Today the U.S. should hit another milestone in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – 50% of American adults will be fully vaccinated. Not sure what those odds would’ve been last year at this time if we were taking bets.
A lot more to cover down below such as a new coalition to oppose tax hikes, fading bipartisan infrastructure talks, and Moderna for adolescents. In state news, we look at more changes from census data delay, a threat to data center development, and crafting of the cannabis industry. Finally, a look at economic recovery and also how vaccines are impacting covid numbers.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Business Groups Form Coalition to Oppose Tax Hikes from Democrat Proposals
More than two dozen groups representing U.S. businesses and employers unveiled a new coalition Tuesday to fight against virtually every Democratic plan to raise taxes on self-described “job creators.”
The coalition of 28 industry groups, which have locked arms under the name “America’s Job Creators for a Strong Recovery,” argues that hiking taxes on corporations and other businesses will hamper the U.S. economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The alliance emerges in direct opposition to the Biden administration, which is pushing Congress to pass trillions of dollars in spending on infrastructure and a slew of other projects that will be paid for in large part by raising rates on corporations and the richest Americans.
Organizers told CNBC the coalition has already started to research its counter-messaging efforts nationally. But it has an especially keen eye on Arizona, a competitive purple state with two moderate Democratic senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, organizers said.
The coalition aims to turn the narrative away from a debate about taxing the rich and the biggest corporations to pay for roads and bridges. The organizers themselves acknowledge that that rhetorical battleground leans strongly in Democrats’ favor in public opinion polls. But the organizers say President Joe Biden’s so-far popular infrastructure plan loses support when the focus shifts toward the high level of public spending it will demand, and the taxes on so-called job creators it proposes.
“The record tax hikes that Democrats are seeking to ram through could not come at a worse time for America’s job creators who are just beginning to recover from a crippling pandemic,” said Eric Hoplin, president and CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, which is leading the new coalition.
“Employers support a smart infrastructure to ensure America’s 21st century competitiveness, but it shouldn’t be used as a Trojan horse to enact record high taxes on America’s individually and family-owned businesses,” Hoplin said.
“The pandemic has taxed individually and family-owned businesses enough — taxing them again while they are still struggling to recover just goes too far,” said Chris Smith, executive director of another group called the Main Street Employers Coalition.
“These tax hikes would put the path of the recovery at such risk, so we need to make sure the voice of Main Street is heard loud and clear with the people and places that matter most,” Smith said.
The coalition is not yet sharing its fundraising goals but it plans to target numerous key states led by moderate Democratic lawmakers, organizers said. These are the founding members of the coalition:
American Frozen Foods Institute
American Hotel and Lodging Association
American Rental Association
Associated Builders and Contractors
Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution
Auto Care Association
Brick Industry Association
Ceramic Tile Distributors Association
Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association
Heating, Air-conditioning, & Refrigeration Distributors International
Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
Independent Electrical Contractors
International Foodservice Distributors Association
International Franchise Association
Main Street Employers Coalition
Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
National Association of Electrical Distributors
National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers
National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
National Grocers Association
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
Security Hardware Distributors Association
Textile Care Allied Trades Association
Truck Renting and Leasing Association
WASDA – Water and Sewer Distributors of America
Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America
Bipartisan Infrastructure Talks on Life Support
Bipartisan infrastructure talks between Senate Republicans and the White House are on life support, with the two sides $1.5 trillion apart on a final price tag and little agreement on how to pay for it.
Senate Democrats say Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the lead Republican negotiator, has another two weeks — maybe three at the most — to show significant progress before Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) starts moving ahead without GOP support. Capito and White House officials acknowledge they’re not close to a deal. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Monday “there is still a lot of daylight between us,” while adding that the administration wants to keep the talks going.
The White House says it is now up to Republicans to make a counterproposal to the offer administration officials laid out last week when they reduced Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal to $1.7 trillion by slashing some investments and proposing that certain programs be pursued in other legislative talks. “The ball is in the Republicans’ court,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “We are awaiting their counterproposal. We would welcome that. We are eager to engage and even have them down here to the White House once we see that counterproposal.”
