Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Below you will find a vast amount of information in the roundup. First though, make sure that you don’t miss the attachments to this email. I have attached the letter that was submitted to the City of Joliet regarding chamber views on the allocation of federal funds coming from the American Rescue Plan Act. Also, the Joliet Chamber has joined 22 others in calling on the Governor to address the current workforce situation. That letter is attached as well. Finally, make sure to click on the link below for an important survey regarding the current state of business in a mid-year 2021 check in.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
National Jobless Claims
Applications for unemployment benefits fell to a new pandemic low, showing a healing labor market, and the number of people receiving jobless aid has also trended lower as many states end enhanced pandemic programs. Jobless claims declined to 360,000 in the week ended July 10 from a seasonally adjusted 386,000 a week earlier. Last week’s applications count marked the lowest level for claims since March 2020, the month the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S. economy. The four-week moving average, which can smooth out volatility in the weekly figures, fell to 382,500, also a pandemic low.
Continuing unemployment payments made through regular state programs—which provides an approximation of the number of people receiving benefits—declined by 126,000 to 3.24 million in the week ended July 3, also the lowest level since March 2020. New claims and benefits payments have trended downward in recent months, largely reflecting a strengthening economy. Still, claims remain elevated compared with the pre-pandemic average of 218,000 in 2019.
Nearly half of states have announced that they will end the expanded benefits of $300 a week before they are slated to end nationwide in early September. Twenty-two states had ended the benefits by the beginning of July, according to Morgan Stanley.
From mid-May through the week ended July 3, continuing claims were down 19.2% in states that ended the $300 enhanced payment in June and July. Over the same period, they were down 6.7% in the remaining states that are set to end benefits in September, according to Jefferies LLC.
Thursday’s report showed unemployment payments through a federal program for gig-economy workers fell at the end of June. Continuing claims in this program declined to 5.69 million in the week ended June 26 from 5.82 million a week earlier, partially reflecting an early end to the benefits in some states.
The number of benefits recipients through the federal pandemic assistance program dropped sharply in states that cut off benefits in June, including Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire and West Virginia. A reminder to read through the attachment to this email that shares our letter to Governor Pritzker about ending the assistance program before the September end date.
Statewide Payroll Jobs Up, Small Increase in Unemployment Rate Up in June
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate rose +0.1 percentage point to 7.2 percent, while nonfarm payrolls increased +12,500 in June, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The May monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, from -7,900 to +4,300 jobs. The May preliminary unemployment rate was unchanged from the preliminary report, remaining at 7.1 percent.
The June payroll jobs estimate and unemployment rate reflects activity for the week including the 12th. The BLS has published FAQs for the June payroll jobs and the unemployment rate.
In June, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+10,700), Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+3,400), and Construction (+2,100). The industry sectors that reported the largest monthly payroll declines were: Professional and Business Services (-3,700), Manufacturing (-2,500) and Information (-200).
The state’s unemployment rate was +1.3 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for June, which was 5.9 percent, up +0.1 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was down -7.0 percentage points from a year ago when it was at 14.2 percent.
Compared to a year ago, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +310,100 jobs, with gains across most major industries. The industry groups with the largest jobs increases were: Leisure and Hospitality (+118,900), Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+61,600) and Professional and Business Services (+47,500). The industry groups with jobs losses were: Manufacturing (-6,500), Mining (-200) and Financial Activities (-100). In June, total nonfarm payrolls were up +5.7 percent over-the-year in both Illinois and the nation.
The number of unemployed workers was up from the prior month, a +1.4 percent increase to 443,500, and was down -50.9 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was up +0.4 percent over-the-month and was down -2.7 percent over-the-year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.
Local Funding Requests Advance
Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) on Tuesday announced that the House Appropriations Subcommittees have advanced all 10 funding requests Congressman Foster submitted as part of the Member-designated Community Project Funding Program.
• The Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has selected all five 11th District community projects submitted for funding by Congressman Foster.
• The Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development has selected all four of the community projects submitted by Congressman Foster.
• The Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment has selected Congressman Foster’s one submission.
The projects have been included in the committee’s draft appropriations bills. The inclusion of this funding in the draft bills is the first step in the funding process. The bills now move to the full Appropriations Committee, consideration on the House Floor, and negotiations with the Senate. The legislation must be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the President before funding is final.
“Delivering federal resources to the 11th District will always be one of my top priorities, and I’m proud to have secured federal funding for these local organizations and their important projects as part of the Appropriations Committee’s draft funding bills,” Foster said. “I will continue to fight for our district to ensure that we get the federal funding we need to make our community stronger.”
The 10 projects included in the draft bills are (Listed in no particular order):
- Cornerstone Services
- Stepping Stones, Inc.
- Will-Grundy Medical Clinic
- Quad County Urban League
- Tri-Council Development Fund
- 360 Youth Services
- Public Action to Deliver Shelter Inc. DBA Hesed House
- Joliet Area Historical Museum
- Housing Authority of Joliet
- City of Joliet
You can read the full press release here: https://foster.house.gov/media/press-releases/foster-announces-all-11th-congressional-district-community-project-funding
How’d the Meeting Go Between President Biden & Governor Pritzker
Governor Pritzker had a 30-minute sit-down with President Joe Biden to put a list of issues on the White House’s radar, including childcare, early childhood education — two longtime priorities for the philanthropist-turned-governor — unemployment, and the rise in gun violence.
In an interview with Crain’s Greg Hinz, “Pritzker did not indicate that he’d received any definitive promises from Biden other than to fully consider any Illinois requests. But he said the session went ‘very well’ and described Biden as ‘gracious.’”
Regarding the issue of gun violence, Pritzker told the Tribune: “It’s obviously a national problem, but we see it in places like Rockford and other cities in Illinois, so I wanted to make sure that he was aware that we need assistance across the state wherever we might ask for it.”
Domestic Policy Council director Susan Rice was also part of the discussion, according to the Tribune. The private meeting with Biden followed the splashy gathering with the president, VP Kamala Harris, two other governors and five mayors to talk about the administration’s bipartisan infrastructure package.
Biden’s message: “There are no Democratic roads or Republican bridges.” Pritzker reiterated the point, telling reporters after the meeting, “Everybody has infrastructure, whatever their district and whatever their state.”
Governor Pritzker Announces Next Round of Rental Assistance as Eviction Moratorium Phases Out
As the state’s gradual phaseout of the pandemic eviction moratorium continues, Governor JB today encouraged renters and landlords to apply for $500 million in existing aid and announced that an additional round of assistance will open this fall.
For Illinois renters still struggling to pay their rent, the Illinois Rental Payment Program (ILRPP) is currently open and accepting applications for the current round of assistance until 11:59 p.m. this Sunday, July 18. Applications can be completed at: ILRPP.IHDA.org.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois implemented one of the largest emergency housing assistance programs in the nation – and as a result, tens of thousands of Illinois families have been able to access housing assistance so far,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These resources have made a life-changing difference for these families, as the eviction moratorium comes to a close, we want to make sure that every eligible Illinoisan applies for this help. This year, Illinois quadrupled the relief that was available last year and were there for our residents when it mattered most. I’m pleased that we’ll be offering additional rounds of this critical funding to keep people in their homes.”
Governor Pritzker announced earlier this summer that the eviction moratorium would be lifted in August, with a gradual phaseout throughout the summer.
On July 23, the Governor will issue an Executive Order that allows eviction filings against covered persons to begin on August 1. The current prohibition on enforcement of eviction orders entered against covered persons will remain in place until August 31. Enforcement of eviction orders entered against covered persons will be allowed after August 31.
The Governor’s Office has been in close communication with members of the Illinois Supreme Court’s COVID-19 Task Force to ensure an orderly phase out of the eviction moratorium. Through a coordinated approach, we hope to relieve the potential pressure on the court system while also ensuring that tenants and landlords have every opportunity to benefit from the State’s rental assistance programs.
“Households who are behind on their rent or at risk of eviction shouldn’t wait to get help,” Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Executive Director Kristin Faust said. “IHDA staff is working to award these funds as quickly as possible to households in need. Funding is still available, and if you are struggling to make your rent, I urge you to apply for your share of support before the program closes on July 18.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) also has programs available with no deadline for rental assistance and eviction mediation. Illinois residents can visit www.illinoisrentalassistance.org to see all assistance programs available. The IDHA also plans to reopen the ILRPP in the fall with additional federal funds to further assist tenants facing eviction as a result of the pandemic.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Pritzker announced a statewide eviction moratorium for tenants while launching emergency assistance programs that included extensive relief for renters and landlords. These efforts helped avoid a wave of evictions that would have overwhelmed shelters and created a threat to public safety.
To date, IHDA has received nearly 81,000 completed ILRPP applications from renters and landlords in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties requesting over $774 million in rental assistance. IHDA has approved 15,700 applications and paid out $129 million to 14,150 households affected by the pandemic. Approximately 72% of the approved applications to date have assisted households who have been unemployed for more than 90 days, and 67% of approvals have assisted extremely-low-income households to keep vulnerable tenants in their homes while they regain financial solvency. The program has provided an average of $9,121 per household, covering up to 12 months of back due rent and up to three months of future rent. IHDA is continuing to review applications as quickly as possible and is prioritizing requests from tenants who are unemployed and those with very-low household incomes.
DHS has awarded over $187 million in assistance to Illinois residents. Assistance has ranged from direct aid for immigrant communities, legal and court-based assistance and funding for service providers and non-profits.
In 2020, Governor Pritzker utilized funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to create one of the largest emergency rental assistance programs in the nation to support Illinois tenants unable to pay their rent. Eligible tenants whose applications were approved received a one-time grant of $5,000 paid directly to their landlord to cover missed rent payments beginning March 2020, as well as prepay on payments through December 2020. IHDA received over 79,000 applications for the program and assisted over 46,000 households with $230 million in rental payments.
In May 2021, Governor Pritzker announced an additional $1.5 billion in housing assistance would be made available to support Illinois households. This included ILRPP, an emergency rental assistance program providing up to $25,000 to support Illinois households unable to pay rent due a financial loss incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This round of ILRPP assistance will deliver over $500 million in assistance and is expected to assist 63,000 households.
ILRPP is funded through an appropriation in the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260), which passed in December 2020. This legislation included $900 billion in stimulus relief for the COVID-19 pandemic, with $25 billion allocated for state and local government rental assistance programs. The Illinois General Assembly provided additional guidance for how this funding can best reach those most in need and increased protections for those facing eviction through the passage of the COVID-19 Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program Act (P.A. 102-0005).
Additional rounds of rental assistance, as well as the Illinois Homeowner Assistance Fund that will provide mortgage assistance, will be announced in the coming months. For updates to these programs, please visit: www.ihda.org.
Gov. Pritzker Signs Landmark Legislation Advancing Rights of Most Vulnerable in Illinois’ Justice System
Surrounded by sponsoring lawmakers, criminal justice reform advocates and a victim of wrongful conviction, today Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of nation-leading legislation that puts Illinois at the forefront of the work to bring about true reform to the state’s justice system.
“An essential tenet of good governance is recognizing the need to change the laws that have failed the people they serve. My administration has infused that value into everything we do,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The four bills I’m signing today advance the rights of some of our most vulnerable in our justice system and put Illinois at the forefront of the work to bring about true reform. Together, these initiatives move us closer to a holistic criminal justice system, one that builds confidence and trust in a system that has done harm to too many people for far too long.”
The package of bills signed into law today include:
• Senate Bill 2122, which prohibits the use of deceptive tactics by all law enforcement when interrogating a minor. Sponsored by Senator Peters and Representative Slaughter, the bill takes effect January 1, 2022.
• Senate Bill 64, which encourages the use of restorative justice practices by providing that participation in such practices and anything said or done during the practice is privileged and may not be used in any future proceeding unless the privilege is waived by the informed consent of the party or parties covered by the privilege. Sponsored by Senator Peters and Representative Ammons, the bill takes effect immediately.
• Senate Bill 2129, which allows the State’s Attorney of a county in which a defendant was sentenced to petition for resentencing of the offender if the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice. Sponsored by Senator Peters and Representative Cassidy, the bill takes effect January 1, 2022.
• House Bill 3587, which creates the Resentencing Task Force Act to study ways to reduce Illinois’ prison population via resentencing motions. Sponsored by Senator Peters and Representative Slaughter, the bill takes effect immediately.
Senate Bill 2122
“Here in Illinois, whether it’s paving the way for compassionate resentencing by recognizing the human potential for change or protecting our children by banning deceptive practices in police interrogations of minors, we are making it abundantly clear that justice can no longer be denied,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “By bringing a restorative justice lens to policy making, we are transforming our justice system and serving as a model for the nation.”
While the use of deceptive tactics was deemed permissible by the judiciary in 1969, today members of both the 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and Illinois Court of Appeals have condemned the use of deceptive practices when interrogating minors because of the risk it poses in producing false confessions, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. SB 2122, which effect January 1, 2022, outlaws this practice.
Senate Bill 64 encourages the use of restorative justice practices, moving away from a punitive system of mass incarceration to a system that repairs harm and addresses trauma.
The legislation makes restorative justice a more viable option for survivors, cultivating safer spaces, where individuals can speak freely without fear that their words will later be used against them. It takes effect immediately.
Illinois first began using restorative justice practices in 2017. Examples include mediation between the victim and offender, a conference between supporters of both parties in the crime, and a listening panel between the offender and members of their community.
“We can never repay the debt to victims of our fragmented criminal justice infrastructure. Reforming the criminal justice system will be a continuous dedicated effort,” said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I am grateful for the vigorous fight of advocates to make HB 3587 a reality that enhances restorative justice practices we work toward the national creed of justice for all.”
Senate Bill 2129 addresses mass incarceration, making it easier for courts to reduce sentences after convictions.
Specifically, the legislation allows prosecutors to motion to resentence defendants in the interest of justice and gives the court discretion to re-sentence to a lesser term of imprisonment.
Under SB 2129, victims of the crime will still be afforded all the rights outlined in the Rights of Crime Victims and Witness Act and a resentencing under the changes will not allow for the reopening of the defendant’s conviction.
The bill also allows the court to consider post-conviction factors, including prison disciplinary records, evidence of rehabilitation, and reduction of a risk to society due to age or physical condition, among others.
The legislation has the potential to lower sentence lengths which could result in a lower prison population level. SB 2129 takes effect January 1, 2022.
“As we make our way through right-sizing our criminal justice system, it’s inevitable that someone will be left behind,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). “Senate Bill 2129 will create an opportunity to ensure that justice prevails, while ensuring that rights the victims and survivors are protected.”
House Bill 3587 creates the Resentencing Task Force, bringing experts and stakeholders together to further reduce Illinois’ prison population. Working with SB 2129, the legislation ensures the state continues to address mass incarceration and overly punitive sentences.
The Resentencing Task Force will meet no less than 4 times and shall provide recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office on or before July 1, 2022. The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council will provide administrative and technical support for the task force and is responsible for appointing a chairperson and ensuring the requirements of the task force are met. The taskforce has 15 members, 3 of which are to be retired judges appointed by the Governor, each representing a different judicial circuit or district.
HB 3587 takes effect immediately.
Gov. Pritzker Announces Lottery Dates for 185 Cannabis Dispensary Licenses and Notifies Over 200 Awardees of Craft Grow, Infuser, and Transporter Licenses
Governor JB Pritzker today announced three lotteries to distribute 185 licenses to operate adult-use cannabis dispensaries will be held in July and August. Additionally, over 200 people across the state have qualified to receive Craft Grow, Infuser, and Transporter licenses, the first set of licenses to be awarded under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA).
Of those eligible to receive the licenses for craft grow, infuser and transportation, 67 percent identify as non-white and 100 percent are qualified social equity applicants.
The Governor also signed HB 1443, technical legislation that establishes additional avenues to include more eligible social equity applicants in the new cannabis industry. The announcements build on the administration’s efforts to provide Illinois residents from diverse backgrounds with equitable access to the newly established cannabis industry.
“Over the past century, the failed war on drugs has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted Black and brown communities. Legalizing adult-use cannabis brought about an important change and this latest piece of legislation helps move us even closer to our goal of establishing a cannabis industry in Illinois that doesn’t shy away from the pain caused by the war on drugs, but instead centers equity and community reinvestment as the key to moving forward,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I would like to thank Representative Ford and Leader Lightford for their partnership, unwavering commitment to serving the people of Illinois, and hard work on getting this legislation across the finish line.”
“Almost all states that have legalized cannabis have done so in a way that produced a multi-billion-dollar industry dominated by a handful of corporations and individuals that lack diversity. But Illinois is attempting to produce a cannabis industry that actually looks like Illinois,” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor on Cannabis Control. “What we’re attempting to accomplish is hard to do and takes time to accomplish, but we have an obligation to ensure that it gets as strong a start as possible. These upcoming dispensary license lotteries are a result of the administration’s continued commitment to working hand in hand with the General Assembly, community groups, and other stakeholders, to put equity first as we take these initial steps in building an inclusive industry.”
The Illinois State Lottery will conduct a total of three lotteries for adult-use dispensary license applicants this year. The lotteries will be held on:
• July 29th: the lottery for qualifying applicants who received who received a score of at least 85% of the 250 application points will be held for the 55 licenses in that category.
• August 5th: the lottery for social equity justice-involved applicants who received a score of at least 85% of the 250 application points and are located in a disproportionately impacted area or have an eligible conviction will be held for the 55 available licenses in that category.
• August 19th: the final lottery will be held for top scoring, tied applicants for the original 75 licenses outlined in the CRTA.
Lotteries for all cannabis-related licenses, as it is for all other lotteries, will be a completely blind process managed by the Illinois State Lottery. All draws will be automated via a computer program and the Lottery will run multiple quality assurance checks before delivering the final results of each lottery to IDFPR. The results of each lottery will be available by 5 p.m. on the day of the draws.
Under the CRTA, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is permitted to issue 75 conditional adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses. HB 1443, which was introduced by Representative LaShawn Ford and Leader Lightford and supported by the administration, expands opportunities by creating two new lotteries:
• A social equity justice-involved lottery for 55 additional licenses to be awarded to:
o those who have received a score of at least 85% on their application, or 213 out of a total of 250 possible points; and
o live in a disproportionately impacted area, has an eligible cannabis conviction, or has a family member with an eligible cannabis conviction;
• A lottery for an additional 55 licenses for applicants who had a score of at least 85% on their application. In total, 185 dispensary licenses will be determined through the lottery process.
“Today, we continue our march forward in the implementation of the most equitable cannabis program in the country,” said Mario Treto, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. “This announcement reflects the tireless work by the Pritzker Administration, lawmakers, and advocates to ensure the next generation of cannabis dispensary licensees are qualified applicants who reflect the diversity that truly makes this state great. We look forward to this undertaking and are ready to take these next steps.”
HB 1443 is effective immediately.
Craft Grow, Infuser and Transportation
In addition to dispensary licenses, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the licensing process for craft grow, infuser, and transporter licenses, today issued notifications to applicants who are eligible to receive one of 213 total licenses: 40 craft grow, 32 infuser, and 141 transporters. Craft grow and infuser applicants have 10 business days to respond to the notification confirming their interest in receiving a license and to submit the required fee and documents. Transporter applicants have until February 2022 to confirm their interest in receiving a license.
These applicants will become public upon confirmation of their submission of the required documentation and fees.
“The Department is pleased to notify eligible applicants who will soon be joining the Illinois Adult Use Cannabis market,” said Illinois Department of Agriculture Director, Jerry Costello. “I am proud that this new generation of licensed cannabis industry leaders in education, cultivation, manufacturing, and transportation is one of the most diverse and equity-focused in any adult-use legal state. I look forward to continuing to work with our licensees, our partners in the Legislature and at other state agencies, and the community to improve our process as we move forward together.”
Under state law, applicants for craft grow, infuser, and transporter licenses were not required to report demographic data such as race, gender, or age; however, 80% of applicants opted to self-report. Of the applicants who received a notification from IDOA that they are eligible for one of the 213 available licenses, 67% total reported being non-white. In regard to majority ownership, 98 applicants reported being Black owned, 19 Latinx, and 34 Black woman owned.
Community College Curricula
The Cannabis Community College Vocational Pilot Program grants eligible higher education institutions the ability to develop a curriculum to train a new generation of cannabis industry professionals and leaders. Under the CRTA, IDOA was restricted to issuing licenses for the program to a maximum of eight community colleges statewide. HB 1443 removes those restrictions and grants the department the ability to grant licenses to as many community colleges that are eligible.
Today, the administration announced the seven inaugural recipients of the license as well as plans to announce additional licenses soon. The community college license recipients are: Kishwaukee College, Oakton College, Olive-Harvey College, Shawnee Community College, Southwestern Illinois College, Triton College, and Wilbur Wright College.
This innovative program offers students a path to achieving a Career in Cannabis Certificate which includes the ability to work with, study, and grow live cannabis plants to prepare for a career in the legal cannabis industry and instruction in the legal compliance of the cannabis business industry, among other topics. The program is a vital part of the growing cannabis industry in Illinois and will provide a path to the thousands of new jobs being created right here in Illinois for community college graduates in communities around the state.
Social Equity Cannabis Loan Program
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has established the Social Equity Loan (SEL) program to provide financial assistance for social equity licensees, and to help increase access to capital for prospective social equity cannabis entrepreneurs over time.
The SEL program will provide flexible low interest loans to assist with the expenses of starting and operating a cannabis business establishment. Loan terms will be determined on a case-by-case basis, with a general repayment term of over five years. To be eligible for the loan, a cannabis business establishment must receive licensure and meet the qualifications of a social equity applicant. Funding will be prioritized for applicants demonstrating the greatest adverse impact from the failed war on drugs. Licensees offered conditional acceptance into the Loan Program will be referred to lender partners for a full review of the loan application for funding consideration.
“Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, Illinois is working to help communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs compete in the newly regulated cannabis market by providing technical assistance and helping cannabis entrepreneurs access capital,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Through the cannabis social equity loan program, DCEO is working with lending partners to bring both state and private dollars to the table and maximize the impact of our cannabis social equity fund for the communities that need it most.”
To administer the loan program, DCEO is partnering with two lenders, Good Tree Capital and Credit Union 1, who will work alongside the state to provide low-interest loan agreements for qualifying SEA applicants. Loans may be made available up to the following amounts:
• Transporter: $100,000
• Adult-Use Dispensing Organization: $500,000
• Infuser: $500,000
• Cultivator: $1,000,000
Through its partnership with lending partners, the State anticipates up to $34 million in loans could be made available in the first year, and the State will work with partners to enhance the loan program to ensure that it is a sustainable source of financial support for the social equity community.
DCEO has launched an application intake portal allowing social equity awardees to submit to the loan program. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The intake application is the first step in the loan approval process. Approved applicants will be referred to the participating lenders for loan underwriting. The intake form can be found online here.
Additionally, DCEO will provide technical assistance for social equity applicants to navigate the loan program and other statutory requirements associated with cannabis licensure in Illinois. More information on rules and eligibility for the loan program can be found on DCEO’s website.
“Government must be responsive to the voice of the people and HB1443 is a collaborative effort between public and private groups in responsive to the voices of the people, and 43 collaborative efforts between public and private groups in response to concerns about Illinois’ cannabis law. I am grateful to social equity applicants for their willingness to work to help fix he law to help achieve the intent of Illinois’ cannabis law,” said State Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago). “I hope that equity in the cannabis industry is a reality soon in Illinois. We are all anxiously awaiting a new diverse industry that includes people that have been locked up for cannabis-related issues and who have been locked out of a billion-dollar emerging industry. I applaud Governor Pritzker for signing this legislation and for his promise to ensure that the new cannabis industry includes Black and Brown people in Illinois.”
“The signing of HB1443 moves us closer to making the promise of equity in cannabis a reality in a state where the entire existing industry is overwhelmingly white. I was proud to partner with State Representative LaShawn Ford in passing HB1443 which is the result of dozens of meetings with stakeholders and applicants who demanded that their voices be heard,” said State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). “This industry has the potential to change lives, but only if we keep the principles of equity at the center of every decision we make.”
“From the very beginning, we sought to create the most diverse and equitable cannabis industry in the world, knowing that we had no breadcrumbs to follow or examples of any state that had figured it out. The announcement of these demographics for the craft grow, infuser, and transportation licenses are proof that what we can accomplish is only limited by how hard we are willing to work,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria). “We all know that the existing industry does not include people who look like me. Today that changes. I couldn’t be more proud. Our next steps are to make sure that not only do we have new entrants, but we continue to create the conditions that will allow them to grow and compete.”
“I’m proud of the work the Latino and Black Caucuses did to ensure social equity within the cannabis industry through the changes in HB1443,” said State Senator Celina Villanueva D-Chicago). “I hope this move brings the needed diversity to the industry so that we can begin to correct the decades of harm done to our communities through the war on drugs.”
In addition to expanding access to dispensary licenses, HB 1443 expands access for medical cannabis users by removing restrictions on where medical card holders can buy medicine. The legislation also adds eight additional community members to the Restore, Reinvest, Renew (R3) Board, and gives early approval adult use dispensaries the ability to relocate within the same medical district 90 days after the legislation is signed, among other provisions.
For more information on craft grow, infuser, and transporter licenses, go to the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. For more information about conditional adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses and the upcoming lotteries, go to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website.
Illinois Finally Implementing Work-Share Program That Could’ve Saved Up to 124K Jobs During COVID
The Illinois Department of Employment Security is finally implementing a so-called work-share program — first authorized under a 2015 law — that could have saved anywhere from 43,600 to 123,900 jobs statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research from the University of Illinois and Illinois Economic Policy Institute.
Work-share laws, also known as short-time compensation, allow companies to avoid mass layoffs by reducing workers’ hours so they’re still employed, while also allowing them to receive partial unemployment benefits. The concept is popular in European countries and more than two dozen other states have work-share programs.
While Illinois has had such a law on the books for nearly seven years, work-share was never actually implemented during former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term or the first half of Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration. But the state’s employment agency is belatedly making good on the program — just as the state’s economy has reopened from all COVID restrictions. To help with the endeavor, the U.S. Department of Labor last week announced Illinois will receive a $4.2 million grant from the federal government. But work-share will come too late for the thousands of Illinois workers laid off permanently during the pandemic, losing wages, healthcare benefits tied to their employment and sometimes getting divorced from the workforce completely.
“It’s really frustrating, it’s disappointing,” State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. “State government failed its workers, failed its employees by not implementing this seven years ago.”
Dormant law, lost opportunities
Stadelman pushed for the law in 2014, which passed the General Assembly unanimously that year and was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn in his final weeks in office. He blames Rauner for not bothering to carry out the program, though it was supported by his allies in the business community. In 2015, Illinois had to return $4.3 million in federal startup costs meant to help the state implement work-share. But Stadelman also points to another missed opportunity for the Pritzker administration at the beginning of COVID.
In spring of last year, the $2 trillion CARES Act approved by Congress included a provision allowing states without a work-share program to enter into an agreement with the federal Department of Labor to operate one temporarily.
Under such an agreement, the federal government also would reimburse states for unemployment benefits paid out to workers whose hours had been reduced anywhere from 10% to 60%. It would also allow those workers to both collect partial unemployment benefits for their cut hours in addition to enhanced unemployment benefits — $600 extra per week for the first four months of the pandemic, and $300 weekly since December, set to expire in September. But Stadelman said his inquiries to former IDES Director Thomas Chan last year about taking advantage of that CARES Act provision were met with vague answers why Illinois couldn’t participate. A memo at the time indicted the agency would pursue a work-share program “with an approximate implementation schedule of 12 months after hiring a project manager, procuring a vendor, and securing federal funding.”
Chan resigned last August and was replaced with current director Kristin Richards. The agency applied for the federal grant funding in late May, shortly after the federal government announced it was available. In a statement, Pritzker’s office said IDES is eager to put the $4.2 million federal grant to use in implementing and promoting the state’s work-share program.
“This valuable program helps employers avoid layoffs and keeps workers employed,” Pritzker’s office said. “The administration thanks our federal partners, including the Biden administration, for assisting the state in supporting working families and businesses as our economy recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Consequences and lessons learned
Illinois Economic Policy Institute Executive Director Frank Manzo, whose research with the University of Illinois last spring estimated that up to 124,000 jobs statewide could’ve been saved by work-share, said Illinois missed out on “free money,” and possibly could’ve had a more robust recovery from the COVID recession had the state taken advantage of the federal government’s offer last spring.
“Illinois still has one of the highest unemployment rates of all the states,” Manzo said. “It’s likely we would’ve been lower by now had we had the work-share program.” Manzo said he stands by his and his co-author’s original estimates from last spring, though he’d like to revisit the topic now that Illinois’ economy is on the rebound.
It’s difficult to compare unemployment rates of different states, as each state has a unique mix of industries and types of jobs that were hit unevenly by COVID. But contrasting Illinois with Washington state’s much-lauded work-share program may offer a clue for how states with robust work-share programs fared against states without them; at peak last April, Illinois hit 16.9% unemployment, while Washington only got up to 15.4%.
That ILEPI-University of Illinois paper also estimated the state could have reduced its unemployment insurance costs by up to $1.1 billion in 2020 due to federal reimbursement for unemployment insurance. Instead, Illinois’ unemployment insurance trust fund, from which out-of-work Illinoisans’ unemployment benefits are paid out, faces a $5 billion deficit — more than twice what the state saw during the depths of the Great Recession.
“[Work-share] would have saved jobs, it would have saved businesses…would have saved unemployment insurance costs,” Manzo said. “Unemployment itself has devastating effects on people — [unemployed workers] tend to report lower levels of happiness, physical and mental health and higher mortality rates.” But Manzo said he’s glad the program is finally being implemented so Illinois will be ready for the next economic downturn.
Suzi LeVine, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration, shares that view. “Before the pandemic…I think a lot of states weren’t necessarily seeing the value proposition of it,” LeVine said. “I think it’s an opportunity to look at how they can get on board with it now.”
Illinois’ $4.2 million grant from the Department of Labor can be spent on technology to implement the program and educational outreach to employers. LeVine called work-share a “diamond in the rough, sparkling brightly in the spotlight” of the pandemic — but she said employers first have to understand the benefits of the program before agreeing to participate. “It’s really a win/win/win for the employers, for the workers and for the communities who are then able to avail themselves of this economic boost,” LeVine said.
Manzo’s paper from last year also points to another incentive for employers to participate in work-share programs: money saved on training new employees when a business is ready to hire again. By increasing their workers’ hours instead of having to hire all-new staff, Manzo and his co-author estimated Illinois businesses could’ve saved a collective $1.2 billion in turnover costs from work-share in 2020 alone.
Illinois legislature’s watchdog resigns, calls post a ‘paper tiger’ and says lawmakers have shown ‘true ethics reform is not a priority’
The top state official charged with policing allegations of wrongdoing by Illinois lawmakers and legislative staff announced her resignation Wednesday, calling the position “essentially a paper tiger.”
In a two-page resignation letter, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope leveled criticisms echoing those of her predecessors, who also raised concerns about the office’s limited powers and the ability of lawmakers to shield colleagues from public scrutiny. She resigns amid an ongoing federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against a slew of former lawmakers.
Pope, a former judge and Menard County state’s attorney whose term runs through June 2023, blasted an ethics overhaul measure that was passed by lawmakers this spring and is sitting on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. The bill, which she cited as a driving force behind her departure, has been widely criticized by good-government groups for failing to go far enough to address the state’s pervasive public corruption, and Pritzker himself has said more work remains.
“I thought I might be able to make a difference working from the inside,” Pope wrote to members of the Legislative Ethics Commission, an eight-member panel that oversees her office. “I thought I could be useful in improving the public’s view of the legislature and help bring about true ethics reform. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so. This last legislative session has demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority.”
The office “has no real power to effect change or shine a light on ethics violations,” she added. Rather than making the office more independent, as Pope and her two predecessors have repeatedly requested, the measure lawmakers approved in the final hours of their spring session would place new limitations on the inspector general’s ability to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, Pope said.
One of her office’s major requests was granted: The inspector general no longer would have to get permission to launch investigations from the ethics commission, whose members are appointed in equal number by each of the legislature’s four partisan caucus leaders.
Pope and her two predecessors, Julie Porter and Thomas Homer, also had pushed for the power to issue subpoenas and to publish reports of founded allegations of misconduct by lawmakers without first going to the ethics commission. The inspectors general have said there have been multiple occasions when the commission has blocked the public release of a report detailing findings of wrongdoing by a lawmaker, at times due to a partisan deadlock.
Under the proposal on Pritzker’s desk, the inspector general still would have to get the commission’s permission to issue subpoenas or release reports on lawmakers.
What’s more, Pope said in an interview last month, the overall package contains “more restriction than independence.” Supporters say the bill passed this spring clarifies that the inspector general’s jurisdiction is limited to complaints that relate directly to lawmakers’ public duties, but critics, including some legislators who voted for the measure, contend that it puts new limitations on what types of wrongdoing can be investigated.
Under the measure, if Pope were to read about an alleged misdeed by a lawmaker in the newspaper, she no longer would be able to open an investigation unless someone filed a complaint with her office. Even then, she would only be able to investigate if the allegation directly related to a lawmaker’s public job.
Pope pointed to the case of former Republican state Rep. Nick Sauer, who resigned from the House in 2018 after being accused of sharing nude photos of an ex-girlfriend online, as something that would now fall outside her jurisdiction. In her letter, Pope also notes that she would not be able to investigate allegations of tax evasion by a lawmaker if it did not involve his or her legislative salary.
State Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican from Morrisonville, said during a debate on the House floor that the ethics commission, of which she is a member, provides an appropriate check to prevent unwarranted intrusion into lawmakers’ private lives. However, Democratic Rep. Kelly Burke of Evergreen Park, who also serves on the commission, countered that the bill ultimately passed by lawmakers “is a good balance” and said that discussions about more ways to tighten ethical safeguards would continue.
Pope, who assumed the role in March 2019, offered her resignation effective Dec. 15 or when a replacement is named, “whichever comes first.” Through the first half of this year, Pope’s office received 31 complaints alleging wrongdoing by lawmakers or staff and opened six investigations, with three pending, all categorized as ” other, miscellaneous, or uncharacterized claims,” according to the office’s most recent quarterly report.
Pope’s most notable investigations dealt with harassment allegations lodged against two longtime aides to former House Speaker Michael Madigan. In October 2019, she released reports recommending that Tim Mapes, the former House clerk and Madigan chief of staff, and Kevin Quinn, the brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, be barred from future state employment. Both had long since been ousted from Madigan’s operation.
The office the legislative inspector general has had a rocky history since it was created nearly two decades ago in the wake of corruption allegations against former Gov. George Ryan. The office sat vacant for years after Homer, the first to hold the office, left at the end of June 2014, calling for more autonomy and transparency on his way out. The vacancy was thrust into the spotlight in late 2017, when an advocate who raised sexual harassment allegations at the Capitol said her complaint went unheard.
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