Today’s update shares an extremely important webinar that will take place next week addressing the need to get people back to work. See below for the June 2nd program. Also, there is news of yet another infrastructure proposal out in Washington DC and an article trying to sort out the confusion of multiple proposals.
On the state side, there is information on the cannabis license bill moving forward, the latest redistricting topic of Supreme Court maps, and the school choice topic.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
How Do State Labor Markets Look?
As the economy kicks into high gear with the end coming to the pandemic, it is important to recognize the recovery will be lumpy and uneven. The respective labor market recoveries in the various states are a good example of this.
By the numbers: Since February 2020, before the pandemic hit, two states have seen jobs increase while the remaining 48 have seen various levels of job losses, from a few thousand to over 1.4 million. Those job losses need to be compared to the size of the state’s employment prior to COVID to get a sense of the scale of the job loss in the state.
The uneven recovery among the states when it comes to jobs will be replicated among industries as well, with some doing very well, others continuing as they have been, and some struggling. The unevenness is likely to continue for some time, even as the economy recovers sharply. The disruptions from COVID-19 have been immense, and it will take time for the economy to work its way back to pre-pandemic levels or adjust to new-normals going forward.
Currently, our nation has far too many people without jobs – and far too many jobs without people to fill them. The pandemic exacerbated America’s workforce problem, and it’s only getting worse. As the country rebuilds and recovers, we need an approach to putting Americans back to work that is simple, fast, and employer-led.
Join the US Chamber on June 2, 2021 at 2:00 pm, as they’re hosting the Workforce: A Call to Action Summit to rally nationwide support for urgent federal and state-level priorities. This special event will bring together leaders from government and industry to discuss how we can close the people-jobs gap, unleash economic opportunity, and fuel America’s long-term competitiveness.
Senate Republicans Prepare $1 Trillion Infrastructure Offer
Senate Republicans are crafting a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure offer to present to the White House later this week, preparing a substantial increase to their original $568 billion plan in hopes of sustaining bipartisan talks that hit hurdles last week.
The six Senate Republicans who have been leading talks met Tuesday morning to discuss how to respond to the $1.7 trillion plan the White House released last week, a drop from the Biden administration’s original $2.3 trillion proposal. Members of the group said they would send their new plan to the White House on Thursday, days before an unofficial Memorial Day deadline for progress in the talks.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the top Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said President Biden told the GOP lawmakers during a private meeting earlier this month that he would support a $1 trillion plan over eight years. Mr. Wicker said the Republican offer would roughly match Mr. Biden’s comments in the meeting. “We’re gonna make it eight years, as the president said he would accept, we’re going to hit a figure very close to what the president said he would accept,” Mr. Wicker said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t comment on whether Mr. Biden had signaled support for a $1 trillion plan, saying instead that he had signed off on the $1.7 trillion offer. She said the White House looked forward to receiving a new GOP offer.
“Our view is that this can be a week of progress, including the counter offer,” she said. “We’ll have to look at the nitty-gritty details. Certainly, them coming up in funding is progress.”
Decoding the Infrastructure Confusion
If you’re at a loss for what to make of this week’s infrastructure talks, we get it. They’re dead. They’re alive. They’re near a deal. They’re miles apart. Oh, and there’s a new bipartisan group coming up with a Plan B! Here’s a guide to help parse what’s actually going on:
ABOUT THAT $1 TRILLION GOP COUNTEROFFER — Yes, Sen. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO’S (R-W.Va.) group of GOP senators are set to up their offer to around $1 trillion in infrastructure spending. CNN’s Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox have a good scoop about why they chose that figure: because President JOE BIDEN himself told them he could accept a $1 trillion deal. But here’s the problem: How much of the $1 trillion is new spending, and how much of it will Dems pan as gimmicks and/or existing funds shifted from other accounts? We’ll soon find out, and it should determine how real the GOP’s latest counteroffer is.
There’s another reason to be skeptical: Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) dismissed the idea of a $1 trillion infrastructure deal just Tuesday. “That’s unlikely,” he told our Burgess Everett before making a plug about this other group of Republicans and Democrats negotiating on infrastructure on their own. If you can’t get Romney, how do you get to a filibuster-proof majority?
AS FOR THAT OTHER GROUP — WaPo’s Seung Min Kim and Tony Romm were first Tuesday with a story about another group of centrists — Romney, SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) and JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) — working on a totally separate infrastructure proposal that they’ll release if Capito’s talks with the White House unravel.
First reaction to this: Is Capito getting benched? But after making some calls, it’s clear she’s still the main event and that few are taking this side group seriously, at least for now. (Capito would also likely be incorporated into this separate group if talks take off.) But it’s worth keeping an eye on this group because it includes Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.), two unpredictable Democrats the White House has been watching closely.
Some view this as an attempt by centrists to signal that Biden can forget about his Memorial Day infrastructure deadline. While White House staff and Democratic leaders are eager to move on, this group of senators isn’t done negotiating.
MANCHIN WANTS SOME LOVE — Leave it to Manchin to throw another curveball into all this. He said he sees no reason for the party to use reconciliation at this point: Bipartisan talks should continue until a deal is reached. (You can hear the groans from Democratic leaders.)
What about Sen. BERNIE SANDERS’ (I-Vt.) move to start the reconciliation process? Manchin dared him to try: “If you think you got it, then go for it,” he says.
WHAT THE OPTIMISTS SAY — If you want the sunny take on all this, here goes: Let’s assume the GOP’s counteroffer is only half real money — say, $500 billion. If the GOP also supports a new, bipartisan $300 billion transportation proposal , that puts both sides within striking distance of a $1 trillion deal. But even then, Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near consensus on how to pay for it all, and the left is running out of patience.
Cannabis Bill Passes House
The state House passed a long-awaited plan Tuesday to create 110 new marijuana dispensaries on top of the 75 minority-owned retail shops that were delayed from opening last year because of problems in scoring lottery applications. The bill now heads to the Senate where it’s expected to pass and be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker later this week. “This legislation further ensures those least likely to have already had a foot in this industry will see a bigger piece of the pie,” Pritzker said.
Illinois legalized cannabis in January 2020 after passing a law that took unprecedented steps to ensure people disproportionately hit by criminal enforcement of past drug laws reaped the benefits of the burgeoning industry. So, while the 2020 lottery was supposed to add more dispensaries, it became mired in controversy over scoring applications for the lottery. The new measure is designed to address those concerns.
The process was further slowed down by the pandemic, stifling industry growth. But the state has seen month-over-month revenue increases, signaling there’s plenty of room for more dispensaries.
“We’ve been waiting 400 days and finally we’re moving forward,” state Rep. La Shawn Ford, who carried the House bill, told Playbook. “Social equity applicants spent a lot of money to get into this emerging market only to have to wait,” he said, referring to the costs of consultants, lawyers, start-up costs and state fees that candidates had to pay to apply.
The 110 new cannabis licenses would be awarded through two lotteries directed toward Black, Hispanic and other minorities from disproportionately impacted areas. The 75 licenses stalled last year will be doled out in a third lottery. All three are expected to be held before August, but the impact of the bill’s passage would be felt even sooner.
Construction sites will start popping up, existing sites will be built out, and local municipalities will begin addressing zoning issues. Companies will start hiring, too. “Most important is that it finally allows the state to move forward to achieve its goal of diversity and an opportunity for social equity,” Pam Althoff, a former state lawmaker who now heads the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, told Playbook.
The bill also drew praise from existing cannabis companies, who have been waiting for the industry to expand. “It’s very exciting that there will be 185 new dispensary licenses to create ownership diversity in the Illinois cannabis industry,” said Jason Erkes, the chief communications officer for Cresco Labs, which has a stake in the Illinois market.
Today’s Redistricting Topic: Supreme Court Districts Redrawn
Democrats who control the redistricting process have now redrawn the state Supreme Court districts for the first time in nearly 60 years. Here’s the reason – Democrats worry they could lose control of the court after Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat of Rockford, lost his retention bid, thanks in large part to billionaire Ken Griffin’s efforts to fund an offensive.
“This map is about equal representation in the state’s most important court,” Rep. Lisa Hernandez, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said in a joint statement from Senate and House Democrats.
Unlike with the legislative district maps, there are no set deadlines in state law or the Illinois Constitution for redrawing Illinois Supreme Court districts.
The five Supreme Court districts contain seven total justices, with three justices from Cook County, which encompasses the 1st District, and one justice each from the remaining four districts. Those districts are identical to the state’s five appellate districts as well, meaning a remap would affect them both.
Republican Justice Michael J. Burke’s 2nd district, Democratic Justice Robert L. Carter’s 3rd district, Republican Justice Rita Garman’s 4th district and Republican Justice David K. Overstreet’s 5th district “will be substantially equalized to better reflect the population and demographic shifts” that have occurred over the past 60 years, according to the Dems.
While partisan make-ups of the new judicial districts weren’t immediately available, Kilbride’s old district was recalibrated to include all of DuPage County, the state’s second most vote-rich county and one that has trended heavily Democratic in recent election cycles.”
State Sen. Omar Aquino, chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, pointed to the state’s changing demographics as a reason for the redraw. “Illinois is a very different state than it was sixty years ago, and the voters of Illinois deserve to elect members to our state’s highest court that reflect their values.”
Republicans weren’t surprised but criticized the move nonetheless, noting that there were no public hearings to discuss Supreme Court redistricting. “This is a total sham process, anti-democratic, done at the expense of Illinoisans,” said state Sen. Jason Barickman, a member of the Republican leadership, told the Tribune.
The most significant changes are in the two districts coving the Chicago metropolitan area outside of Cook County. One of the new districts covers the northern and western suburbs and a bit of rural territory, running north to the Wisconsin state line and west past DeKalb. Excluded is GOP territory further west that is in the current district.
The other, largely remade district covers the southern suburbs and the Joliet area, but extends to largely rural and lightly populated areas south of Kankakee and west to central Illinois. Democrats presumably think that can win that area, too.
School Choice Advocates Push to Keep Tax Credit Scholarship Program Alive
School choice advocates are launching a campaign to protect the tax credit program that incentivizes private school scholarships. In 2017, the state set up a program encouraging donors to write checks to a scholarship program. The money helps to fund tuition for poor children to get into private schools.
The group ‘Empower Illinois’ brought Virginia Walden Ford, one of the nation’s leading school choice advocates, to Springfield on Monday to call on state legislators to extend the life of the ‘Invest in Kids’ tax credit. “Everybody has school choice, except poor people,” Walden Ford said at an event in Springfield’s St. Patrick’s Catholic School on Monday. School officials were presented with a symbolic check worth nearly $200,000 representing the sum total of scholarship contributions that paid for students’ tuition at that school over the last three year span.
Walden Ford, a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas, helped desegregate the schools there in the 1960s, and became one of the nation’s leading advocates for school choice during the George W. Bush administration in the early 2000s. Her story was highlighted in a Netflix film called ‘Miss Virginia.’ “My youngest son was failing,” she said. “He was getting pulled into the streets. I had to do something. And I began speaking out about his what he needed, and actually enrolled him at a private school but couldn’t afford to pay for it. And when I had to take him out of that school, because I couldn’t pay the tuition, that started me thinking there’s got to be a better way.”
A portion of the ‘Invest in Kids’ act could be pared down under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s budget proposal, which is due for a vote before a May 31st deadline. During his first year in office, Pritzker proposed ending the tax credit program entirely, but backed off and agreed to keep it going. Now, his office is suggesting the state should reduce the value of the tax write-offs that are included in the program.
Right now, donors get 75 cents in state tax breaks for every dollar they contribute into the scholarship fund. The governor’s new plan would scale that down to 40 cents on the dollar.
The scholarships are in high demand. Advocates claim 170,000 students have applied, but they’ve only had enough money to award roughly 22,000 scholarships. However, part of their obstacle is in fundraising. The state initially set a cap of $100 million, but at its peak year in 2020, donations only reached $67.5 million dollars, according to Empower Illinois.
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