)
- Worker protection expenditures
- Payments to independent contractors (not to exceed $100,000 in annual compensation per contractor)
- Other ordinary and necessary business expenses, including maintenance costs
- Administrative costs (including fees and licensing)
- State and local taxes and fees
- Operating leases in effect as of February 15, 2020
- Insurance payments
- Advertising, production transportation, and capital expenditures related to producing a theatrical or live performing arts production. (May not be primary use of funds)
Grantees may not use award funds to:
- Buy real estate
- Make payments on loans originated after February 15, 2020
- Make investments or loans
- Make contributions or other payments to, or on behalf of, political parties, political committees, or candidates for election
- Any other use prohibited by the Administrator
CDC Panel Recommends that J&J Vaccines Resume
The nationwide pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine should be lifted, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine advisory committee recommended Friday. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 10-4 with one abstention, that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, and that it will save lives.
The panel did not specifically ask for a warning label, but recommended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) add a label intended to make providers aware of the risk of a rare complication involving blood clots in women under the age of 50. Women in that age group should get the vaccine if they feel comfortable and are aware of the risks, but should also know there are other options available if they are not comfortable, the panel decided.
Adding a label is similar to the move taken by the European Union’s top regulator, which said the vaccine needed a warning label but did not recommend any restrictions, because its overall benefits outweigh the risks.
Johnson & Johnson has already negotiated the label language with FDA, a company official said.” We absolutely agree with the FDA on the implementation of a warning within our label and patient and physician fact sheets describing this very rare event, including how it can be identified early and diagnosed and treated,” the company’s chief medical officer Joanne Waldstreicher said.
The warning label states, in part, that the relationship between the vaccine and the blood clotting syndrome, called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, is “plausible.” The label notes an increased clotting risk in women aged 18-49, with some fatal cases. The condition is rare because it combines blood clots with a low level of platelets, which help promote clotting.
The outcome is good news for state and local health officials waiting to resume using the one-dose vaccine, which could be key in vaccinating hard-to-reach and vulnerable communities, like homeless, homebound and college students.
The recommendation will need to be approved by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who would then suggest resumption of the shots within a matter of hours or days. “I think the FDA and I both feel strongly —and the CDC feels strongly— that we need to act swiftly after that analysis. But I do think that there’s plenty of people who are interested in the J&J vaccine, if just for convenience, as well as for a single-dose option,” Walensky said during a White House briefing Friday.
Use of the vaccine has been paused since early last week, to allow health officials to investigate the rare blood clots. There are about 9.5 million doses of the vaccine sitting on shelves across the country that could be deployed immediately.
So far, 15 cases of clotting syndrome have been confirmed, each of them occurring in women. There were 13 cases in women between age 18 and 49, and the median age of those affected was 37. Women between 30 and 39 appear to be at greatest risk, with 11.8 cases per million doses given, CDC said. Additional potential cases, including some in men, are currently being reviewed.
There are three known deaths among nearly 8 million Americans who have received the shot. Seven more people are hospitalized — including four in intensive care — and five have been discharged home, the CDC said.
A risk-benefit analysis presented by CDC staff found if the vaccines resume in all adults over age 18, about 26 cases of clotting could occur out of a projected 9.8 million doses administered over the course of six months. Over the same period, about 2,200 deaths and 1,400 ICU admissions would be prevented if the vaccine were resumed in all adults.
Michael Streiff, a hematologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the panel that people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their medical provider, though most patients have started showing symptoms after one to two weeks.
Physicians are also advised to avoid using heparin, which is a common treatment for blood clots, because it can exacerbate the clotting condition.
Self-Employed Would Get a Bigger Slice of Remaining $51 Billion in PPP Under New Bill
With just over $50 billion still available in the Paycheck Protection Program, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a new bill that would make good on a Biden administration promise to get more money into the hands of solopreneurs.
The bill, dubbed the PPP Flexibility for Farmers, Ranchers, and the Self-Employed Act, would allow sole proprietors, independent contractors, and the self-employed to retroactively apply for more money through the forgivable loan program. This proposed revision to the PPP follows the Biden administration’s February 22nd request that the Small Business Administration change the formula these borrowers use to calculate their PPP loans. Rather than using net income, which removes taxes and other expenses, these borrowers may now use gross income, which allows them to book higher loan amounts. But the SBA concluded in a March 3 notice that those who applied for a loan prior to the change would not be eligible for retroactivity. This bill would counter that.
According to a summary of the proposed law, retroactivity would go back to December 27, 2020, the date of enactment of the Economic Aid Act. SBA administrator Isabel Guzman would be required to create a process to allow eligible applicants to request a recalculation of the amount of a covered loan and receive a payment that is equal to the difference between the amount of the covered loan originally received by the eligible applicant and the amount of the covered loan.
The summary also notes that borrowers would be eligible for retroactivity only on one loan and the $2 million limit on second-draw loans would apply. Guzman, according to the bill, could decide to make supplemental payments as a new loan if it helps expedite implementation of the program.
The bill would also allow some farmers and ranchers to use gross income rather than net income when applying for PPP. And it gives more flexibility to those attempting to calculate their revenue losses. Rather than letting them just look year over year–that is 2020 over 2019–or quarter over quarter to show a revenue loss of at least 25 percent, borrowers could use any contiguous 90-day period to determine eligibility for second-draw loans.
While it may be the case that Congress passes this bill before the PPP’s May 31 end date, that doesn’t mean program funds will still be available. During a March 24 Senate hearing on the efficacy of Covid-19 relief initiatives, Patrick Kelley in the Small Business Administration’s Office of Capital Access noted that the PPP program could exhaust its funding this month. At the time, there was just $79 billion left. As of April 20, there is just $51 billion left, out of a total of $291 billion.
President Biden to Propose Capital Gains Tax of 39.6% to Fund Education & Childcare
President Joe Biden will seek to raise taxes on millionaire investors to fund education and other spending priorities as part of the administration’s effort to overhaul the U.S. economy. As part of the plan, Biden will seek an increase in the tax on capital gains to 39.6% from 20% for those Americans earning more than $1 million, according to multiple outlets, including Bloomberg News and The New York Times.
The proposal would make good on Biden’s campaign promise to require America’s wealthiest households to contribute more as a percentage of their income. This plan would bring the capital gains tax rate and the top individual income tax rate, currently at 37%, to near parity.
Reports said the president is expected to release the proposal formally next week as a way to fund spending in the upcoming American Families Plan, expected to come in around $1 trillion.
The American Families Plan is expected to include measures aimed at helping U.S. workers learn new skills, expand subsidies for childcare and make community college tuition free for all. That proposal would be separate from the $2.3 trillion infrastructure package known as the American Jobs Plan, which would be funded by an increase in the corporate tax rate to 28%.
Democrats Pile on GOP Infrastructure Plan
Senate Republicans unveiled their infrastructure counteroffer Thursday — a $568 billion package that made it more apparent than ever that a deal between the parties may be out of reach. Democrats set the plan aflame even before Republicans released the details, denouncing its top-line figure as anemic given the nation’s needs. The GOP proposal also relies on a set of mostly unrealistic pay-fors, and would impose user fees instead of the Democrats’ approach of raising corporate taxes.
The new Republican proposal is about a quarter of the size of President Joe Biden’s more than $2 trillion proposal — and also smaller than former President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan from three years ago. It’s also significantly narrower than either of those other plans, focused primarily on transportation infrastructure along with items like broadband and water projects.
The GOP plan is still vague on one of the most important questions: how to pay for the spending. It leans on unspecified user fees; “financing tools” and enticing the private sector to open its pocketbook; and unused money from prior Covid relief bills.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Senate Republican working on the counteroffer, emphasized Thursday that it’s important that the package “not be so large as to fail to launch, which means sticking to actual infrastructure. That’s why our framework works. It serves as a realistic, thoughtful approach that addresses the core areas of infrastructure that we all agree upon.”
The proposal’s vagueness suggests that Republicans have not been able to settle on specific funding options. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has emerged as a key negotiator, hinted earlier this week that an electric vehicles fee, public-private partnerships, ticket taxes for airport improvements and new highway tolls could be part of the mix, but each of these has significant problems.
A fee on electric vehicles is feasible in the abstract, but with battery-powered cars and trucks accounting for less than 1 percent of vehicles on the road, the money collected would be meager. The trucking industry would fight against new tolls on existing highways, and additional taxes on the price of an airplane ticket to pay for airport improvements would draw the ire of the airline industry. Public-private partnerships, a favorite tactic of some in President Donald Trump’s circle, might induce the private sector to spend on infrastructure but would not themselves count as spendable dollars.
The GOP framework says an infrastructure bill should be fully paid for and “shore up any infrastructure-related trust fund that is facing a revenue shortfall,” including by ensuring that electric vehicles are contributing to highway revenue. However, an electric vehicle fee alone would not be enough to make up for shortfalls in the trust fund that fuels highway and transit spending.
“Congress and the Biden administration must reach a bipartisan agreement that will improve the infrastructure in all states and communities, while achieving important national goals,” the document says. “This framework is meant to serve as a guide as we continue to develop bipartisan bills that will move by regular order.”
The Republican plan is heavy on highway funding, allocating $299 billion for roads and bridges, or more than half of the overall figure. On the transportation side, it also includes $61 billion for transit, $20 billion for rail, $44 billion for airports, $17 billion for water ports and $13 billion for safety agencies including the DOT bodies that oversee highways, trucking and pipelines. Non-transportation line items include $65 billion for broadband, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and $14 billion for water storage.
It also specifies that funds should flow through existing formula and discretionary programs, which means its authors won’t want to create new bureaucracies to handle whatever spending the plan envisions.
Biden’s plan, by contrast, is a more than $2 trillion blueprint that an increase in the corporate tax rate would pay for. It de-emphasizes funding for highways, instead redirecting federal dollars to a massive electric vehicle infrastructure effort, and includes funding for a broad range of items like health care that Republicans have argued fall outside the bounds of traditional infrastructure.
An additional wrinkle is it’s unclear how the GOP proposal will mesh with the surface transportation reauthorization, which both parties are working on in the House and the Senate. The current authorization must be extended or replaced by the end of September.
Capito said the Senate’s bipartisan surface bill from last year, which the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved unanimously, should form the basis for their new proposal. Indeed, the $299 figure for roads is just $5 billion more than the figure included in that bill, according to a Republican committee aide. The aide said in addition that the plan’s repurposing of Covid relief money would take the form of enhanced flexibility for state and local governments to use relief funds for roads and bridges.
Chicago Wants to Move Fast on Casino Developer
The city of Chicago has released its request for proposals for its long-sought casino, enticing bidders with an aggressive timeline for opening with the possibility of operating a temporary site.
“There’s no place else in the Midwest that offers what we do,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a call with reporters ahead of the RFP’s release, shrugging off concerns about competition in the suburbs and across the borders in Indiana and Wisconsin.
Bidders have already been scouting locations in the city, Lightfoot said, adding that Chicago is a uniquely attractive big city opportunity for casino developers looking to ride the recovery wave. Among the city’s selling points: 9.5 million residents, more than 60 million visitors in 2019 and untapped gaming demand.
“I think the casino industry has really demonstrated an incredible amount of resilience and adaptability in the face of a lot of challenges,” Lightfoot said. Operators that have already shown an interest in Chicago “are pros; they’ve been through hell and back, not just with the pandemic but with other challenges that have threatened their business model. They always come out stronger for it. This is a smart, sophisticated industry.”
Big name casino operators expressed interest following the city’s request for information last year, including Wynn, Hard Rock, MGM, local heavyweight Rush Street Gaming, and several local real estate developers. Most expressed a desire to place the casino near downtown and wanted plenty of space to operate a single gaming floor. Lightfoot has declined to say where she’d like to see a casino – and insisted Rush would not get a home court advantage – but alluded to having a few spots in mind.
The operator would be allowed to set up a temporary casino for up to two years and to locate slot machines at both Midway and O’Hare airports. At the final casino, the operator could open to 500 hotel rooms, meeting space, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. Doors in an eventual “resort” destination could open by 2025.
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 Restaurant Revitalization Fund
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.
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.
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.
Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
See above for full article on portal reopening
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