Chamber Members:

A wealth of information today in announcements on both the state and federal levels. First, plans are confirmed for the move to the Bridge Phase tomorrow in Illinois. The changes in capacity are spelled out below. The CDC has given the full ok for those aged 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine and has also amended the mask guidance for the country regarding vaccinated individuals.

Additionally, we review the weekly Thursday jobless claims and it seems to be good news. Also, the state is still figuring out how they can utilize federal funds and news from the meeting of the four leaders in Washington, D.C. is recapped.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Illinois Will Move into Bridge Phase Friday. These Are the Capacity Limits Changing
Illinois is preparing to enter the Bridge Phase at the end of this week, marking the start of a transitional period before the final Phase 5 and an increase in capacity limits across the state.
The Bridge Phase will begin Friday, allowing for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos, and spectator events as well as increased business operations during a transitional period between the current guidelines and a full reopening.
So what changes between Phase 4 and the Bridge Phase? Here’s a breakdown of changing capacity limits by category:

  • Dining
    • Phase 4: Seated areas: Patrons ≥ 6 feet apart; parties ≤ 10, Standing areas: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: Seated areas: Patrons ≥ 6 feet apart; parties ≤ 10, Standing areas: 30% capacity indoors; 50% capacity outdoors
  • Health and fitness
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity, Group fitness classes of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity, Group fitness classes of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors
  • Offices
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Personal care
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Retail and service counter
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Amusement parks
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events
    • Phase 4: 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
    • Bridge Phase: 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Flea and farmers markets
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft., Outdoor: 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Film production
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Meetings, conferences, and conventions
    • Phase 4: Venue with capacity < 200 persons: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity *, Venue with capacity ≥ 200 persons: Lesser of 250 people or 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: Lesser of 1,000 people or 60% capacity
  • Museums
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Recreation
    • Phase 4: Indoor: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Maximum groups of 50; multiple groups permissible
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: Lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Maximum groups of 100; multiple groups permissible
  • Social events
    • Phase 4: Indoor: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: 250 people, Outdoor: 500 people
  • Spectator events (ticketed and seated)
    • Phase 4: Indoor venue with capacity < 200 people: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor venue or indoor venue with capacity ≥ 200 people: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Theaters and performing arts
    • Phase 4: Indoor venue with capacity < 200 persons: Lesser of 50 or 50% capacity, Outdoor venue or indoor venue with capacity ≥ 200 persons: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Zoos
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity, Lesser of 50 or 50% at indoor exhibits
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity

Phase 5 would see all sectors of the economy fully reopened and no capacity limits, though Governor Pritzker noted that the state will continue following mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This good news comes with a caveat. We have all seen throughout this pandemic that this virus and its variants have proven to be unpredictable,” Pritzker said. “Metrics that look strong today are far from a guarantee of how things will look a week, two weeks, a month from now. We saw that last August and again in March.”

CDC Advisers Endorse Pfizer Vaccine for Children Ages 12 to 15
The federal government on Wednesday took a final step toward making the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine available to adolescents in the United States, removing an obstacle to school reopening and cheering millions of families weary of pandemic restrictions.

An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to recommend the vaccine for use in children ages 12 to 15. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, formally adopted the recommendation on Wednesday evening. “Approving Covid-19 vaccines for children 12 to 15 years of age is an important step in removing barriers for vaccinating children of all ages,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics on the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Many parents are eagerly anticipating the availability of vaccines for children, at least in part to speed their return to schools. Roughly one-third of eighth graders, usually 13 or 14 years old, are still learning fully remotely. Vaccinations of adolescents have already begun in a few states, like Maine. Others plan to offer the vaccine as early as Thursday. There are nearly 17 million 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States, accounting for 5.3 percent of the population.

Nearly all states now have a supply of vaccine doses that could be quickly redirected to adolescents. The dose used to immunize adults is also safe and effective for these adolescents, clinical trials have shown. “Sometimes we lose the importance of children and adolescents in the midst of pandemic — there’s such a focus on older adults in particular,” said Dr. Grace Lee, a member of the committee and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.

While children’s risk of severe illness is low compared with that of adults, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.5 million children and sent more than 13,000 to hospitals, more than are hospitalized for flu in an average year, according to data collected by the CDC. Young children are thought to spread the virus less often than adults do, but their ability to transmit increases with age. Teenagers, particularly those in high school, may transmit the virus as readily as adults. Children aged 12 to 17 years represent an increasing proportion of Covid cases in the country.

Vaccinating children should increase the level of immunity in the U.S. population, helping to bring down the number of cases. “Every person with Covid-19 provides the virus with an opportunity to spread and continue to mutate and further expose our communities,” said Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer. “The decisions from health authorities this week bring us one step closer to protecting adolescents and achieving herd protection.”

Pfizer announced in March that the vaccine seemed to be at least as effective in 12- to 15-year-olds as it has been in older teenagers and adults. Apart from a slight increase in the frequency of fevers, the shots also seemed to have comparable, mostly negligible side effects. The company plans to continue monitoring trial participants for two years after the second dose to assess the vaccine’s long-term safety and efficacy.

The most important hurdle may be parental hesitancy. More than 40 percent of parents of adolescents said they would not get their children vaccinated or would do so only if required by a school, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some of those parents may change their minds, as other children safely receive vaccines and resume in-person schooling or rejoin team sports like football and basketball that involve close contact, the researchers suggested. Others may wait until they must comply with school requirements. Public schools in all 50 states require certain vaccines, but officials may not be able to enforce compliance until the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gains the F.D.A.’s full approval.

The vaccine has emergency authorization now. Pfizer has applied to the F.D.A. for full approval, but that process is expected to take several months. Even after approval, students may still opt out by citing medical reasons or religious beliefs.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan in September to submit requests for authorization of the vaccine in children ages 2 to 11.

CDC Loosening Mask Guidance
People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely resume life without any restrictions, according to long-awaited federal guidance released Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says if you are fully vaccinated — two weeks past the last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — you don’t need to wear masks indoors or outside, and you don’t need to maintain physical distance.

The change is a monumental shift in how the agency has communicated about the risks of the coronavirus and the benefits of vaccines and is a major step towards reopening America in time for the July 4th holiday. Essentially, for vaccinated people, life can begin to return to normal.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated, can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

The new guidelines do not apply to health care settings, correctional facilities or homeless shelters, the agency said. People will also need to follow local business and workplace guidances, so masks are likely to continue to be required in private businesses. In addition, CDC emphasized fully vaccinated people should still wear well-fitted masks where required by laws, rules, and regulations, including on airplanes, trains, and public transportation. It also urged those who are immune compromised to speak with their doctors before giving up their masks.

The update comes as the agency has been criticized for being too slow to react to changing science, overly cautious and even contradictory in its recommendations to the public. The announcement does run the risk of placing more pressure on businesses and local governments. There is no way to know who is vaccinated and who is not, and the idea of some kind of “vaccine passport” or digital identifier has become a partisan flashpoint vehemently opposed by Republicans. States across the country have been easing restrictions and reopening businesses as local vaccination rates increase, despite the CDC and federal health officials who continued to urge caution.

Health experts said they feared the agency’s overly conservative approach could result in fewer people getting shots if they failed to show the benefits of being vaccinated. The agency relaxed some of its rules for fully vaccinated people last month, but still advised wearing masks indoors in most public settings, and in many outdoor places. That guidance included an elaborate color-coded chart for various activities that was widely mocked for being confusing and contradictory.

The agency’s recent guidance on summer camps was also panned as being overly restrictive. The CDC had said masks should be worn at all times, even outdoors, by everyone, including vaccinated adults and children as young as 2 years old. Walensky denied that the changes were being made because of the criticism, or as an incentive to get more people vaccinated.

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to Another Pandemic Low
Jobless claims continued a several-week slide to new pandemic lows, in a sign hiring is primed to strengthen as workers return to the labor market. Worker applications for unemployment benefits fell to 473,000 last week from a revised 507,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. Claims remain above pre-pandemic levels but are now at the lowest point since mid-March 2020, when the pandemic shut down the economy and triggered widespread joblessness.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly numbers, also reached a new pandemic low of 534,000. “Employers are really clinging to their talent,” said Jay Denton, chief analyst for ThinkWhy, a labor-analytics firm. “There’s a lot of demand there. We will start to see more hiring.”

Higher vaccination rates, fiscal stimulus and easing business restrictions are converging to support stronger spending across the U.S. But job growth isn’t keeping pace. U.S. employers added a modest 266,000 jobs in April, far short of the one million that economists had forecast and the weakest monthly gain since January.

Many employers say they can’t find enough workers to meet surging demand, in turn limiting production. Economists cite several factors keeping workers on the sidelines, including individuals’ fear of contracting Covid-19, child-care burdens from school closures, and expanded unemployment benefits. Though benefits applications are on a downward trend, the number of people claiming benefits each week through regular state programs remains elevated. So-called continuing claims have stagnated between 3.6 million and 4 million since March.

A total 16.9 million people were receiving benefits in the week ended April 24 through one of several programs, including regular state aid and federal emergency programs put in place in response to the pandemic. Total claims are down about 3 million from the first week of March, but still nearly eight times as high as before the pandemic’s onset.

Claims among gig workers and others not typically eligible for unemployment benefits increased last week in some of the states that announced they were leaving federal benefits programs early. For instance, pandemic claims increased in Mississippi, Montana, and South Carolina.

The rate at which workers quit their jobs—a proxy for confidence in the labor market—held steady at 2.4% in March, matching a record high for data tracing back to 2000. “That signifies that it’s like, ‘See you later, I’m going to go get the next-best-paid job,’” Mr. Knightley said. “That sort of movement normally translates into companies thinking, ‘Actually, I need to retain staff. I’ve got to start paying more.’ ”

Wages for workers rose in April as some employers appeared to lift pay to attract or retain employees. Average hourly earnings for private-sector employees rose by 21 cents to $30.17 last month. The gain is notable because strong hiring in the lower-wage hospitality sector—which occurred in April—would typically put downward pressure on average earnings.

Illinois’ Plan to Pay Off Dept with Part of Billions from Federal Relief Funds in Jeopardy
State officials are asking the U.S. Treasury Department for permission to use a portion of the $7.5 billion in federal aid Illinois is in line to receive from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan to repay loans the state took out last year to help cover pandemic-related expenses.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other top officials have repeatedly said the state’s first priority for the money from Biden’s American Rescue Plan should be paying down its debts, mostly notably the outstanding balance on the $3.2 billion the state borrowed from a special Federal Reserve program established to help state and local governments through COVID-19-induced budget crises.

Illinois was the only state to tap the program, borrowing $1.2 billion in June and another $2 billion in December. Interim Treasury Department rules released earlier this week on how the various funds from the latest round of federal relief can be spent raised alarms for the cash-strapped state. The funds “are intended to help meet pandemic response needs and provide relief for households and businesses facing near- and long-term negative economic impacts,” the rules stated. “This eligible use category would not include payment of interest or principal on outstanding debt instrument.”

The rules have not been finalized, but state officials are hoping for a clearer understanding of what’s allowed as they try to put together a state spending plan for the next budget year ahead of the legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment. The potential financial curveball comes just after Pritzker said last week that his office now is projecting higher-than-expected revenue for the budget year that begins July 1, allowing him to revise his spending plan to include a $350 million increase in school funding. He’d originally proposed flat funding for elementary and secondary education for the second straight year.

The state already has repaid $800 million of the initial loan from the Fed, with the outstanding $400 million due by June 5, according to the Fed. The $2 billion loan is due to be repaid over the next three years, though Pritzker has proposed paying off $690 million ahead of schedule before the end of the budget year that ends June 30.

Pritzker said at an unrelated event Wednesday that along with Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, he has “committed that we’re going to be paying back the borrowing that we took out over the last year to cover our coronavirus expenses.”

In a letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza wrote that Illinois’ short-term debt, which also included $600 million borrowed from special state funds to cover the cost of personal protective equipment and pay Medicaid providers, “was essential for the continued performance of government services during the most fiscally challenging times for the state’s cash flow during the pandemic, all directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.”

“We want to promptly repay federal taxpayers for the crucial help they provided us during the pandemic,” wrote Mendoza, who manages the state’s checkbook. “This is entirely consistent with the spirit of the American Rescue Plan.” Mendoza requested that Treasury specifically clarify that this is a permitted use of the relief funds. “The Department of the Treasury’s timely approval of this request is critical for Illinois’ path toward fiscal recovery,” Mendoza wrote.

Recap of the Four Leaders Meeting with the President
President Biden expressed optimism following a meeting with congressional leaders that a bipartisan infrastructure deal could come together. Biden convened with the “Big Four” leaders in the Oval Office for nearly two hours to search for an avenue to pass a massive infrastructure package this summer, a top priority. The president told reporters that he “came away encouraged” by the lengthy discussion with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“But I want to make it clear to you: I’m encouraged not just because of one solid meeting with the Republican leader in the House and with Sen. McConnell … I’ve been meeting with bipartisan leaders for a long time now,” Biden said. “So generically I’m encouraged that there’s room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that’s solid and significant and a means by which to pay for it without dropping all of the burden on middle-class and working-class people.”

Despite his optimism, there was no breakthrough on the issue, according to McConnell and McCarthy, who added that the sit-down was productive. Among the outstanding issues are the size of any package — Biden’s proposal sits at $2.3 trillion, with the GOP offer checking in at $568 billion — and how to pay for any proposal.

McConnell added that one GOP “red line” in talks is raising taxes by changes to the 2017 tax law. “I think I’m safe in saying there’s certainly a bipartisan desire to get an outcome. … We all agreed to work on that together,” said McConnell, who also expressed optimism to Fox News on Wednesday night that a narrow infrastructure package could get done. “I think we’ve got a good chance of getting there on that issue.”

There are a number of burgeoning factors that could make passage of a massive infrastructure bill and $1.8 trillion jobs plan difficult. Headlining those are the emerging complaints about unemployment insurance that Republicans argue is creating a disincentive for individuals to return to the workforce. This has forced Democrats to grapple with the situation at hand and how best to advance the American Jobs Plan, with Biden talking to Republicans about a potentially scaled-down proposal — which progressives want no part of. The president today will host Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the author of the GOP’s infrastructure proposal, and six other Republican senators in the Oval Office.

Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
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 If you are working with Square or Toast, you do not need to register.
  • Review the sample applicationprogram 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

Details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at or in Spanish at

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.

Supplemental documents

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

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.

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct