Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”

Chamber members:

Census numbers are out and Speaker Pelosi is juggling how and when votes are going to play out on infrastructure and the budget as the debt ceiling looms. Eviction rulings continue and we can’t ignore what’s happening on the vaccine front.

See below for details on each of these topics! We had a great legislative coffee this morning with Congressman Foster and Congresswomen Newman and Underwood in which we covered numerous topics of interest. Have a great week.

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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.

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Census Data Arrival
The nation’s population grew just 7.4% during the decade. Only the 1930s—the era of the Great Depression—recorded slower growth.
Legislators and commissions will immediately use the results to begin redrawing local and federal voting districts in time for next year’s elections. In addition to intrastate shifts, thirteen states are set to gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives next year through the once-a-decade reapportionment required by the Constitution. They’ll also lose or gain votes in the Electoral College beginning in the 2024 presidential election.
More on the report:

  • Slightly more than half—51.1%—of the total U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020 came from growth in the Hispanic or Latino population, the Census Bureau said.
  • America’s white population shrank for the first time – The non-Hispanic white population dropped 2.6% between 2010 and 2020, a decline that puts that group’s share of the total U.S. population below 60%.
  • Those under age 18 totaled 73.1 million, or 22.1% of the U.S. population in 2020, a 1.4% decrease from 74.2 million in 2010. The decline was partly due to lower fertility rates in recent years.
  • The number of people who identify as more than one race or ethnicity grew at the fastest rate of any group, partly due to changes that captured more detailed responses.
  • The multiracial U.S. population was recorded at nine million in 2010 and is now 33.8 million. The Census Bureau cautioned that changes in how it processed answers were adjusted in 2020.
  • As many cities and suburbs expanded, the bureau said, the trend toward rural depopulation continued during the decade. More than half of U.S. counties—52%—had smaller populations in 2020 than in 2010.
  • The cores of metro areas with more than a million people grew 9.1%, while their suburbs grew 10.3%, a Wall Street Journal analysis of the new data shows. Smaller metro areas grew 7.1%. By contrast, small towns and rural areas saw their combined populations drop 0.6%.
  • The nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan area was The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in central Florida that saw a 39% population gain during the decade, census officials said. North Dakota’s McKenzie County, which has been part of an oil-and-gas production boom, was the fastest-growing U.S. county during the decade, its population jumping by 131%.
  • In addition to intrastate shifts, thirteen states are set to gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives next year through the once-a-decade reapportionment required by the Constitution. They’ll also lose or gain votes in the Electoral College beginning in the 2024 presidential election.
  • Texas will gain two House seats, and five states will gain one each: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.
  • Seven states will lose one apiece: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
  • The new results will become the benchmark for tracking everything from disease and death rates to government-funding formulas and market research. They will also fuel studies on issues ranging from segregation and gentrification to suburban sprawl.
  • More results, including detailed age and racial breakdowns as well as family relationships and homeownership rates, also have been delayed and aren’t yet scheduled for release.

Chicago and the entire metropolitan area are not in decline. In fact, they’re doing markedly better than many of the experts had predicted. But neither are they growing as quickly as comparable big city areas around the country. And some unusual things are happening just below the surface, with major demographic shifts. That’s at least the initial bottom line on the breakdown of the 2020 census that came out yesterday, now that demographers have had a little time to read through the numbers.

Like the city proper, which grew its population 1.9 percent between 2010 and 2020, the seven-county core metro area grew, too, by a very similar 1.74 percent. Overall the area added 146,000 people, for a new total of 8.432 million. That’s “much better than we might have feared, given pre-census estimates,” says Chicago demographer Rob Paral, who credits a strong Census drive by the state and city to ensure residents were counted.

According to an analysis by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, every one of the seven counties added residents. The biggest gain, following the pattern of past decades, is on the edge of the region, with Kendall County up 14.93 percent. But growth in almost-as-outlying Kane and McHenry Counties was almost non-existent at less than half a percentage point each.

What that means wasn’t immediately clear. But a separate analysis prepared by political consultant and demographer Frank Calabrese found once-booming Aurora actually lost 17,000 residents, or 8.77 percent of the total, and slower-than-usual 1.97 percent growth in Joliet.

In Chicago, both current Mayor Lori Lightfoot and ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the city’s growth as a positive development. It certainly is compared to the prior decade of 2000-2010, when the city lost 200,000 residents, or 6.9 percent of its total population. But remember all those stories a few years ago about a return-to-the-city trend all over the country?

That indeed happened, according to the new data, and Chicago joined in the trend as growth in Latino, Asian, mixed-race, and, to a lesser degree, white residents offset a Black exodus from the city. However, other big cities did better. And not just Sun Belt places such as Houston, Dallas and Phoenix. Mega-city peers Los Angeles and New York grew 7.7 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Even Philadelphia added more people faster than Chicago, growing 5.1 percent.

Some of that likely has to do with international immigration patterns. Other aspects undoubtedly involve socio-economic factors after a decade in which Chicago seemed to grow relatively more slowly, but also richer. A city that as recently as 2000 had 9 Black residents for every person of Asian background now has a ratio of well under 4 to 1.

More data will be coming out soon – and all of it fodder for upcoming congressional and local reapportionments. It’s going to take some time to determine exactly what’s happening here.

Moderates revolt on infrastructure in new challenge for Pelosi
The Democrats’ strategy for enacting President Biden’s agenda hit a major snag Friday when nine House moderates bucked party leaders with threats of tanking a $3.5 trillion budget bill unless they can vote first on the Senate’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The ultimatum flips leadership’s preferred sequence on its head, and it presents a blunt challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has laid out carefully choreographed plans to withhold a House vote on the bipartisan bill until the Senate passes a second, larger package of health, climate and safety net benefits later this year.

Who Wants to Place a Wager on Voting Schedule?
Which will come first in the House, a vote on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill or a vote on the budget resolution to open the door for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package? It’s the question confounding both progressives and moderates. In a letter to colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she’d try to do both at once: “I have requested that the Rules Committee explore the possibility of a rule that advances both the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure package.”

Illinois landlords sue over federal eviction ban
An Illinois apartment owners’ group has sued the Centers for Disease Control over its decision to extend its moratorium on evictions, arguing that move exceeds the agency’s power and violates the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit by the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association, or IRPOA, follows others filed by landlord groups against the federal government since Aug. 3, when the CDC said the freeze, which expired on July 31, would continue through Oct. 3.

Housing advocates, and President Joe Biden, contend the extension is necessary to keep vulnerable renters off the streets during a pandemic—and to give states more time to distribute billions of dollars in assistance to tenants who have fallen behind on rental payments. Landlords argue the moratorium places too much of financial burden on them and encourages squatting by tenants who could pay their rent but won’t, knowing they can’t be evicted.

Two Chicago-area apartment owners joined the IRPOA in the suit against the CDC, saying they have been hurt financially by the freeze, which has compelled them to grant rent relief to certain tenants. The trade group represents real estate investor associations with about 1,000 member landlords that own about 10,000 apartments in the state.

“The members of IRPOA’s associations range from large corporate management companies to small ‘mom and pop’ owners of duplex homes,” says the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. “Though all owners are hurt by the moratorium, the punch hits smaller owners especially hard.”

A majority of the tenants living in the members’ buildings are protected by the moratorium because they earn less than $99,000 annually, the most they can earn to be covered by the moratorium, according to the complaint. The state of Illinois also established an eviction moratorium last year, but the freeze is set to expire at the end of August and Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he won’t renew it.

Congress and the president have approved $46 billion in aid for apartment tenants behind on rent, a huge sum of money that should keep many renters out of eviction court. But most of the money, held up by bureaucratic delays at the state level, has yet to reach renters.

Illinois, which has received $1.5 billion from the federal government, received about 96,000 applications for assistance through its Rental Payment Program. The application process closed in mid-July, and the state had approved 22,250 applications as of Aug. 2.

It’s unclear whether the CDC’s extension of the federal moratorium will survive court challenges. A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to suspend the ban, but Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who cast the deciding vote in that case, said he would not uphold it past July 31, unless Congress voted to continue it. At the last minute, Biden asked Congress to extend the moratorium, deciding a few days later to extend it without Congressional action.

Federal judge rejects effort to block eviction moratorium
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Friday rejected a request from a group of landlords to block the Biden administration’s renewed eviction moratorium. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, leaves intact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) extended freeze on evictions, which is set to run until early October.

The development comes after Friedrich ruled in May that a previous version of the CDC’s eviction suspension was an illegal exercise of the agency’s authority, though she agreed at that time to delay enforcement of her decision, citing the risk to public health if evictions were allowed to proceed.

The ensuing months have seen a flurry of political and court activity related to the eviction freeze as the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread through some of the most eviction-vulnerable communities in the U.S. The moratorium has faced numerous court challenges, leading to a patchwork of interpretations nationwide on its lawfulness.

The somewhat technical issue before Friedrich here was which of two higher court rulings — one from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and another from the Supreme Court — she was required to follow.

In June, the D.C. Circuit, and later the Supreme Court, denied requests from the landlord group to immediately implement Friedrich’s ruling, which would have effectively ended the eviction ban. But where the D.C. Circuit said clearly that the stay on Friedrich’s ruling should remain in place indefinitely, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling was more equivocal.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh in June joined the majority to deny the landlords’ request, but also said he agreed with Friedrich’s view that the CDC had exceeded its authority in enacting the moratorium. In a brief concurrence, Kavanaugh said he believes Congress would need to pass new legislation for the CDC to lawfully push the moratorium past July 31.

At that time, four of the court’s more conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, indicated that they would have lifted the stay and allowed Friedrich’s ruling to take effect while the Biden administration appeals.

When the Biden administration on Aug. 3 acted on its own — without Congress — to renew the lapsed eviction freeze, the landlord group cited the opposition expressed by Kavanaugh and the four other conservatives and urged Friedrich to invalidate the latest version of the eviction moratorium. But in her Friday ruling rejecting the landlords’ request, Friedrich said she was bound by the D.C. Circuit Court, the intermediate appellate court between Friedrich and the Supreme Court.

“Because the D.C. Circuit’s judgment affirming the stay binds this Court and the Supreme Court did not overrule that judgment, the Court will deny the plaintiffs’ motion,” she wrote. “It is true that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in this case strongly suggests that the CDC is unlikely to succeed on the merits,” Friedrich wrote later in her opinion. “But the [District] Court’s hands are tied. The Supreme Court did not issue a controlling opinion in this case, and circuit precedent provides that the votes of dissenting Justices may not be combined with that of a concurring Justice to create binding law.”

The CDC measure, originally enacted in September, protects tenants who state under penalty of perjury that they are unable to pay rent and would face overcrowded conditions if evicted, threatening public health. The renewed eviction freeze enacted earlier this month and set to expire Oct. 3 is narrower than the previous nationwide iteration, instead focusing on U.S. counties experiencing “substantial or high levels of community transmission levels” of the coronavirus while federal rental aid continues to trickle out to renters.

Covid-19 Rent-Relief Program Marred by Delays, Confusion, Burdensome Paperwork
More than seven months after it was launched, the biggest rental assistance program in U.S. history has delivered just a fraction of the promised aid to tenants and landlords struggling with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Since last December, Congress has appropriated a total of $46.6 billion to help tenants who were behind on their rent. As of June 30, just $3 billion had been distributed, though a senior official said the Biden administration hoped at least another $2 billion had been distributed in July.

While the program is overseen by the Treasury, it relies on a patchwork of more than 450 state, county and municipal governments and charitable organizations to distribute aid. The result: months of delays as local governments built new programs from scratch, hired staff and crafted rules for how the money should be distributed, then struggled to process a deluge of applications.

Often, tenants and landlords didn’t know money was available, and many of those who did apply had to contend with cumbersome applications and requests for documentation. “It’s a recipe for chaos,” said David Dworkin, president and chief executive officer of the National Housing Conference, a Washington, D.C., affordable housing advocacy group. “And that’s what we’ve got.”

Data released by the Treasury Department shows that rental aid has begun to move faster, with more money distributed in June than in the previous three months combined. The Treasury is expected to release data for July around the middle of this month, according to administration officials.

The genesis of the program dates to the early months of the pandemic. In May 2020, Democrats in Congress proposed $100 billion in aid for the growing number of tenants who were out of work as a result of the pandemic and unable to pay rent—an amount that was later cut by more than half.

Democrats wanted the Department of Housing and Urban Development to oversee the program because it had experience distributing housing funds through an existing network of local partners. Republicans felt the Treasury would deliver the money faster, said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Either way, grants would be disbursed on the state and local level. Then-President Donald Trump signed the bill appropriating the first $25 billion in December. In March, Congress appropriated another $21.6 billion.

The program’s rollout was slow from the start. The New York state Legislature, for example, didn’t create a program to distribute the $2.7 billion allocated to the state until April, and the state didn’t open applications until June.

Tight screening requirements added to delays, housing advocates and attorneys said. Some local officials also said the initial guidelines from the Treasury during the final days of the Trump administration were unclear or confusing.

Tenants had to provide extensive paperwork to demonstrate need. That included apartment leases, documents to show job loss or loss of income, income levels for the previous year and proof of other benefits they might receive from the government. Many tenants were unable to comply because they didn’t have formal leases or earned cash wages.

Some programs reported being overwhelmed with applications or lacked the staff and resources to process them efficiently. Texas, for example, started with about one hundred staff but eventually increased the number to more than 1,500, including contractors. Dozens of other programs have also turned to contractors for help.

Many tenants said they didn’t know they were eligible for aid or filled out forms incorrectly. In Texas, which has distributed more aid than many other programs, contractors began a mass text-messaging campaign this spring to reach people who may have mistakenly disqualified themselves when filling out applications.

Some landlords didn’t want to participate in the program, according to tenants, attorneys and local officials. Some landlords were unwilling to agree to temporarily not pursue future evictions against a tenant as a condition of receiving assistance.

Other landlords didn’t want to share required tax information. Many tenants, meanwhile, failed to complete forms or lacked access to computers and internet connections needed to complete applications.

The Treasury Department, under Mr. Biden, released new guidance in late February and again in the spring, among other things, to encourage local programs to pay money directly to tenants in certain cases, instead of just to landlords.

The guidance also encouraged programs to cut down on documentation required of tenants and landlords both. The new guidance allowed tenants to self-attest their need or allowed programs to use proxies in place of proof of earnings, such as the median income in areas where applicants lived.

Many programs ignored the guidance, research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows. As of August, only 1 in 4 were handing money directly to tenants. Just over half now allow some form of self-attestation from tenants instead of documents alone.

Many local governments were concerned that loosening the rules would expose them to fraud or charges they had squandered federal money. Liz Bourgeois, a Treasury spokeswoman, said the department’s new guidance is helping boost the flow of money to renters and landlords. Tools to reduce paperwork, such as self-attestation, are “a common practice across federal and state programs and consistent with responsible management,” she said.

For now, tenants are protected by a national eviction moratorium, which has been extended five times and is now set to expire on Oct. 3. Landlord groups are contesting the moratorium in federal court, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it first imposed it last September under Mr. Trump. Some states, including New York and California, have imposed their own moratoriums.

Meanwhile, many tenants are falling further behind on rent, and many landlords are being squeezed because they must continue to pay taxes, maintenance costs and other expenses. “I think we need to rethink our model that we’ve put together here, because I don’t think the model is working as effectively as it could,” said Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, a landlord trade group.

FDA authorizes third dose of Pfizer, Moderna shots for immunocompromised
The FDA updated its emergency-use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday, sanctioning third doses for a small percentage of Americans with compromised immune systems.

The broadened EUAs specifically permit solid-organ transplant patients or people with other conditions “that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise” to access additional doses, the agency said in a press release.

The agency’s action is intended to help people who may not have gotten adequate protection from the initial two-dose Pfizer or Moderna regimen due to their conditions. It comes as the virus’ Delta variant spurs a surge of Covid cases nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel will meet Friday to discuss the FDA policy. The committee will vote on whether to recommend third shots for people with weakened immune systems. Its expected endorsement of FDA’s decision is important but not legally required before third doses can be administered.

The CDC panel’s discussion could provide more clarity to health care providers about which patients qualify for a third shot, given the broad definition set forth by the FDA. The agency has said that only a small number of Americans will be affected by the new policy, although the only specific set of patients it mentioned was recipients of solid-organ transplants.

The FDA’s decision does not apply to recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, though federal officials believe that very few immunocompromised people got that shot given the timing of its rollout compared to when many of those patients were allowed to get inoculated during the late-winter vaccination campaign. Data from the company’s two-dose trial have yet to be released.

“The strong recommendation would be to stay with the shot that you” initially received when getting an additional dose, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Thursday. Countries like France, Germany, Hungary and Israel have already announced plans to dole out additional vaccine doses to vulnerable populations.

There are currently no plans to authorize booster doses for the broader U.S. population, public health officials said Thursday, despite preparations being made to ensure a robust supply of extra shots. “Apart from the immunocompromised, we do not believe that others — elderly or not elderly — who are not immunocompromised need a vaccine right at this moment,” Fauci said. “But this is a dynamic process — the data will be evaluated.”

There’s a Second Chance at the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
With one stroke of a pen, the Small Business Administration is both closing and reopening the spigot for its $16.2 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program.

The SVOG program provides grants for venue operators, promoters, live-events producers, and museums that were sidelined by the pandemic. But the SBA announced on Wednesday that it would cease accepting new applications as of 11:59 p.m. PT on August 20. At the same time, the agency also announced it would open a supplemental award program to qualifying live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits, and venues that already received aid. And “by invitation,” it would reconsider award amounts and appeals.

“This rare opportunity gives applicants a chance to prove their eligibility and reverse a prior decision,” the SBA said in the release.

After major delays and a stutter-start opening on April 26, the SBA has doled out $8.4 billion in grants to more than 10,800 businesses and nonprofits, which includes local movie theaters and athletic venues. Even the Museum of Modern Art in New York City got a SVOG. But some businesses are still scratching their heads over the program, which is governed by a labyrinthine set of rules. The SBA’s definition of a venue? At a minimum, it requires physical and permanent seating, as well as defined performance and audience spaces.

There’s no exact date when previous awardees may apply for the supplemental program. In its announcement, the SBA said the program would open “later this month.” The agency added that supplemental grants would be offered at just 50 percent of the original award amount, capped at $10 million. That cap includes both the initial and supplemental grant awards. SBA said additional details would be announced later.

Currently, eligible applicants may apply for grants equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million. SBA defines “earned revenue” or “gross earned revenue” as money received from the sale of goods or services rather than, say, donations or sponsorship income.

At least $2 billion of the program’s funds were reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to fifty full-time employees. The agency says it disbursed $4.8 billion to these organizations as of August 9.

Clearly, thousands of businesses and nonprofits have benefited from the grant program, and many likely still need help. However, the news that the SBA is shuttering the initial grant program with around $8 billion remaining–rather than opening it up to companies that don’t operate a physical space with permanent seating but still earn a living from events–may be tough to stomach for some.

U.S. jobless claims total 375,000, falling for a third straight week
Initial jobless claims declined for the third consecutive week as the U.S. labor market continued its recovery from last year’s recession.

New claims for jobless benefits totaled 375,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, matching estimates from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The reading for the previous week was revised upward by 2,000 to 387,000 claims.

Jobless claims numbers have come down sharply since the spring as the economy has recovered, and they have settled near the 400,000 level in recent weeks. The four-week average is now 396,250 initial claims.

The latest jobless claims report, which reflects the first week of August, came a week after the July jobs report showed a bigger-than-expects gain in employment. There were also a record high number of open jobs at the end of July.

The number of insured unemployment claims, a measure of continuing jobless claims, fell to 2.866 million for the last week of July, according to Thursday’s report. That is the lowest level since mid-March 2020. A broader measure of continued unemployment, which includes pandemic-specific benefits and other programs, also declined week over week.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct