The week starts off with some exciting news as well as some saddening news. The county has announced additional business funding, a new legislative initiative has been shared, new mask guidance is expected out tomorrow, and stock markets hit new highs. Additionally, Illinois is set to lose one congressional seat and permanent expansion of unemployment payments have been discussed.
The sad news to share is that condolences are in order for the Slinkard family. Russ Slinkard, former Joliet Chamber President, passed away over the weekend. We’ll definitely share more information on services as we receive and have more to share on Russ’ impact with this chamber and our community.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Will County Announces Additional $1 Million in Grants Going to Local Businesses
The Will County Board ad-hoc CARES Act Funding Committee today approved another $1 million in relief funding for small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants in the amount of $10,000 are available to businesses that have not already received CARES relief.
“The County Board has been working non-stop to deliver pandemic relief funds to residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations,” said County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan (Naperville). “Even as we distribute the last of the CARES funds, we are looking at how to allocate the latest round of federal relief for Will County.”
Will County received more than $120.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds in 2020. The Will County Board created the ad-hoc CARES Act Funding Committee to oversee the distribution of those funds. Over $66 million were directed to local taxing bodies which provide vital services to residents and have been impacted by COVID-19.
“The CARES funds have had tremendous positive impacts on our communities already,” said Finance Committee Chair Ken Harris (Bolingbrook). The initial allocation of funds directed $24.1 million to small businesses and farms, $12 million to individuals needing support for shelter, food, and utilities, $6 million for non-profits, and $12 million for other needs like public safety.
“We’ve worked hard to maximize the impact of these funds for the people of Will County,” said Minority Leader Mike Fricilone (Homer Glen). “We know that businesses are still hurting and I urge any business owner who hasn’t received CARES funding to apply for this final round of grants.”
As the Board allocates the remainder of the CARES funding, they are also seeking input for how to apportion the most recent round of coronavirus relief. The American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress directed an additional $133 million to Will County as financial aid to residents, businesses, and non-profits adversely impacted by the pandemic which has continued on for over a year. Anyone from the public wishing to submit suggestions on how these funds could be allocated can send them via email to CountyBoard@willcountyillnois.com or to Will County Board – 302 N. Chicago Street, Joliet, IL 60432.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Joins New All In Initiative
The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry has joined the new initiative Chambers All In For Economic Recovery. Chambers All In For Economic Recovery is a collaboration of chambers across the state of Illinois urging the Illinois Legislature to provide additional economic relief for businesses. It is all chambers’ mission to support our business communities and help ensure that businesses can thrive for years to come. Last fall, Chambers partnered through a social media campaign to encourage using health and safety practices to keep businesses open. Now, the growing coalition urges the Illinois Legislature to prioritize economic relief for Illinois’ businesses.
Through extensive collaboration, the coalition has identified a platform to bring short and long-term relief to businesses. The platform includes various recommendations to aid businesses’ bottom line, recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and establish pathways for constructive collaboration with the public sector. Nearly 50 Chambers from across the state representing over 13,000 businesses and 580,000 employees call for the legislature to take up this platform and provide relief to the business community.
“It is extremely important at this time that businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of items such as tax credits to recover from the impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chamber President Jen Howard.
Those interested in learning more about the All In platform can view information on www.jolietchamber.com and can contact the Joliet Chamber at 815.727.5371. Additionally, the community can engage with the initiative by following the Joliet Chamber on social media through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
See the attached document for the PDF of the Platform and a Letter to our Members
Biden Expected to Announce Updated Mask Guidance on Tuesday
President Biden is expected to announce on Tuesday updated guidance on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two sources confirmed to The Hill. The guidance is still being finalized, according to multiple sources, but is likely to ease recommendations that Americans wear masks even while outdoors. Biden is expected to outline the changes in a speech on Tuesday more broadly addressing where the country stands in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
CNN reported the announcement will focus on whether vaccinated people need to wear masks when outdoors. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.
President Biden upon taking office in January issued an order calling for Americans to wear masks on federal land and on public transportation for the first 100 days of his presidency. With Biden set to hit his 100th day in office later this week and after millions of Americans having been vaccinated, experts argue a shift in messaging on masks could help the country ease back to normal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said she would not preempt any announcement from the CDC. “We will certainly leave it to the CDC to announce their guidance,” she said.
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser and the government’s leading infectious diseases expert, hinted in an interview Sunday that updated guidance on masks was in the works. “I think it’s pretty common sense now that outdoor risk is really, really quite low, particularly — I mean, if you are a vaccinated person, wearing a mask outdoors, I mean, obviously, the risk is minuscule,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“What I believe you’re going to be hearing, what the country is going to be hearing soon is updated guidelines from the CDC,” he added. “The CDC is a science-based organization. They don’t want to make any guidelines unless they look at the data, and the data backs it up.”
Studies have consistently found the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is significantly reduced when outdoors, particularly when individuals are socially distanced. Experts have increasingly questioned the need for mask use outdoors given the rising percentage of Americans who are vaccinated against the virus.
Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia are among several states that have some type of mandate requiring residents to wear masks when outdoors. Multiple sources wondered if the loosening of masking guidance will make much difference in the immediate future, with one suggesting it may be “too little too late.” A handful of states have already lifted mask mandates, and some Americans have already stopped wearing masks outdoors as the weather warms.
Illinois Set to Lose One Congressional Seat Due to Population Loss
The U.S. Census Bureau today gave Illinois the dreaded, yet unavoidable news: The state will lose one of its 18 U.S. House seats for the next decade as a result of population decline. However, this is much better than the often-feared loss of two seats, but still not good news in any sense.
The state’s resident population, as determined by the 2020 decennial census, actually dropped in the past decade, moving from 12,830,632, to 12,812,508. That’s a drop of 18,124 between the 2010 and 2020 census. Its apportionment population, which includes Illinoisans counted overseas, dropped by 41,641 in the same time period.
With population exploding in other states, Illinois’ numbers now only warrant 17 House districts, down from 18. One bureau official said Illinois did well enough in the population count that it “was not close to losing a second seat,” as some had expected.
The census findings will set off a full-scale political food fight in Springfield as legislators prepare to draw new congressional and legislative district maps, possibly approving them before June 30. If that occurs, Democrats, who hold supermajorities in the state House and Senate plus control of the governor’s mansion, will make all of the decisions, assuming the courts do not interfere. And that likely means one of the state’s five incumbent GOP House members will see their seat go away.
But which one? Some sources in the state’s congressional delegation say downstate freshman Mary Miller, a strong conservative and Donald Trump backer, may be the most vulnerable. But two others—Channahon’s Adam Kinzinger and downstater Rodney Davis— have talked about possibly running against Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2022, depending on what happens to their districts, which could have an impact, too.
However that plays out, the loss of another congressional seat means that Illinois once again will have less clout in Washington, less ability to cast influential votes and pull strings to get things of value for the state. Kinzinger and Davis, both potential targets in the ongoing redistrict efforts, are pushing for an independent redistricting process, calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to only approve a “fair map.”
“High taxes and a runaway regulatory environment have undoubtedly contributed to people leaving the state,” Kinzinger said in a statement. “Now, we wait to see if Governor Pritzker will honor his ‘fair maps’ promise for redistricting.”
Though Illinois’ population growth was particularly slow in the past decade, the loss of congressional seats is a very long-term trend, stretching all the way back to 1913-43, when the state peaked at 27 seats. (See the chart below.) In almost every census since then, the state has lost at least one seat, as other parts of the country, particularly in the South and West, grew faster.
Illinois’ population decline was not for lack of effort to boost the census count in an unprecedented year. The state reported spending $47.8 million on census efforts, helping create a network 400 organizations and tapping state staff to help as well. Illinois ranked seventh overall – and first in the nation among the top ten most populous states – for Census self-response, ending the campaign with 71.4 percent of people filling out their census form on their own. That’s just slightly ahead of the 2010 rate of 70.5 percent.
At an earlier press conference today, Pritzker said the largest share of population loss was among college-aged students, who appeared to be flocking to other states with cheaper tuition. “We weren’t making it affordable enough,” Pritzker said. While the state worked increase MAP and AIM HIGH grants and the number of students staying local was stabilizing, efforts were sidelined by COVID, the governor said.
Pritzker again remained vague on the political outcome of current remap efforts. “This is a legislative endeavor, getting a redistricting map put together, we’re certainly monitoring it,” he said.
Texas will be adding two congressional seats, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will each be adding one. Other states losing a single seat include California, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.
S&P 500 Hits All-Time High and Nasdaq Hits New Record Close
The S&P 500 rose slightly to a new record high on Monday as investors geared up for one of the busiest weeks of the first-quarter earnings season. The broad equity benchmark inched 0.2% higher to a closing record of 4,187.62. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.9% to 14,138.78, hitting its first fresh record close since Feb. 12. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 61.92 points, or 0.2%, to 33,981.57, however, dragged down by Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and Coca Cola. The consumer staples sector was the biggest loser Monday, falling more than 1%.
The decline in consumer companies came amid surging commodity prices, which fueled fears of inflation. Corn futures hit their highest level in more than seven years in volatile trading, while copper climbed to its highest level in nearly a decade. Commodities are a big portion of costs for consumer staples.
With the global economy gradually reopening, firms like Boeing, Ford and Caterpillar are expected to note cost pressures they are facing from rising materials and transportation prices when they report earnings this week. “Inflation is arguably the biggest topic during this earnings season,” Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy at Bank of America, said in a note. “Raw materials, transportation, labor, etc. were cited as major drivers of inflation and many plan to (or already did) raise prices to pass through higher costs.”
About a third of the S&P 500 this week is set to update investors on how their businesses fared during the three months ended March 31. Some of the largest tech companies in the world are scheduled to report results this week, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet.
Corporations have for the most part managed to beat Wall Street’s forecasts thus far into earnings season. With 25% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting first-quarter results, 84% have reported a positive per-share earnings surprise and 77% have topped revenue estimates.
“Growth is still improving and liquidity is still abundant,” Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a note. “The bull market remains intact, and I struggle to see the type of calamity that defined the summers of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. But a harder, choppier, more range-bound summer does seem likely.”
If 84% is the final percentage, it will tie the mark for the highest percentage of S&P 500 companies reporting a positive EPS surprise since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008.
Still, strong first-quarter results have been met with a mostly lukewarm reception from investors. Strategists say already-high valuations and near-record-high levels on the S&P 500 and Dow have kept traders’ enthusiasm in check. Both indexes are within 1% of their all-time highs.
“Despite the strong earnings reports we’ve seen thus far, the market is really taking beats in stride amid already high valuations,” said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investing product at E-Trade. Data out Monday showed new orders for capital goods rebounded less than expected in March. The Commerce Department said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft rose 0.9% last month, missing Dow Jones estimates of a 2.2% increase.
Equity markets came under pressure last week after multiple outlets reported that Biden will seek to increase the capital gains tax on wealthy Americans to help pay for the second part of his Build Back Better agenda. The president is expected to detail the $1.8 trillion plan, including spending proposals aimed at worker education and family support, to a joint session of Congress Wednesday evening.
The Federal Reserve, which meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, is expected to defend its policy of letting inflation run hot, while assuring markets it sees the pick-up in prices as only temporary. Chairman Jerome Powell will host a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision.
Some Democrats Push for Permanent Expansion of Unemployment Benefits
Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing for the White House to propose making jobless benefits more generous permanently as part of the antipoverty package President Biden is expected to roll out next week.
In a letter sent to the White House Friday, nearly 40 Democrats said President Biden should propose implementing a series of new federal standards of unemployment insurance programs, which are largely run by states. They proposed increasing the amount of jobless payments, extending the duration of the weekly benefit, expanding the pool of eligible workers, and implementing a system that would more closely tie the payments to economic conditions.
“The Cares Act’s emergency programs must be extended to support jobless workers for the duration of the current economic downturn, but we must also fix the underlying problems facing our [unemployment insurance] system so that it can provide economic security for all workers,” they wrote in the letter, referencing the $2.2 trillion Cares Act passed last year that first added a federal supplement.
State unemployment systems, hamstrung by decades-old technology, struggled to quickly deliver benefits to millions of unemployed people. Officials under both the Trump and Biden administrations have cited the pressing need to address outdated computer systems and fraudulent claims plaguing state unemployment systems.
The White House has been studying possible unemployment insurance changes, according to a person familiar with the matter, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been discussing the issue with the administration. But it isn’t known if the White House will address the issue in their coming plan, which is expected to be released next week and includes more than $1 trillion in funding for paid leave, tuition-free community college, and universal prekindergarten.
Republicans have argued that large payments distort the labor market by offering people more money than they could make at work, and some Democrats have expressed concerns about the proper size of supplemental checks. The level of the payments was a sticking point in the latest round of aid, with the $400 a week proposed by House Democrats reduced to $300 a week in the Senate.
Democrats contend increasing the amount and duration of benefits would help avoid the state benefit cutbacks that occurred in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession. Many states slashed jobless benefits to rebuild funds set aside to pay unemployment benefits after they were depleted during the last recession.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this month said addressing challenges in the states’ unemployment insurance systems is among his top initial priorities at the agency. He signaled he was considering issues around antiquated technology, fraud, and the system’s overall patchwork nature. Each state sets its own criteria for its unemployment insurance system, including determining applicant eligibility and duration of benefits.
Mr. Walsh said he had begun to have conversations about how to address such issues, including proposals to regionalize or nationalize the states’ systems. He didn’t rule out a national system, but said it was too early to say whether such an overhaul should happen. “I think it’s something that we have to just take a good look at and see what’s the best path forward,” he said.
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
The SBA has completed rigorous testing and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal reopened 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.
- 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
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