Halfway through the week before a holiday. Out in Washington, D.C. infrastructure talks seem to become more confusing by the day with ups and downs. Read below to stay current on the latest twists and turns. There is also renewed talk about vaccine passports and if they should be mandated. Health care has certainly changed over the last year and more, see more about the move towards nearly half the country being on public programs. The Governor signed a bill today allowing college athletes to have endorsement deals and Will County landlords and renters see relief.
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Confused by Infrastructure Talks? You’re Not Alone
If you’re a regular human watching what is happening on Biden’s infrastructure push, you might be confused by the twists and turns of the past week. After all, the talks have gone up and down like a volatile swing of the stock market. To recap…
- Tuesday, June 22: Infrastructure talks down, reeling as senators and White House clash over pay-fors.
- Wednesday: Huge burst of optimism as senators break for the evening with a framework they will take to Biden.
- Thursday: A true high point as Biden endorses the deal. But he slips in a comment about not signing the deal without a Democratic bill in hand. Which leads us to…
- Friday: A low point as Republicans that negotiated the deal mull pulling out over Biden’s answer on Thursday afternoon.
- Saturday: Stock begins rising again as Biden cleans up his remarks and says he sees both bills on separate tracks.
- Sunday: Republicans say they’re back on board after Biden’s remarks, bringing them back to another high.
- Monday: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) steps in and asks for Biden to ask Democratic leaders to decouple the bill. Stock starts fading again.
- It’s Tuesday and Democrats are just digging into their partisan effort at a reconciliation bill. See if you can guess which way things go today.
Nearly half of Americans are now on public healthcare
Medicaid enrollment is at an all-time high after millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic or faced financial hardship turned to government-sponsored healthcare coverage.
The data, released last week by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, is striking. In January 2020, 71.3 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid—the government insurance program for low-income people—and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides public insurance to children; a year later, in January 2021, the programs counted 80.5 million enrolled individuals. This changes the landscape of healthcare coverage in the US quite a bit: Americans used to be largely covered by commercial health insurance plans; that’s no longer the case.
People on Medicaid and CHIP are the largest group receiving coverage through the government, but they are not the only ones. About 62 million seniors and disabled people are covered by Medicare, the single largest insurance provider in the country, and 19 million through military healthcare programs (TRICARE and the Veteran Health Administration‘s program). Altogether 161 million Americans are receiving healthcare through the government—nearly half the US population (331 million).
That’s nearly the same number of people as those who are getting commercial health insurance through their employer. In 2019, there were 179 million people in that situation, according to the latest available data. During Covid-19, this number likely went down, due to high rates of layoffs: In 2020, some 27 million Americans lost employer-sponsored coverage according to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate. Other estimates are higher, suggesting as many as one in six Americans might still be without the employer coverage they lost during the pandemic.
A smaller number of people—42 million—had purchased insurance independently in 2019. Some 8.5 million of them did so through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, compared to more than 11 million this year. About 30 million Americans remain uninsured. Things look quite different from pre-pandemic times, when two-thirds of the insured population was covered by commercial insurance.
White House faces calls to embrace vaccine passports
Health experts are calling on the Biden administration to do more to encourage and promote the use of vaccine mandates and passports. So far, the White House has stayed out of what they view as an issue for private employers. The Biden administration has repeatedly said vaccine passports won’t be implemented at the federal level but has not discouraged individual companies from making the personal choice of implementing one.
Officials have also shied away from using mandates among federal employees or among military forces. “If a company, a business wants to take steps to keep their workers and their passengers safe, I would think that, from a government perspective, we want to do everything we can to encourage that,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said recently. There is no way to tell who is vaccinated and who is not without asking for proof, but the federal government has not given any kind of guidance or support to businesses that want to require proof of vaccination for customers and employees.
With the nation poised to miss President Biden’s July 4 goal of 70 percent partial vaccination, experts argue that more vocal support of mandates and passports could help to boost lagging vaccination rates. “The Biden administration shouldn’t be so squeamish about vaccine verification,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and former health commissioner of Baltimore.
Wen said the administration should have supported a standardized verification system, calling it a “missed opportunity” to increase vaccine uptake. Some people may just be waiting for the right incentive, and a mandate may push them in the right direction, she said. “There are a lot of people in the middle. They’re not eager to get the vaccine, but they’re also not anti-vaxxers. They need an additional push. And that push is still not there, because we have not been requiring proof of vaccination in order to return to normal,” Wen said.
Polls show that young adults in particular would be motivated to get vaccinated if it were required in certain instances. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s vaccine tracker found about 40 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 would get vaccinated if it were a requirement for large gatherings like sporting events or concerts, flying on an airplane, or for international travel.
According to Kaiser, the people who would get the vaccine only if it were required mainly say they don’t feel they want or need the vaccine. They are not opposed to it, they just might not do it unless someone forced their hand.
For employers, experts said it is easier for certain industries to mandate vaccinations over others, especially in health care. But on the flip side, they will also need to be prepared for the fallout, especially if a large proportion of the staff refuses to be vaccinated. Larger businesses will be better equipped to handle it than smaller ones.
Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Granting Student Athletes Ability to Sign Endorsement Deals
Today, Governor JB Pritzker signed SB 2338, the Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act, into law, making Illinois a national leader in granting student-athletes the ability to sign individual endorsement deals while enrolled at a college or university. The innovative legislation will grant student athletes control over their name, image, likeness, or voice for the first time, undoing the antiquated practice of banning students from earning money despite the hours they commit to their sport.
“With this law, Illinois will lead the United States in giving student-athletes the opportunity to sign endorsement deals of their own, joining a growing coalition of states leading the fight for innovation in our modern collegiate sports system,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Let me be clear. Illinois is now at the forefront of this movement, yet another reason student-athletes should choose Illinois for college. Beginning July 1st, Illinois collegiate student athletes – no matter the sport and no matter the division – can take control of their destiny when it comes to their own name, image, likeness, and voice.”
The legislation alleviates financial pressure faced by student athletes who too often have to weigh the decision of finishing their degree or joining a professional sporting league to earn a salary. Going forward, any student athlete can enter into a partnership with either community businesses or large corporations and earn compensation.
“I am so proud of the work that went into passing this legislation to ensure student athletes receive the recognition and compensation they deserve,” said Speaker Chris Welch (D-Westchester). “As a former college athlete myself, I understand firsthand how this will benefit our student athletes, who often balance a full schedule of schoolwork with their sport, as well as their families. We’ve watched universities and coaches profit off of the talents of these young adults, and it is time we allow them to earn their fair share too.”
“As a former collegiate student athlete, this legislation is extremely personal to me, I am proud to see Governor Pritzker sign this bill to ensure student athletes are able to earn income from their likeness, name and image,” said Representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago). “This is the kind of tangible change we mean when we talk about equity, especially since many of these students come from underserved communities. This will directly help students and their families, which also makes it easier for them to stay in school and finish their degree.”
“Finally student-athletes will receive some financial benefit for the use of their names, images, and likenesses,” said Senator Napoleon Harris, III (D-Harvey). “Their schools will no longer receive all the financial benefits. The students deserve compensation from the hard work of being a college athlete and making their schools millions of dollars.”
Higher learning institutions, such as the University of Illinois and DePaul University, are establishing programs to help students take advantage of this new law, further cementing Illinois colleges and universities as a top destination for both in and out of state students.
“This legislation establishes Illinois as a thought-leader in the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics by ushering in one of the most transformative changes to college sports we have seen in generations,” said UIUC Athletics Director Josh Whitman. “The new NIL paradigm in our state will allow great freedoms to our student-athletes while upholding the core tenets and educational mission of our universities and our athletic programs. Our thanks to Governor Pritzker and our state’s lawmakers for their innovation, open-mindedness, and leadership in this exciting new area.”
“On behalf of DePaul University, I want to thank Governor Pritzker and members of the Illinois General Assembly for their leadership on SB 2338,” said DePaul University Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy. “This landmark piece of state legislation paves the way for the modernization of the collegiate athletics model, while ensuring our student-athletes remain at the center of these efforts. It also further guarantees Illinois colleges and universities are at the forefront of an increasingly competitive college athletics landscape. Today is a historic day for student-athletes across the state of Illinois.”
SB 2338 takes effective on July 1, 2021.
Will County renters, landlords have applied for $28.4 million in assistance
Renters and landlords in Will County completed more than 2,600 applications for more than $28.4 million in assistance meant for those impacted by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Illinois Housing Development Authority is administering the Illinois Rental Payment Program on behalf of Will County, according to a news release.
“Will County has been working hard to provide families and landlords relief from the effects of the pandemic,” Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said in a statement. “The response by landlords during the first phase of the relief roll out for rental assistance demonstrates the need to help keep families in homes and provide landlords relief from past due rent.”
IHDA is still reviewing applications and is prioritizing requests for tenants who are unemployed and those with very low household incomes, according to the release. As of last week, a little over $3.3 million has been disbursed to landlords in Will County. Another round of applications is open and applications are being accepted through July 18. Tenants in need can apply online at ilrpp.ihda.org.
Applicants are eligible for up to 15 months of assistance. The grant can cover the past due rent from the previous 12 months and future rental assistance for the next three months, if deemed necessary. The maximum grant amount is $25,000. Payments are made directly to the landlord.
“The goal of this program is to help as many people as possible,” Bertino-Tarrant said in a statement. “It can be the lifeline to keeping families in homes and helping them get back on their feet.”
Will County residents who need assistance in applying can contact the following agencies to ensure all requirement are completed:
· South Suburban Housing Center in Homewood – southsuburbanhousingcenter.org
· Holsten Human Capital Development in Joliet – hhcd.org
· Spanish Community Center in Joliet – spanishcenter.org
· Will County Center for Community Concerns in Joliet – wcccc.net
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