White House advisers say Biden genuinely wants a bipartisan agreement, especially given that he ran as a unity candidate who could work across the aisle to get things done. But the White House and Republicans remain at odds over the size of the package, how to pay for it and even on what constitutes infrastructure.
Capito and five other Senate Republicans who are negotiating with the White House plan to meet Tuesday morning to discuss next steps. The GOP senators have declined to say how much higher they’re willing to go after Capito’s $568 billion offer last month. “I’m getting ready to meet with my fellow senators that are on the negotiating team to see what direction they want to go. I’m not ready to call it quits, I can tell you that,” she said.
Capito said she was disappointed by the $1.7 trillion counteroffer Friday from the White House. “Yeah, I was,” she said, adding that President Biden had left her more hopeful of a compromise when he met earlier with Republicans face-to-face at the White House. “We had been in the office with the president and he had expressed parameters that we made our offer to,” she said. A spokeswoman for Capito said last week’s counteroffer from the administration “is well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.”
Senate Republicans say a familiar dynamic is playing out in the infrastructure negotiations. Much like the ultimately unsuccessful talks over Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, Republicans say White House officials are hampering progress.
Senate Democrats say the clock is ticking on bipartisan efforts. “We’re getting down to decision time. We can’t put this over indefinitely, so I hope they can reach an agreement. They’re still pretty far apart,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin “I haven’t given up on bipartisanship, but we’re running out of time,” he added.
Democrats could attempt to deliver a bipartisan infrastructure win for Biden by bringing a $303 billion surface transportation authorization bill to the floor.
Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Works Safely in Adolescents, Company Says
Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine was effective in children aged 12 to 17 in a new study, a finding that could clear the way for a second shot for use in adolescents.
The Cambridge, Mass., company said the vaccine induced immune responses among children that were comparable to those seen in a study of adults last year. Also, there were no cases of symptomatic Covid-19 among vaccine recipients, Moderna said, suggesting 100% vaccine efficacy in adolescents, though overall very few among the 3,700 children in the study got sick.
Based on the results, Moderna said it plans in early June to request that regulators in the U.S. and other countries authorize the use of its vaccine in children aged 12 to 17 years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could make a decision within weeks of the request if it follows the same kind of timetable if took with Pfizer Inc.’s shot. The agency took about a month to clear Pfizer’s request for use of its Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents.
U.S. regulatory clearance would add a second choice in Covid-19 vaccines for adolescents. Immunizing children is crucial, health specialists say, to developing the communitywide immunity needed to move fully past pandemic precautions. In December, the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE was cleared for 16- and 17-year-olds, along with adults. Earlier this month, the FDA authorized the Pfizer shot for use in children aged 12 to 15 years.
More than 5 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 years have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky. The FDA authorized use of Moderna’s shot in people 18 years and older in December.
Expanded use of Moderna’s shot could bolster plans to hold summer camps for children and ease the return of full-time, in-person instruction in middle and high schools in the fall. Moderna and Pfizer have also begun testing their vaccines in younger children. Results are expected later in the year.
The antibody levels among vaccinated adolescents were comparable with those from adults who had participated in a separate Phase 3 study of the vaccine in adults. The adult study had shown that the vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19. There were four cases of Covid-19 among adolescents who received the placebo, versus zero cases among those getting the vaccine, starting 14 days after the second dose, Moderna said.
The vaccine was 93% effective after the first dose, using a different set of criteria that included milder cases, Moderna said. The company said the most common side effects include injection-site pain, headache and fatigue.
Talk of 2022 Primary Being Delayed
Without detailed census data, Democratic leaders recognize they could face added legal challenges in drawing congressional maps. There’s already the likelihood of court fights as the legislative maps are being drawn with census estimates, instead of hard numbers still months away. Drawing congressional maps without census data would give critics even more legal hooks.
There’s also some pressure from the national Democratic Party to delay the primary to avoid legal battles. The U.S. Census Bureau has already released the first set of reapportionment data that determines how many congressional seats each state gets: Illinois drops from 18 to 17 seats. Now states are waiting for the granular data that shows where people live down to the street but that may not show up until September 30.
Waiting for data throws a curve ball in the election process as candidates start gathering petition signatures at the beginning of September. It’s a dilemma other states have too. Democrats across the country are particularly concerned about their slim 10-seat majority in the U.S. House, knowing that midterm elections usually don’t go well for the president’s political party.
Still, there are some positives in delaying the Illinois primary. Illinois has one of the earliest elections anywhere, so delaying it will make campaigning for the general election less grueling. Even better, candidates will be able to campaign in spring instead of winter — and in-person voting could be in warm(er) weather, too.
A Looming Threat to Illinois’ Data Center Boom
A little-noticed clause that’s starting to pick up steam in Springfield threatens to kneecap what has been a rare Illinois economic development success story of late: the growth of data centers here.
Under terms of a measure awaiting action by the Illinois House, operators of all new and prospective data centers would be required to sign a “labor peace agreement” with a union representing those who work on “but not limited to, pumps, chillers and coolers, fire line safety equipment, backup power generators, building automation system controls and water treatment systems.”
Data centers typically employ such workers, and industry officials say many such agreements in effect elsewhere in Illinois, usually construction jobs, require employers to fill all vacancies from a list of applicants supplied by the union. While it’s not explicit in the legislation, as a practical matter it would mean data centers almost certainly would need to use union-supplied labor.
The proposed provision would be added to a two-year-old tax-credit program that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has trumpeted as helping bring $5 billion in private investment to the state in the data center sector.
“It’s all but certain we would see less projects and less investment in Illinois simply because of this provision,” Brad Tietz, vice president of government relations with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, testified to the House Revenue Committee late last week. Tietz previously was director of legislative affairs at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Affairs and helped write the tax-credit provision.
“There are several companies either currently applying to DCEO or are considering applying that are now seriously rethinking their next steps, simply because this language was introduced,” Tietz continued. “In the immediate term, this is likely $1 billion in additional investment that we are putting in risk. . . .This industry is highly mobile.”
The measure in question was supposed to make a few technical changes in the tax credit and passed the Senate 51-0, said Clark Kaericher, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs. Instead, the provision, backed by the politically powerful International Union of Operating Engineers, “essentially offshores hiring to a union local. It’s the kind of thing that makes people think twice about investing here.” But the amendment was approved on a voice vote and sent to the full House for action. Both the bill and the amendment are being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights.
Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner did release a statement: “The governor believes the data center tax credit program is a valuable tool to attract businesses and jobs to Illinois.” She said. “It’s important to the governor that businesses that accept state tax incentives also live up to the values of this state by treating workers fairly and he looks forward to reviewing legislation that makes its way to his desk.”
But the chamber’s Tietz noted in his testimony that the tax credit already requires that in exchange for the incentive, data centers must agree not only to invest at least $250 million in the state but pay their workers at least 120 percent of the average for the county in which they are working.
“Illinois would be the only state in the country of the 33 states that offer a similar type data center incentive to require something like a labor peace agreement and many companies will truly look elsewhere,” Tietz said. “They’re telling us they will.” Tietz did not disclose the names of any companies or developers saying that.
Another source said at least two companies have notified DCEO that the bill, if approved, may keep them from the state. DCEO declined to comment, referring the statement from Pritzker’s spokeswoman. Another industry official, Jim Kerrigan, managing principal of North American Data Centers in Chicago, said he’s not familiar with the clause but it “doesn’t sound very smart to me.”
Many technical workers at plants already are union members, he said, and generally construction of such facilities is handled by union labor. “This clause seems to me a little challenging,” since Illinois has been doing well in this industry, ranking second of the 50 states in recent growth by some counts. Among such growth was a project disclosed last week in which a Canadian company may purchase the former Motorola complex in turn it into a solar-powered data center.
Illinois House Panel Designed to Diversify Legal Pot Industry in State Passes Committee
An Illinois House committee unanimously approved a bill designed to create more racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the ownership of marijuana dispensaries. “There is an entire ecosystem that needs to start to grow,” Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Gov. JB Pritzker on cannabis policy, said before the House Executive Committee voted 15-0 to send House Bill 1443 to the full House for a vote as soon as Friday.
Sponsored by state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, the bill would make the first major changes to the state’s recreational marijuana industry since Illinois lawmakers first allowed the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis to people 21 and older in Illinois in January 2020.
Though some minority entrepreneurs wanted the state to go farther in giving them access to an industry so far dominated by wealthy white men, Ford said he believes the legislation would “get this emerging economy going.” “This is the vehicle that will move this industry forward and allow Black and brown people in it,” he said.
If approved by the House, the bill would go to the Senate for consideration and then potentially to Pritzker’s desk for his signature. Ford said the bill would change the way the state awards future cannabis licenses and give more ownership opportunities to people who come from low-income neighborhoods disproportionately affected by what he called the failed war on drugs. The bill would also create more ownership opportunities for people arrested for or convicted of marijuana-related crimes. Women, too, would have more of a chance to land dispensary licenses and become part of an industry that surpassed $1 billion in legal cannabis sales in Illinois in 2020, Ford said.
The legislation would guide the awarding of 110 future dispensary licenses after the state conducts a lottery to award 75 other licenses delayed by complaints and lawsuits about how applications were scored.
A lottery for the 75 licenses will be conducted among top-scoring applicants for dispensaries in the 17 Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics regions. The 75 licenses to be awarded, as well as 110 new licenses affected by Ford’s bill, would allow three more dispensary licenses in a region that covers Sangamon and Menard counties. There already are 110 recreational marijuana license holders operating dispensaries at Illinois sites where medical marijuana also is sold and at stand-alone recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Under HB 1443, applicants could qualify for the lottery for 55 licenses in the next of two lotteries if they scored 85% or better on state criteria. Those qualifying for one of the 75 delayed licenses received perfect scores. Specifications for the third lottery, to award the remaining 55 licenses, would make Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs even more likely to win one of the licenses, Ford said.
The bill would give priority to “social-equity” applicants when the state awards five medical marijuana licenses. Social-equity applicants include people from low-income neighborhoods, or who had been arrested on marijuana charges, or had immediate family members who had been arrested. The bill would prohibit social-equity applicants from locating dispensaries closer than 1,500 feet from each other.
Higher vaccination rates haven’t been the primary driver behind the early economic recovery, spending and foot-traffic data suggest. Vaccinated Americans are increasingly going out this spring—but not as much as their unvaccinated counterparts, who have eagerly embraced the return to normal.
This dynamic will likely change in the coming months as more people are vaccinated, as will the balance in spending on goods versus services. Consumers are indulging more in close-contact services—haircuts, dining out, live music events—a switch that has big implications for inflation.
Interesting Read: the COVID-19 Rate is Only Really Dropping Among Vaccinated People
Via The Washington Post’s Dan Keating and Leslie Shapiro, “The country’s declining covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated.” https://wapo.st/3bMxZI3
How so: “As more people receive vaccines, covid-19 cases are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population. So The Washington Post adjusted its case, death and hospitalization rates to account for that — and found that in some places, the virus continues to rage among those who haven’t received a shot.”
What the adjusted numbers show when only accounting for unvaccinated Americans: “The national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago and is barely inching down. The adjusted hospitalization rate is as high as it was three months ago. The case rate is still declining after the adjustment.”
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 was Monday, May 24th.
For more information, visit sba.gov/restaurants. Efforts are ongoing to push for replenishing of the funds for this program.
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