Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
New applications for unemployment benefits held near pandemic lows last week while the number of Americans collecting continuing payments fell sharply in late June as many states acted to curtail jobless aid.
Initial unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, rose by 2,000 the week ended July 3, from a pandemic low the prior week, to a seasonally adjusted 373,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, was 394,500, the lowest reading since March 2020.
Meanwhile, the number of continuing unemployment payments made through regular state programs fell by 145,000 to the lowest level since March 2020, for the week ended June 26.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
President Biden Pitches Child-Care, Education Plan as He Visits Illinois
President Biden sought to rally public support for a multitrillion-dollar education and child-care plan at the core of his domestic-policy agenda, as Democrats in Congress wrestle with disagreements over the size and scope of the package.
“To truly win the 21st century and once again lead the world, to truly build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, to truly deal everybody in this time, we need to invest in our people,” Mr. Biden said at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Ill.
The president is simultaneously pressing Congress to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the education and child-care plan, which Democrats hope to approve without Republican support through a process tied to the budget known as reconciliation.
Both measures face challenges. The White House needs at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to pass the infrastructure package, which was negotiated by a group of centrist senators. And Democrats must stick together if they want to move the education and child-care plan without the backing of Republicans. Democrats can lose no more than four Democratic votes in the House and none in the Senate on legislation opposed by all Republicans.
Mr. Biden pitched his plan in a county he lost in the 2020 election to former President Donald Trump, though Mr. Biden carried the state. The suburb north of Chicago is part of a congressional district represented by Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood, who ousted a GOP incumbent in 2018 and is now being targeted by Republicans hoping to reclaim the House majority next year.
The president’s speech came after two federal agents and a Chicago police officer were shot during an undercover operation Wednesday, following a deadly holiday weekend where 100 people were shot and 18 were killed. During a meeting at the airport with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Mr. Biden said he would work with city officials to stem gun violence.
Mr. Biden has proposed a raft of antipoverty and family-focused measures that he hopes will be included in the Democrats-only legislative package. Among them: tuition-free community college and prekindergarten; federal funding for affordable childcare and housing; paid family and medical leave; expanded home care for elderly and disabled Americans; and measures to boost renewable energy.
Republicans are largely opposed to his proposals, warning against raising taxes and trillions in additional spending, and arguing that the federal government shouldn’t be playing such a central role in Americans’ lives. GOP lawmakers have also contended that the White House has expanded the definition of infrastructure too much to include what Mr. Biden often calls “human infrastructure,” such as education, workforce development and efforts to combat climate change.
In his roughly 30-minute speech, Mr. Biden said his policy proposals would boost the economy and help low- and middle-class Americans. “The last time the economy grew at this rate was in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was telling us it was an American morning,” Mr. Biden said. “Well, this is going to be an American century.”
Mr. Biden’s speech was packed with details about tax credits and funding levels. “I know that’s a boring speech, but it’s an important speech,” he said.
Job Growth Accelerates in June
U.S. job growth accelerated in June, suggesting firms are having greater success recruiting workers to keep pace with the broadening of economic activity. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 850,000 last month and the unemployment rate edged up to 5.9%, a Labor Department report showed Friday. May payrolls were revised up to a 583,000 gain. The labor force participation rate held steady and remained well short of pre-pandemic levels.
The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a 720,000 rise in June payrolls. Demand for labor remains robust as firms strive to keep pace with broader economic growth, fueled by the lifting of restrictions on business and social activity, mass vaccinations and trillions of dollars in federal relief.
At the same time, a limited supply of labor continues to beleaguer employers, with the number of Americans on payrolls still well below pre-pandemic levels. Coronavirus concerns, childcare responsibilities and expanded unemployment benefits are all likely contributing to the record number of unfilled positions.
Those factors should abate in the coming months though, supporting future hiring. Wage growth is also picking up. A report Thursday showed small companies are raising compensation to attract workers, consistent with similar developments at larger firms such as FedEx Corp. and Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants Inc.
“Job gains should pick up in coming months as vaccinations rise, easing some of the pandemic-related factors currently weighing them down,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told Congress on June 22. While net job creation has been lower, actual hiring is high, offset by elevated levels of quits and retirements, he said. That underscores elevated churn in the labor market
Advocates Continue to Push for Equitable Energy Bill
The language in a comprehensive energy bill aimed at moving Illinois to a carbon-free future has undergone a multitude of revisions, yet the foundation of equity within the bill has remained mostly untouched throughout the process. Nearly 50 legislators identifying themselves as the “green caucus” expressed their motives in a letter to the governor – no climate, no equity, no deal – before the General Assembly adjourned its spring session at the end of May without any action on an energy bill.
Those motivations remain constant as negotiations continue, mostly in private working groups, even after a second failed attempt to pass an energy bill during a special two-day session in June.
The energy bill was held up again because an agreement could not be reached on the phasing out of coal and natural gas-fired power plants, while other items related to the prevailing wage remain in discussion as well.
It’s still unclear if, or when, a finalized version of the energy bill will be reached, but many equity advocates are cautiously optimistic that a compromise will be made before the end of the calendar year, while businesses groups are calling on the governor to slow the process.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Says Labor Shortage is Top Business Problem, Praises Infrastructure Deal
The chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that the No. 1 problem facing American businesses is their inability to hire enough qualified workers. Suzanne Clark blamed a pervasive lack of skilled labor, Covid-era government jobless benefits, lack of access to childcare and restrictions on work visas for employers’ difficulty finding staff.
“I get to talk to job creators across the country: Small businesses, big businesses. In every industry, in every geography. And they keep bringing up the labor shortage: It is the first thing I hear about,” she said. “There is a lot of anxiety out there.” Clark, the first woman to lead the 100-year-old Chamber, noted that there are a record 9.3 million job openings across the country as companies reopened in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department reported last month that job availability in April surged 32.7% in leisure and hospitality, the sector hurt most by the public health crisis and subsequent lockdowns.
Clark, who leads corporate America’s most powerful mouthpiece in Washington, praised the $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure deal brokered between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators. “We’re thrilled about it. This is critical roads, ports, bridges, airports, but it’s also rural broadband. It’s also getting the lead out of drinking pipes across the country,” she said. “This is a good deal. It does it without raising taxes, and it has our full support.”
Clark said she was optimistic about the bill’s odds in Congress despite some opposition from progressive Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made clear that her chamber will not take up the physical infrastructure bill without a separate piece of legislation to fund climate-change initiatives and worker training facilities and expand worker leave benefits.
Pritzker Administration Announces $9 Million Investment in Community Navigator
Governor JB Pritzker today joined the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) in announcing a $9 million investment to expand the community navigator outreach program to help small businesses take advantage of economic recovery grant programs. An expansion to the existing community navigator program leverages 13 community navigator organizations that will provide support for small businesses statewide who require assistance navigating billions of financial assistance dollars available from the State of Illinois and the U.S. Small Business Administration as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
This latest investment by the State in additional community partners comes as Illinois prepares to launch the $300 million Back 2 Business (B2B) small business recovery program later this month.
“Thanks to support from the federal government, I’m pleased to announce the State is once again providing a significant amount of economic recovery grants designed to help businesses with reopening, to bring employees back to work, and to help rebuild our economy post-pandemic,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “To ensure those dollars reach into the communities hit hardest by the pandemic, we’re directing investments to 13 trusted community partners who will work across their networks help ensure that businesses regardless of size, type, or location receive the support needed to build back from the pandemic. With this funding we are doubling down on an equity driven approach that will ensure hard hit businesses in minority and downstate communities are represented in these economic recovery programs.”
Community navigators will perform intensive outreach to ensure that small and hard-to-reach businesses are aware of economic relief funds available. Additionally, navigators will provide 1-on-1 technical assistance to support businesses in understanding how to access relief. The community navigator approach has also been recognized by the Biden-Harris administration as a proven method for ensuring funding is made accessible to minority and hard to reach communities.
“It is a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration to help all small businesses build back better, and this state program will bridge the gap between entrepreneurs locally and the SBA’s vast array of resources and programs. We are thrilled that state leaders like Governor Pritzker are leading the charge at the local level,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “This Community Navigator Program will help state, local and federal agencies connect with small businesses that have historically been left behind. The smallest of the small—in rural and urban America—and small businesses owned by women and people of color have suffered the greatest economic loss from the pandemic. At the SBA, we’re focused on reaching these underserved businesses to ensure they have the support they need to recover and build back better.”
Using a hub-and-spoke model, DCEO trained 13 new regional partners to facilitate technical assistance for small businesses on a grassroots level. These 13 organizations, which were selected through a competitive process, have demonstrated plans to work as hubs in parallel with over 100 community-based organizations, or “spokes,” based in low-to-moderate-income (LMI) census tracts. These organizations have a proven track record of serving diverse businesses across the state and will cover the following areas:
• American Business Immigration Coalition (Serving Sangamon, Macon, McLean, Cook, Winnebago, Jackson)
• Champaign County Economic Development Corporation (Serving Macon, SBDC – Shelby; Champaign, Piatt, Douglas, Vermilion, SBDC – Ford, Iroquois; SBDC – DeWitt; SBDC – Moultrie, Coles, Edgar, Cumberland, Effingham)
• Cook County (Serving Chicago, South and West Sides of Cook County)
• Economic Development Council for the Peoria Area (Serving Logan, Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Mason, Fulton)
• Effingham Regional Growth Alliance (Serving Coles, Crawford, Effingham, Clark, Edgar, Moultrie)
• Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (Serving Chicago Southside, South Suburbs, Eastern Will county, and all of Kankakee county; Chicago’s Washington Heights Neighborhood, from Auburn-Gresham south to the boundary with the South Suburbs)
• Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission (Serving Wabash, Edwards, Wayne, Jefferson, Perry, Jackson, Union, Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Hardin, Gallatin, White, Hamilton, Franklin, Williamson, Johnson, and Saline; Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Saint Claire, Monroe, Randolph, Washington, Clinton, Bond)
• Illinois Public Health Association (Serving Springfield, Jacksonville, Beardstown, Cook, Will McHenry, Fairfield, Cobden, East St. Louis, Boone, Winnebago, Rock Island, Mercer, Henry, Jo Daviess, Carroll, Whiteside, Lee, Stephenson, and Ogle)
• Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Serving Sangamon, Shelby, McLean, Peoria, Cook, Coles, Douglas, Moultire, Cumberland, Edgar, Clark)
• Mexican American Chamber of Commerce (Serving EDR 4 Waukegan, North Chicago, Joliet, Aurora, Romeoville, Melrose Park, Franklin Park, Maywood, Bellwood, Northfield, Stone Park, Humboldt Park, West Town, Logan Square, Belmont-Cragin, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Little Village, Midway, Back of the Yards, Pilsen, Westlawn)
• National Main Street Center Inc (Serving Jacksonville, Monticello, Pontiac, Crystal Lake, Batavia, Libertyville, 7 Commercial Districts in Chicago, Momence, Waukegan, Dixon, Silvis, Carbondale, Alton, Quincy)
• Western Illinois University, Board of Trustees (Serving Knox, Warren, Henderson, Hancock, McDonough, Schuyler, Brown, Pike, Adams)
• Women’s Business Development Center (Serving DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will; Particularly the Greater Aurora Region)
“Unfortunately, we know that businesses in minority, rural and economically challenged locations have been hit hardest during the pandemic – with many facing additional barriers to submitting for relief programs,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we are continuing to prioritize an equity-first response to the pandemic, leveraging community navigators to support small businesses in accessing the B2B program and other crucial recovery programs made available to help small businesses and the communities they reside in move forward with a successful reopening and recovery in the wake of the pandemic.”
Working with the community navigators, DCEO will conduct outreach locally on the forthcoming B2B grant program. The B2B program will prioritize hard hit industries and communities, providing grant funding to help businesses most impacted by COVID-19 recover operational losses.
To ensure the smallest and most vulnerable businesses are prioritized, navigator partners will provide small businesses with direct assistance on applications, as well as language assistance, on-the-ground outreach, webinars, technical assistance sessions, and more. Navigator partners will also work with the department to support businesses eligible for ongoing SBA programs, including the Shuttered Venue Operator Grants (SVOG), EIDL, and more.
An expansion of the community navigator program builds on the success of this approach first piloted during the state’s Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program – which led to a record amount of funding deployed, including over 40 percent of grants to minority-owned businesses. During the BIG program, more than 30,000 unique businesses statewide received outreach from a community navigator.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Pritzker administration has led a swift response supporting communities and businesses hardest hit by COVID-19. Overall, more than $1 billion in relief has been deployed – including over $200 million provided through the Local CURE program, over $325 million provided through the Emergency Rental Assistance program and nearly $580 million provided to small businesses and childcare providers in every corner of the state through the historic BIG program.
For more information on recovery programs and how to receive support, businesses are encouraged to visit the DCEO webpage or call the First Stop hotline at 1.800.252.2923.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available for Businesses in Illinois for Recent Drought
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced recently that Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and private nonprofit organizations in Illinois due to drought that began on June 15, 2021.
Low-interest disaster loans are available in the following counties: Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Will and Winnebago in Illinois.
*See attached documents for press release and also program details.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
|Special Presentation: Small Business Compliance with Department of Labor
Did you know that most employees in the U.S. are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? As an employer, are you aware of and meeting your obligations?
The chamber recently joined with Andres Mendez, a Benefits Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division and the Employee Benefits Security Administration for an overview of the COBRA premium assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, federal wage and hour laws, and how they are enforced.
Click here to view the special presentation: https://youtu.be/n5tWXm1BDyE
Connect with the Workforce Center
Visit the Workforce Center of Will County’s web page for more information about the programs, services, and activities available for Will County businesses and residents.
Small Business Tax Credit Programs
|Small Disadvantaged Business Contracting Goal News
On June 1, 2021, the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies. Specifically, the Administration is expanding access to two key wealth-creators – small business ownership and homeownership – in communities of color and disadvantaged communities.
Federal Contracting Webinar Series
Do you need help with federal contracting? The ChallengeHER webinar series offers education and training on the federal contracting system. Below is a list of upcoming webinars.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry