As the second week of May begins, Washington D.C. issues will pick up again with the Senate and House leaders scheduled to meet with President Biden for the first time to review spending plans and other issues on the table. All of this comes on the disappointing jobs report from the end of last week and we have a quick takeaway recap and President Biden’s reaction.
Also, we have an Illinois Budget update, a report on growing local pensions, and some updated information on various programs and webinars scheduled. We additionally would like to share the newest call to action as part of our inclusion in the Chambers All In for Economic Recovery initiative. Today, we are directly highlighting the issue of employer’s contribution rate for those layoffs from the pandemic. See our newest letter to membership here.
Finally, congratulations to our members that were selected as part of the list of 10 community projects in the 11th Congressional District (Congressman Bill Foster) as part of the House Appropriations Committee’s new Community Projects Funding (CPF) program. For FY2022, the House Appropriations Committee has allowed Members of Congress to request direct funding for projects that benefit the communities they represent. The list includes the City of Joliet, Cornerstone Services, Housing Authority of Joliet, Joliet Area Historical Museum, Stepping Stones, and Will Grundy Medical Clinic. Congrats!!! Here is a link to the press release.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
The “Big Four” Leaders Set to Meet on Wednesday as Congress Returns to DC
Congress returns to Washington today as top lawmakers prepare to meet with President Biden this week to discuss the administration’s ambitious infrastructure and spending proposals, and members of the GOP remain consumed with chatter surrounding the “big lie” and the future of House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.).
The “big four” leaders — Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.,), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — are set to meet with Biden at the White House for the first time since the inauguration, with the White House facing a tall task to win GOP support in hopes of passing $4.1 trillion in infrastructure and jobs spending.
The meetings are not limited to the leaders. Biden is also slated to sit down with a group of GOP senators on Thursday, headlined by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the author of a $568 billion infrastructure blueprint, as the two sides battle over the true definition of “infrastructure.” The GOP’s slimmed-down proposal includes funding for traditional infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, and increased broadband. The sweeping Democratic plan would include funds for manufacturing and to expand access to home and community-based care, among other items.
The series of sit-downs will give leaders a sense if a bipartisan bill is possible by early July, which is Pelosi’s stated goal, or if Democrats will be forced to go it alone and advance a bill via budget reconciliation and a simple majority.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney notes, the next 100 days will also serve as a crucial test for the majority party. Schumer noted in a recent interview that along with infrastructure, the Senate is likely to vote on a number of partisan measures, including a bill to overhaul federal elections, which Republicans oppose. That legislation, coupled with a progressive push to pass a $15 minimum wage and a Washington, D.C., statehood bill, is amping up the pressure on the Senate to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
Five Takeaways on a Surprisingly Poor Jobs Report
Economists and politicians alike were shocked by the unexpectedly tepid April jobs report released Friday, which showed that the economy only added about a quarter the number of jobs most were expecting. The report found U.S. businesses added just 266,000 new jobs in April instead of the roughly 1 million that economists had projected. The figure would be solid in the midst of a strong economy, but was tremendously disappointing for a nation emerging from a pandemic in which 9.8 million people remain unemployed.
Here are five takeaways to make some sense of the report:
It’s going to be bumpy ride
Any recovery from the depths of the coronavirus recessions is unlikely to be a straight ride. “I think this signals that we’re in for a rockier road that we thought,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. Frick predicted there will be a recovery and better reports in the future, but said the expectations of a booming report were too optimistic.
“Given the fundamentals, with so much money that’s been banked and all the good things that have come so far — strength in hiring, manufacturing, and so on — I think things are generally headed in a good direction, but there’s going to be friction coming,” he said. But he acknowledged the bad report in April was still a surprise. “Nobody expected it would be this early,” he said.
Childcare is an issue
The jobs report shed light on some of the current trouble spots, though economists say more data is needed to know exactly what’s going on. For example, even as overall employment rose, female employment dropped by 8,000, while female labor force participation dropped by 64,000.
An obvious explanation, says Frick, is childcare, which disproportionately falls on the shoulders of women. “There are preschools and kindergartens and childcare and schools that are fractured and not open, so there are a lot of women who are forced to stay home,” he said.
Another problem is that despite the significant uptick in vaccinations, a large proportion of the population is still unvaccinated, and the pandemic, though greatly reduced from its winter surge, is far from over. “There are a lot of people that don’t want to go back to work in closed quarters because of COVID, and 5,000 Americans died of COVID in the last week, so we can’t dismiss that,” Frick said.
Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy at the left-leaning Washington Center for Equitable Growth, says the problems in the labor market reflect long-standing inequalities and divisions that will persist. “Broadly speaking we went into the crisis with a really uneven and fragile economy,” she said. “Without having policies that are really intentionally targeting inequality, the recovery will be slower.” But, she added, the April data was more confounding than previous swings in employment during the pandemic, which could often be tied to a specific event such as severe weather or a spike in COVID-19 cases. “When we’ve seen fluctuations, there’s usually a reason we’ve seen to understand the fluctuation,” she said. “This month did not have any of those obvious reasons, and it will take a couple of months of data to get the full picture.”
The fight over extra unemployment is on
Republicans and conservative groups have zeroed in on generous unemployment benefits as the culprit behind the slowdown. “Government paying people more to stay home than to work has crushed the ability of businesses to get workers back, and this jobs report is evidence of that,” said Adam Brandon, president of the conservative FreedomWorks advocacy group.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for repealing the additional $300 weekly unemployment benefit that is in place until September. Republican governors of Montana and South Carolina both said they would withdraw the federal benefit to boost employment. But debate remains fierce among economists as to whether or how much additional unemployment is holding back the labor force.
“What is causing these supply constraints in the job market? Is it unemployment benefits that are too high? Schools that are still closed for full-time in-person instruction? A skills mismatch between available jobs and available workers? A lack of business startups?” Nationwide Chief Economist David Berson asked in response to the report. “All of these probably are playing a role,” he concluded.
Frick said there’s little evidence to back up the idea that expanded benefits are keeping people from working. “You can look at states with higher and lower unemployment benefits and there’s no correlation with their unemployment rates,” said Frick, who suggested a lack of childcare, transportation issues are among the reasons why low-income workers might face greater challenges in getting back to work.
Democrats are doubling down on spending
Democrats said the report showed the schisms in the economy that they aimed to address through the infrastructure and family support plans proposed by President Biden. “The disappointing April jobs report highlights the urgent need to pass President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in response to the report. She said the evidence shows that women and working families need the enhancements to childcare, education and other issues provided by Biden’s proposals, and that this would in turn create jobs and help the economy.
Vice President Harris echoed the call for furthering such investments. “There are still two million fewer women in the workforce today,” she said. “More action is needed.”
It’s just one report
While the April jobs report was universally seen as a disappointment, economists by and large agree that one month does not a trend make. “It may be bumpy from month to month for a variety of factors,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Friday. “One should never take one month’s data as an underlying trend.”
As more data becomes available, analysts will be able to sharpen their views as to what is causing the labor market to hold back. Updated data on job openings and labor turnover is expected next week, which could shed light on the question of labor shortages. And monthly jobs reports are often the subjects of revision, with even hundreds of thousands of jobs sometimes added or subtracted from reports.
President Biden Defends Rescue Package After Disappointing Jobs Report
President Biden on Friday defended his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan after a disappointing jobs report, arguing that the new data prove the necessity of the legislation and that it would take more time for the economy to recover. “When we came into office, we knew we were facing a once-in-a-century pandemic and a once-in-a-generation economic crisis. And we knew this wouldn’t be a sprint, it would be a marathon,” Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House. “It was designed to help us over the course of a year, not 60 days, a year,” he said of the coronavirus relief passed earlier this year. “We never thought after the first 60 days that everything would be fine.”
President Biden framed his remarks as an effort to put the jobs report in “perspective.” Biden’s comments come after the U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs during the month of April and the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent, according to data released earlier Friday. The number came in far below economy experts’ expectations around one million jobs created.
The figures led Republicans to swiftly criticize Biden’s agenda, arguing that it proved that his large recovery package was too extreme and incentivized people not to work. “Today’s jobs report is a disappointment—just like President Biden’s plan to burden families with more taxes & more debt,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “While Dems trap people in a cycle of fear & pay them NOT to work, it’s clear the best thing to do is end the crisis-era policies & get Americans back to work.”
The President pushed back on those claims, saying that the figures showed that the recovery package was needed given the fragility of the U.S. economy. He also said that aspects of the legislation have yet to be felt, noting that assistance to restaurants and state and local governments will start going out this month. “This is going to continue to improve. Today’s report makes clear, thank goodness we passed the American rescue plan. Help is here and more help is on the way and more help is needed,” Biden said. “Let’s not let up. We’re still digging our way out of a very deep hole we were put in. no one should underestimate how tough this battle is,” he said.
President Biden also plugged his $2.3 trillion infrastructure and climate plan that he unveiled earlier this year, saying passing it would create new jobs to further strengthen the economy in the future. Biden rejected the notion that the enhanced unemployment benefits included in the rescue package diminished return to work in some categories when asked by a reporter at the end of his remarks. “No, nothing measurable,” Biden said.
Illinois Budget Update
Tension is building around the budget talks in Springfield. Discussions have been focused on affordable housing and implementing the four policy pillars put forth by the Black Caucus that are critically important to Democrats. The concern is that there won’t be enough funding to get things done. “It’s hard to prioritize because it’s all important,” according to a source close to the budget talks.
This year’s budget is also proving trickier to nail down because legislators are waiting on the U.S. Treasury to determine how to use federal Covid relief funding that’s coming to Illinois. There are rules about what states can do with the money (some conservative states are annoyed they can’t use it to offset tax cuts, for instance), and no one wants to overstep and appropriate for what’s not allowed. So they wait.
There’s another glitch, too. With tax filing extended to May this year, receipts that might have been received in April have been delayed, which makes it difficult to use as a benchmark from last year. Lawmakers don’t want to spend too much, and they don’t want to leave too much on the table, either. And they can’t make big decisions until they have more answers from Washington.
What they do know: they’re required to make debt service payments and pension payments, to make sure the state complies with court orders, and to make Medicaid available to all who are eligible. There’s not much left in discretionary funding after that.
Add all that to there being a new House speaker, and it’s made the budget process even more difficult this year as lawmakers try to adapt to new rules and a new way of operating — bills that might not have come to the floor before are now up for a vote. “We’re just going through growing pains,” the budget insider said.
Report Shows Local Pension Debt Continues to Grow
A new report shows public safety pension debt for municipalities across Illinois is getting worse and some are worried there’s not enough focus on bringing about solutions. Wirepoints President Ted Dabrwoski presented the report Wednesday at a news conference alongside statehouse Republicans. The report looked at various metrics of public safety pension health and local budgets. When reviewing 175 of the state’s largest municipalities, excluding Chicago, there was an alarming trend.
“In 2003, based on the metrics we looked at, just seven cities failed,” Dabrowski said of the grade Wirepoints gave city pension plans. “By 2019, 102 cities had failed.” Among the metrics used were the police and firefighter pension funding ratios, the city’s pension debt per household, pension contributions and ratio of city contributions to those made by employees. No city in the report scored better than a “C” grade. Peoria was the worst off in the report, having gone from a “D” letter grade in 2003 to a letter grade of “F” for 2019.
Peoria-area state Sen. Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills, said the city is already using nearly all its share of property taxes to cover the growing pension debt, which diverts funds from services taxpayer’s demand. “And the more that we rob the resources from them just for this pension problem because we continue to ignore it, the more people are going to leave our state,” Stoller said.
Not far behind Peoria was Rockford, which went from a “C” letter grade to an “F” over 16 years worth of data. State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said the city’s pension costs ballooned from $7 million to $23 million in 16 years, and that needs to reverse. “There are solutions out there,” Sosnowski said. “We need to reverse this trend. We need to get back to an economy that people can embrace, they want to live here, they want to stay here, their kids want to stay here and this state can grow.”
Sosnowski and other Republicans highlighted the state’s continued population loss, as is evident in recent data released by the U.S. Census. Separately, state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said Democrats know the pension problem exists. “I’m confident that a lot of us in the chamber, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle, are willing to talk to the Speaker and say, ‘Hey, pension reform is needed, what does that look like,’” West said.
West said he’d support subject matter hearings to bring all parties to the table, from lawmakers to labor groups and even the private sector, to find the best solutions to address the pension problem. Dabrowski suggested lawmakers let voters decide on changing the state constitution’s pension protection clause, allow government consolidations, and other reforms to reduce the burden. If not, he said local governments should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. “Illinois’ top-down, one-size-fits-all pension mandates leave city officials with few options but to raise taxes, slash services or endanger the retirements of city workers,” Dabrowski said.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Economic Development Week 2021 – May 9th – 15th: “Celebrating Economic Development in Illinois”
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will celebrate Economic Development Week May 9th – 15th. Led by the Offices of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) and Regional Economic Development (RED) and Intersect Illinois, DCEO will celebrate Economic Development successes throughout the state, highlighting projects and Economic Development partners and hosting a series of webinars to learn more about best practices for success.
Workforce Attraction, Development and Engagement in Illinois: Cultivating a 21st Century Workforce for the Future
Time: 10:00 AM
Click here to register: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e1c04810bf2ee7a07177b2ef9bdb0c482
Description: Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, City of Quincy, Great Rivers Economic Development Foundation, and LWIA 14 for a webinar sharing strategies around workforce attraction and successful workforce development programs across Illinois. Many employers are seeking to fill many jobs, especially amidst the pandemic, and this session will highlight workforce solutions for the future. Panelists will share an update on the current economic development landscape in Illinois in and how attendees can navigate driving economic opportunity moving forward.
Welcoming Remarks: Representative Randy Frese
Moderator: Julio Rodriguez, Deputy Director, Office of Employment and Training
- Chuck Bevelheimer, Director of Planning, City of Quincy – 45X30 Strategic Plan
- Marcel Wagner, President, GREDF – Geo-Fencing Strategy
- Blanche Shoup, LWIA 14, Western Illinois Works Inc.
- Carly McCrory-McKay, Executive Director, Champaign Co. Economic Development Corp.
- Mary McGrew, Vice President Human Resources, Litania Sports Group
Illinois Economic Recovery Post COVID-19: Small Business Relief, Public Infrastructure, and Regional Economic Planning
Time: 1:30 PM
Click here to register: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e714a3dc7e69c15b5da970ea370d8a1da
Description: Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, US Economic Development Administration, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, and South Centralia Regional Planning Commission for a webinar around economic recovery post COVID-19. Economic Recovery will depend on bolstering the small business community, investing in public infrastructure, and regional economic development planning. Panelists will share insights around how Illinois can plan for growing the economy post pandemic, and how attendees can take advantage of federal and state funding opportunities and assistance to chart their economic future
Moderator: Vanessa Uribe, Deputy Director, Office of Minority Economic Empowerment, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
- Darrin Fleener, US Department of Commerce EDA
- Gisele Hamm, MAPPING Program Coordinator, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Western Illinois MAPPING
- James Patrick, Executive Director, South Central Planning Commission
- LaTisha Paslay, City Administrator, City of Vandalia
Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund
SBA began accepting applications via the application portal Monday 5/3 at 11 AM. The application portal will remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted.
In preparation, qualifying applicants should familiarize themselves with the application process in advance to ensure a smooth and efficient application. Follow the steps below.
- If you haven’t already, register for an account on the application portal at restaurants.sba.gov. If you are working with Square or Toast, you do not need to register.
- Review the sample application, program guide and cross-program eligibility chart on SBA COVID-19 relief options. SBA also added screenshots of the application portal that are available here.
- Applications must be submitted in English or Spanish. SBA has documents in additional languages to help you understand eligibility requirements, fill out applications, and answer frequently asked questions. See the additional languages and materials here.
- If you were unable to attend one of the webinars held last week which covered program details and a demonstration of the application portal, you can watch the recording here.
For more information, visit sba.gov/restaurants.
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
Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program
As of May 6, 2021, funding for the Paycheck Protection Program has been exhausted. The SBA will continue funding outstanding approved PPP applications, but new qualifying applications will only be funded through Community Financial Institution, financial lenders who serve underserved communities
Restore Illinois Plan
Bridge to Phase 5 Update
To advance into the Bridge Phase that is the final step before the full reopening, the entire state must achieve several metrics:
• 70% of residents 65 years and older must have received a first dose;
• Hospitals must maintain 20% or greater ICU bed availability;
• Hospitalizations for COVID-19, admissions for COVID-like illness and deaths must hold steady or decline over a 28-day monitoring period.
On May 6, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced that the state will be moving to the Bridge Phase on May 14, 2021. More information on the Bridge to Phase 5 plan can be found here. If you have questions on the guidelines or how they apply to a situation, please reach out to us for guidance. Statewide reopening metrics can be found at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/statewidemetrics.
Vaccine Information: Information about vaccine locations and appointments can be found on the coronavirus.illinois.gov website. Residents who don’t have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 for assistance. The hotline is open 7 days a week from 6am to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.
Finally, make plans to join us for our May member luncheon this Thursday, the 13th and meet Dawn Malec, Chief of the Joliet Police Department and Greg Blaskey, Chief of the Joliet Fire Department. For more info and to register, click here – http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-member-lunch-may-13-meet-greet-with-joliet-police-fire-chiefs-6046
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry