Today’s news is highlighted by another round of payments coming from the government. This time it will come in the form of a monthly payment from the IRS through the child tax credit. See below for more details. Also, Governor Pritzker announces the phase out of the eviction freeze and will all Illinois schools be taught in person beginning in August/September?
Additionally, an article talking about how things have changed in Springfield and how that may lead to some friction in the last two weeks of session. President Biden announced the US will be exporting more vaccines and on the federal front will there be a replenishing of the wildly popular Restaurant Revitalization Fund?
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
IRS to Start Monthly Payments of Child Tax Credit July 15
The Biden administration on Monday announced it will start to make monthly payments of the expanded child tax credit on July 15. Households that account for about 65 million children, or 88 percent of children in the United States, will receive the payments without needing to take any additional action. Payments will be made automatically to about 39 million households, the administration said.
The administration’s announcement, which coincides with Monday’s deadline for individuals to file their 2020 tax returns, provides more details about how the Treasury Department and the IRS plan to implement a key part of the coronavirus relief law President Biden enacted in March, called the American Rescue Plan Act. “The American Rescue Plan is delivering critical tax relief to middle class and hard-pressed working families with children,” Biden said in a statement. “With today’s announcement, about 90% of families with children will get this new tax relief automatically, starting in July.”
Biden’s coronavirus relief law expanded the child tax credit in several ways for 2021, in an effort to reduce child poverty. One aspect of the changes to the credit is that the relief law directs the IRS to make advance payments of the credit on a periodic basis from July to December, so that people receive funds in installments throughout the year rather than a single payment when they file their 2021 tax returns. The advance payments are aimed at helping families to better plan their budgets.
Biden’s relief law also increased the maximum credit amount from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for older children. Additionally, the law made the credit fully refundable, which will allow the lowest-income families to be eligible for the credit.
Treasury and the IRS said that families will receive up to half the amount of the credit to which they are entitled for 2021 in monthly payments from July through December, and they will receive the other half when they file their 2021 tax returns next year. Eligible families will receive monthly payments of up to $300 for children under 6, and up to $250 for children ages 6 and older. The payments will be made on the 15th of every month, though they could come a day earlier or later if the 15th falls on a weekend or a holiday, the administration said.
The advance payments will be made based on families’ 2019 or 2020 tax returns. The IRS plans to create a web portal, similar to the tool that non-filers could use last year to register to get their stimulus payments, in an effort to help get advance payments of the child tax credit to as many eligible families as possible. The IRS is also planning to create a separate web portal that people can use to opt out of the advance payments or provide the agency with information about a change in circumstances, senior administration officials said.
Governor Pritzker to End Eviction Freeze
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state will phase out its eviction moratorium by August and provide another $1.5 billion in aid to help Illinois apartment renters and landlords hurt by the pandemic. The funding will assist more than 120,000 renters in the state who are eligible to apply for grants that will be paid to their landlords, Pritzker said at a news conference. The $1.5 billion package follows an initial round of $329 million in aid the state allocated last year to cover rent payments of more than 56,000 apartment tenants.
“Any eligible resident who rents their home, is behind on payments and experienced financial hardship in the pandemic is eligible to apply for up to $25,000 of rental assistance paid directly to their housing provider or landlord,” Pritzker said.
The governor also said the state plans to end its moratorium on evictions by August, phasing it out gradually over the next few months. Established by Pritzker in March 2020, the moratorium has allowed many tenants to stay in their apartments after losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But landlords said the moratorium encouraged many tenants not to pay rent whether they could afford to or not. Pritzker narrowed the moratorium last November to address their concerns.
The additional $1.5 billion for Illinois renters was part of $25 billion in U.S. rental assistance included in a federal coronavirus relief package approved in December. The payments will cover unpaid rent going back to June 2020. Eligible renters must show they suffered a financial hardship due to the pandemic and earned less than 80 percent of the area median income in 2020. The program prioritizes households earning less than 50 percent of area median income and households with an unemployed member.
Illinois Could Require Schools to Fully be In Person this Fall
When Tony Sanders learned the Illinois State Board of Education could mandate fully in-person classes next school year, he decided to delay a reopening presentation he’d planned for his school board Monday evening. Sanders, superintendent of the Elgin-based School District U-46, said he made the call after seeing that an ISBE resolution set for a vote Wednesday would allow limited exceptions for remote learning. He is also encouraging other Illinois school superintendents to read and share the draft resolution in case it affects their current plans.
A draft of the resolution states that beginning in the fall, “all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days, provided that … remote instruction be made available for students who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are under a quarantine order by a local public health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health.” The “and,” specifying that vaccine-ineligible students would also need to be under a quarantine order in order to have remote instruction provided, is in bold.
For students with documented medical needs that may prevent them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine or make them more vulnerable to the virus, Sanders said U-46 has been working on options for a distance learning program with dedicated remote teachers who would not also have in-person students.
Sanders, who has served on state working groups involved in creating guidance for pandemic education, said he believes ISBE has generally tried to involve school leaders and educators. But he said the position reflected in the resolution was not explained or alerted to superintendents. “I think they’ve made a good effort to hear from the field. This one just surprised me,” Sanders said.
ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said the resolution was drafted “under the leadership of the state superintendent of education and based on feedback from the field.” The declaration would be enforceable, Matthews said, citing state law that gives state Superintendent Carmen Ayala the authority to “declare a requirement to use remote learning days or blended remote learning days for a school district, multiple school districts, a region, or the entire State” during a gubernatorial disaster proclamation.
Students who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or who are not under quarantine order may meet criteria for home or hospital instruction, Matthews said. According to the school code, “a child qualifies for home or hospital instruction if it is anticipated that, due to a medical condition, the child will be unable to attend school, and instead must be instructed at home or in the hospital, for a period of 2 or more consecutive weeks or on an ongoing intermittent basis.”
“School districts have flexibility in other parts of the law to offer remote learning to students on an individual basis if that will best meet the students’ learning needs,” Matthews said, citing Illinois legislation that allows districts to provide individual students with remote learning or blended programs.
Chicago Public Schools, the biggest school district in Illinois and third in the U.S. with 638 schools and 341,000 students, has already been planning for a mostly in-person fall. CEO Janice Jackson, who is leaving CPS in June, said earlier in May that CPS was “looking to the state … to get us back to normal from a schooling perspective where everyone is expected to go to school in a brick-and-mortar building every single day unless there are extenuating circumstances, medical circumstances, that prevent them from coming to school.”
“We are pleased that ISBE is guiding districts to provide five days a week of in-person instruction. This is what the district has been working towards and there seems to be a consensus at all levels of government that opening schools full-time in the fall is a critical priority and our position has always been that we would be offering a remote learning option for all students who are unable to return when class resumes in the fall,” said James Gherardi, a CPS spokesman.
Since CPS started its phased-in reopening plan, the district has made in-person learning optional. CPS high schools, the last to reopen under an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union, began offering a hybrid model in April with in-person classes capped at two days a week for many students. Only about 22% of district students attended in-person classes the week of April 19, according to CPS data.
Of Illinois’ 849 school districts, 423 are provided blended or hybrid learning, 398 are fully in person and only 28 are fully remote, according to state data last updated May 3.
The ISBE resolution to be voted on Wednesday notes the state is expected to move to phase five of the “Restore Illinois” plan on June 11, at which point businesses and public gatherings would be allowed to operate normally. “Guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health is forthcoming regarding updated mitigations for schools in Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan,” according to the resolution.
The resolution cites rapid testing programs and vaccines already received by many school employees and students 12 and older, along with ongoing trials in younger children. The resolution also references studies supporting in-person learning for more positive academic outcomes and mental health.
Pritzker, Legislature May Lock Horns by the End of Session
Governor Pritzker has vetoed only a handful of bills since assuming office in 2019 and has taken a mostly hands-off approach to this year’s spring legislative session. But that may change.
Pritzker and his top staff began contacting lawmakers and interest groups last week to tell them how they need to “fix” their bills and to warn them that the governor will veto their legislation if the requested changes aren’t made. This is the first kind of-real spring session, not only since the pandemic began but since both the House and Senate have elected new presiding officers.
As a result, committee chairpersons in both chambers have been far more reluctant than usual to bottle up potentially problematic bills, while floor debates have frequently involved sponsors promising colleagues that their legislation would be fixed when it crossed to the other chamber.
Well, the bills have pretty much all been moved to the other chamber, and lots of problems remain. Last Wednesday alone, House committees approved 107 Senate bills for floor action and passed 227 during the full week. Senate committees approved 100 House bills last week.
The biggest problem with this haphazard flood of bills is that many require mandates for additional state spending. The governor’s office rightly points out that the state doesn’t have the money to be creating tons of new and costly programs. Several others also would impose unfunded spending mandates on local governments.
In the past, former House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton would put the brakes on most bills like that. But the new leaders, House Speaker Chris Welch, and Senate President Don Harmon, are allowing members to police themselves and are standing back as bills pass that could either create fiscal issues for the state or create laws that, in the opinion of the governor’s office, won’t do what the sponsors may have intended.
“Every other day, we’re going through bill review [and saying] ‘That doesn’t even make sense. We can’t do that. That can’t actually be effectuated,’” said one exasperated high-level administration official last week. “At the end of the day,” the official said, “the governor can’t let a bad bill go through that we can’t afford, or can’t actually implement, or doesn’t actually work.”
The respect level for this governor’s legislative operation has never been high. In some circles, it’s even reviled and ridiculed for its ineffectiveness. But the grumbling has noticeably intensified this year as members complain that the governor’s office has been of no help all session. Just the other day, a lobbyist who often works with a particular state agency was talking about how the agency had zero involvement with bills this year that could significantly alter the agency’s mission. His advice to members was to run their bills the way they wanted.
So, naturally, some members are chafing at the belated veto threats after months of near radio silence. The time to work on many of these bills was a month or two ago, they said. But with the clock ticking down to the scheduled May 31 adjournment, they’re being told to change their bills or they will find themselves working on veto override motion roll calls this summer.
Because Pritzker has so rarely vetoed any bills, more than a few folks are having a difficult time taking his threats seriously. They expect he’ll talk a good game and then roll over to avoid making enemies. But, in fairness, Pritzker had Madigan and Cullerton shepherding members for him during the 2019 session and had no real need to issue any threats. The 2020 spring session ended up being only a few days long because of the pandemic, and everything was negotiated. Now, it’s pretty much anything goes and although veto threats usually are a final weapon and not a legislative strategy, he may have no choice at this late date but to do something drastic.
Others contend that some of the advice they’re getting from the governor’s office is off the mark. While the governor’s people are trying to tell members what their bills would do in the real world, their interpretation sometimes is just flat wrong. Two weeks left until the end of session; we’ll see what happens.
U.S. to Increase Covid-19 Vaccine Exports Amid Global Pressure
The Biden administration moved to sharply ramp up Covid-19 vaccine shipments to other countries, following calls for the U.S. to bolster efforts to curb the coronavirus globally as it rages unchecked in developing nations.
An earlier pledge to export 60 million doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca PLC came with little sacrifice because that vaccine has yet to be authorized for U.S. use. The U.S. now plans to share globally 20 million doses of vaccines produced by Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, all of which are being used in the U.S.
President Biden said Monday that 80 million vaccine doses are expected to be donated by the end of June. Delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses will be contingent on a Food and Drug Administration review of product-quality standards, the White House said. “We know America can never be fully safe until the pandemic that’s raging globally is under control,” Mr. Biden said.
The U.S. has faced criticism both at home and abroad for policies that prioritized the vaccination of Americans, in part through contracts that required vaccine makers to deliver most initial production to the U.S. government. The U.S. as of last week had produced more than 333 million doses of vaccine and exported about three million doses, far less than other major vaccine-producing nations, according to data from Airfinity, a London research firm. By comparison, China has shipped 252 million doses overseas, or 42% of its total production, while the European Union has exported 111 million doses, more than one-third of its total output. Russia has exported 27 million doses.
In his remarks Monday, President Biden said that the 80 million doses would be far more than any other nation has donated to date, drawing a distinction with vaccines that were sold, rather than donated, by other countries. The low U.S. export numbers reflect a policy aimed at vaccinating Americans first, but that is now called into question as domestic inoculations rise and demand wanes.
A Replenish for Restaurant Revitalization Fund
On May 3, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) began accepting applications. In the first 36 hours, more than 186,000 applications had been submitted, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the first 16,000 applications had been funded with $2 billion. At this rate, the SBA will run out after the first two days of applications.
Join us in urging policymakers in Washington – from the White House to Capitol Hill – to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Americans can’t wait to get back into their favorite restaurant with their family and friends, and the federal government can play a key role in making that a reality.
If you are interested in adding your name in support, please sign this petition from the Restaurant Association calling on federal leaders to act now: https://p2a.co/B9Xqmxu
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Will County Announces Round 3 of CARES Act Funding
Will County is pleased to announce Round 3 of the CARES Act Small Business Grant Program for Will County businesses adversely impacted by the recent pandemic. All small businesses physically located in Will County able to demonstrate COVID-19 impact are encouraged to apply for these grants of up to $10,000. The following criteria must be met to determine eligibility:
• Have not received a previous Will County Small Business Grant
• Annual revenues under $5 Million in 2020
• Less than 50 full time employees in 2020
• In operation since February 15, 2020, or earlier
• Have proof of COVID-19 impact
• In good standing with the IRS, State of Illinois, and Will County
• Not currently in bankruptcy
For more information and to apply visit: www.willcountyillinois.com/COVIDbizgrant
All required documents must be included and uploaded with each application. This is a requirement to expedite the review of eligibility and determine approval for the grant monies. Priority will be given to businesses located in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA). DIA zip codes in Will County include: 60432, 60435, 60436, 60466, and 60471.
CDC Mask Guidance
The CDC still recommends that unvaccinated people continue to take preventive measures, such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. In their latest guidance, the CDC now reports that indoor and outdoor activities pose minimal risk to fully vaccinated people and that fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people.
Fully vaccinated people can:
• Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
• Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
• Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
• Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
• Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
• Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
• Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
• Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
Governor Pritzker Mask Changes:
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
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