The SBA has announced an application deadline of next Monday for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. That was a quick period as we’ve talked about how the applications have rushed in. Today’s update also covers the latest on the state redistricting process, an announcement from the Governor on the release of funds for the construction multi year plan, a developing problem with the Federal government using tax cheat collection for spending, and a unanimous vote for in person school in the fall.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Restaurant Revitalization Fund Deadline Announced
The SBA has announced that the deadline for applications to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is Monday, May 24th!
Attention bars, restaurants, and food service business owners. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is accepting applications, providing funding to businesses to cover pandemic-related revenue losses. These funds can be used for payroll, mortgage/rent, supplies, and many other operating expenses. Assistance with the application is available. Apply now: https://bit.ly/3gom6uM
Legislative Districts Remap Causing a Stir
Tension is building in Springfield as state lawmakers zero in on how to redraw congressional and state legislative districts. Republicans continue to claim to have so far been iced out of the room where it’s all happening — though there might be a reveal sometime this week.
A congressional map emerged Sunday showing how the state might divide up its 17 seats — down from 18 after the latest census showed a population. Greg Hinz of Crains, which published the map, says Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s seat is being eliminated and a chunk of Rep. Rodney Davis’ district would merge with the area now represented by freshman Rep. Mary Miller. All three are Republicans.
“Democratic-leaning portions of [Kinzinger’s] district in the Joliet area would be given to Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville to shore up her standing, with Republican sections annexed on to GOP-leaning districts downstate,” Hinz writes. He adds: “None of this is anywhere near final.” Senate President Don Harmon said he was “unfamiliar” with the map in Crain’s. And a House spokesperson said they doesn’t know where the map originated either.
The continued concern some Democrats have is that while great effort is being taken to make sure the four Black congressional seats stay solid, there’s still only one Latino-heavy district — Rep. Chuy Garcia’s. It’s most likely Garcia’s call on how Latino representation gets laid out. Would lawmakers adjust the neighboring district now held by Rep. Marie Newman, whom Garcia backed over former Rep. Dan Lipinski last year? It’s a dilemma.
On the state legislative side, there’s handwringing among Democrats who aren’t all that pleased with how the redraw — so far — is going. As one representative said, “Things are constantly changing. And newer members are having a harder time with it. State Reps. Anne Stava-Murray, Rita Mayfield, and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz have expressed concern about how their districts are being redrawn. And state Sen. Tom Cullerton, who faces a corruption trial in February, is expected to see his seat redrawn. This seat is already too purple for the baggage of a trial, so a redraw isn’t surprising.
“Some people are upset. We keep going in and fighting for our districts,” said another Democrat.
Those who are most upset likely have the least seniority, or experience in reading the process. There’s a ripple effect, after all. A change in a district two doors down could affect you. A few Democrats say the absence of former House Speaker Michael Madigan is being felt as Harmon, who’s gone through redistricting before, took an early lead in controlling the remap. He’s now working more closely with House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who is new to the remap process, having first been elected in 2013.
Republicans, meanwhile, are frustrated about not being let into the room where the Democratic majority is holding the maps. They’re also feeling stifled by their own party. Minority Leader Jim Durkin has told his caucus not to talk to Democrats about the process. The thinking is that if/when maps are challenged in court, the party doesn’t want to appear to have supported the redraw in discussions.
House GOP spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said only: “We don’t support the House Democratic process of politicians picking their voters behind closed doors with faulty data,” a reference to the fact that lawmakers are using estimates since final census numbers won’t be out until late summer.
Timing – the goal is to have maps done by May 31, reports Daily Herald’s J.J. Bullock. That would give Republicans and the public a month to look at them before the June 30 deadline.
Gov. Pritzker Announces Six-Year $20.7 Billion Construction Plan Made Possible by Rebuild Illinois
Governor Pritzker joined the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and labor, legislative and local leaders today to announce the release of a $20.7 billion multi-year plan to improve Illinois’ roads and bridges over the next six years. This robust commitment, fueled by the historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan, will reinforce Illinois’ leadership as a transportation hub and create thousands of jobs as the state seeks to spur economic growth following the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest multi-year plan builds on significant infrastructure investment over the past two years, with over 2,700 miles of state and local roadways and 290 bridges already improved through Rebuild Illinois.
With more than 4.9 million Illinoisans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 64% of residents age 18 and over receiving at least their first dose, the Governor also announced the return of full Amtrak service in Illinois beginning July 19th. In accordance with CDC guidance, face masks are still required on public transit, including trains, to prevent community spread.
“With all that’s been built over the last two years, even through a global pandemic, today we are announcing the new Multi-Year Plan for the next six years that will reconstruct over 2,700 more miles of roads and nearly 8 million square feet of bridges. And of course, the projects in this MYP will continue to create and support hundreds of thousands of jobs for hardworking Illinoisans across our state – bolstering our pandemic recovery in yet one more way,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Rebuild Illinois is about investing for the future – supporting this generation and the next, making sure we have good jobs and the roads to get there, and building a state where opportunity is just around the corner for everyone, no matter where you’re standing.”
Based on current funding levels, the FY2022-27 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve 2,779 miles of roads and 7.9 million square feet of bridge deck. Of the $20.7 billion over the six years of the program, $3.32 billion has been identified for the upcoming fiscal year.
Included in the program are a multitude of projects that will create economic opportunity, enhance quality of life, and improve safety on both the IDOT and local transportation systems.
Project selection was based on objective criteria, such as pavement conditions, traffic volumes and crash history. Of the major elements in the plan for IDOT roads and bridges, investments include: $5.79 billion for highway reconstruction and preservation, $4.82 billion for bridge improvements, $2.59 billion for strategic expansion, $1.43 billion for system support such as engineering and land acquisition, and $1.21 billion for safety and system modernizations.
“Under the governor’s leadership, we are continuing to build and sustain infrastructure that gives Illinois its competitive edge and strengthens our status as the transportation hub of North America,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “This latest multiyear program means we will keep making historic improvements in our transportation system, just as we have throughout the pandemic. As people start to explore and travel Illinois again, we want passenger rail to be a viable option as well.”
The program will create and support hundreds of thousands of earning opportunities over the next six years for Illinois residents in communities across the state. As the state and national economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, these jobs will be a critical source for families working to get back on their feet.
Passed in 2019, Gov. Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois plan, the first of its kind in nearly a decade, promotes economic growth by investing a total of $33.2 billion into the state’s aging transportation system. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history, but also the first one that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
Local projects in the funding plan include:
- I55 from IL 129 to Lorenzo Rd.
- I55 Interchange at Airport Rd./Lockport St. and IL 126
- I80 from Ridge Rd. to Rt. 30
- IL 52 (Jefferson St.) from River Rd. to Houbolt Rd.
- IL 53 (South Chicago St.) from IL 52 to Arsenal Rd.
A Problem is Raised with the Plan to Go After Tax Cheating to Fund Federal Spending Plans
Democrats want to raise billions of dollars by giving the IRS more money to go after tax cheats — and use the money to pay for their infrastructure spending plans. There’s one problem: That isn’t allowed under Congress’s arcane budget rules. A two-decade-old rule bars lawmakers from paying for legislation with money generated from things like beefing up IRS audits of the rich.
It’s a crucial problem Democrats are now confronting behind closed doors. They are relying on greater IRS enforcement to contribute billions toward the cost of their plans. If they can’t tap that, it could blow a big hole in their budget numbers. Lawmakers are now discussing ways around the rules, with some pushing to overturn them.
“This is an issue we’re looking at closely,” said Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “The revenue generated from going after wealthy tax cheats should be counted toward the revenue needed to pay for critical investments in the American people.”
Going after uncollected taxes is among the politically easiest money Democrats are likely to find when it comes to paying for their big-ticket spending packages. While some lawmakers are skittish about raising taxes, few object to the idea of expanding IRS enforcement, especially after Commissioner Charles Rettig speculated last month that the annual tax gap — the difference between what’s owed and what’s actually collected — might run as much as $1 trillion annually.
If Democrats can’t use that money to pay for their plans, they may have to turn to more controversial alternatives, such as even more tax increases or adding to the deficit. “I’ll note that budget scoring rules block Congress from using that high-return investment as a pay-for – that needs to change,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), in a hearing last week on the tax gap.
Improving tax collections is also an area of potential bipartisan compromise as the two sides explore whether they might be able to work together on an infrastructure plan. Republicans, sometimes blamed for exacerbating the tax gap with years of tight IRS budgets, now say they are open to helping the agency go after unpaid tax bills, though some are skeptical there’s as much out there as Rettig says.
The quandary facing Democrats is reminiscent of one Republicans confronted when they were working on their 2017 tax cuts. Back then, they wanted to use dynamic scoring — which takes into account the macroeconomic impact of tax changes — to help cover the cost of their plan. But they ran into what proved to be insurmountable procedural hurdles in the Senate and weren’t able to include it.
For Democrats, the problem is budget scorekeeping rule number 14. It prevents lawmakers from incorporating into calculations of how much legislation costs any savings from increasing IRS audits or other “program integrity” initiatives across the government designed to make programs more cost-effective — such as cracking down on fraudulent Social Security disability payments.
“No increase in receipts or decrease in direct spending will be scored as a result of provisions of law that provide direct spending for administrative or program management activities,” the rule says. That’s because government forecasters have long considered those savings too iffy to be relied upon. “There are a couple degrees of uncertainly,” said Janet Holtzblatt, a former longtime tax expert at the Congressional Budget Office.
For one thing, agency budgets are set one year at a time and just because an administration says it will spend a certain amount of money on a department in the future doesn’t mean lawmakers will follow through. Some are now proposing to make at least some IRS funding “mandatory” so that it is more reliable, but even with that there is an unanswerable question of whether Congress in the future might siphon away other department money that’s discretionary.
What’s more, lawmakers don’t necessarily always know how an agency will spend money. If Congress doesn’t include specific instructions, it’s possible a department will use the cash in unforeseen ways that have nothing to do with what lawmakers wanted. “One of the concerns from the perspective of the scorekeepers was that you were not going to give credit for very uncertain savings coming from a certain event” of deciding to boost funding,” said Holtzblatt, now a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
Aside from the question of whether the money should count is the issue of how much would count if it did. There’s general agreement that hiring more auditors generates savings to the government because they recover more in uncollected taxes than it costs to employ them. But some doubt Rettig’s $1 trillion tax-gap estimate, and experts disagree on how much the agency might recover.
It takes a while to hire and train tax auditors, for example — they don’t immediately begin producing revenue for the government. The Biden administration says its proposal to increase IRS funding as well as expanding income information reporting would generate $700 billion. Budget analysts at the University of Pennsylvania said earlier this month they expect the Biden proposal to generate $480 billion. Last year, CBO said increasing IRS funding by $40 billion over a decade alone would generate $63 billion in savings.
Democrats are still conferring over how to get around the budget restrictions, a top aide said, and there is a range of possibilities. “There are discussions going on about how is the most appropriate way to make sure that these sorts of things do happen and that we get credit for them,” the aide said. “Leadership, the Budget committee, the Finance committee, Ways and Means — all sorts of folks are thinking about this.”
There is no easy answer. They could rewrite the rule. But it affects a number of government programs and any change is supposed to be done by consensus with CBO, the White House budget office and both congressional budget committees. Some see that as unlikely, partly because it would create an inconsistency in how different programs are treated.
Democrats could make the change unilaterally as part of their annual budget. But it’s unclear whether the Senate’s parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, will allow that, particularly if Democrats try to push their spending plans through using a so-called reconciliation measure, which tend to get extra scrutiny from the chamber’s rules referee. “What does Elizabeth say? Does she let you count that?” said another Democratic aide.
A third option for Democrats would be to leave the current rules unchanged and simply declare that they believe their package is being underwritten by expanded IRS audits, even if that’s not what official estimates say. That’s essentially what Republicans did when they were writing what became the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. They had hoped dynamic scoring would go a long way toward making the budget math behind their plan work — no small consideration when then-Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), in particular, wanted their package to be deficit neutral. But Republicans were forced to abandon dynamic scoring, at least as part of official budget estimates, because of procedural problems in the Senate. So they instead persuaded Corker to look past government forecasters’ estimate and presume the tax cuts would help the economy and generate a lot of extra revenue in the process, so that the plan’s ultimate cost would be smaller than its official $1.5 trillion sticker price.
Illinois Adopts Requirement for Schools to Open Full-Time In Person in the Fall
As the possibility was talked about yesterday here in the updates, today the Illinois State Board of Education has adopted a resolution requiring daily in-person learning next school year with limited exceptions for remote learning. Though some Board members expressed reservations about the resolution’s language during an hour-long discussion, they voted unanimously in favor. The vote came after several parents asked the board to reject the proposal in consideration of children who may still be too young in the fall to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
A draft of the resolution states that “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.”
ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said the resolution was “based on feedback from the field” and supports a declaration by State Superintendent Carmen Ayala which is enforceable. She also pointed to a state law that gives the superintendent 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.
In a message Tuesday, Ayala said the plan “begins to transition us toward a future in which we are no longer under a gubernatorial disaster proclamation and the pandemic-related remote learning statutes no longer apply.” “With the Board’s support, I anticipate making the declaration at the conclusion of the current academic year,” Ayala wrote. “The change will not take effect until next school year.”
Ayala encouraged school districts to use the resolution to plan for next school year and said she recognized that different school districts have had varied experiences with remote learning. “Some students have benefited from the flexibility or change in environment. School districts that would like to continue to offer remote learning to students on an individual basis — if that will best meet the student’s learning needs — may do so under other parts of the law,” Ayala wrote, citing parts of the state school code that allow districts to offer remote or blended learning to individual students. Some students with medical conditions who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or who aren’t under quarantine order may meet criteria for home or hospital instruction.
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.”
Though a growing list of higher education institutions have announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements for students or employees, ISBE “is not currently issuing guidance mandating vaccines,” Matthews said. The state, like many local school systems, has instead focused on vaccine education and access, encouraging school districts to host vaccination events.
During ISBE’s meeting Wednesday, several parents implored the board not to adopt the current language of the resolution but to allow more flexibility for students who were too young to receive vaccines.
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
The deadline for this program is Monday, May 24th.
- 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