Governor Pritzker today announced the possibility of Illinois being fully reopened in July and that the “Bridge” phase is not too far off. This should come as welcome news to many as restrictions are lessened and capacities expanded in the 28-day phase before we get back to full openness.
Today’s update will also share more news on the infrastructure plan. This Thursday is #Buildbythe4th day on social media so watch for our post: Infrastructure is not a partisan issue—it’s an American priority. Our country cannot wait any longer to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure. Tell Congress: pass comprehensive infrastructure legislation by the Fourth of July #BuildByThe4th https://www.uschamber.com/lets-rebuild-america
See below also for a deeper dive into who would likely pay in a tax hike, a likely wave of foreclosures, and why President Biden’s next 100 days will be tougher.
On this Wednesday afternoon at 4 PM we will host Congressman Bill Foster and Bo Steiner from the Illinois District office of the SBA for a program about the funds and application. Here is the link to register for that event on Zoom. It will also run on Congressman Foster’s Facebook page as a live event. Link: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-restaurant-revitalization-fund-video-conference-6053
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
State Aiming for Full Reopening in July
Illinois is on track to fully reopen the economy in July under Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot saying her goal is to be fully open by July 4. The news came today as Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the Chicago Auto Show will take place at McCormick Place from July 15 to 19. It’s the first large convention since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
As more Illinoisans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and hospitalizations decline, the state could soon move into the “bridge phase”—the last step before a full reopening. Then, following 28 days of continued stability or decline in key COVID-19 metrics like vaccinations and hospital admissions, it would lift all capacity limits and resume large gatherings with new safety protocols. While the state has met its vaccination goals for its senior population, the spring spike in cases and hospitalizations in Illinois led to a postponement on increasing capacity limits in both indoor and outdoor settings under the bridge phase.
Today’s news follows up on a statement made yesterday by the Governor. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said coronavirus restrictions in Illinois are on track to be loosened next week as COVID-19 hospital admissions have started to come down from a recent surge. “It looks to me, if you look at all the hospital admissions data, like we’re in decent shape and moving exactly as I would hope we would for the bridge phase,” Pritzker said at an appearance in Chicago. “I believe it may be next week.”
Pritzker said that the more transmissible coronavirus variants, particularly the one first seen in the United Kingdom, have played a part in health officials’ decisions to hold off on further reopening. “The U.K. variant is the one, of course, that is most prevalent. It takes hold fairly quickly, and you can see the numbers rise very quickly. That’s why we’ve been very careful not to move to the bridge phase while we watch that variant in Illinois,” the governor said.
Despite the delays due to the third surge, Pritzker was optimistic Monday about the state’s trajectory. “I think the common view is that Illinois has weathered this storm well,” he said. “I talk to the experts about this. I think everybody feels like we’re in a decent position. Again, following the metrics, we believe that we will be able to move to the bridge phase.”
Even some outside experts who previously suggested tighter restrictions or significant changes in public behavior were necessary to halt the spring surge acknowledge that it has slowed. Experts at the University of Chicago who’ve modeled coronavirus trends for the governor’s office said in a report Friday that the rate of transmission fell from March 26 to April 20, with vaccinations accounting for 30% to 72% of the decline. That suggests “behavioral changes, seasonal variation, and other factors play significant roles in reducing transmission,” according to the report.
The bridge phase would allow businesses in a wide range of categories, from offices to retailers to gyms, to operate at 60% capacity, up from 50%. Amusements parks, museums and zoos would also rise to 60% capacity from the current 25%. Ticketed and seated spectator events, as well as theaters and performing arts, also would have a 60% capacity.
Additionally, indoor social events would have a maximum capacity of 250 people, while outdoor event capacity would rise from a maximum of 100 to 500 people. Festivals and general admissions for outdoor spectator events would increase from 15 people per 1,000 square feet to 30.
Vice President Harris and Senators Working Behind the Scenes on Jobs Package
Vice President Harris, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other top Democrats are working behind the scenes to put together a massive infrastructure and jobs package that is increasingly likely to pass without any GOP votes. Democratic senators are jockeying to get their priorities added to the proposal — a sharp contrast to the small group of moderate Republicans and Democrats who are trying to craft a slimmed-down compromise measure.
Harris is soliciting ideas from Democratic lawmakers about what should be included in a broader infrastructure package that is expected to be based on Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. “The vice president is apparently calling all the Democratic members for their ideas, so there apparently is a bill in formation,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). And there’s a long line of Democrats who have thoughts on what should be included. Durbin himself is pushing for additional education provisions, while Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to add language lowering the Medicare eligibility age.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to substantially boost funding for child care. “We’re in communication on a very regular basis with the administration’s whole team about the pieces that are essential to create opportunity going forward,” Warren said Thursday. “I want to see more money for childcare and early childhood education. If we shortchange that area, we shortchange every baby, every mama and every daddy and every care worker in this country,” she added.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who wants to make workforce training programs eligible for Pell Grants, said he’s been in touch with Democratic leaders about the infrastructure package. “I’ve done a lot with our leadership,” Kaine said of his efforts to get some of his ideas included in the eventual infrastructure and jobs bill that many Democrats expect to pass under reconciliation if bipartisan negotiations stall.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is seeking more funding for oceans and coastal areas hit hard by the effects of climate change, said he is working through “leadership” and the “committee structure” on his priorities.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is pressing leadership to include the PRO Act, which would expand protections for workers trying to organize, to any infrastructure and jobs package that passes under budget reconciliation. “We’re working on it,” Brown said after Biden’s Wednesday night speech.
President Biden said last Wednesday evening that his infrastructure agenda would “help our kids and businesses succeed” and announced that he was “asking the vice president to help lead this effort.” The president also revealed that Harris has participated in regular meetings with lawmakers on his infrastructure agenda. “Vice President Harris and I meet regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the American Jobs Plan,” he said Wednesday.
The various proposals sought by Senate Democrats are being discussed with the White House and Democratic leadership, outside the bipartisan negotiations between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other moderates. Manchin and his colleagues across the aisle are focusing on how to narrowly define infrastructure in a way that would likely exclude many of the Democratic spending priorities competing for attention.
Schumer hasn’t yet said when the Senate will move forward on Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, which have a combined estimated cost of $4.1 trillion, or whether he’ll move the president’s priorities in one package — or two or three. Congressional Democrats say they’re waiting for Manchin, a pivotal centrist vote in the 50-50 Senate, to explore the possibility of a compromise with Republican senators, even though they expect the talks to fail eventually. “I don’t think anybody thinks the bipartisan talks are going to lead to anything,” said one Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on internal deliberations. “There’s not a single pay-for that they’ll agree to that’s meaningful,” the lawmaker added, referring to the gulf between Democrats and Republicans over how to cover the cost of the package.
Republicans want to repurpose some of the $350 billion allocated to state and local governments in last month’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, an idea that many Democrats reject, and raise another big chunk of money through “user fees,” which Democrats argue would provide too little revenue to transform the economy. Biden has proposed raising taxes on corporations and high-income households to finance his infrastructure proposals. Republicans, such as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), say raising the corporate tax rate is a “non-starter.”
Democratic senators and staff say they’ll give the bipartisan talks a few weeks because they know they can’t get Manchin, and maybe a few other centrist Democrats, to vote for the reconciliation package until it’s clear a bipartisan deal won’t materialize.
Some Democrats are now calling for combining the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan into one massive omnibus package, passing it in one fell swoop. But that would require Manchin’s vote, and the vote of every other member of the Democratic senator, since Republicans would undoubtedly oppose it. For now, Manchin says he’s not ready to vote for something on that scale.
Democrats’ Constituents Would Likely Shoulder Biden’s Tax Hike
President Joe Biden’s tax proposals are about to be tested, as the White House pushes the biggest tax increases since President Lyndon B. Johnson was waging dual wars in Vietnam and on domestic poverty. It’s happening amid the thinnest of partisan margins for Democratic leaders and a midterm cycle some say is the GOP’s to lose, given redistricting and historical headwinds facing a president’s party.
There’s little institutional memory of the last tax increase anywhere near this size that Democrats carried alone, in 1993, and the midterm wipeout that followed; only 32 Democrats out of 268 currently serving in Congress were around for that experience. “My very strong preference would be to do as much of this as possible in a bipartisan way, and one of the reasons you do that is so the blame game doesn’t happen as severely in 2022,” said former Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who lost in 2014 to Republican Tom Cotton.
Biden and top Democrats appear to be giving bipartisanship a go, for now. But they’re already laying plans for another filibuster-proof reconciliation bill to ram through their package on a party-line vote, as in 1993.
The pain would be concentrated in Democratic strongholds. Biden’s average margin of victory was almost 29 points in the 50 richest House districts by 2018 adjusted gross income, according to IRS data. Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, California, and New Jersey had the most millionaires per capita, and accounted for nearly 40 percent of U.S. millionaires’ total capital gains.
For those earning over $1 million, the top rate on capital gains and dividends would nearly double to 43.4 percent, the highest since the 1920s. In California, the rate would hit nearly 57 percent, the Tax Foundation estimates; in New York City, 58 percent. Nearly a quarter of California’s individual income tax burden is already shouldered by those earning more than $5 million, with almost half of that group’s income coming from capital gains. California and New York households making more than $1 million account for roughly 40 percent of state individual tax receipts. In New York City, the figure is closer to 50 percent, even before Albany’s recent tax increase deal.
It’s not just coastal areas that will get hit, said the S Corporation Association’s Brian Reardon, who represents privately held firms. For the first time, profits earned by owners of “pass through” businesses structured as S corporations would be subject to the 2010 health care law’s 3.8 percent investment income tax, if they make more than $400,000. Combined with higher ordinary income rates, pass-through businesses could face a 6-point marginal tax rate increase.
That’s on top of other tax increases already scheduled to take effect next year, including tighter limits on interest expense deductions from the GOP tax law in 2017. “We’re going to a place we’ve never gone before, and I think for private companies, they’re going to have a really hard time surviving this environment,” said Reardon, who thinks the Fortune 500 will benefit at their expense. “Flyover country is just going to get screwed.”
Biden’s picked a head-spinning number of lobbying fights, any one of which would make headlines — and he’s doing it all at once. He’d revoke the century-old deferral of capital gains tax on “like-kind” real estate exchanges of similar properties, ranging from office buildings to grazing land. After a $500,000 annual exclusion — half of what President Barack Obama proposed when he tried to kill the tax break — gains would be taxed immediately.
That’s going to affect the big commercial real estate deals where most of the economic activity occurs, said Chicago Deferred Exchange Company’s Mary Cunningham, who helps arrange like-kind transactions. “It becomes a major disincentive for investment, which is desperately needed in the wake of the pandemic as we have to reimagine and reinvent how commercial real estate is going to be used,” Cunningham said.
A who’s who of influential lobbies is fighting the proposal, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Hotel & Lodging Association, National Association of Realtors and The Nature Conservancy, which supports like-kind exchanges between landowners to protect environmentally sensitive areas.
In another major shift, heirs would have to pay capital gains tax on the appreciation in value of inherited property from the date the deceased originally purchased it, above a $1 million per spouse exemption with up to $500,000 more allowed for gains on primary residences.
Once the estate tax captures whatever’s left, the Tax Foundation says the combined effect is a 61 percent tax on large inheritances. The take would total nearly 70 percent in California and New York City after state and local taxes. If heirs decide to keep running the farm or family business, they can defer paying capital gains tax until they eventually sell. But they’d be on the hook for tax on the entire gain going back to the deceased’s original cost basis.
Groups like the Farm Bureau, National Association of Manufacturers, National Multifamily Housing Council, National Federation of Independent Business, and other powerful stakeholders are opposing the change. NFIB is already putting small businesses out there to try to sway lawmakers, like Steve Ferree, a Portland, Ore., plumbing business owner and constituent of Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden.
“You have all these ups and downs as a business owner, and the payoff at the end, your exit strategy basically, is when you go to finally retire and pass it on, or sell it to somebody else,” Ferree said at a recent NFIB panel discussion. “And by having additional death taxes or capital gains … you take away all that, where that payback finally comes, from all those years of reinvesting in your business.”
NFIB has traditionally been a GOP-leaning group. Silicon Valley, which contributes plenty to Democratic campaigns, is concerned as well. Under Biden’s plan, startup founders who put in years of “sweat equity” before the big payoff would be rewarded with the same tax rates as those who didn’t take such risks. Venture capitalists argue that’s a recipe for less risk-taking, and therefore less innovation of the kind that led to lifesaving drugs like Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. But in the pandemic era, the sweat equity argument may be wearing thin with otherwise sympathetic lawmakers as the income gap widens between front-line workers and wealthy investors cashing in stock market gains from the comforts of home.
Arshi Siddiqui, a former top aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now a lobbyist with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said at a National Venture Capital Association briefing that stakeholders need to “come out swinging” to head off a steep capital gains rate hike.
The House districts most affected by Biden’s proposals — those at the very top in terms of average income, capital gains and state and local taxes — are mostly safe Democratic seats representing places like Manhattan; Silicon Valley; posh Los Angeles ZIP codes like Bel Air and Beverly Hills; San Francisco; and Greenwich, Conn., and its environs, playfully known as “Hedgefundistan.”
Of the 32 “Frontline” House Democrats designated for special help in the midterm campaign, eight want to repeal the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions Republicans imposed in 2017, which would disproportionately help the richest households. Others, representing less well-off districts or states without an income tax, have less interest. Still, Democratic insiders say some relief from the “SALT” cap will likely be included. But anything short of full repeal may not keep the uber-rich from fleeing states like California and New York, a factor of which Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer are undoubtedly aware. At the same time, Schumer has to cultivate West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III, representing the fewest millionaires per capita in a state where residents on average deducted less than $10,000 in state and local taxes to begin with.
The early betting line among Democratic insiders is on a smaller package of infrastructure and other spending, paid for with smaller tax increases. But public polling shows a large appetite for taxing the rich to pay for Biden’s programs. “This is a big test of the power of entrepreneurs and business owners,” said veteran Democratic aide Russ Sullivan, now head of tax policy at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. “It’s a test of capitalism.”
The Next 100 Days: Tougher Road Ahead
The first 100 days of the Biden presidency are over, and there are two big things we know so far: First, President Biden has maintained an impressive approval rating considering how polarized the country is. And most of his proposals tend to poll much higher than he does. Second, the next 100 days are going to be a completely different challenge than the first 100 were.
In the first 100 days, Biden pushed a $2 trillion relief package through Congress on the slimmest of majorities, delivered checks to millions of Americans and massively ramped up Covid-19 vaccinations. In the second 100 days, he’s aiming for $4 trillion more to improve infrastructure, increase high-speed internet access, expand universal pre-K, and enact a paid family and medical leave plan. On top of that, he’s set July Fourth as a target date when America could return to something like “normal.”
President Biden’s first 100 days focused on hitting the “reset” button on the Trump years. But to deliver on his plans in the second 100 days, Biden needs to reset something more fundamental: America’s longtime political consensus about the scope and efficacy of government in people’s everyday lives. He has to convince the public that the government can successfully carry out complex logistical work. That’s not something that can easily be solved by making deals with Congress; it requires changing Americans’ views with tangible proof.
That’s a heavy lift. But here’s something to consider: With the success of the Covid vaccine rollout and in getting checks in people’s bank accounts, Biden may have made significant headway in that argument. (There’s a reason the president touted the vaccinations on Wednesday as “one of the greatest logistical achievements this country has ever seen.”) Every president is constrained by the times they govern. But in a strange way, the major constraint of Biden’s time in office — a global pandemic — has expanded the political possibilities in a way genuinely implausible just a couple of years ago.
What a Wave of Foreclosures Could Look Like
While people who kept their jobs throughout the pandemic have participated in a dizzying real estate market, the flip side of that coin is the homeowners who have barely hung on through unemployment or significant loss of income.
A federal moratorium on foreclosures, one of the measures designed to keep people from losing their homes at a time when staying home was fundamental, is due to expire in June. Though it has been extended several times, at some point it will go away, as will lenders’ forbearance programs that allow homeowners to delay payments until the crisis is over.
Will that be tantamount to opening the floodgates and letting a new surge of foreclosures through? “It’s not going to be good, but it’s not going to be on the scale of the Great Recession,” says Geoff Smith, executive director of DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies, who has been on the foreclosure beat before the housing crash and recession of the mid-2000s.
It’s likely not going to be good in the Chicago area. All six counties in the metro area are among the 10 percent of U.S. counties “most vulnerable to the economic impact of the pandemic,” according to Attom, a California property data firm. Attom’s report took into account the proportion of households at risk of foreclosure, the proportion that owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth and the cost of homeownership relative to average local wages.
Black Knight, a mortgage and real estate data firm, reported April 21 that 1.9 million U.S. households with a mortgage were at least 90 days late on their payments. That’s five times the number who were past due on the eve of the pandemic.
“We’re not going to call it a crisis. That’s an extreme term that won’t apply,” says Ryan Smith, director of foreclosure sales at ReMax Properties based in Western Springs. He’s been selling foreclosures since 2004 and was the top seller of foreclosures in Illinois in 2019 and 2020. He forecasts that between 2.5 and 3 percent of homeowners will default after the moratorium lifts. That’s compared to 5 percent in 2007-08, he says. Prior to the pandemic, “we were at 0.9 percent, very healthy,” he says.
Among the reasons to expect a smaller wave:
- The lending industry’s standards are far tighter than they were before the last crisis—largely as a result of that crash, Geoff Smith says.
- Everyone who owns a house rides fast-rising home values upward. The ability to sell in an up market, which wasn’t an option in the down market that followed the mid-2000s housing crash, might net proceeds that behind-on-payments homeowners could use to make the debt whole on their way out. That’s a brighter exit than foreclosure.
Nevertheless, both men say it’s appropriate to brace for impact.
Ryan Smith says one tool used to keep people in their houses might, as the law of unintended consequences dictates, wind up turning some of them out of their homes later. Mortgage forbearance does not wipe out the homeowners’ mortgage debt; it merely lets them take a break on payments, with the total debt still to be paid down the line. “The longer they stay in forbearance,” Ryan Smith says, “the more they’re going to need to pay it off later.” If homeowners calculate that the sum of the delayed payments is greater than their equity stake in the home—a possibility for people who bought only a few years before the pandemic, he says—they may decide to let the house fall into foreclosure and walk away.
A wave of foreclosures would mean not only displaced homeowners, but eyesores and possible hazards for their block or neighborhood. It would also lead to logjams in courts in Illinois, which, as a so-called judicial state, requires foreclosures to go through the court system. In nonjudicial states, the foreclosure is strictly a private business transaction—and faster.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund
SBA began accepting applications via the application portal Monday 5/3 at 11 AM. The application portal will remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted.
In preparation, qualifying applicants should familiarize themselves with the application process in advance to ensure a smooth and efficient application. Follow the steps below.
- If you haven’t already, register for an account on the application portal at 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.
On this Wednesday afternoon (5/5) at 4 PM we will host Congressman Bill Foster and Bo Steiner from the Illinois District office of the SBA for a program about the funds and application. Here is the link to register for that event on Zoom. It will also run on Congressman Foster’s Facebook page as a live event. Link: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-restaurant-revitalization-fund-video-conference-6053
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
Comment on Joliet Intermodal Master Plan by May 17
Will County and the City of Joliet have developed the Joliet Intermodal Master Plan for the Elwood/Joliet subregion of Will County. The plan’s purpose is to identify transportation needs that support anticipated development of the area’s intermodal industry while simultaneously working to improve quality of life for area residents. The study area boundary is Interstate 80 on the north, U.S. 52 on the east, West Hoff Road on the south, and Interstate 55 on the west.
Public input is being sought on the draft Transportation Improvement Program that identifies transportation priorities. All members of the public are invited to comment through Monday, May 17. Visit the Joliet Intermodal Master Plan website, and provide your input on the public involvement section of the webpage.
Finally, make plans to join us for our May member luncheon on Thursday, the 13th and meet Dawn Malec, Chief of the Joliet Police Department and Greg Blaskey, Chief of the Joliet Fire Department. For more info and to register, click here – http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-member-lunch-may-13-meet-greet-with-joliet-police-fire-chiefs-6046
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry