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

Chamber members:

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is trying to hit the gas on President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, calling for his colleagues to pass the bill before Christmas. The House added a week to its schedule, now beginning its holiday recess around Dec. 20. The Senate could potentially stay in session until Christmas. Also, emerging news on a debt ceiling deal and more funds available for those with a need for rental assistance.

Congratulations are in order to the Heritage Corridor Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Joliet Area Historical Museum for their awards announced by the Illinois Office of Tourism.

I hope you saw the announcement of our December Legislative Coffee. This will be the fourth and final of 2021. We’ll welcome Caroline Portlock from our local Will County Workforce Investment Board to talk about the current state of the job market as well as a few other topics. Joining her will be Laura Manion from the US Chamber of Commerce Great Lakes office in Chicago. Laura will bring us up to speed on the infrastructure bill, Build Back Better plan, government funding, the debt ceiling, and a 2022 outlook for Congress. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, December 14 from 8 to 9 AM. We will be meeting at the Workforce Center of Will County located at 2400 Glenwood Ave. You can register here:

*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*

Democrats ramp up talks with parliamentarian on Biden spending bill
Senate Democrats are ramping up talks with the parliamentarian as they try to hit an ambitious goal of passing President Biden’s climate and social spending bill before Christmas.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a “Dear Colleague” letter to Senate Democrats released Monday, detailed meetings that committees and Democratic staff have had or will have with parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who provides guidance on whether a proposal complies with rules on what can be passed under budget reconciliation, the process Democrats are seeking to use to pass their massive spending bill.

“The committees with the two largest pieces of the bill – Finance and HELP – are set to have their final Democratic-only briefings on Monday and Tuesday with the formal bipartisan Byrd Bath meetings to follow,” Schumer wrote in the letter.  “Our goal is to finalize the remaining committees over the course of this week and next. I am confident that Senators will have ample time to review the text and CBO scores,” he added.

The roughly $2 trillion spending bill has to go through a so-called “Byrd bath,” during which MacDonough weighs in whether the bill complies with the Byrd rule, which lays out restrictions for what can be passed under the budget rules. Among those rules is that a proposal has to have an impact on federal spending and revenues and that its impact isn’t “merely incidental” to its non-budgetary goals. As part of that process, GOP and Democratic staffers meet separately with the parliamentarian in informal meetings and then sit down with her together to make their competing pitches.

Democrats are still awaiting MacDonough’s ruling on their latest immigration plan, after Judiciary and Budget Committee staff as well as leadership staffers for both Republicans and Democrats met with her last week. “As we have discussed that process has already begun for some of the immigration-related provisions. The remaining provisions will begin the Byrd Bath process after all of the final text is submitted and the pre- meetings with the Parliamentarian are complete,” Schumer wrote in his letter.

“I especially want to thank the Senate Parliamentarian and the staff for all of the time and energy they have dedicated to this process. It is a very onerous job and they are handling it with professionalism,” he added.

Schumer didn’t specify in his letter when he would bring the spending bill to the floor, but reiterated that it is Democrats’ goal to pass the spending bill by Christmas. Schumer had privately indicated that he could bring the bill to the floor as soon as the week of Dec. 13, but that could be pushed if lawmakers are still in talks with the parliamentarian. Schumer has said that he will bring the climate and spending bill to the floor after those wrap up.

Democrats offer bill to raise debt ceiling
House Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow the Senate to raise the debt ceiling without having to overcome a filibuster. The legislation would set up a one-time process to raise the debt limit to a specific number without requiring 60 votes to overcome procedural roadblocks.

Senate Republicans emerging from a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday said proposal will pass the Senate with at least 10 Republican votes. “I would expect to be able to be for it,” said Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team. “I think it’s less of a problem for us on the Medicare bill than it would have been on the defense authorization bill.”

A plan was percolating to attach a debt limit fix to the annual defense policy measure and move them together to check off two items off the legislative to-do list, but Republicans are saying no way, warning that the move would endanger the defense bill. The tandem approach was intended to end the partisan standoff in which Senate Republicans are refusing to help Democrats adjust the nation’s borrowing limit.

This would allow the debt ceiling to be raised in the Senate with only Democratic votes in the 50-50 chamber. Republicans had said they would not provide votes to help raise the debt ceiling again after doing so in October. The bill unveiled by the House Rules Committee combines a fast-track process for raising the debt ceiling with Medicare legislation.

The 10-page proposal would avert automatic cuts faced by physicians and other medical providers under Medicare, while setting up the special procedures designed to pave the way for the debt-limit hike in the Senate. A Senate Republican aide explained the legislation will set up a special one-time process to allow Democrats to pass a follow-up bill raising the debt limit to a specific number. Democrats could vote by simple majority to raise the debt limit high enough to cover federal spending obligations until after the 2022 midterm elections.

McConnell had previously mulled attaching the one-time fast-track process for passing future debt-limit legislation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which has strong bipartisan support. But that idea received strong push-back in the Senate GOP conference because Republican senators were unhappy at the prospect of having to vote against the popular defense bill to register their concerns about raising the debt limit.

Blunt said that members that don’t want to raise the debt limit “have an easier time” voting against Medicare legislation “than they would have voting against the defense authorization.” He predicted that 10 Republicans and “maybe more” would vote for the combined Medicare-fix bill and debt-limit fast-track process.

The effort to raise the government’s statutory debt limit does not allocate new spending, but merely empowers the Treasury to make good on obligations adopted over a span of decades by Congresses and presidents representing both parties. For that reason, it was once considered to be a non-controversial bookkeeping chore.

That changed dramatically with the rise of the Tea Party, which hammered deficit spending as an existential threat to the country and pressured GOP leaders to use the issue as leverage to extract other policy concessions.

Economy adds 210,000 jobs in November, well short of expectations
The U.S. economy added 210,000 jobs in November, far below economists’ expectations, while the unemployment rate plunged 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 percent, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The U.S. gained just half of the roughly 500,000 jobs economists expected to see added to payrolls as consumer spending rallied in the face of high inflation. The jobless rate, however, fell far lower than the 4.5 percent projected by analysts — even as labor market participation rose slightly.

November’s job report showed a confounding divergence between how many jobs employers added to their payrolls based on a survey of businesses and the overall strength of the labor market as reported by Americans. While the top-line jobs number fell far short of expectations, some analysts suggested it could be revised substantially next month given the broader signs of labor market strength.

“As has been the case several times this year, there are reasons to believe that this understates the improvement. Almost 6 million more people are employed compared to last November,” wrote Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, in an analysis

Fratantoni said seasonal adjustments based on pre-pandemic hiring patterns may have skewed the overall jobs gains lower and pointed to several previous jobs reports that were revised substantially higher. The Labor Department revised employment growth between June and September higher by 626,000 jobs, reflecting the challenges tracking a pandemic-roiled economy.

“The large decline in the unemployment rate to 4.2%, the increase in the labor force participation rate, and the almost 5% year-over-year gain in average hourly earnings all highlight the tightening job market,” Fratantoni wrote. “Coupled with the still elevated number of job openings, and this suggests that the economy is getting closer to full employment.”

Governor Pritzker Announces Applications Now Open for Nearly $300 Million in Additional COVID-19 Emergency Assistance for Illinois Renters and Landlords
Building on Illinois’ COVID-19 support response for Illinois renters and landlords, the Illinois Housing Development Authority announced that applications are now open for the second round of the Illinois Rental Payment (ILRPP) program, which Governor Pritzker announced on October 27.

The reopening of ILRPP will provide an additional $297 million to renters and landlords in an effort to prevent evictions and keep families safe and secure while they regain their financial footing. It is the third major housing relief initiative in response to the pandemic in Illinois, with the state executing the nation’s best assistance program in 2020.

Applications will be accepted beginning today through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at IHDA will begin processing applications as they are submitted, and money from this round will begin to be distributed to approved Illinoisans before the end of the calendar year. The additional ILRPP funding is expected to assist more than 32,500 Illinois households.

“I came into the governor’s office with a promise to rebuild and revitalize Illinois’ social services sector. That begins with doing everything possible so Illinoisans can find an affordable home and stay there,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Even with all the challenges of the pandemic, we are delivering on that promise. Illinois has given out more of our rental assistance to help vulnerable renters and their landlords than any other state. We are first in the nation at putting those dollars to work to support our state’s residents.”

ILRPP provides direct funding to support Illinois tenants unable to pay their rent due to a COVID-19-related loss of income. Approved applicants will receive one-time grants of up to $25,000, paid directly to their landlords on their behalf. If the landlord chooses not to participate in the program, tenants may receive payments directly to make rental payments. In this application round, assistance will cover up to 18 months of emergency rental payments, including up to 15 months of missed payments and up to three months of future payments. Rent owed from June 2020 through April 2022 may be paid for with ILRPP funds. Priority will be given to households earning less than 50% of AMI and to households with one or more members who have been unemployed for at least 90 days.

Tenant eligibility requirements:

  • Household lives in Illinois and rents their home as their primary residence.
  • Household must have experienced a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the pandemic.
  • Household income is below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), adjusted for household size.
  • Household must have an unpaid rent balance.
  • Proof of citizenship is not required. Rental assistance is not a “public charge” benefit.
  • Tenants residing in state- or federally subsidized housing are eligible to apply

Renters may apply for ILRPP assistance even if they received emergency rental assistance in the past through IHDA or one of the other units of government administering federal rental assistance. Households that received previous assistance, however, may not receive more than 18 months of total combined assistance, regardless of the source. In addition, households that received federal rental assistance previously may not receive further ILRPP payments for those same months previously covered. IHDA will adjust the ILRPP grant amount in these situations to avoid duplication of assistance.

In the first ILRPP application round, IHDA approved more than 62,400 applications and paid out $571 million on behalf of renters experiencing pandemic-related hardships. Approximately 55 percent of the approved applications assisted households who had been unemployed for more than 90 days, and 87 percent of approvals assisted very-low-income households to keep vulnerable tenants in their homes. The program provided an average of $9,152 per household. Since 2020, the Pritzker Administration has provided over $800 million in emergency rental assistance to help keep more than 108,500 Illinois seniors, families and others safely housed.

“I own three buildings with 17 rental units and, when that pandemic hit, I had tenants who struggled and could not pay rent due to loss of jobs or a reduction of income,” said property owner Luis Campoverde. “I work hard to pay my bills and to pay my mortgage, but the mortgage companies did not have any assistance for me, and loss of rent meant loss of ability to pay my bills. Luckily, I was able to get rental assistance through ILRPP for five of my tenants, and I want to share how happy I was to have this program available for my tenants and all the others out there still struggling.”

According to the latest report released from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Illinois continues to be a national leader in providing critical emergency rental assistance to vulnerable households impacted by the pandemic. Illinois leads all other states in disbursing the initial emergency rental assistance from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, with 94 percent of all funds allocated to the state, as well as directly to other municipalities, now in the hands of eligible renters and landlords as they regain their financial footing.

This new round of ILRPP is funded through an appropriation in the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2), which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021. The $1.9 trillion economic stimulus relief designed to speed up recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic included $21.55 billion allocated for state and local government rental assistance programs. IHDA and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) are the two agencies with the lead responsibility to provide statewide rental assistance on behalf of the state of Illinois. In addition, IHDA will be partnering with additional grantees in administering this vital assistance program to ensure this assistance gets to renters and landlords as expeditiously as able.

“Having stable housing is critical to families recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services. “IDHS and our non-profit partners are committed to provide linguistically and culturally-appropriate housing and legal assistance needed to prevent eviction and homelessness for those who need it most.”

In addition to ILRPP, as an extension and expansion of its current efforts, IDHS is assisting with the deployment of housing, utilities and legal assistance. The department also offers other types of support for those who are at risk of homelessness, providing direct legal representation and mediation, court-based rental assistance support and intensive case management interventions to address other barriers to housing stability that people may face. The available support services are designed with equitable policies and practices that focus on those most impacted by COVID-19 and those communities most vulnerable to experiencing homelessness.

For more information and updates on the program, please visit

Illinois Office of Tourism Honors Tourism Industry Leaders with Excellence in Tourism Awards and Silver Lining Stories
The 2021 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism kicked off Monday, Dec. 6, at Navy Pier in Chicago with an awards ceremony honoring tourism leaders’ contribution to the industry including special recognition for how communities responded throughout the pandemic.

This year, the new Silver Lining Stories initiative awards tourism attractions and business owners who rallied to support their communities and innovated under extremely challenging circumstances as they navigated the pandemic. Honorees were selected by their industry peers who voted via the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism Facebook page.

“I’m committed to making the investments necessary to renew our tourism industry and the communities it supports. We’ve deployed over $1 billion in relief to over ten thousand Illinois businesses in hundreds of cities and towns throughout our state,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’ve provided 7,500 hospitality grants totaling $265 million through the Business Interruption Grants and Back to Business Grants. And we’re distributing grants aimed at new and returning festivals and tourism attractions everywhere in our state.”

“Congratulations to the small businesses and community groups who were nominated for the Silver Lining Stories. Their stories spotlight the ingenuity, resilience and resourcefulness we saw in the tourism industry and across Illinois as folks pivoted to help each other and be in service to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sylvia I. Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Illinois Excellence in Tourism Award winners:

Best Niche Targeting Budget A – Heritage Corridor CVB, 2019 Heritage Corridor Ale Trail
Best Event or Festival Budget B – The Joliet Area Historical Museum, A Night Behind Bars

This year’s Illinois Excellence in Tourism program and Silver Lining Stories are presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism. The Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism is taking place in Chicago, Dec. 6-8, at the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier. The conference unites state leaders, travel experts and special guests to share the latest innovative ideas for promoting travel.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism manages industry efforts that result in sustainable and significant economic and quality-of-life benefits for Illinois residents.

Workers Quit Jobs in Droves to Become Their Own Bosses
The pandemic has unleashed a historic burst in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are striking out on their own as consultants, retailers and small-business owners.

The move helps explain the ongoing shake-up in the world of work, with more people looking for flexibility, anxious about covid exposure, upset about vaccine mandates or simply disenchanted with pre-pandemic office life. It is also aggravating labor shortages in some industries and adding pressure on companies to revamp their employment policies.

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs applied for federal tax-identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period of 2019, Census Bureau data show. That was the largest number on records that date back to 2004. Two-thirds were for businesses that aren’t expected to hire employees.

This year, the share of U.S. workers who work for a company with at least 1,000 employees has fallen for the first time since 2004, Labor Department data show. Meanwhile, the percentage of U.S. workers who are self-employed has risen to the highest in 11 years. In October, they represented 5.9% of U.S. workers, versus 5.4% in February 2020.

The self-employment increase coincides with complaints by many U.S. companies of difficulties—in some cases extreme—in finding and retaining enough employees. In September, U.S. workers resigned from a record 4.4 million jobs, Labor Department data show.

Part of the current shift to self-employment might prove temporary. The boom in self-employed day traders during the dot-com hoopla of the late 1990s deflated along with the stock bubble.

A sharp rise in savings—boosted by a federal supplement to unemployment benefits, most recently $300 a week, which was paid for as long as 18 months of the pandemic—provides some individuals a financial cushion to pursue self-employment. As they run down those savings, some might again want a regular paycheck, economists say.

In addition, if labor shortages ease, freelancers could face stiffer competition from companies in landing clients. Finally, if the pandemic recedes, so might one piece of the impetus to leave regular work in favor of self-employment. Five percent of unvaccinated adults say they left a job because of a vaccine requirement they opposed, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey in October.

Stay well,

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