Enough rain already, right? As we come close to the end of June and the 4th of July holiday, these next few days will be the end of the daily coronavirus update. The update itself isn’t going to go away completely though as after the 4th of July we’ll continue to send out updates a few times a week under a newly thought of title – feel free to make suggestions (humor accepted as well as we all still need a good laugh)!
With that said, today’s update focuses on how the infrastructure deal turned messy and the efforts to clean that mess up, unemployment in Illinois and comparison to states ending the $300 bump, the equal pay law, and finally a nice story about two chamber members working together.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Cleanup at 1600 Penn
Joe Biden said the quiet part out loud and paid a price for it. Reveling in his bipartisan win on infrastructure Thursday, the president declared that he would not sign the deal he’d just endorsed unless a separate bill including his other domestic priorities arrived on his desk, too. Whether deliberate or not, the comment set off a cascade of events in and out of the Oval Office that had aides putting out fires the next day and raised questions about the future of their prized $1 trillion bipartisan deal.
This could’ve been a celebratory moment for the White House. President Biden finally — finally! — got his bipartisan deal on infrastructure, his trip to Europe went well, the pandemic is easing, the country is opening back up, and a new Fox News poll has his approval rating at 56%.
Instead, the White House spent Friday in cleanup mode after moderate Senate Republicans fumed over Biden’s threat not to sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the much more expensive, partisan-crafted reconciliation bill landed on his desk at the same time.
With Republicans threatening to abandon the deal, Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s lead negotiators, who a day earlier had been credited by the president for his efforts shepherding the deal, scrambled to contain the fallout on Capitol Hill. Both he and Louisa Terrell, the White House top congressional liaison, told the Senators involved in negotiations that Biden was enthusiastic about the deal and would soon hit the road to tout its benefits as well as the merits of bipartisanship. According to two sources familiar with his efforts, Ricchetti told Republicans that the White House was going to clarify the comments.
A White House official disputed the notion that Ricchetti suggested Biden may have misspoke — an impression that those two sources said was left. The official said that the president’s team anticipated dustups during the early phases of the process and noted that White House press secretary Jen Psaki several times during Friday’s briefing took a softer tone than Biden did on Thursday.”
Think of it as the “moonwalk” approach to damage control: The White House is trying to walkback without appearing like they’re walking back.
It’s clear that the White House knows they messed this one up. The threat to veto the bipartisan bill hasn’t been repeated by staff or the president since his initial remarks, and a readout of his call with Sen. Sinema (D-Ariz.) said “the President also reiterated that he would fight to pass the Bipartisan Agreement, as he committed to the group,” and that he “looks forward to signing both these bills.”
Biden Worked Phones to Salvage Infrastructure Deal
President Biden himself was making calls to members of Congress in an effort to salvage a nearly $600 billion infrastructure package, two people with knowledge of the calls said.
That was just one of the many steps Biden, top aides and allies were taking to avoid an unraveling of an agreement after the president in a press availability infuriated Republicans by threatening not to sign it if he wasn’t also sent a Democrat-only spending bill.
Biden acknowledged he erred in a lengthy statement he released on Saturday where he issued a complete reversal to his previous comments.
Moving forward, the White House’s strategy centers on highlighting the benefits of the infrastructure projects that would be funded under the agreement, according to a White House official. Part of that includes the president traveling to targeted spots in the country where those projects are to be funded.
On Tuesday, Biden is to head to Wisconsin, a battleground state the president won by less than a percentage point, to deliver remarks on the plan. And since Thursday, White House officials and other administration staffers have been in touch with state and municipal officials — including local Republicans — to help organize them in an effort to bring consensus toward a bipartisan vote.
In calls, Biden relayed that he wouldn’t veto the infrastructure bill if the other spending package, the so-called Families Plan, didn’t end up passing in Congress. All the activity comes after Biden enraged Republicans including negotiators on the deal said they were taken aback Thursday when he conditioned the signing of the infrastructure package with a Democrat-only plan that is expected to include a litany of items the GOP has long rejected.
On Saturday, the White House issued a formal statement to make his position clear.
“That statement understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked; they are hoping to defeat my Families Plan—and do not want their support for the infrastructure plan to be seen as aiding passage of the Families Plan,” Biden said in the statement. “My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.”
The statement went on to say, “So to be clear: our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan; likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem. We will let the American people—and the Congress—decide.”
Some Republicans on Friday said they viewed Biden’s comments as a deal breaker, saying Biden had not in negotiations mentioned an explicit tie between it and the Democrat deal. The reversal comes after other, less overt attempts at allaying the backlash fell flat.
On Friday, top aides made calls to the Hill to enact damage control. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki attempted to soften the president’s remarks on Friday, noting it was up to Congressional leaders to control the fate of legislation. Psaki later took to Twitter to specifically focus on the benefits of the bipartisan package.
But while progressives applauded Biden’s remarks, moderate Democrats were equally frustrated with the president’s remarks, with several top Democrats privately saying the president had just put at risk months of work. The fears are especially acute, they say, because the actual language of the deal have not yet been written. Beyond his Saturday comments.
Biden himself stepped in to more aggressively engage in damage control after other efforts seemed to come up short. On Thursday, Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s lead negotiators, who a day earlier had been credited by the president for his efforts shepherding the deal, told Republicans that the White House was going to clarify the comments, two sources familiar with his efforts told POLITICO.
A White House official disputed a notion that Ricchetti suggested Biden may have misspoken — an impression that those two sources said was left. But by Saturday, Biden fully abandoned those statements, telling Republicans that they had every right to try defeating a Democrat-only spending package that would include more money for families and climate issues, among other priorities of Biden’s.
Unemployment Rolls Shrink Faster in States Cutting Aid
The number of unemployment-benefit recipients is falling at a faster rate in Missouri and 21 other states canceling enhanced and extended payments this month, suggesting that ending the aid could push more people to take jobs.
Federal pandemic aid bills boosted unemployment payments by $300 a person each week and extended those payments for as long as 18 months, well longer than the typical 26 weeks or less. The benefits are set to expire in early September, but states can opt out before then.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the benefits were helpful during the height of the pandemic, but their continuation has “worsened the workforce issues we are facing.” He, like many other Republican governors, moved to end the federally funded benefits to address businesses’ concerns about a labor shortage. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.2% in May, well below the national average of 5.8%, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Missouri cut off payments as of June 12, joining three other states as the first to do so. Seven states followed with an end on June 19, and this weekend, benefits are expiring in 10 more states. Four more states will curtail benefits by July 10.
The number of workers paid benefits through regular state programs fell 13.8% by the week ended June 12 from mid-May—when many governors announced changes—in states saying that benefits would end in June, according to an analysis by Jefferies LLC economists. That compares with a 10% decline in states ending benefits in July, and a 5.7% decrease in states ending benefits in September. Workers on state programs would lose the $300 weekly federal enhancement but could continuing receiving the state benefits.
Jefferies also found somewhat larger decreases in the number of people receiving benefits through pandemic programs in states curtailing benefits, though the data lags behind by an additional week. In many cases, those recipients will be cut off entirely when their state ends participation in the federal programs. “You’re starting to see a response to these programs ending,” said Aneta Markowska, Jefferies’ chief financial economist. In recent months “employers were having to compete with the government handing out money, and that makes it very hard to attract workers.”
Other economists and many Democrats say other factors, including lack of childcare and fear of Covid-19, are also keeping many potential workers out of the labor force. Some businesses in Missouri are already noticing a difference since the policy shift.
Illinois has 10th Worst Unemployment Recovery Rate in Nation
A recent report from WalletHub ranks Illinois as the 10th worst state in terms of unemployment recovery. Another report from the Illinois Policy Institute found that Illinois lost over 7,900 total jobs over the last two months making it back-to-back months in which Illinois has seen a decline in job losses. This brings Illinois’s unemployment rate to 7.1% compared to the national average of 5.8%, according to the Wallethub report.
Jill Gonzalez, the communications director for the WalletHub, said that while Illinois is 10th in the nation in job recovery, the state ranks last among its neighbors in the midwest. “Illinois unemployment rate is the highest in the midwest,” Gonzalez said. “You have Nebraska in the top 3 in terms of lowest percentage, Michigan and Wisconsin are down to 3.9% and South Dakota who did not close are at 2.1%. Illinois is by far the worst in the midwest in terms of unemployment.”
Illinois is one of the states that is still giving out an extra $300 in unemployment funds to its claimants. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, 17% of unemployed Illinoisans found work over the last month while 19% have stopped looking for work completely.
State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Teutopolis, said the problem in Illinois has been going on for years and that the pandemic has only highlighted these issues. When asked about what needs to change to help get the unemployment numbers down, Niemerg said the state needs to do two things first.
“First, you have to do away with the extra $300 in unemployment, we need to get people to want to go back to work, we also need to stop taxing our business as hard as we do now, the goal is to get business to want to come to Illinois,” Niemerg said.
Illinois Department of Employment Security offices have remained closed to the public since March 2020. The agency has not indicated when it will reopen to the public.
Pritzker Administration Announces Large Illinois Businesses to Report Equal Pay Information Beginning Next Year
Following Governor Pritzker’s signature of SB1847, businesses with 100 or more employees will be required to provide the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) with details about its workers and their pay beginning in 2022. The forthcoming change will require qualifying, private employers to submit information in line with current requirements by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
“The legislation requires businesses to disclose specific worker data, to ensure that disparities do not exist regarding pay equity at large employers. It’s important to note the Illinois Department of Labor takes seriously the collection of this information. IDOL will ensure no individually identifiable details will be available to the public. The forthcoming changes are the result of productive conversations with IDOL, the General Assembly and groups representing businesses across the state,” said Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik.
This law is an initiative of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and was originally passed as part of the Equity Pillar legislation in January 2021. Businesses with 100 or more employees in operation in Illinois as of March 23, 2021, must apply for an Equal Pay Registration Certificate (EPRC) between March 24, 2022, and March 23, 2024. Qualifying businesses that begin operation after March 23, 2021, must apply for an Equal Pay Registration Certificate within three years, but not before January 1, 2024. All businesses must recertify every two years.
Equal pay information to be collected by IDOL includes:
• A copy of the EEO-1 filed with the EEOC
• A list of all employees during the past calendar year, separated by gender, race and ethnicity
• The county in which the employee works
• The date the employee started with the business
• Any additional information deemed necessary to determine if pay equity exists
• An equal pay compliance statement signed by an authorized agent of the business
Applications for the EPRC must be completed online. Additional guidance will be provided by the Illinois Department of Labor regarding the application process.
Nice Story in Herald News from Two of our Chamber Members Working Together
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation recently recognized Chad Kodiak, owner of KODOCARE Pharmacy in Joliet; Kimberly Gibson, a registered nurse and clinical placement coordinator for the University of St. Francis’ Leach College of Nursing in Joliet; and Annette Mattea, USF’s associate dean of undergraduate nursing and associate professor.
They are just three of 100 people who were named the 2021 Champions of Humanistic Care by the foundation. The foundation also recognized Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, as one of three National Humanism in Medicine Medal recipients.
Gold, a world-renowned pediatric neurologist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons; his wife, Sandra Gold, and colleagues at Columbia started the foundation in 1988 “to nurture and preserve the tradition of the caring physician.”
How Kodiak, Gibson and Mattea came to receive such a prestigious award started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. A vaccine provider for 20 years Kodiak, the second-generation CEO of the pharmacy that opened in 1969, said he believes in preventing disease rather than simply helping to treat it. He’s always tried to make managing illness as simple as possible for his clients.
For instance, Kodiak said he offers what he calls compliance packages or KODOPAKS. This is a four-week supply of all the medications patients take (prescriptions, over the counter and vitamins) that are packaged and sorted by date and time. As part of that preventive philosophy, Kodiak said he also has a “passion” for vaccines, such as flu, pneumonia, tetanus and shingles, and started offering them at his pharmacy more than 20 years ago.
The fact that a shot or two can prevent severe illness and death is “mindboggling” to him, Kodiak said, adding that he feels that the best diabetes medicine might only prevent severe disease, he said – and that the best heart medicine might only delay the time a patient will need more.
So Kodiak wanted to offer COVID-19 vaccines once they came to Will County on Dec. 16, and KODOCARE Pharmacy was one of the first pharmacies in the U.S. to give them, he said. But to provide these vaccines, Illinois had some requirements. The first step for all vaccine providers was to enroll in the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE) program, which Kodiak already had done.
“It takes a while to become an I-CARE provider,” said Katie Weber, the emergency response coordinator for the Will County Health Department. “You’ve got to get into I-CARE and then sign paperwork for being a COVID vaccine provider.
You have to show you have the storage for it. So it’s not something that’s always done.” Part of the challenge in getting people vaccinated in those first weeks was that patients in long-term care were part of a federal program for on-site vaccinations but group homes for the developmentally disabled were not, Weber and Kodiak said. However, KODOCARE pharmacy already had those partnerships in place, Weber and Kodiak said.
In the meantime, the state of Illinois periodically sent lists to Weber of I-CARE providers. Weber couldn’t remember if she contacted Kodiak or if he contacted her. But she recalled telling him, “We have the vaccine. And if you’re ready to get the vaccine, we can get it to you right away.”
Kodiak said he talked to the health department on Jan. 4 and picked up vaccines on Jan. 5.
“Within seven days, we had given almost 3,000 doses, which was close to 20% of all the doses given in Will County,” Kodiak said. Because KODOCARE is an independent pharmacy, Kodiak said he didn’t have the extra approval steps that pharmacy store chains might have to take. But he did need space to offer vaccines. So Kodiak said he “moved some desks around” in an unused area of the pharmacy and “put up a couple of clipboards so people could sign consent forms.”
“Within a few hours, we had space set up to do vaccinations,” Kodiak said. Kodiak praised his staff who willingly and enthusiastically went with the plan. Kodiak said their comments included, “I can’t think of anything better we could do with our time” and “This is something we need to do today.”
KODOCARE has now administered more than 30,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, he said – and Kodiak is far from calling it quits.
But before Kodiak could start, he had to overcome two challenges: obtaining cold storage for the Pfizer vaccine and finding people to help administer it. Around the same time, the University of St. Francis was also wondering how it could “help get the vaccine out and get as many people protected as possible,” Gibson said.
Gibson was part of a brainstorming session that included Mattea, Ebere Ume, dean of USF’s Leach College of Nursing at the time, and Phyllis Peterson, campus nurse. Ume was the one who had nominated Kodiak, Gibson and Mattea for the award, Gibson said. “Phyllis put us in touch with Chad,” Gibson said. “And everything took off from there.”
Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, USF’s vice president for mission integration and ministry, said USF is a “welcoming community of learners” that stresses service and leadership and felt USF could help make an impact in getting people vaccinated. “We wanted to do it as a community and for the community. That’s core to who we are,” Imler said. “Any way our service could benefit the town we serve is a win-win for all of us.” But how it all came together is a bit “serendipitous,” Imler said.
First, USF had student nurses who needed to do their clinicals, but COVID mitigations had impeded it, she said. So helping to vaccinate patients would benefit the nurses, too – once they were vaccinated, she added. “We believe in the science and vaccination is a very positive thing,” Imler said. “We just wanted to help move the needle.” USF actually helped move a lot of needles. Gibson estimated that the USF nursing students have vaccinated more than 20,000 people. But what about the cold storage to store the vaccines? It turns out USF could help with that, too.
“We had just happened to open up our brand new science center,” Imler said. “And we had these deep freezers in place because our anatomy classes still uses the cadavers, so we need the cold freezers for that. One thing led to another.” Kodiak said USF let him store in the Pfizer vaccine in its second, backup freezer.
Getting people vaccinated – and forming more community partnerships
Gibson recalled one of her first conversations with Kodiak. He was trying to “vaccinate as many people as possible” and wanted to know “how many nurses can you give me?”
“Our first clinic that we ever did with him was vaccinating residents from Trinity Services at their location in New Lenox,” Gibson said. “We did almost 1,000 vaccinations that first day in eight hours.”
The number of nursing students who participated in the clinics varied by its size. A small clinic might only require 10 students while a larger one could use 20, Gibson said.
The clinics were extremely valuable for the nursing students because many nurses never give a vaccine or participate in community nursing, Gibson said. Staff, former students and former faculty all volunteered their time, too, Gibson said.
Clients at Joshua Arms Senior Residences and Cornerstone Services, both in Joliet, were also vaccinated at these clinics, according to a Feb. 14 Herald-News story. Both Gibson and Kodiak said they learned from each clinic and gradually streamlined their processes. Kodiak said vaccinating people with special needs came with its own challenges.
For instance, many of these clients missed socializing in 2020 and some needed touch to remain calm, he said. So volunteers had to learn how to meet those needs while maintaining COVID-19 guidelines. No one wanted the clinic to become a “super spreader event,” Kodiak said.
Weber said the health department also partnered with the nursing departments at Joliet Junior College, Lewis University in Romeoville and Rasmussen University in Romeoville. Oftentimes students rotated through the different stations at these vaccine clinics, Weber said. This way, they all learned how to prepare the vaccine, to “draw it up,” deliver it and monitor for adverse reactions, she added. “All the nursing students were so eager to jump in wherever they were needed, which has been awesome,” Weber said.
Over time, other independent pharmacies also began carrying the COVID-19 vaccine, such as J.D. Brown in Joliet, which offers Moderna. Even so, Weber said she always appreciated KODOCARE’s willingness to “jump onboard when needed.” “I knew if I was struggling with too many requests coming in, I could call and say, ‘Hey, this is what I have,’” Weber said. “If they were booked, we worked around that. They were always honest with us.”
All 3 vaccines and current vaccination plans
Over the past few months, Kodiak said he’s also helped out at clinics at schools and workplaces, ensuring staff on all three shifts who wanted a vaccine received one, he said.
KODOCARE Pharmacy and the University of St. Francis also partnered with the Diocese of Joliet to vaccinate its staff, according to a March 11 Herald-News story.
KODOCARE now offers all three FDA-approved vaccines: Pfizer (ages 12 and up), Moderna and Janssen, Kodiak said. People can make an appointment or simply receive the vaccine by walking into the pharmacy or pulling up to the curb, Kodiak said. A representative will visit the homes of people who can’t get out, he added.
Even with the rise of the Delta variant – and now the Delta plus variant – Kodiak feels it is not too late to get vaccinated. “Anyone who has questions, please ask them,” Kodiak said.
Kodiak said his biggest concern for him and other health professionals is that the COVID variants will learn to evade “everything we throw at them.”
“It’s what keeps us up at night,” Kodiak said. “So please, please, please get vaccinated.”
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
|Webinar: PPP Forgiveness and other COVID-19 Relief Programs, including Employee Retention Credit
Wed., Jun. 30, 2021, 12:00 PM ET
Presented by: Elizabeth Milito, Senior Executive Counsel, Legal Foundation, NFIB, Holly Wade, Executive Director, Research Center, NFIB
Join this FREE webinar to hear NFIB’s payroll protection program (PPP) loan experts Beth Milito and Holly Wade explain the PPP loan forgiveness process from the due date of the initial forgiveness application to preparation of Forms 3508, 3508EZ, or 3508S along with required supporting documentation needed to achieve full forgiveness. Listen and learn:
The webinar will also cover interplay between the employee retention credit (ERC) and PPP loan forgiveness and EIDL updates. We’ll conclude the webinar with LIVE Q&A to answer your PPP, ERC, FFCRA, and EIDL questions.
Special Presentation: Small Business Compliance with Department of Labor
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