Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
This past spring the Joliet Chamber joined the Chambers All In for Economic Recovery coalition. The coalition is designed to address your concerns as a business community through our legislative system. Over 50 chambers of commerce from across the state have come together to advocate for you, our business community. Our job is to help your voice be heard.
As we look forward to the next legislative session, we want to hear from you. A survey to gauge your concerns and legislative interests has been designed, and we ask that you share your thoughts. The results from this survey will serve as the basis for the platform of Chambers All In for Economic Recovery in the months to come. The relevance and effects of our advocacy efforts are tied to our connection with you.
We thank you for your time and appreciate your feedback. Here is the survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JolietLegislative
Infrastructure has moved on, next steps are in play for the budget reconciliation, recess may end early, and that’s only the federal news. See below for more announcements such as Governor Pritzker’s news about the Back 2 Business funds and how to apply.
Don’t forget about Monday, August 16 as we host our quarterly “Legislative Coffee” with U.S. Representatives Bill Foster, Lauren Underwood, and Marie Newman. We’ll cover topics such as the budget, infrastructure, taxes, the recent executive order, and more. We’ll begin at 8 am and discuss through 9:30 at the Joliet City Hall Council Chambers. We hope you can join us and thank CITGO for being our coffee series sponsor. Here is the rsvp & info link: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-legislative-coffee-series-august-16th-with-u-s-representatives-foster-underwood-newman-6082
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
Gov. Pritzker Announces $250 Million Back to Business Grant Program to Accelerate Small Business Recovery Across Illinois
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced the $250 million Back to Business (B2B) grant program to support the continued recovery of small businesses across Illinois. The first in a series of economic recovery programs set to launch by the administration, B2B will offer small businesses access to funds that can help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and take continued steps to rebuild amid the fallout from the pandemic. The program builds on last year’s Business Interruption Grant program, which provided $580 million to small businesses and childcare providers across the state.
The state is also providing a $9 million investment to grow the proven community navigator program, providing a robust network of community organizations to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance in the hardest hit communities. DCEO and community navigators will immediately begin working to provide businesses with information on required steps to apply, allowing them time to prepare before the application formally opens on August 18, 2021 – one week from today.
“Today, in partnership with the General Assembly, I’m taking another step to stimulate economic growth, jobs, and new opportunity for the people of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Further accelerating our economic recovery, we are announcing $250 million in Back to Business grants to help small businesses all across Illinois hire back staff and cover operating costs. Small businesses are the backbone of Illinois’ economy, collectively representing the largest number of jobs in Illinois and the largest job creators. And here in Illinois, they’re also the cornerstone of our recovery.”
DCEO is making $250 million available for small businesses across the state experiencing significant losses due to COVID-19. To reach the businesses most in need with these funds, DCEO will work alongside over 100 community navigators, 42 Small Business Development Center (SBDCs) and other outreach partners who have relationships with their local business community.
“Through the new Back to Business grant program, our administration is mobilizing our share of federal recovery dollars to provide grants that will help Illinois businesses continue with reopening, bring back their staff and rebuild stronger,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “At DCEO, we have already begun to join community navigators, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, legislators and many other partners from around the state in getting the word out about the availability of critical resources for businesses still in need.”
While many business types and industries may apply, businesses in the following industries will be given priority status for grants: restaurants and taverns; hotels; arts businesses and organizations; and more. Additionally, businesses located within Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs), as defined in statute, will be prioritized.
To reach the most vulnerable businesses, the State of Illinois has invested in an expansive outreach support infrastructure – grounded by a $9 million investment to grow the proven community navigator program. DCEO and partners will conduct outreach and mobilize resources to remove any barriers that they may face to applying – including language support, gathering documents, and completing the application – these partners will deliver the technical assistance needed to help small, under resourced businesses claim available ARPA funds.
The community navigator approach has been recognized by the Biden-Harris administration as a national model, and it follows on investments made by State during the pandemic through the Small Business Development Centers and other community partners providing no-cost technical assistance to businesses in need. To find a community navigator near you, please visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/AboutDCEO/GrantOpportunities/Pages/CommunityNavigator.aspx.
DCEO and its grant administrator partner, Allies for Community Business (A4CB) will make awards on a rolling basis, according to priority criteria mentioned above. Additionally, businesses with revenues of $5 million or less as well as those who did not receive an award during the Business Interruption Grant program will receive preference during the review period, with $25 million set aside for businesses which applied but did not receive funding through that program. To help businesses with ease of applying, A4CB has launched a new and easy-to-use customer portal, allowing applicants to track and learn updates on their application status in real-time.
B2B seeks to restore operational losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and will provide grants ranging in size from $5,000-$150,000, commensurate with the amount of losses experienced. To be considered for a grant, applicants must demonstrate a reduction in revenue in 2020 as compared with 2019, and annual revenues of no more than $20 million in 2019. Businesses must also provide two bank statements, a business owner ID, and federal tax returns for 2019 and 2020.
B2B builds on the success of the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program, first launched by the Pritzker administration last year to provide emergency assistance for businesses facing acute operational impacts due to COVID-19. The largest economic support program of its kind at the time – BIG delivered on its intended goals of serving the hardest hit industries in the hardest hit places. The program deployed $580 million to small businesses and childcare providers across the state – including over 9,000 small business grants awarded through DCEO. Moreover, a record 40 percent of grants were awarded to minority-owned businesses – a testament to the work of the community navigators program piloted to help reach more underserved businesses in minority and rural communities across the state.
For more information on B2B, how to apply and where to access small business assistance, please visit dceo.illinois.gov. DCEO and partner organizations will hold webinars over the next several weeks to provide virtual technical assistance on demand. To receive regular updates on economic recovery programs, capital assistance and other economic development programs, subscribe to the DCEO newsletter, or follow us on social @IllinoisDCEO.
Senate Passes $1T Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
The Senate on Tuesday passed a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, a significant win for President Biden and the first step on his top legislative priority.
Senators voted 69-30 on the bill, which was spearheaded by a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Nineteen GOP senators voted with all Democrats to pass the legislation.
The bill is now heading to the House, where it faces an uncertain future and skepticism from progressives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has vowed she won’t take it up until the Senate passes the second part of its infrastructure two step, a sweeping $3.5 trillion spending package that includes Democrats’ top priorities. But the Senate’s passage of the bipartisan measure on Tuesday gives a victory for Biden and the centrist-minded group that led the legislation and placed big bets and months of time on the ability to get a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, one of Washington’s long-running legislative white whales.
“Congress has talked about truly modernizing our nation’s infrastructure for as long as we can remember. The United States Senate delivered so that we can finally give the American people the safe, reliable, and modern infrastructure they deserve,” Portman, Sinema and the eight other senators who were the core negotiators said in a joint statement after the vote. And underscoring the bill’s importance to the administration, Vice President Harris presided over the vote even though she wasn’t needed to break a tie.
The bipartisan deal includes roughly $550 billion in new funding, making it substantially smaller than the $2.6 trillion proposed by Biden earlier this year. It includes money for new investments for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, broadband, water and rail. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit, though negotiators argue that “hard” infrastructure projects pay for themselves over time and that CBO didn’t give them full credit for their work.
“The new spending under the bill is offset through a combination of new revenue and savings, some of which is reflected in the formal CBO score and some of which is reflected in other savings and additional revenue identified in estimates, as CBO is limited in what it can include in its formal score,” Sinema and Portman said in a joint statement on the analysis.
The House is expected to wait until after the Senate passes the spending package this fall to take up the bipartisan bill, though moderates are ramping up efforts to pressure Pelosi into moving faster.
“So whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way, bravo. We salute it. We applaud it. We hope that it will pass soon. But, at the same time, we’re not going forward with leaving people behind,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “All of these things are urgent, and we’re going to get them done together.”
Senate Passes Democrats’ $3.5 Trillion Budget Blueprint
The Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint early Wednesday, the first step in an arduous process designed to allow Democrats to push through a sweeping package of education, healthcare, climate and other provisions without GOP support.
The party line vote, 50-49, came just before 4 a.m., one day after the Senate passed a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. It is an initial victory for President Biden and congressional Democrats who are seeking to pass as much of their legislative agenda as possible this year before next year’s midterm elections overtake Capitol Hill.
Senate Democrats “just took a massive step towards restoring the middle class of the 21st century,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said after the vote. “What we’re doing here is not easy. Democrats have labored for months to reach this point. And there are many labors to come. But I can say with absolute certainty that it will be worth doing.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the blueprint was “full of reckless taxing and spending.” But Democrats, who have slim margins in both chambers, will face difficult choices and negotiations, as they work to transform the budget framework into detailed legislation.
“Putting all the pieces together will be a challenge, but we’ve got a good place to start in terms of discussions that have already taken place,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.). Lawmakers are expected to begin those negotiations over Zoom and phone calls during the August recess. Mr. Schumer had set a Sept. 15 target date for committees to submit their pieces of the legislation.
Senate Democrats on the Budget Committee agreed last month to spend roughly $3.5 trillion on a package, whose framework was fleshed out Monday. The plan is set to expand the safety net by offering a federal paid-leave benefit, universal prekindergarten, two free years of community college and expanded Medicare to cover hearing, dental and vision care, among other provisions.
It also seeks to combat climate change through a series of energy tax incentives and a program to push the U.S. to receive 80% of its electricity from clean sources by 2030.
Republicans have criticized the budget framework as an unprecedented deluge of spending that could fuel inflation and increase taxes for individuals and corporations.
“If they implement this radical transformation of our energy economy, you’re going to have a dramatic increase of gas prices and heating prices,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “This is the worst thought-out idea I’ve ever seen. They’re just throwing every liberal idea and hoping it sticks to the wall.” Republicans also balked at a component of the Democratic plan to include a pathway to lawful permanent status for certain migrants to the U.S.
To cover the cost of the package, Democrats are seeking to raise taxes on corporations and high-income households. Some moderate Democrats have raised concerns about both the potential cost of the legislation and the tax increases proposed to pay for it.
The House is expected to return to Washington the week of Aug. 23 to vote on the budget resolution, according to a letter from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) to House Democrats.
If the House passes a budget resolution identical to the Senate’s, Democrats can unlock a special process known as reconciliation that allows them to pass legislation with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60 votes most bills need. Doing so would enable Democrats to pass the $3.5 trillion package without GOP support in the evenly divided Senate, so long as they don’t lose a single member of the Democratic caucus.
Centrist Democrats, chiefly Sens. Manchin and Sinema, have already signaled possible concerns with the legislation. Ms. Sinema said last month she would oppose a bill that cost $3.5 trillion, while Mr. Manchin has indicated he has concerns about how it could affect the fossil fuel industry.
“I’m concerned about the energy and energy for our whole country—how we’re going to be able to maintain a reliable, affordable and dependable energy,” he said Tuesday.
The bill will also have to satisfy liberal Democrats, particularly in the House, where progressives have said they would oppose the infrastructure bill, if the larger budget package falls short of their ambitions.
House to cut recess short, take up Democratic budget plan
The House will interrupt its previously scheduled seven-week summer recess later this month to consider a budget resolution to kick off the process for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending plan.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday that the chamber will return to session on Aug. 23 to consider the budget resolution, assuming Senate adoption likely later this week.
Hoyer did not specify how long the House would interrupt its recess, saying that the chamber “will remain in session until our business for the week is concluded.” Democrats are pushing to advance the multitrillion-dollar plan to expand the social safety net. `
Aside from the budget resolution, Hoyer also said the House will likely consider a voting rights bill named after the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) while lawmakers are in Washington later this month.
House members left Washington for recess on July 30, after Democratic leaders were unable to round up the votes for legislation to extend the eviction moratorium. The Biden administration ultimately issued a targeted renewal last week under pressure from progressives.
The House was originally scheduled to remain in recess until Sept. 20 to accommodate the usual August break and the Jewish holidays in the first half of September. The House is currently scheduled to have “committee work weeks” during the first half of September in which panels conduct business virtually while lawmakers can spend more time in their districts.
It’s not clear how long the House will be in session this month, and it’s possible the chamber could go back into recess until Sept. 20 once the budget resolution is adopted.
Labor Market Report
Unfilled job openings in the U.S. outnumber unemployed Americans seeking work, a sign of an unusually tight labor market. Unfilled job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 10.1 million in June, the highest level since record-keeping began in 2000 and more than the 9.5 million people who were unemployed that same month. Revised data released Monday showed the trend started in May. The Labor Department report also showed the rate at which workers quit their jobs, a proxy for confidence in the labor market, rose in June to just below the record high touched in April.
The increase was driven by industries such as professional and business services, retail and the accommodation and food services, as pandemic restrictions continued to ease that month and consumers were more willing to dine out and travel.
The gap between openings and unemployment shows an unusual tightness in the labor market. From 2000 to 2018, there were more unemployed workers than available jobs. That flipped in early 2018, when the unemployment rate pushed toward a 50-year low.
Some economists say the recent disparity might be due to a skills or geographic mismatch between workers and available jobs. Data released Monday showed openings were revised higher in May to exceed unemployment that month as well, and the gap between openings and jobless people widened in June.
“We have fewer people in the labor market now than we did before Covid,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at job-search site ZipRecruiter. And multiple waves of federal economic stimulus, including direct payments and enhanced unemployment benefits, means “businesses have surged back far more quickly than job seekers.”
Employers have responded to the tight labor market by raising wages and offering retention and hiring bonuses, she said, adding the lack of available job candidates has created opportunities for young workers because some employers are reducing requirements for new hires.
Monday’s report also showed the rate at which workers quit their jobs, a proxy for confidence in the labor market, rose in June to just below the record high touched in April.
People quitting their jobs may show they are seeking remote-work positions, which became a cornerstone of the labor market throughout the pandemic, Ms. Pollak said. ZipRecruiter surveys show more than half of job seekers say that they would prefer remote work.
According to ZipRecruiter data, the number of job openings fell modestly in July, but remains elevated by historical standards. Ms. Pollak said the decrease in July likely reflects seasonal factors and shouldn’t be seen as a sign of caution on the part of employers about the Delta variant.
Data from job search site Indeed also showed job postings declined slightly in late July, but remain well above pre-pandemic levels. The drop primarily reflected fewer available jobs in manufacturing, construction and warehousing and transportation—sectors hit by supply shortages—rather than the Delta variant, said Indeed economist Jed Kolko.
Employers added 943,000 jobs to payrolls in July, the best increase in 11 months according to the Labor Department, and unemployment fell. Those could be signs that businesses were increasingly able to fill open jobs this summer.
Monday’s Labor Department report showed the highest rate of job openings in June was in the South. Broadly, the labor market in the South, where business restrictions were less severe, has recovered from the pandemic more fully than the rest of the country. The West and Northeast, which includes New York and California where some restrictions were in place into June, had the lowest rate of job openings.
GOV. PRITZKER LAUNCHES ILLINOIS WORKS TRAINING PROGRAM, WITH $10 MILLION TO EXPAND PRE-APPRENTICESHIPS STATEWIDE
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced the launch of the new Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program, leveraging a $10 million commitment from the State to provide additional training programs that will expand the talent pipeline while boosting diversity within the construction industry and building trades. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released by the DCEO Illinois Works Office aims to expand access to training programs that will prepare residents for well-paying jobs in the trades – with plans to focus on reducing barriers to entry and increasing representation of women and people of color in these fields.
The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program is a key component of the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act – a result of landmark legislation put forward by Governor Pritzker to prepare residents for jobs created by the historic $45 billion capital expansion plan. DCEO is now accepting applications for grant proposals– to view the NOFO, please visit DCEO’s website.
“The Illinois Works program is designed to turn the tide on representation in Illinois’ construction trades, which for too long left women and people of color out of key jobs in the industry,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s a down payment on our future and will help increase opportunities for thousands more residents – regardless of where they live – to join us as we revitalize our infrastructure and Rebuild a new Illinois.”
Through the Pre-Apprenticeship Program, DCEO and the Office of Illinois Works aim to create a network of providers across the state to recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training. More importantly, providers will structure pathways and manage the program graduates’ transition from the pre-apprenticeship program to a full apprenticeship program in construction and building trades. DCEO estimates that pre-apprenticeship training programs supported by these grant funds will serve as many as 1,000 participants during the first program year.
“Our new pre-apprenticeship training program is designed to help more Illinois residents, especially those from underrepresented populations, benefit from jobs created by our historic Rebuild Illinois capital plan – building a strong talent pipeline and career paths for those who need them most,” said Sylvia Garcia, Acting Director of DCEO. “Working alongside training organizations, our partners in labor and members of the legislature – the new Office of Illinois Works is aiming to not only boost capacity, but diversify the construction and building trades here in Illinois. We encourage qualified partners to apply for the NOFO as we seek to expand career training in high demand trades jobs in Illinois.”
Participants of the program will attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive services to help overcome systemic barriers to entering the construction industry. Upon completion of the program, pre-apprentices will receive industry aligned certifications which will prepare and qualify them to continue to a full-time apprenticeship program in one of the trades.
Eligible applicants include non-profit, community-based organizations, such as colleges, industry associations, chambers of commerce, local workforce areas, community colleges, technical schools, and school districts. Grants awards will range from $200,000-$550,000 for a one-year agreement.
Signed into law in 2019, the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act is designed to promote diversity, inclusion and use of apprentices in state-funded capital projects. The Act created three major programs: the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program; the Illinois Works Apprenticeship Initiative, and the Illinois Works Bid Credit Program. Together these three programs aim to create a talent pipeline of skilled and diverse candidates to fill new job opportunities created by the Act.
The Office of Illinois Works operates in collaboration with workforce partners, the building trades and construction industry, as well as the Illinois Works Review Panel, which contributed to the development of this NOFO.
The launch of Illinois Works Pre-apprenticeship Program dollars today builds on several steps taken by the Pritzker administration to increase access to apprenticeship opportunities throughout Illinois – a priority outlined in the state’s 5-year economic plan. Key investments so far include the passage of bipartisan legislation to create the Illinois apprenticeship tax credit, funding additional workforce training partners and sites statewide, and creation of a new apprenticeship navigators model focused on increasing equity in apprenticeship positions funded in Illinois across all industries.
With pre-apprenticeship training programs lasting three to four months on average, the State of Illinois aims to award funds and launch training programs that will put more residents on the job site in time for the spring 2022 construction season. The deadline for the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program is October 4, 2021. Informational webinars will be held on August 12, August 19, August 26 and September 9 to help prepare organizations applying for training dollars. For more information on the Illinois Works program, please visit https://www.illinoisworknet.com/ilworkspreapprenticeshipnofo2021.
Business Groups Call on Biden to Restart Trade Talks with China
Nearly three dozen of the nation’s most influential business groups—representing retailers, chip makers, farmers and others—are calling on the Biden administration to restart negotiations with China and cut tariffs on imports, saying they are a drag on the U.S. economy.
The tariffs on electronics, apparel and other Chinese goods, which are paid by U.S. importers, were kept in place in part to ensure that China fulfills its obligations under its 2020 Phase One trade pact with the U.S.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the business groups contend that Beijing had met “important benchmarks and commitments” in the agreement, including opening markets to U.S. financial institutions and reducing some regulatory barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to China.
“A worker-centered trade agenda should account for the costs that U.S. and Chinese tariffs impose on Americans here and at home and remove tariffs that harm U.S. interests,” the letter said, referring to the administration’s policy to make worker interests a priority.
A spokesman for Ms. Tai said, “We are conducting a robust, strategic review of our economic relationship with China to create effective policy that delivers results for American workers, farmers and businesses.”
The trade groups include some of Washington’s most influential big business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Retail Federation, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Semiconductor Industry Association.
The broadside by the trade groups represents increasing frustration by a swath of American corporations at the pace of the administration’s review of China trade and economic policy. The administration has given few hints about whether it intends to try to enforce the Phase One trade accord negotiated by the Trump administration or seek to extend it. Chinese officials have told U.S. business executives that they won’t move on trade issues until the administration makes clear that it accepts the Phase One deal.
The review is expected to continue until sometime in the fall, administration officials have said. The administration also hasn’t signaled whether it intends to keep tariffs on Chinese goods, which now amount to levies on about half of what the U.S. imports from China.
Ms. Tai met privately with executives from a half-dozen large West Coast companies during a stop in Seattle, said a person familiar with the meeting. She expressed sympathy with their request that the administration finish its review, this person said, but didn’t give any details about the unfolding policy or when it would be unveiled.
Ms. Yellen has said that she thinks that tariffs are economically harmful but other administration officials have said privately that her remarks weren’t meant to signal a change in U.S. trade policy.
Chad Bown, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who closely follows the Phase One deal, has said that China is well behind in its commitment to boost purchases by $200 billion over two years. The trade groups indirectly acknowledged that, saying “there is more work to be done by both governments to ensure that China meets its existing purchase agreements.” But the groups argued that USTR should start negotiating as well over issues that weren’t covered in the Phase One deal, including state subsidies, government procurements, cybersecurity and digital trade.
“We want to express our support for continued engagement with China on trade and economic issues,” the letter said, and included strong backing for the Phase One deal. Additionally the groups urge the USTR to grant companies exceptions from some tariffs and to start a process of reducing tariffs on Chinese goods overall. “We also recognize that fully resolving tariffs is unlikely, absent substantially more progress by China on core issues,” the letter said, which would involve fresh negotiations.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry