Today’s update reviews local pandemic relief that will be coming for Will County and our local municipalities, the announcement of vaccinations for those ages 12-15, and President Biden’s message to companies to lure back workers. Additionally, funding for those with disabilities, increased sports betting drives more tax revenue, and what will become likely a daily update on the issues finalizing in Springfield is for you below.
We 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.
Yesterday, we shared the press release from Congressman Foster’s office regarding the 10 community agencies that received a slot on his office’s list of submitted earmarks. Today, we would like to share news from Congressman Foster’s office announcing Transportation & Infrastructure Member-Designated Projects for the 11th Congressional District. Included are projects locally for Rt. 6, Weber Rd., 143rd Street, and Gougar Rd. Here is the full press release for your review.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Treasury Readies First Batch of $350 Billion to States & Local Government
State and local governments gained access Monday to $350 billion in pandemic relief, as the Treasury Department opened a new program designed to replenish lost revenue and help address economic hardships. The new funding, part of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief law enacted in March, will provide a two-year cash infusion for states, localities, U.S. territories and tribal governments that have shed an estimated 1.3 million jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Treasury officials released guidance Monday outlining the rules that will govern applications for the aid.
The money can be used for a wide range of purposes that include public health, assistance to families and businesses, the replacement of lost public sector revenue, and “premium pay” for essential workers. It also could be used for infrastructure work that is limited to water and sewer systems and broadband internet access. State and local governments could begin applying for the aid Monday and the first payments could be processed “in a matter of days,” a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call. But not all the funding will come immediately.
Local governments will receive half their money beginning this month, followed by the second half 12 months later. Some states would receive payments on that schedule as well. But states that have had an increase in the unemployment rate of more than 2 percentage points since February 2020 could receive their full allocation in a single lump sum, according to the guidance. The funding, which follows $150 billion in state and local aid awarded last year, amounts to a conviction by the Biden administration that a hefty cash infusion at the local level would accelerate the economic recovery. Officials cited a lack of sufficient aid after the 2008 recession as a reason for sluggish growth.
“This is responding to the lessons of the past in a powerful way,” said Gene Sperling, President Joe Biden’s top coordinator of pandemic relief. If state and local governments had sufficient aid to grow at their normal recovery rates after the Great Recession, the country’s economic growth would have been 3 percent on average instead of 2.3 percent, he said. But the program could still trigger fights over how the money can be used, particularly as some states or localities seek to offer tax cuts. Some Republican-led states have already filed court challenges to the pandemic relief law, saying a provision barring the aid for tax cuts violates state sovereignty.
The guidance released Monday said the aid can’t be used to fund “reductions in net tax revenue.” If states or localities choose to cut taxes, it said, “they must demonstrate how they paid for the tax cuts from sources other than Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds.” It said they could do so “by enacting policies to raise other sources of revenue, by cutting spending, or through higher revenue due to economic growth.”
A senior administration official said the government would conduct “checks” to ensure that money is not used to finance a tax cut, but that tax cuts could be enacted through other means. “If they meet that test, they have that sovereign right as states to do whatever they like,” the official said. An interim final rule on the program was scheduled to be published later Monday, officials said.
The guidance also prohibits the aid from being used to shore up state or local pension funds — a concern raised by many Republican lawmakers. Sperling said the aid is also designed to ensure an “equitable recovery” by assisting disadvantaged communities with education and housing assistance. Of the total $350 billion in available aid, $195.3 billion is reserved for states and the District of Columbia. Another $65.1 billion will go to county governments and $45.6 billion will go to metropolitan cities.
Three weeks remain in the current legislative session and that means it is crunch time to finalize a budget. We’ll be watching and continue to report daily as part of this update what is transpiring down in Springfield. Here is a link to our YouTube page Government Affairs playlist which has new videos from the Illinois Chamber reviewing the top issues facing the business community and a look at a handful of items regarding the proposed changes in business taxation – https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDLy9AJbNTE4hp5UIuxY0ZTdok1y8A34r
Providers Study says Pritzker’s Budget for Adults with Disabilities Falls Short of Solving Long-standing Problems
Three years after a federal judge found Illinois had failed to meet the standards of a consent decree mandating sufficient services to residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed budget falls far short of a state-funded study’s recommendation to address the problem. The study’s five-year spending plan includes a first-year increase of $329 million to the roughly $1.1 billion allocated to community providers who work with people with disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. Those organizations say the money would go a long way toward addressing the major issues they face: staffing shortages, a lack of day programs such as job coaching and a waiting list of more than 5,000 adults for services including housing.
Pritzker’s budget proposal calls for an increase of $122 million. While in line with the funding hikes of recent years, providers say it is not enough to meet the demand for services in Illinois and continues to push the problem down the road. Partial funding “doesn’t change the dynamics we’re dealing with,” said Josh Evans, President and CEO of the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. “It doesn’t change the fact there’s uncompensated care. It doesn’t change the fact that the wage rate components are inadequate facing higher minimum wages. Nothing addresses that until we can fund all of the (five-year plan’s) recommendations adequately.”
Released in December, the five-year spending plan is the result of a 2018 federal court ruling that found Illinois was not in compliance with a 2011 consent decree requiring the state to make community services more accessible to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled the state had failed “to provide the resources of sufficient quality, scope, and variety.”
Following the ruling, the Department of Human Services began a two-year review of its funding system and gathered recommendations from providers before hiring Guidehouse, a Chicago-based management consulting firm, to turn those recommendations into a spending plan. The result was the recommended initial funding increase of $329 million, followed by increases of approximately $100 million in each of the next four years.
Providers, who say they have struggled despite seeing year-to-year funding increases as part of the state’s effort to move toward compliance with the consent decree, have fully backed the multiyear strategy put forth in the Guidehouse study. “This is such a unique opportunity,” Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Chicagoland provider Envision Unlimited, said. “There’s often the question, ‘How much money do you need to solve a problem?’ Well, this is it. It’s in black and white, and it’s right in front of us.”
Providers doubled down on their call for full funding after Pritzker on Thursday said improved revenue forecasts indicate the state will have enough money to meet its education funding formula goal with a $350 million school funding increase. Citing building momentum in the General Assembly, where legislation urging the state to fully fund the Guidehouse study is receiving bipartisan support in both chambers, Evans said “it’s time to step up.”
DHS officials said they are making a “good faith commitment” to support community providers with the funding approved by the General Assembly. Since 2018, the department has invested nearly $381 million into rates for community providers, most recently committing $118.5 million in 2021 and $128.5 million in 2020. “There is no end to the need across the system, and COVID has created some significant challenges for us to be able to commit to a $329 million price tag for the upcoming fiscal year,” Allison Stark, director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the state Department of Human Services, said.
In a recent state Senate hearing, DHS Secretary Grace Hou said the department’s budget is “strong, but not perfect.” Meanwhile, providers say they are in a state of crisis, and have been for a long time. Because people with disabilities are eligible for Medicaid and most often don’t have other income, providers rely on the state for the vast majority of their funding. The wages they pay their staff and the services they provide are dependent on the reimbursement rates they receive from the state.
In turn, the number of individuals providers can support is also limited by state funding. The result is a list of 7,400 adults who are waiting for access to community programs, which include group homes, job coaching and in-home support. The waiting list is expected to be reduced by about 1,600 in the coming fiscal year, leaving 5,800 adults seeking services, DHS spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said. By that measure at least, Illinois is living up to the consent decree, which calls for reducing the waiting list by at least 640 people each year through fiscal years 2021 through 2025. After 2025, no individual seeking services can wait more five years.
“Five years is a long time for an individual and family to be waiting to access services,” Evans said. “It’s hard to describe the trauma that can be involved when you have a loved one that needs medical or behavioral services that you as a parent, brother or sister can’t provide.”
Those waiting for community living either stay with family, or if they have no other option, the state can set them up in private, state-funded immediate care facilities, which are structurally similar to retirement homes. Providers said these facilities create an “institutional setting” that is often less ideal than community living.
“What you don’t want is a situation where someone — unless it’s preferred — has to seek services in a nursing home level of care, when really all they need is more independence and could really live in a smaller group home without all the medical supports because they don’t need them,” Evans said.
Some people on the list don’t need housing but do need services like job coaching or day programs and are waiting at home without those community connections. McHugh said the goal is to have a seamless transition between the services a person with disabilities receives through the education system and the adult system. “Many studies have indicated that quality of life for a person with disability improves dramatically if they’re integrated in the community, along with persons without disabilities,” Evans said. “This is a quality-of-life issue.”
“Unless I can raise more money, I can’t expand services. And yet there are thousands upon thousands of people on the waiting list for services, and I’m ready to expand,” McHugh said. “This is our mission — to serve people.” McHugh said his organization hasn’t expanded proposed services in years because of a lack of funding. “The most scary part of all is really the staffing crisis,” Jim Kales, president and CEO of Aspire, a provider that serves people in Illinois and Wisconsin, said, an assessment McHugh agreed with.
The direct support professionals (DSPs) who work with those with disabilities are typically paid slightly above the minimum wage for jobs that require long hours of giving physical and mental care. “When you’re paying just a touch about the minimum wage … it’s just not enough to attract the best people to come into this field and really do right by people with disabilities,” Kales said. “These are hard jobs.”
In her 2018 decision, Coleman identified low wages for direct support professionals as a primary drive of limited services. In a recent state House hearing, John Pingo, CEO of provider Goldie B. Floberg Center in Rockton, said the status of the staffing crisis recently drove him to close two group homes. He said the center currently has 29 staff vacancies, surpassing the agency’s “crisis point” of 20 vacancies. Burnout is widespread, Kales said. Aspire and its sister agencies experience an extremely high turnover rate of employees, with a statewide rate upward of 50% a year. The turnover inevitably affects people with disabilities, who often depend on settling into a routine with their DSP. “If they’re constantly having the person working with them changing every month or every two months, it creates dramatic turmoil in their life,” Kales said.
People with disabilities in Illinois tend to be placed in much larger settings compared with programs other states provide, according to Kales. Whereas group homes in Illinois largely err toward the maximum of eight people, Kales said homes in Wisconsin and elsewhere typically house one to four residents.
Additional funding, if possible, would have to come with the approval of the General Assembly. State Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored legislation urging “the State of Illinois to fully fund the Guidehouse final rate recommendations,” said she will continue advocating for necessary funding, “even if it happens one recommended priority at a time.” “The Illinois I/DD (intellectually and developmentally disabled) community system needs increased investment because it has suffered from decades of fiscal neglect that significantly contributed to the state becoming subject to a federal consent decree in 2011,” Hunter said in an email. “Sometimes, the state needs a little push even after an initiative like this is formed into law.”
FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine for Adolescents
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be used in adolescents 12 to 15 years old, a move that will make millions more people eligible for a vaccine.
The highly anticipated decision is a key step toward ensuring middle and high schools can operate for full in-person learning in the fall — and a major boon to parents concerned about the safety of summer activities.
The FDA has been reviewing the amended application from Pfizer and BioNTech for more than a month. The companies cited research from their clinical trial in late March that found the vaccine was effective in the younger population and produced strong antibody responses. The side effects were also about the same as the older population.
Following the announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine advisory committee will meet Wednesday to review the data, and vote on recommendations for use of the shot in adolescents. Once the CDC director signs off, shots can be administered immediately.
Pfizer’s vaccine is currently authorized for everyone aged 16 and older. The other two vaccines on the market in the U.S., from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are only authorized for adults, but the companies are testing the shots in children.
Children need to be vaccinated in order to raise the overall level of immunity in the country. While herd immunity may not be within reach, getting more people vaccinated will lower the numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Pfizer expects to request emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children ages 2 to 11 in September.
The Biden administration is working hard to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated, and to convince a large number of hesitant adults. Expanding the authorization to children could pose another challenge. “This is a promising development in our fight against the virus,” President Biden said in a statement Monday evening. “If you are a parent who wants to protect your child, or a teenager who is interested in getting vaccinated, today’s decision is a step closer to that goal.”
A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, showed limited eagerness for parents to get their children vaccinated, and that parents’ views on inoculating their children lined up with whether they planned to get vaccinated themselves. Among parents who have at least one child between the ages of 12 and 15, 30 percent said they’ll get their child vaccinated right away, 26 percent wanted to wait to see how it’s working, 18 percent said they will vaccinate only if their child’s school requires it and 23 percent said they will definitely not get their child vaccinated.
President Biden Urges Employers to Boost Wages & Warns Workers Not to Reject Jobs
President Joe Biden on Monday urged U.S. companies to boost pay for workers as he outlined the steps his administration is taking to spur hiring after disappointing job creation in April. As mentioned above, the President said his administration will distribute more of the coronavirus relief funds included in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion aid plan as reopening businesses search for employees.
The federal government will start allowing state and local governments to apply for part of a $350 billion relief pool, push to streamline distribution of aid to childcare centers and begin sending grants to 16,000 struggling restaurants and bars, among other efforts. Biden said the White House does not “see much evidence” that the $300 per week federal unemployment benefit in place until September has deterred people from taking jobs, adding that “Americans want to work.”
Even so, he said, anyone “offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits” unless they have specific concerns related to Covid-19. The president put the onus on employers who have accepted federal relief to offer good pay, protect workers from the virus and encourage vaccination so Americans feel comfortable taking jobs. “My expectation is that as our economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “And if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers.”
A White House fact sheet released Monday said “workers may not turn down a job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19 and continue to receive benefits.” People could reject an offer and keep receiving unemployment if they have a child at home who cannot go to school due to the virus, or if an employer does not comply with federal or state health standards, among other reasons, the administration said.
As Democrats draft economic recovery legislation and Biden prepares for negotiations with Republicans, the president’s plans may not get through Congress for weeks or months. The White House may also have to scale back the proposals to win approval in the Capitol, even under special budget rules that would require only Democratic votes.
Another Biden priority that could make employers boost wages — a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage — did not make it into the coronavirus aid package earlier this year. A standalone bill to boost the pay floor faces long odds of Senate approval.
Illinois Sports Betting Hits Record During Last Month of Remote Registration
Sports betting in Illinois finally broke the $600 million handle mark. It might be a while until that happens again though. Total handle hit $633.6 million in March, which was a perfect storm for Illinois sportsbooks. Naturally, March Madness gave a big lift to the basketball-crazed state, even with a betting ban on in-state colleges.
March was also the last full month of remote registration in Illinois. Gov. JB Pritzker did not renew his executive order from last summer that suspended the in-person registration requirement at the beginning of April, saying it was no longer necessary. That means every new sportsbook account must be created at a casino. Unless action is taken, it will be January 2022 before another online registration is allowed.
Sports betting revenue hit $44.3 million, or a 7.0% hold. That translated to $6.6 million in taxes to the state, according to the Illinois Gaming Board report. College basketball handle hit $365.7 million in March and was the only sport with more than $100 million bet on it for the month. Nearly half of that basketball handle was bet on March Madness alone, according to IGB officials. At least $176.8 million was bet on the tournament with $14.6 million in revenue, Administrator Marcus Fruchter said at a meeting last month.
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.
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, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and her team want to check in with you, our members to hear about your experience during COVID-19 and federal relief programs. Her office has developed a short survey to allow businesses in the 14th District of Illinois to provide feedback to Congresswoman Underwood about their experience with COVID-19 federal relief programs for businesses including PPP, EIDL, Shuttered Venue, and Restaurant Revitalization Fund; how federal relief programs have benefitted the local small business community; and what assistance they continue to need going forward. The survey can be found here.
We know that a great majority of you do not fit into the 14th District, but there is a sliver and I’m sure they won’t mind the extra feedback even from those out of district since they’ve asked. The survey deadline is May 26 by 6:00 p.m. CT.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry