Today’s update has big news on the infrastructure talks, hopefully winding things up. Also, the usual Thursday jobs report, CDC announces eviction moratorium extension, the national debt ceiling, and Illinois gets good news with financial outlook.
One more time to remind all, we have talked with one of our chamber members, KODO CARE, about offering vaccines to companies that would like to set up a vaccine day or program for their employees. If you are interested in finding out more details, please contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can then get you in touch with our member provider.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Biden Announces Bipartisan Deal on Infrastructure
President Biden on Thursday announced he’d reached an infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators, saying both sides gave up some things they wanted to get a rare accord in a bitterly divided Washington, D.C.
Biden acknowledged the deal would not include proposals he’s made for spending to help American families, but firmly endorsed the deal on infrastructure in remarks just outside the White House with the Republican and Democratic senators looking on.
“We have a deal,” Biden told reporters. The agreement was reached after weeks of negotiations, and with progressive Democrats repeatedly calling on the White House to back away from the talks, which some liberals fear could prevent a much larger package from moving forward.
Biden said he did intend to continue to look for a larger package on spending through a budget reconciliation measure, which would allow it to pass the Senate with just Democratic votes.
Senators involved in bipartisan negotiations say they and White House officials have agreed to an infrastructure “framework,” and they would meet with President Biden Thursday to brief him. “Republicans and Democrats have come together, along with the White House, and we’ve agreed on a framework and we’re gonna be heading to the White House tomorrow,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters after a meeting Wednesday.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another member of the group, confirmed the White House officials in the meeting signed off on the framework and that they “came to an agreement.” “They said it sounded good…We said we’re all on the same page,” Manchin added about the White House reaction in the meeting.
The plan, according to the senators, consists largely of details the bipartisan group has released in recent weeks as the senators tried to gain momentum for their proposal. It includes roughly the same amount of new spending, $579 billion, for a total of $974 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight years.
After days of high-profile confusion and divisions over how to pay for the agreement, senators emerged from Wednesday night’s meeting saying that both the top-line and the how to pay for it had been locked in. “There is a framework on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another member of the group, told reporters.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week, a sign that layoffs declined and the job market is improving. The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims fell just 7,000 from the previous week to 411,000. Weekly claims have fallen steadily this year from about 900,000 in January.
The economy expanded at a healthy pace in the first three months of the year, the government also reported Thursday, and economists are optimistic that growth will accelerate in the April-June quarter, when it could top 10% at an annual rate. As the pandemic fades, states and cities are lifting more business restrictions — California just fully reopened June 15 — and the economy is picking up as consumers are traveling, eating out more, and visiting movie theaters and amusement parks.
Unemployment claims jumped 14,500 last week in Pennsylvania, the biggest gain by far of any state. Pennsylvania revamped its benefits filing system earlier this month, likely leading to some backlogs and distorting the overall data. Thirty-five states reported that claims fell last week.
All told, 14.8 million Americans received jobless benefits during the week ended June 5, the latest data available. That was little changed from the previous week.
With many employers desperate to hire, some states are starting to cut off pandemic-related unemployment aid programs in response to business complaints that the assistance is making it harder for them to find workers. Starting this month, 26 states will end an extra $300 weekly federal unemployment payment and 22 of those states will also cut off all jobless assistance to self-employed, gig workers, and those out of work more than six months. The extra $300 ends nationwide on Sept. 6.
Economists at Bank of America have estimated that those who earned less than $32,000 a year at their previous jobs can receive more in jobless aid with the extra $300. At the same time, the federal government last year set up two unemployment benefit programs that covered millions of self-employed and contract workers for the first time.
Four states — Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri — stopped providing the $300 payment last week. All but Alaska also cut off the two programs that covered the self-employed and the long-term jobless.
CDC Extends Eviction Moratorium Through July
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday announced a one-month extension to the nationwide pause on evictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. The eviction moratorium, which was set to expire this month, will now last through July under the new order, which is expected to be the final extension, the CDC said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” the CDC said in a statement. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.” The CDC order was enacted in September under then-President Trump and subsequently extended by Congress and President Biden.
The federal moratorium allows tenants who have lost income during the pandemic to protect themselves from eviction by declaring under penalty of perjury that they have made their best effort to pay rent and would face overcrowded conditions if evicted.
The extended protections come as landlords and property owners have sought to evict tens of thousands of cash-strapped renters from their homes and as federal rental aid continues to make its way to needy tenants. Some state governments, which bear responsibility for distributing more than $45 billion in federally-funded rental assistance, have been slow to make disbursements.
A Biden administration official who briefed reporters on background Thursday was unable to provide specific details on how much federal assistance has been provided by states to date, but added that “we are seeing a trajectory of increase.”
The eviction pause has also faced numerous legal challenges, including an emergency petition currently pending at the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, a group of landlords asked the high court to effectively end the moratorium, writing in a court brief that property owners have lost $13 billion each month under the eviction freeze.
That petition came after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in May that the moratorium amounted to an unlawful government overreach. But the judge agreed to delay enforcement of that ruling while the Biden administration appealed. A federal appeals court declined to lift the stay.
Judges in other parts of the country have reached various conclusions about the policy’s lawfulness, creating a patchwork of legal interpretations nationwide. The Justice Department continues to defend the moratorium’s lawfulness in court and earlier this month urged the Supreme Court to reject the landlords’ request to effectively end the policy.
Fitch Ratings Upgrades State’s Outlook
Fitch Ratings revised the outlook on Illinois’ General Obligation bonds from negative to positive. With this action, Illinois’ GO bond rating moves from BBB- with a negative outlook to BBB- with a positive outlook. Fitch is the third rating agency to upgrade the state’s outlook.
“Fitch’s improved outlook for Illinois is yet another sign of positive momentum for our state’s fiscal condition, a testament to strong financial management and responsible actions by the General Assembly and my administration, and a product of the state’s economic resilience,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The story of Illinois in 2021 is that in the face of a crisis, fiscal discipline and smart economic policy pays off. I want to thank the General Assembly, especially Speaker Chris Welch and President Don Harmon and their budget negotiators for their partnership in our common purpose of bringing about long-term fiscal strength for Illinois. Together, in the face of a deadly global pandemic, we enacted a balanced budget for the third straight year of my administration, demonstrating fiscal responsibility works with a vision of governance focused on working families.”
Highlights from Fitch’s analysis:
• “The state is prudently applying the gains to fully retire federal deficit borrowing undertaken just a few months ago, repay outstanding interfund loans used as budget balancers in prior years and drive down the bills backlog.”
• “Recent fiscal results and the enacted fiscal 2022 budget suggest further improvements in operating performance and structural balance in the near and medium-term that could support a return to the pre-pandemic rating or higher.”
• “Recent improvements including reduction in accounts payable and enacting plans for early retirement of federal pandemic loans, signal improvement in budget management.”
• “The May Debt Transparency Act (DTA) report also notes $191 million in reported pending late payment interest penalties, down 40% from February 2020 ($319 million) and down 78% from the first DTA report from December 2017 ($887 million).”
• “Broadly, the state reports a $1 billion reduction in total general fund spending for fiscal 2022 ($42.3 billion) versus the current services estimate provided in November 2020. General fund base operating spending remains flat in the fiscal 2022 enacted budget versus fiscal 2021 at $30.8 billion. Funding for K-12 and higher education is up 3%, including a $350 million increase for K-12.”
• “Unlike recent years, the budget includes no interfund loans or sweeps.”
“Fitch Ratings Agency’s change of outlook on Illinois’ finances from negative to positive vindicates the responsible approach my office has taken in paying down the backlog of bills from $16.7 billion in 2017 to $3.4 billion today,” Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza said. “My administration has been committed and vocal about the need to show fiscal discipline and accountability. Fitch notes the responsible approach we have taken with the General Assembly and the Governor’s office to target better-than-expected revenues to paying down debt.”
Fitch cited numbers the Comptroller’s office issues in monthly reports as a result of Comptroller Mendoza’s signature “Debt Transparency Act” (DTA) that gives state policy-makers, legislators and citizens a more comprehensive accounting of the state’s debts, including progress made in paying down late payment interest penalties run up under the previous administration.
“We are extraordinarily pleased with our hard work since passing the DTA, which allowed me to methodically tackle paying down the bill backlog quickly and effectively over the last four years,” Mendoza said. “We have been keeping the rating agencies appraised of our progress and we look forward to improved credit ratings for Illinois in the near future. In the meantime, this sends a powerful signal to the financial community that Illinois remains a good investment.”
Please note that these improved outlooks from all three ratings agencies happened before any of the federal ARP stimulus money has arrived. That will only improve Illinois’ financial standing.
Biden Administration Agenda to Crash Into Debt Ceiling
This isn’t being talked about nearly enough, but it will soon become one of the main topics of discussion. In a matter of a few weeks, Congress is going to have to raise the $28 trillion debt ceiling — yes, $28 trillion and counting — around the same time that Democrats will be trying to pass Biden’s $6 trillion infrastructure-climate-family plan(s). This could prove a major headache for members like Sen. Manchin who are going to see this price tag — combined with the ever-ballooning federal debt — and flip out.
There exists two options being considered by Democratic leaders: They could use the filibuster protections of the budget process to raise the debt ceiling … without GOP support, or they could find 10 Senate Republican votes to suspend the debt limit by reaching a bipartisan deal.
Neither option is especially easy or palatable. The former path requires support from moderate Democrats, who aren’t sold on circumventing the normal legislative path and might face political blowback for voting to hike a national borrowing limit … The latter path relies on help from Republicans who are demanding fiscal reform in exchange for their votes, with the stability of the American economy on the line.
Time is short. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday “urged Congress to raise or suspend the debt ceiling within the next month, floating the possibility of a crisis-level situation as early as August — when lawmakers are scheduled to be out of town.”
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
|Special Presentation: Small Business Compliance with Department of Labor
Did you know that most employees in the U.S. are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? As an employer, are you aware of and meeting your obligations?
The chamber recently joined with Andres Mendez, a Benefits Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division and the Employee Benefits Security Administration for an overview of the COBRA premium assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, federal wage and hour laws, and how they are enforced.
Click here to view the special presentation: https://youtu.be/n5tWXm1BDyE
Connect with the Workforce Center
Visit the Workforce Center of Will County’s web page for more information about the programs, services, and activities available for Will County businesses and residents.
Small Business Tax Credit Programs
Small Disadvantaged Business Contracting Goal News
On June 1, 2021, the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies. Specifically, the Administration is expanding access to two key wealth-creators – small business ownership and homeownership – in communities of color and disadvantaged communities.
Federal Contracting Webinar Series
Do you need help with federal contracting? The ChallengeHER webinar series offers education and training on the federal contracting system. Below is a list of upcoming webinars.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry