Chamber Members:

There was so much information to share yesterday that the usual Thursday jobs report was held back until today. It was intentional though so that it could be combined with today’s April jobs report. Things have slowed as hiring is a concern for so many locally as well.

This morning there was also a huge local announcement concerning a future development in Joliet. Check out the press release below for the full details. Additionally, there is information to share about more school funding, airport funding, Pfizer applying for full vaccine approval from the FDA, and a new cannabis lottery bill.

Enjoy your weekend and happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there!

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Weekly Jobs Report and Hiring Report for the Month of April
The U.S. employment picture improved sharply last week, with first-time claims for unemployment insurance dipping below 500,000 for the first time since the pandemic crisis. Initial claims totaled 498,000 for the week ended May 1, against the Dow Jones estimate of 527,000. That was down from the previous week’s total of 590,000, which saw a substantial upward revision from the initially reported 553,000.

The U.S. employment picture improved sharply last week, with first-time claims for unemployment insurance dipping below 500,000 for the first time since the pandemic crisis. Initial claims totaled 498,000 for the week ended May 1, against the Dow Jones estimate of 527,000. That was down from the previous week’s total of 590,000, which saw a substantial upward revision from the initially reported 553,000.

At the state level, only Kentucky reported a notable increase, with its claims rising 4,657, according to unadjusted numbers. Virginia (-23,909), Florida (-9,662) and California (-7,402) were among the states posting significant declines.

The total of those receiving benefits fell by 404,509 to 16.16 million due to a big drop in pandemic-related programs. A separate economic report showed that nonfarm business labor productivity accelerated 5.4% in the first quarter, well above the 4.5% Dow Jones estimate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unit labor costs fell 0.3%, which was not as much as the 1% forecast.

Hiring unexpectedly slowed last month as businesses struggled to keep pace with booming demand from newly vaccinated customers. U.S. employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, according to a monthly snapshot from the Labor Department. It was the weakest month of job growth since January.

The labor market is still far from fully recovered. Even with last month’s gains, there are still 8.2 million fewer workers on payrolls than there were before the pandemic. Job gains for March were also revised down, from 916,000 to 770,000.

Some employers say they’re having difficulty filling jobs, even though millions of people are still out of work. “A fast-food restaurant in town here has a sign looking for people to staff the drive-through and they’re offering a $500 signing bonus,” said Wells Fargo economist Tim Quinlan.

Nearly a third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated. But many people are still vulnerable to COVID-19, and some are wary of returning to work, especially in settings where they could be exposed to the virus. Others are busy caring for sick relatives or looking after children whose schools have not yet reopened.

Average hourly wages rose by 20 cents in April. “The data for April suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages,” the Labor Department said Friday. But analysts cautioned that a wide variation in wages across industries makes it hard to draw firm conclusions. “We are certainly not seeing rapid wage growth that would really be the red flag of ‘Wow, things are tight. Employers truly on a really widespread basis can’t find the workers that they need,'” Shierholz said.

Some employers argue that supplemental unemployment benefits and other relief programs are discouraging people from returning to work, although academic researchers have found otherwise. Montana announced this week that it will suspend federal unemployment benefits in late June, two months before the programs are set to expire nationwide. Instead of the federal benefits — which include an extra $300 per week — the state will offer a one-time, $1,200 bonus to people who return to work. “I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement announcing the change. “Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage.”

Governor Pritzker Joins Lion Electric to Announce Company’s Plans to Bring First-Ever U.S. Manufacturing Facility to Joliet
Governor Pritzker today joined elected officials and the Lion Electric Company — a Canadian based manufacturer of all-electric medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles — to announce a significant investment in Illinois, with plans to build the company’s first-ever U.S. manufacturing facility and the largest plant of its kind in the country. A minimum of $70 million will be invested to build a new facility dedicated to producing medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. The facility is expected to come online in the second half of 2022, setting into motion annual production capacity of 20,000 zero-emission vehicles a year, and creating at least 745 jobs for Illinoisans.

“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”

The new 900,000 SF facility represents Lion Electric’s largest dedicated production site in the U.S. The company’s expansion helps respond to increasing demand in the marketplace for “Made in America” zero-emission vehicles, while simultaneously bringing production closer to its customers. Lion’s investments also help bring Illinois closer to its own clean energy goals, with plans to increase adoption of EV’s in the state to one million by 2030.

“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion. “This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy. I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.”

To support the company in its decision to locate a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) worked with the State’s public-private economic development partner, Intersect Illinois to put together an exhaustive site selection process that involved both virtual and in-person site visits, economic analysis, and coordination with local officials and utilities to develop a comprehensive proposal for Lion Electric. The company has qualified for the State’s EDGE incentive program, a tool to support companies making large-scale capital investments that lead to significant job creation. As part of its agreement with the government of Illinois, Lion has committed to initial investment of at least $70 million over a 3-year period. The company is working with local officials to apply for additional local incentives.

“Lion’s decision to bring their first U.S. production facility to Illinois is great news for Illinois residents and a welcome addition to our growing EV manufacturing sector,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we are making investments today in workforce training and infrastructure that provide global companies like Lion the confidence needed to bring long-term investments and clean energy jobs to our great state. We welcome Lion Electric to Illinois and look forward to working alongside the company and all our local partners to support its continued growth and success in the years to come.”

The Will County region has a rich history of manufacturing, and Lion plans to build a robust local supply chain within the area. In addition, the Joliet location offers Lion a geographically centralized base of manufacturing and operations, with access to key infrastructure and distribution channels.

“This major investment by Lion Electric Company is great news for Joliet, Will County, and the entire state,” said U.S. Representative Bill Foster (IL-11). “Not only will this new facility mean several hundreds of new, good-paying manufacturing jobs, but it will be the largest plant in the country building all-electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles. This investment capitalizes on the world-class infrastructure, well trained workforce, and nearby expertise in leading-edge green technology in the southwest suburbs.  As a scientist and businessman, I was proud to work with Governor Pritzker to help recruit Lion Electric to Illinois, and I’m proud that effort has led to an investment that will bring meaningful economic benefits to our community.”

“The Lion Electric Company development is a welcome addition to the City of Joliet. The facility is going to have a tremendous impact on our local economy by the immense investment dollars and creation of high paying skilled labor positions,” said Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, City of Joliet.  “Furthermore, this is an indicator that the City of Joliet and State of Illinois can compete on a national level for major employers and manufacturers who are seeking to grow. Thank you to Governor Pritzker for all his efforts in making this happen.”

“The Village of Channahon supports economic development in the region and the job opportunities it creates for our residents, and we welcome these opportunities to help lead Illinois into the future,” said Mayor Missey Moorman Schumacher, Village of Channahon. “This also underscores the necessity to ensure our public infrastructure, particularly this stretch US Route 6, is ready to meet not only the needs of this new investment but to maintain accessibility, safety and quality of life for those businesses and residents that have made the decision to call our region home. We welcome this new neighbor, appreciate their interest and investment in our region, and look forward to continuing success.”

“Will County is excited Lion Electric will be joining our business community,” said Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Will County Executive. “We are proud of our strong workforce and look forward to partnering with Lion as we welcome the next generation of manufacturing jobs to our county.”

“We are excited to welcome the Lion Electric Company to Joliet and Will County,” said Hugh O’Hara, Executive Director of the Will County Governmental League. “It is great to see that our communities are able to attract this type of innovative company to Illinois, and with it new jobs. We look forward to being on the cutting edge of electric vehicles.”

This additional production capacity will aid Lion in scaling electric bus production as the U.S. market moves to electrify a large portion of its school bus fleet, as well as to produce a larger number of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks as governments and operators throughout the U.S. look to decarbonize freight and transportation fleets. Lion anticipates that the first vehicles will roll off the production line in the second half of 2022.

Over the last decade, Lion has established itself as a leader in the zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle industry, having delivered over 390 all-electric heavy-duty vehicles in North America with over 7 million miles driven since 2016. All of Lion’s vehicles are purpose-built for electric propulsion from the ground up, assembled in North America and are distributed and serviced through the Company’s network of Experience Centers, including locations in California, New York, Washington, Florida, and Arizona.

Illinois is poised for strong growth in the EV sector in the years ahead, with industry experts predicting EV jobs to double by 2024. To ensure Illinois has a pipeline of skilled talent to meet demands, the State of Illinois recently announced a $15 million investment to develop two Manufacturing Training Academies that will help boost skills training for a variety of jobs supporting growth of the manufacturing industry, including training for electric vehicle manufacturing.

Governor Pritzker Announces Addition of $350 Million to Budget for K-12 Schools
Citing an “improved” economic outlook, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday his support to increase evidence-based education funding in the state by $350 million in fiscal year 2022 which begins July 1. In his February budget proposal, Pritzker originally proposed flat spending for education, citing “financial uncertainty” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would have been the second consecutive year in which the state failed to add $350 million to the funding formula – a number written into state statute as a goal aimed at driving new money to the districts that are furthest from funding “adequacy.” Adequacy is based on a number of factors, including class size and local capacity to fund a school district. “Parents, students and educators can breathe a sigh of relief,” Pritzker said in an unrelated news conference Thursday. “As an education advocate myself, I am really all too happy that our improved economic and fiscal condition allows us to increase educational funding.”

The announcement comes following the latest report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which cited improved revenue numbers for the current fiscal year as the state works toward a full economic recovery from the pandemic. Per that report, after revenues fell by $2.74 billion last April, base general fund revenues in April 2021 grew $1.779 billion, in part because April income tax payments were delayed one year ago.

“While the full story of FY 2021 revenues has yet to be written, given the onset of the pandemic, receipts clearly have performed much better than any prognosticator could have foretold one year earlier,” the COGFA report stated. “Despite periodic upward revisions in the revenue projections throughout the course of the fiscal year, each time those updated expectations have been met and exceeded,” the report continued.

The Illinois State Board of Education, in appropriations hearings in the House and Senate earlier this year, pushed back on the governor’s initial proposal to keep funding flat. Leaders in the General Assembly from both parties have done the same. ISBE requested a 4.6 percent funding increase for FY 2022, including asking for an added $362.1 million to the evidence-based funding formula and $50 million in added early childhood education grants. Their request would put their state general revenue funding – which is the state’s main discretionary spending account – at about $9.3 billion.

Pritzker did not give details on the proposed ISBE budget, aside from giving his support to the $350 million in added funding. Per the budgeting process, both Houses of the General Assembly must approve a spending plan, then Pritzker would have the opportunity to sign or veto it.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, in a news conference that occurred in Springfield at the same time Pritzker’s was going on in Chicago, said lawmakers are well into the process of planning a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He said he was optimistic about the latest COGFA report, but the state’s financial picture is still somewhat bleak. “Revenue has continued to perform very, very well,” Harris said. “The economy of the state of Illinois has been performing better than we had expected. And to be honest, we initially planned for this year very conservatively, not knowing what COVID would bring.”

Federal stimulus packages, including the recent American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden, have aided the state’s recovery, Harris said. “It’s given families some disposable income, that has allowed them to go out and spend, you know, to support their families,” he said. “And that has in turn, raised our income taxes and our sales taxes in the state.”

Lawmakers will have to project whether the rosy revenue projections for the end of this fiscal year will carry on into the next fiscal year. “We’re seeing some very good numbers in the state,” he said. “That being said, we still are looking at next year, a budget deficit of about $1.4 billion that we’ll have to solve for, and some new revenue could certainly help that. But it’s not going to solve the entire problem.”

One key part of the governor’s proposal to balance the budget is to make several changes to the corporate tax structure – changes he calls closing corporate tax “loopholes,” which Republicans call important business “incentives.” While Pritzker signed off on a number of those corporate tax cuts or credits in his first year, Harris said budgets are “dynamic things,” and changing revenue pictures mean cutting expenditures. “But the most important thing is we’ve got to protect the state budget, we’ve got to protect our core functions,” he said. “We’re happy to sit down and negotiate with the Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate, and if it’s a will of folks to keep those in, I think that’s what all of us would be willing to do.”

Governor Pritzker Announces $94 Million from Rebuild Illinois to Revitalize Airports
Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation announced today that $94 million will be made available to improve public airports throughout the state through the historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program. As part of a competitive grant process, IDOT will be seeking proposals for the planning, construction, reconstruction, extension, development, and improvement of public airports. The investment will not only create good-paying jobs during construction, but provide long-term opportunities for airports to expand their workforce.

“Illinois remains a hub for commerce and transit – and not just for this nation, but for the entire global economy. We are the 5th largest economy in the United States, and the crossroads for national and international companies who need our airports and roads and rail and rivers and people to move their products,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With this $94 million from the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan, airports across the state will have the opportunity to make needed updates, improvements and extensions to facilities while providing job opportunities for the surrounding communities.”

To be eligible, airports must be for public use and included in the Illinois Aviation System Plan. Applications are due June 14 to be eligible for a total of $94 million to be released later this year, with a maximum of $25 million for individual awards.

“Illinois is the transportation hub of North America because of the strength of our multimodal system, with aviation helping to lead the way,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Under Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is committed to making sure our airports have the resources they need to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry. This funding will keep Illinois on the leading edge of aviation.”

A total of $150 million is identified in Rebuild Illinois for the state’s airports, with $6 million already committed to an air traffic control tower at Lewis University Airport in Romeoville, which is owned and operated by the Joliet Regional Port District.

Pfizer, BioNTech Seek Full FDA Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday said that they have begun their request for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give full approval of their COVID-19 vaccine after having emergency use authorization for almost five months. The companies announced they started their Biologics License Application (BLA) for the FDA to grant full authorization to give their vaccine to those 16 and older. With the FDA’s full approval, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be given to patients after the public health emergency is declared over. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be the first in the U.S. with the FDA’s full approval.

In a press release, Pfizer and BioNTech said they plan to submit data for their BLA “on a rolling basis over the coming weeks” and ask for priority review for a decision to be made within six months instead of the standard 10 months. The companies have to send in information on their manufacturing processes, their facilities, and pre-clinical and clinical trial data for the application.

A planned decision date will be set after the application is complete and the FDA officially accepts it. “We are proud of the tremendous progress we’ve made since December in delivering vaccines to millions of Americans, in collaboration with the U.S. Government,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said. “We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months,” he added.

Pfizer and BioNTech have also requested emergency use authorization to give their vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds, which is expected to be granted in the coming days. The companies said they plan to submit a supplemental application to get full approval for that age group once they have six months of data following the second dose.

The request for full approval also comes after researchers at Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health found the vaccine was about 95 percent effective at preventing infection, hospitalization, and death from variants. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was also determined to be more than 91 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 at least six months after the second dose.

Proposed Cannabis Legislation Calls for Three New Lotteries
The latest proposal to fix the state’s marijuana law calls for three lotteries to get more retail shops open. A new draft of the bill would issue 75 licenses that were supposed to be awarded a year ago in a lottery among those with perfect scores. A second lottery would award 55 licenses to applicants who received up to 85 percent of the maximum score. A third lottery would award 55 licenses to other remaining applicants. Illinois is a year behind its timeline for issuing new dispensary licenses, which has kept industry revenue and state tax receipts below expectations.

The bill includes two other closely watched provisions. One would eliminate a rule that prohibits dispensaries from being within 1,500 feet of each other. The law already has made it challenging for existing marijuana companies with deep pockets to find locations, setting off scrambles to lock down property, especially in Chicago. New applicants argue the provision hurts them and helps incumbents. Zoning rules would be left up to local authorities. Another provision would allow existing pot retailers to move to new locations 90 days after new licenses are awarded. Medical marijuana retail license holders were grandfathered into recreational weed, but some were in communities that aren’t allowing recreational sales. Some communities want marijuana shops to move to locations that are better suited to recreational sales.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the amended bill could be filed today and called for a vote in the House next week. It’s the third attempt to fix problems with the marijuana law passed two years ago that spawned a $1 billion increase in weed sales in Illinois in two years. Two previous efforts weren’t called for a vote.

The lottery changes are aimed at addressing unexpected problems with a central part of the original legislation, which was designed to diversify the ownership of marijuana businesses. It provided bonus points to applicants who met social-equity criteria because they live in neighborhoods hit hard by the war on drugs or because they’ve been arrested or convicted of low-level marijuana-possession offenses.

Nearly all the applicants for retail licenses applied using social-equity provisions, but many of the finalists who received perfect scores appeared to have few ties to impoverished neighborhoods but connections to those with clout. One of the ways applicants could achieve social-equity status was to promise to hire workers who met social-equity criteria, a provision derided by critics as the “slave master” clause.

Applicants who achieved social-equity status through the hiring provision will not be eligible for the pool for the third lottery. The state authorized 500 retail licenses, including 110 held by those already have them from the initial medical program. After the proposed lotteries, the state would have 205 licenses left to award. The bill also would allow social-equity applicants to apply for five dispensary licenses that weren’t awarded under the state’s original medical-marijuana law.

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 If you are working with Square or Toast, you do not need to register.
  • Review the sample applicationprogram 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

Details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at or in Spanish at

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.

Supplemental documents

Comment on Joliet Intermodal Master Plan by May 10
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 10. 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 –

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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