Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
The job growth spurt has slowed down as the August report comes out below expected numbers. Unemployment numbers though are at the lowest though since March of 2020. The $3.5 trillion dollar budget talks have been suggested to take a pause from a key figure. Check it all out in today’s Roundup and make sure that you’re aware of the information directly below regarding the Back to Business Grant. I’ve heard from a few over the last couple of days that weren’t aware at all of the program!
The application for the $250 million State of Illinois Back to Business (B2B) Grant Program is now open! B2B offers small businesses access to funds that can help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and continue to rebuild from the pandemic.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
U.S. Payroll Growth Slowed in August as Economy Added 235,000 Jobs
President Biden delivered remarks on the disappointing jobs report. In Biden’s words: “There’s no question that delta variant is why today’s job report wasn’t stronger … Next week, I’ll lay out the next steps that we’re going to need to combat the delta variant.”
U.S. payrolls grew by 235,000 and the jobless rate fell to 5.2% in August, as employers pulled back sharply on hiring during a surge of Covid-19 cases driven by the Delta variant. August payroll growth was well below economists’ estimates. It also was down from monthly payroll gains of 1.1 million in July and 962,000 in June, the Labor Department said on Friday.
Hiring was particularly weak in services sectors that involve in-person interaction. Employment in leisure and hospitality held steady after adding an average of 350,000 jobs a month over the previous six months. Retailers cut jobs in August.
The rising number of Covid-19 cases tied to the Delta variant resulted in slower job growth for two reasons, economists say. Businesses, particularly in services sectors requiring in-person contact, held off on hiring amid heightened pandemic uncertainty. Jobless individuals who are fearful of Covid-19 health also were slower to return to the labor market until the virus abates.
The Delta variant also appears to be denting consumer spending growth and confidence. The number of diners seated at restaurants was down 9% in the week ended Sept. 2 compared with the same week in 2019, before the pandemic, for instance, according to reservations site OpenTable. The volume of people eating out has gradually slowed from earlier this summer.
In another sign of weakening, the number of employees logging hours fell 4% in August from July, according to Homebase, a scheduling-software company with mainly smaller-business clients. The steady decline in employment throughout the month was driven by industries that had seen the sharpest job growth in recent months amid state reopenings. The number of hospitality employees working dropped 35% from mid-July, while those employed in entertainment fell 20%, according to Homebase.
The labor market has made strides this summer, as vaccinations and state reopenings helped fuel growth. The unemployment rate was 5.4% in July, down from 6.3% in January.
Jobless claims total 340,000
Initial filings for unemployment insurance fell last week to their lowest levels since March 2020 in another sign that the labor market is gradually improving from the Covid-19 era, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
First-time jobless claims totaled 340,000 for the week ended Aug. 28, compared with the 345,000 Dow Jones estimate. That is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020, when first-time claims totaled 256,000, just before the coronavirus pandemic caused a historic rush to unemployment benefits.
The level of initial claims for the week ended Aug. 21 was revised up by 1,000, to 354,000.
The level of continuing claims, the measure of ongoing benefits, was 2.75 million, a decrease of 160,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The decrease in the number of continuing claims also represents the lowest level for insured unemployment since the Covid era began.
Economists looking for even more robust job creation have noted that federal unemployment benefits, a safety net for those who lost jobs during the worst of the pandemic, are set to expire Monday. Others noted that with public schools starting to open across the U.S., parents may be able to finally return to the office.
“Bottom line, we now have the lowest initial filings for claims and smallest level of continuing claims since everything changed in March last year,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Just listen to any company that is looking to expand and you’ll hear stories about the difficulty in finding positions so it makes sense that claims continue to decline.”
“We’ll of course now hear about what will happen in coming weeks as classrooms refill, hopefully without incident, parents go back to work and added benefits expire,” he added.
The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs across all states for the week ending Aug. 14 was 12.19 million, an increase of 178,526 from the previous week. There were 29.75 million weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020.
Federal Funding for Extended Benefits Ending September 11
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for extended benefits (EB) will end the week ending September 11, 2021. The remaining federal unemployment programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), will expire on September 4, 2021.
The Illinois Unemployment Insurance (UI) Act requires federal funding for extended benefits to currently remain active. According to the United States Department of Labor’s interpretation of Section 9022 of ARPA, federal funding for EB will end on September 11. Because the federal government will no longer cover the cost of EB after this date, EB will expire and no longer be available to claimants in Illinois.
Claimants in need of further state resources or assistance are encouraged to visit IDES.Illinois.gov/MoreAssistance for information about helpful programs. Claimants with questions about existing claims should call 800.244.5631 and schedule a callback.
Crafting of the $3.5 Trillion Plan
Democrats seeking to pass their $3.5 trillion healthcare, education and climate legislation are wrestling over the amount they should pay with tax increases and other policy changes—and what should be funded with deficit spending.
In their initial rollout, Democratic leaders said the plan would be fully offset with higher taxes on companies and wealthy households along with spending reductions. Senior lawmakers have begun suggesting that the consensus on taxes might not provide enough money. That could prompt them to increase federal borrowing or pare back spending ambitions.
Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia again expressed skepticism about the price tag of his party’s $3.5 trillion healthcare, education and climate legislation. He called for a “strategic pause” in the effort to pass the package, which Democrats are looking to wrap up this month.
The administration’s proposed $80 billion boost for the IRS’s budget in the package would yield $200 billion in new revenue over a decade, according to a CBO estimate. That figure demonstrates the significant potential from ramping up tax enforcement but is also more than 36% below the administration’s own estimate.
Manchin warns Democrats: Hit ‘pause’ on Biden’s $3.5T plan
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Democrats should hit “pause” on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package, firing a significant warning shot at his party’s top legislative priority.
Manchin, during remarks this week at a West Virginia Chamber of Commerce event pointed to concerns about “runaway inflation,” the delta variant of the coronavirus and a botched withdrawal in Afghanistan to float slowing down what is the centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda.
“If the country is facing what we’re facing now. … I would ask my colleagues and all of the Senate to hit the pause button on the $3.5 [trillion],” Manchin said at the event on Wednesday. “Let’s sit back. Let’s see what happens. We have so much on our plate. We really have an awful lot. I think that would be the prudent, wise thing to do.”
“I know they’re going to go nuts right now … because what I said is going to all my caucus in Washington,” Manchin added, referring to his Democratic colleagues. “But I’m thinking of it from the standpoint of where we are as a nation today.”
Manchin’s remarks come as Democrats are negotiating and drafting the $3.5 trillion bill, which is expected to include some of the party’s biggest priorities including expanding Medicare, combating climate change and immigration reform. And if he sticks by his push for a go-slow approach it could mark a significant stumbling block to Democratic leadership’s timeline for advancing the Democratic-only bill.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has given Senate committees until Sept. 15 to finalize their parts of the package so that they could start socializing the bill with the broader 50-member Democratic caucus. But to get the bill through the Senate, Schumer will need Manchin’s vote, giving him enormous influence to shape the details and the timing of the reconciliation package.
Manchin, speaking at the Chamber of Commerce event, argued that there wasn’t a reason to rush the Democratic-only spending plan saying that “it’s not anything we need immediately.”
“Hit the pause button as Americans. Hit the pause button,” Manchin said. Manchin doubled down on his remarks, which were made Wednesday, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday, warning he can’t support a $3.5 trillion plan.
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not,” Manchin wrote in the Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” Manchin added.
Manchin previously warned that he had “serious concerns” about a $3.5 trillion package in a statement released hours after the Senate passed the roughly $1 trillion bill last month that he and a bipartisan group of senators helped negotiate.
He also disclosed during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce event that he privately told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last month during the Senate’s debate on the bipartisan bill that he would not support a separate $3.5 trillion Democrat-only package.
“He looked at me and said, ‘you going to vote for the three-and-a-half trillion?’ I said, ‘hell no Bernie I’m not voting for three-and-a-half trillion.’ He says … ‘well at least you’re honest with me,'” Manchin said. Manchin added that he was willing to work with Sanders but he wasn’t going to agree to an “arbitrary number” and that a “pause” was “the best way to go.”
Manchin didn’t specify in the Wall Street Journal op-ed or during the West Virginia event how long he thinks the pause should be. But his stance sparked immediate high-profile fury from progressives.
Democrats are pursuing Biden’s spending plan along two paths: a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate last month and a sweeping $3.5 trillion spending package that they want to pass this fall and includes some of Democrats’ biggest agenda items.
House Democrats have pointed to Sept. 27 as a target deadline for when they will vote on the Senate bill, but progressives are warning that they won’t support it unless it moves with the $3.5 trillion package. Both House and Senate Democrats passed a budget last month that greenlights passing the larger bill without GOP support in the Senate. But they need total unity from the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus in order to pass the larger package.
In addition to Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has warned that she can’t support a $3.5 trillion package. “Proceedings in the U.S. House will have no impact on Kyrsten’s views about what is best for our country – including the fact that she will not support a budget reconciliation bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” John LaBombard, a spokesman for Sinema, said late last month.
Illinois Rental Payment Program Distributes Over $252 Million, 50% of State’s Relief Allocation Paid to Renters and Landlords Impacted By COVID-19
Governor JB Pritzker, along with the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), announced that more than $252 million in rental assistance has been paid on behalf of almost 29,500 renter households impacted by COVID-19 through the Illinois Rental Payment Program (ILRPP). Launched in May 2021, ILRPP provides up to $25,000 in financial assistance — paid directly to the landlord — to cover missed rent payments beginning June 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
With over 50% of the $500 million in available ILRPP funds paid, Illinois continues to be one of highest providers of rental assistance among all state grantees per the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This is in addition to the more than $230 million Illinois disbursed to renters in 2020 through an inaugural pandemic rental assistance program.
“Having a roof over your head is the foundation of a thriving life, and Illinois is fiercely combatting the pandemic’s destabilizing effects on that foundation by keeping our residents on their feet,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “As the need for assistance only grows more urgent, we are proudly one of the top states in the nation at getting dollars out to those in need. With over $250 million out the door and millions more on the way, we won’t stop until we can make a difference for every family possible.”
“Far too many people are facing housing insecurity and the risk of homelessness, especially during this pandemic” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Illinois continues to stand with those in need, building on existing resources and assistance to ensure that the state’s most vulnerable residents keep a roof over their head.”
The Illinois Rental Payment Program provides up to 12 months of past-due rent and up to three months of future rent payments for tenants at risk of housing instability due to the pandemic. To date, IHDA has received nearly 98,865 completed ILRPP applications from renters and landlords in 100 of Illinois’ 102 counties. IHDA has reviewed more than 70,000 applications, approved 29,433 applications, and paid out more than $252.5 million to renters experiencing hardships due to the pandemic for an average of $8,580 per household.
Application approvals and payouts will continue as IHDA continues to review the pipeline of completed applications through the end of September. Gov. Pritzker recently extended the eviction moratorium through Sunday, Oct. 3.
The most significant delay in the processing of applications is collecting all federally required documentation needed to approve funding. Of the 70,000 applications to go through an initial review, IHDA has identified 36,000 applications with incomplete or missing documentation (e.g., a government-issued ID, proof of household income, proof of address, or evidence of past-due rent). IHDA is in the process of emailing landlords and/or tenants detailing what is missing, with information on a timeframe and a process to submit the documentation to complete their application for processing. Despite these challenges, Illinois remains a national leader in dispersing rental assistance.
This initial funding for ILRPP was provided through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and additional rounds of assistance, including both rent and mortgage, will be announced later this fall from the American Rescue Plan Act. Tenants and landlords should continue to check their email (including spam folders) for any updates from IHDA regarding their application. To speak with an IHDA call center representative, please call (866) 454-3571 (toll free).
For renters who missed the window to apply for assistance through IHDA, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is currently accepting applications for rental assistance until funding runs out. Households looking for assistance should contact an IDHS Service Provider Agency to ask about rental assistance. Provider Agencies will help you find out if you are eligible and help you apply for rental assistance. A list of Provider Agencies, as well as organizations offering assistance with utility bills, free legal aid and additional services can be found at: https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry