Tonight will be the night that President Joe Biden delivers a speech addressing the county about his American Families Plan. Information is below on what is expected, as well as a note from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on what the President should take notice of. Additionally, today’s update covers Chicago’s “vax pass” and a vaccine credit reminder, health care equity reform bill signing, more on redistricting & the census, and a restaurant fund reminder.
We also would like to share further information about the passing of former chamber President/CEO, Russ Slinkard. Please follow this link to our website where in addition to information and pictures, you’ll find the obituary link. Services for Russ will be tomorrow from 2 to 8 PM at Blackburn-Giegerich-Sonntag Funeral, 1500 Black Road, Joliet.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Stakes are High for Biden Speech Tonight
The stakes for President Biden’s relationship with progressives will be high on Wednesday when he addresses Congress and the nation on his expected $1.8 trillion American Families Plan to reshape the U.S. economy. Biden’s plan represents an aggressive effort during a pandemic to change the social safety net by providing better childcare for families, free community college and prekindergarten, and paid parental leave — much of it paid for by increased taxes on the wealthy.
All the same, it falls well short of what progressive leaders want, and is already leading to a scramble in the House and Senate as lawmakers seek to add to a package that has yet to be formally unveiled. Progressives happy with the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency have raised their expectations, and it may be tough for Biden to keep them satisfied.
Liberal lawmakers strongly believe that now is the time to act. They worry that Democrats could lose control of the House, where Democrats have only a six-seat majority, in 2022. They see Biden’s initial months in office as a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the nation’s understanding of government and its relationship to the U.S. economy, something that former President Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1930s and former President Reagan did in the 1980s.
“It’s the big task that presidents have, I believe, which is to constantly and repetitively do what Roosevelt did: Remind people of where they’ve been and how they’ve got there and what they need to do,” said Robert Borosage, co-founder of Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal advocacy group. “Reagan did that very well. Roosevelt did that very well. Biden, in his policies, is making a big turn and one that’s mandated by the crises we face and it’s important he frame his speech so Americans can start to understand that,” he said.
Progressives have praised Biden for going further than former Presidents Clinton and Obama to transform the economy through massive investment, but they want more. For example, Biden’s plan is expected to provide $225 billion for expanded childcare, $200 billion for universal prekindergarten, $300 billion for educational priorities such as two years of free community college and $225 billion for paid family and medical leave.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who ran to the left of Biden in last year’s primary fight but has since become an ally, wants to provide $700 billion — not just $225 billion — for expanded childcare so that anyone in the country who needs care can have it at an affordable cost. “We’re talking about childcare for every single child in America whose parent wants it and making sure that capacity is there in our system,” Warren told reporters Tuesday when asked why her proposal would cost significantly more than the White House offer.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and his $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal have progressive leaders feeling good about the trajectory of his administration. “President Biden has definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had. I’ll be frank, I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a leading progressive voice in the House who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president, said Monday in a livestreamed talk. “The active invitation and willingness and collaboration with progressives in his first 100 days or almost 100 days has been very impressive,” she added.
Ocasio-Cortez also acknowledged: “There are areas … of disagreement.” Progressives want Biden to offer more detail on legislation to address climate change. “They’ve talked about the huge [electric vehicle] program, they’ve talked about the huge clean electricity standard. Those things are good; we don’t know what else they’re going to throw in,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a leading proponent of addressing warming global temperatures.
Some progressive groups were disappointed the infrastructure plan didn’t do more to fight global warming, even as the provisions that were included drew barbs from the GOP. The Sunrise Movement noted that Biden’s first infrastructure proposal would upgrade only 2 million out of 140 million housing units across the country and would provide only $180 billion in research and development of climate solutions, substantially less than the $300 billion the group says Biden promised during the 2020 campaign.
Sanders, who supports Warren’s childcare proposal, also wants the Medicare eligibility age to be reduced to 60, 55 or 50. And he wants Medicare benefits expanded to cover hearing, dental and vision care. “We have an historic opportunity to make the most significant expansion of Medicare since it was signed into law,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Biden on Saturday. Sixteen Democrats including Warren and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) signed the letter.
Sanders on Tuesday said Biden is on the cusp of what should be a transformational moment in the country’s history. “I think it needs to be,” he said. “I think the American people understand that the very rich are getting richer and the needs of working families are being ignored and it’s time to reform and start paying attention to the needs of ordinary folks.”
Biden’s American Families Plan is not expected to include a provision to lower the price of prescription drugs, which is a key difference from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Pelosi last week called for prescription drug pricing legislation to be included in Biden’s plan. “Seniors and families across America are counting on us to finally deliver the drug price negotiations they need to afford their medications,” she said. “Lowering health costs and prescription drug prices will be a top priority for House Democrats to be included in the American Families Plan.”
In a nod to Democratic concerns that Biden’s newest proposal doesn’t do enough on health care, White House officials added $200 billion in expanded tax credits to reduce insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.
What the Business Community Wants, Needs, and Deserves to Hear from President Biden
A note from U.S. Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Suzanne Clark:
There’s a rising sense of optimism in our country today. A growing belief that the long, dark stretch of the pandemic is nearly behind us, and brighter days lie ahead. Our country is finally getting back to health and back to strength.
President Biden is sure to highlight how his administration has contributed to these positive developments as he marks his first 100 days in office later this week. It’s a good opportunity to celebrate how much our nation has achieved in the 400+ days since the WHO declared the global pandemic.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we are proud of how the private and public sectors have worked together during the crisis to help communities and stabilize the economy. Led by businesses and aided by government, effective vaccines were developed and deployed in less than a year. The pharmaceutical companies who led these efforts held 1,224 clinical trials in all 50 states—making their approval and deployment a truly nationwide achievement. Today, 27.2% of our population is fully vaccinated. Shots are widely available to those who want them.
This unprecedented achievement may have happened within a year, but it was built on many years of advocating for a policy framework that rewards investment and innovation. When our nation needed the ingenuity and industriousness of the private sector more than ever, American businesses were ready to answer the call.
Moreover, thanks to the resilience, adaptability, and innovation of American businesses and their employees throughout the pandemic, our economy is poised to come roaring back—as high as 8.2% GDP!—in the second quarter. As more restrictions are lifted and in-person gatherings continue to become safer, more displaced workers from industries on the bottom of the K-Shape recovery will feel the effects of a stronger economy.
Keeping up the Momentum
We can expect President Biden to hit on many of these positive macro-trends when he addresses the nation on Wednesday night. What business will be most interested in hearing is how he will work with partners in government and business to usher in a new era of economic growth.
The U.S. Chamber has worked closely with the administration to advance shared priorities on a bipartisan basis, while also forcefully opposing policies that would undermine a widespread recovery and future growth. As the president charts the next 100 days of his presidency, we urge his administration to focus on these three priorities to keep up the momentum:
1. Lead bipartisan progress on infrastructure.
The current debate over an infrastructure package gives President Biden the opportunity for a big achievement that will help our economy today and into future—if it’s done on a bipartisan basis.
As someone who spent more than 35 years in the Senate, President Biden knows that bipartisanship and consensus is the only way to get big, important, difficult things done in a meaningful and durable way. If you don’t get the buy-in of the other party, any change in power puts the policy at risk of reversal or repeal.
Perhaps that’s why not a single significant infrastructure package has been passed along party lines since 1991. In fact, six major pieces of legislation were enacted with the strong support of both parties.
Republicans and Democrats alike are eager to engage in today’s infrastructure debate and have put forward proposals. The only way to turn talk into action is to begin serious-minded bipartisan negotiations. There is common ground to be found.
The perennial stumbling block for progress on infrastructure is how to pay for it. Lawmakers must be realistic that investing in infrastructure requires revenue. But not all revenue is created equal. The Chamber believes in maintaining America’s traditional user-financed model of funding infrastructure and paying for new investment over time. We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which make American employers uncompetitive and cost America jobs.
We must seize this opportunity for bipartisan progress and set a tone for progress with other priorities.
2. Reject job-killing tax hikes that would undermine the recovery.
A major reason our economy is poised for such a quick and vigorous recovery is that it was in a place of strength before the shock of the pandemic — thanks in no small part to the historic tax reform of 2017. Now, the administration is pursuing the biggest tax hike in 30 years to fund an ambitious agenda to massively expand the role and reach of government paid for by American job creators.
Raising taxes on corporations would sap growth and stall job creation just as it’s picking up speed. And it’s important to note that many small businesses would find themselves in the crosshairs of a higher corporate tax rate. Under the federal tax code, 1.4 million small businesses that together employ 13 million Americans file their taxes as C-Corps. Raising their taxes would put them at a competitive disadvantage, suppress wage growth, and undo the progress of lowering the rate to 21%.
On top of that, raising the tax code would harm America’s competitiveness in a global economy and make it a less attractive place to invest profits, locate corporate headquarters, and create American jobs. And, no, we should not expect other nations to hold back their economies because the U.S. has chosen to disadvantage its own.
Lower taxes and smarter regulations remain key building blocks of a growing economy.
3. Prioritize workforce in order to keep the economic momentum going.
I hear every day, from leaders of businesses large and small, that they struggle to find qualified workers for open jobs. It was the number-one challenge they cited before the pandemic, and it remains a critical concern heading into this recovery. And the recovery will actually stall if we don’t have the workers to drive it.
The most immediate way to address our current challenge is to reopen schools and daycares. This is not only an education issue, but also a workforce issue. Parents are struggling to hold jobs without childcare or while working from home while directing remote learning. The end of the pandemic may be in sight, but uncertainty still looms over countless American families and employers.
We also must begin to phase out the unprecedented financial assistance that was necessary to support displaced workers at the height of the pandemic. Particularly for the hardest hit industries, as mandates continue to be lifted and businesses are able to resume pre-pandemic operations and capacity, workers will be able to return to their steady paychecks so they can rebuild their lives.
Finally, we need immigration policies that provide employers the skilled talent they need to fill open jobs. We appreciate the administration’s early steps to raise caps for H1-B visas, but more needs to be done to reform our system. Fortunately, there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle eager to help get this done. Earlier this month, the Chamber’s Common Grounds series convened a bipartisan conversation with two members of Congress to discuss how we can move our nation forward after years of gridlock. Like us, they are determined to seize the opportunity and update our immigration policies to meet the needs of our modern economy. The answer should be legislation that addresses immigration reform and border security.
Working Together for a Bright Future
The Chamber is committed to creating a brighter future for our country through a widespread recovery and inclusive growth driven by American business. To achieve that, we will work with the administration—and when needed, we will stand up to the administration. We urge President Biden to work with both parties and the business community to take the right steps to advance our economy—and to exercise the prudence to reject proposals that will hold it back, such as excessive tax hikes, the PRO Act, anti-arbitration efforts, and more.
Ahead of us lies a period of growth, opportunity, prosperity, and innovation that will improve everyone’s lives. Let’s seize it.
Vaccinations May Be Required to Attend Summer Events in Chicago
With vaccine availability increasing and coronavirus cases on the decline, city public health officials say they’re planning for a summer of eased social distance restrictions. Public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday said Chicagoans will never be required to get vaccinated. But as city leaders plan for a post-pandemic return to public gatherings, “We are certainly thinking a lot about people who are fully vaccinated, and opportunities for them to do certain things,” she said.
Arwady said she expects to announce in May the launch of a “vax pass” smartphone application that could be used by event organizers to require people to prove they have been fully vaccinated. Arwady would not give details about the vaccination passport plan.
“I think increasingly where people are wanting to do things and lower their risk, vaccination is going to be their ticket to doing that,” she said. Arwady offered some advice for folks who are looking forward to summer events in Chicago. “You want to be part of the fun? Get vaccinated,” she said.
“Younger people in particular may be excited about the idea of getting into events that might be limited to people who are vaccinated,” Arwady said, noting that the city is working with club organizers. “For folks who have made that choice (to get vaccinated), they’re going to be able to get back to the fun with a lot less worry.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered slightly more information about the “Vax Pass” program at an unrelated ribbon cutting event in Bronzeville, stressing that a potential vaccine passport is meant to be an incentive. “We are constantly looking at ways in which we can incentivize folks to get the vaccine,” Lightfoot said, adding the city might “do that by looking at preferred seating, preferred admission. That’s still very much a work in progress, we’ll have more to say on that in the coming days.”
COVID-19 Vaccination Tax Credit Update/Reminder
Last week, the Biden administration announced a new tax credit that would help businesses offer paid time off for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Additionally, the tax credit would cover time off if an employee needs time to recover from side effects.
During the April 26 Small Business Update, Jeanette Mulvey, spoke with Senior Advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Team Andy Slavitt and U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley about the vaccination tax credit and much more.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the conversation:
New tax credit available so employees have time off to get vaccinated
Bradley noted that the new vaccination tax credit is an expansion of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which became law in March 2020. The new tax credit applies to nearly all businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees. It provides up to $511 per day per employee for up to 10 workdays for time taken off between April 1 and September 30, 2021.
“Every barrier we can eliminate for people to get vaccinated just brings us that much closer to a healthier society and a healthier economy,” Bradley said. “This tax credit is administered by the IRS. In short, this is a refundable tax credit. You get to hold back what you normally would deposit [in payroll taxes] and withholding to reduce your tax liability.” Bradley said employers could use IRS Form 941 to show they offset those costs and claimed the tax credits. Read more for the IRS about the vaccination tax credit here.
Companies can incentivize employees to get vaccinated
While many companies have declined to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory (even if they legally can), some have provided other incentives to employees to do so. Slavitt said that there were numerous examples of companies that had provided incentives to employees who voluntarily received the vaccine. He pointed to grocery chain Kroger, which gave employees $100 gift cards if they showed proof of vaccination, as a positive example, and said the company had hit 75% of employees vaccinated.
He also said that companies that are helping employees and customers make appointments helps persuade anyone who may be on the fence because it’s not coming from the government. “People are more likely to get vaccinated when they know other people who are vaccinated — people in their community and fellow employees — and they can talk to them about it,” Slavitt said. “It’s important that it does not come from the government. People want to make their own decisions and do their own homework. So things like this get them engaged and paying attention.”
Employers should provide employees with resources and information
Bradley said small businesses especially have a vital role to play in helping encourage vaccination. “Perhaps the most important voices, as we try to help people get their questions answered, are the voices of their biological family and their employer family, particularly on the small business front,” Bradley said. “Everyone’s situation is different. They may not know where to turn. They may have simple questions like, ‘How can I get there?’ and ‘How can I take time off?’ Employers can help answer all of those questions. Small business owners have a role to play in this.”
Slavitt added that providing legitimate and reliable sources of information to employees was important as well. “Making sure people get their questions answered — not on Facebook but from legitimate sources like their local doctor — is really important,” Slavitt said. “Allowing them to talk to other people who have been vaccinated really does help. … The vast majority of people will decide this is a good decision, and we just need to make it convenient for people.”
Governor Pritzker Signs Health Care Equity Reform Bill
Governor Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a wide-ranging bill promoting health care equity for Black, Hispanic, and low-income patients by enhancing mental health services, requiring bias training for doctors, and creating a community health worker program.
“This legislation advances a key belief of mine that I know is shared by everyone standing with me and millions of residents across Illinois — health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pritzker said at a bill-signing ceremony for House Bill 158 in Springfield at Memorial Medical Center’s Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation.
The Illinois Health Care and Human Services Reform Act was the fourth and final pillar of the caucus’ agenda to be passed and signed into law. The other pillars dealt with criminal justice, education, and economic equity, and all but HB 158 were passed during the legislature’s “lame duck” session in January.
The bill creates the Underlying Causes of Crime and Violence Study Act, which will study how to identify high-violence communities and prioritize state dollars to address issues related to violence. The bill also requires Medicaid to cover doula and home-visiting services for pregnant women and allows workers to use their sick days to care for children, parents, stepparents, in-laws, and grandparents. Costs would be reduced for blood-sugar testing products.
The legislation says a state board that approves hospital closures will have to first conduct a racial-equity impact assessment, and a task force and commissions will be created to look at improving health care outcomes, propose statewide policies to eliminate systemic racism and reduce racial and income-related health care disparities.
The bill also increases Medicaid payments rates for psychiatric treatment at hospitals serving primarily low-income patients and enhances dementia training requirements for the Illinois Department on Aging.
Pritzker Chastises GOP for Failing to Collaborate on Redistricting and Happy with Census Data Showing Smaller Population Loss than Expected
Gov. J.B. Pritzker accused Republicans of failing to work with majority Democrats on new political boundaries, though he acknowledged Democrats have yet to disclose what population estimates they are using in lieu of delayed data from the federal census. The first-term Democratic governor went so far as to praise the first round of census figures released Monday that showed Illinois’ population dropping less than critics had feared. He said the census data “exceeded everyone’s expectations” and that “a full count was done.”
Pritzker has long campaigned in support of an independent mapmaking process in an effort to take partisanship out of one of the most partisan activities of lawmakers, the redrawing of the state’s 118 House, 59 Senate and now, based on the new census figures, 17 U.S. House districts.
Pritzker had previously said he would veto a partisan map and on Tuesday said he would veto an “unfair” map. He said his support for an independent commission to draw new boundaries for the General Assembly was predicated on a state constitutional amendment — even though some Democrats and Republicans have proposed a mapmaking commission that would not require a change to the state Constitution.
Pritzker said he believed the current legislative map “started out with a very strong leaning toward fairness,” with districts drawn to comport to federal and state voting rights laws regarding ethnic and racial groups. But he also said, “there are parts of the state that are overwhelmingly one party or another party, and it’s very difficult to draw competitive districts in those areas.”
Pritzker contended Republicans in dozens of House and Senate redistricting committee hearings have not gotten fully involved in the process. “Well, I do believe that Democrats and Republicans should get together to adopt this map. I hope that Republicans will choose to work with Democrats on the map. Right now it looks like they’re just saying ‘no,’ they’re not really engaging and all they’re doing is fighting in these redistricting hearings,” he said. But Republicans, as well as a variety of other interest groups, contend that without knowing exactly what data Democrats are using, they cannot offer their own version of the new legislative districts.
Pritzker acknowledged Democrats have not said what estimates or data sets they will use to beat the June 30 deadline. At the same time, he tried to separate the redistricting issue from the statewide census figures released Monday. Those figures showed that for the first time in its history, Illinois lost census population from the decade, about 18,000 residents.
Pritzker took aim at the “carnival barkers” who he said attempted to “run down the state” by predicting an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people. “A full count was done in that census data, you know, and that’s a very good thing,” Pritzker said.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund Registration Begins Friday
The SBA just announced that it will begin advanced online registration for businesses that wish to apply for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant this Friday (4/30) at 9 a.m. ET. Online applications for the program will open on Monday (5/3) at noon ET. Once you register on Friday, you can get ahead of the application process by downloading the SBA’s sample application, which will help you prepare your documentation. Get more information about the RRF grant program, including eligibility requirements and the types of expenses the grant can be used to pay, here.
See below for more information on upcoming webinars. We are currently working on a date to share information as well from Congressman Foster and the Illinois SBA Director, Bo Steiner.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development for one of these upcoming webinars to learn more about the US Small Business Administration’s Federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. This program is designed to provide assistance to restaurants, bars, food trucks and other similar places that serve food or drink.
Presenter: Aly Grady, Central Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with Darrah Perryman, U.S. Small Business Administration
Date and Time: Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 11:00 am CST (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Register Here: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=efd95f4f4fdbb5ce99140e216e6faa09e
Presenter: Kala Lambert, Southeast Region Manager, Office of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with Darrah Perryman, U.S. Small Business Administration
Date and Time: Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm CST (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Register Here: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e561928e11660e350e5d2e62641940e05
Presenter: Kim Watson, Southern Region Senior Account Manager of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with Darrah Perryman, U.S. Small Business Administration
Date and Time: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm CST (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Register Here: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e2e09f02802d5e93c11b7796b4f06acc7
Presenter: Tracey Glenn, Southwest Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with Darrah Perryman, U.S. Small Business Administration
Date and Time: Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 3:00 pm CST (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Register Here: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=ebc9484f1ce1a446c702f7025b5aaab6d
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.
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 tomorrow, April 29th from 4:30 to 6:30.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry