Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
President Biden is scheduled to deliver his inaugural State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress tonight at 8 PM. More on this below in today’s Roundup. We also need your voice on an issue. We’ve shared the importance of replenishing the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and reports are coming out that only half of the debt will be repaid with ARPA funds. That means in order to stay away from penalties, businesses will be hit hard to fund the remainder. See below how you can assist in pushing the narrative of how crucial this item is.
Don’t forget about our March luncheon on the 9th as we welcome Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk as he delivers his State of the City address. This is your opportunity to hear what happened in 2021 and what is on the horizon for the year 2022.
More information here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2022-member-lunch-march-9-state-of-the-city-6381
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Call to Action on Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund
The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is the state’s financial reserve for unemployment claims. When the COVID pandemic forced many businesses to lay off or terminate
employees, the number of unemployment claims skyrocketed. The uncertainty of the pandemic
timeline and increased system fraud left a void in the trust fund that required federal assistance to
help maintain benefits.
Today, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund faces a $4.5 billion deficit. If not addressed by
November 2022, millions of dollars more in interest will be levied onto the fund. Resolving the
deficit must be the top priority for the Illinois legislature. Without action, businesses across the
state will see higher taxes and those people seeking unemployment benefits will have their
benefit duration and amount reduced. The growing deficit will impact businesses of all sizes and
industries and further stunt economic recovery.
Illinois has an opportunity to address this deficit using the one-time American Rescue Plan Act
(ARPA) funding from the federal government. The state can put all remaining ARPA dollars into
the fund to offset the deficit to help prevent higher taxes on the business community.
Our chamber is a member of Chambers All In for Economic Recovery. This Coalition is 40 plus chambers strong from every corner of the state advocating for policy, legislation, and regulation to help Illinois businesses recover from the pandemic. Addressing the UI Trust Fund deficit is a
top priority for Chambers All In for Economic Recovery Coalition.
As part of the Coalition’s platform for action, we want to make your voice, concerns and story
heard. Suppose your business was affected by COVID related induced layoffs/terminations, or you have problems resulting from inaction on the unemployment trust fund. In that case, we
ask you to share your story. The Chambers All In Coalition is putting this call forward to
businesses from across the state as there is great power in numbers and businesses’ voices are particularly powerful.
Your story may be part of a campaign urging our legislators to address this critical issue. Should
you be willing to share your story publicly, we ask that you submit this brief form
here. Your business’ name and other identifying information are entirely optional. We must help elected officials understand how your business and workforce have been or will be impacted by a growing deficit in the trust fund.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com or 815.727.5373. Please strongly consider adding your story ASAP!
New Report from Moody’s Analytics on State Economy
Illinois’ economy so far has held its own in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, with 2021 job growth actually exceeding averages for the Midwest and the country. But that growth spurt is unlikely to continue in the future, according to a new report by Moody’s Analytics that expects the state to return to its prior pattern of expanding income, jobs and especially population slower than most of America.
The report, prepared with Moody’s Economic & Consumer Credit Analytics for the General Assembly’s fiscal research arm, is a huge mixture of sometimes conflicting data suggesting that, as in recent decades, different parts of Illinois are on different tracks.
The report shows Chicago area and Champaign-Urbana doing well and in a much better position to grow their economies than the rest of the state. But overall, the headwinds that have held back Illinois as whole back are likely to return soon, with job growth over the next five years projected to be 3.9% in Illinois, compared with 3.6% in the Midwest and 5.5% nationwide.
The big problems: supply chain snafus, a slow return of international visitors, continuing state fiscal problems and especially persistent outmigration. Says the report dourly on the latter point, “Additional (population) losses are in store.”
First the good news—and there is some.
Though Illinois’ economy was hit harder by COVID than much of the country, it recently snapped back. Total jobs increased 4.7% in 2021, compared with 4.5% in the U.S. and 3.7% in the Midwest.
Growth in metropolitan Chicago about matched the state’s figures, but the city actually is in better shape than it appears. “The workforce is growing at a solid clip, in contrast with the state as whole,” the report says.
Transportation, warehousing and wholesale trade account for 13% of output in Chicago and Illinois, vs. 10% in the U.S. Among Midwest states, only Nebraska and North Dakota are more dependent on this cluster of industries, the report says: “Even as e-commerce growth decelerates following the pandemic-fueled boom, internet retail sales will uphold strong demand for logistics services and cause transportation/warehousing to best other industries in job creation. The state will have an advantage in securing future investment because of its central location, low costs, transportation advantages and agglomeration economies.”
On the other hand, the loss of population has accelerated in recent years and almost certainly will continue, the report says. Some of that is due to tight limits on international immigration during the Trump years, when federal policy drastically reduced the number of people moving to Illinois from abroad from about 40,000 a year to a quarter of that. But migration within the country is a bigger problem, and that demographic change eventually becomes self-reinforcing, the report says.
Overall business costs in the state are slightly lower than in the country as a whole, with energy costs a bright spot. The overall tax burden is relatively high, but not extraordinarily so, with Illinois getting an index rating of 104 with the nation as a whole 100. At least one of the core problems facing Illinois is that with a declining population, the state has a smaller tax base to pay off old pension debt, the report says.
The bottom line of the report, prepared for the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability: “Illinois has what it takes to remain a top business center, so long as it can solve the fiscal problems that are eroding its edge in the competition for talent, jobs and capital.”
Governor Pritzker Issues Updated Executive Order with New Mask Guidelines
With COVID-19 positivity rates continuing to decline and the majority of eligible Illinoisans vaccinated, today Governor Pritzker released an updated executive order lifting the mask requirement in most indoor settings. In accordance with CDC guidance, the executive order also lifts the mask requirement in K-12 schools and daycares. School districts and private businesses can continue to require masks at their discretion.
“Across the state, Illinoisans are taking their masks off today knowing that most eligible adults are boosted, and our hospitals have much more capacity to save lives,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud that Illinoisans have done the hard work that has made our state a leader in the Midwest, with more of our residents vaccinated than any other state in the region. All Illinois residents, regardless of background or immigration status, can go to vaccines.gov to find a vaccine location near you.”
To continue protecting Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, all long-term care facilities are required to continue following guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding the use of face coverings. Masks are currently required for all residents, staff, and visitors to long-term care facilities, congregate facilities (i.e. – correctional facilities and homeless shelters) and in healthcare settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Additionally, pursuant to federal mandates, all individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face covering on public transportation including, but not limited to, planes, trains, and buses and while in transportation hubs such as airports and bus stations.
Illinois remains a standout in the Midwest for its vaccination rates. Illinois is home to the highest percentage of residents who have received a COVID-19 vaccine as well as the highest percentage of vaccinated and fully vaccinated 5–17-year-olds.
Vaccines continue to be readily available at pharmacies across the state, many local health departments, doctor offices, federally qualified health centers, and other locations. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.
State of the Union address will seek to revive dormant budget reconciliation bill
President Joe Biden will use part of his first State of the Union address Tuesday to revamp his pitch to Congress on passing his stalled social safety net and climate package, focusing on how the budget measure can lower costs for families and reduce the deficit.
The messaging shift seems designed to appeal to the sole Democratic senator holding up the budget reconciliation package, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III, as well as a broader electorate worried about inflation driving up the cost of living.
“The president will call on Congress to send him legislation that reduces the cost of everyday expenses that working families face and reduces the deficit by rewarding work, not wealth,” a senior administration official told reporters Monday on a call previewing the economic portions of Biden’s address.
“He will lay out specific practical measures that would reduce costs for families right now, including prescription drug costs and health care premiums, childcare costs and energy costs,” an official added. “He will also point to the other ideas he has proposed on areas ranging from housing to care for seniors and people with disabilities to higher education affordability to direct tax relief for families.”
Those policy ideas are all part of a $2.2 trillion budget reconciliation package the House passed in November that Manchin is opposing.
The administration officials did not mention Manchin or whether Biden would pitch a scaled-down version of the package that the West Virginia Democrat can support. But their emphasis on lowering costs for families and reducing the deficit drive at Manchin’s primary concerns, which is that Democrats shouldn’t approve trillions of dollars in new spending while inflation remains high, and that the party needs to focus more on fiscal responsibility.
Democrats also appear to be rebranding the measure, which they previously dubbed “Build Back Better,” after Biden’s 2020 campaign slogan. In recent months, some top Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have suggested it may need a new name, as the measure stalled and is likely to undergo significant changes in the Senate.
The administration officials demurred when asked if Biden would actually use the words “Build Back Better” in his speech. “It’s not about the name of the bill. It’s about the ideas. It’s about lowering costs for families,” one official said.
The aides didn’t say whether Biden would call for a specific deficit reduction target, but they noted their belief that the budget reconciliation package would reduce the deficit. The measure is largely paid for through tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals, prescription drug cost savings and enhanced tax enforcement.
The Congressional Budget Office does not predict revenue gains as generous as the White House does from increased IRS spending to boost tax enforcement, and, as a result, estimated the package would increase deficits by $160 billion over 10 years. Taking the Treasury Department’s more ambitious revenue estimate from tax enforcement, the White House last year produced an informal estimate that said the measure would reduce deficits by more than $100 billion in the first decade and by as much as $2 trillion in the second.
It’s unclear if Biden will pitch additional offsets in his State of the Union speech. The administration officials said only that they would “outline proposals to make sure that corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share, while making clear that no one making under $400,000 a year should see their taxes increase.” That would apply to the limited tax increases in the package, as well as others like rate increases that Biden proposed but Congress cut amid opposition from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
Lowering costs of everyday expenses while reducing the deficit is just one plank of a four-part economic plan Biden plans to lay out in his State of the Union. He will also discuss ideas for strengthening supply chains and making more goods in America; promoting competition to lower prices while protecting consumers and helping small businesses thrive; and eliminating barriers to good-paying American jobs.
Other domestic priorities
In addition to the social safety net and climate package, Biden will ask Congress to act on several other measures that have stalled in the Senate after House passage: a labor package designed to strengthen collective bargaining rights; a bill that seeks to eliminate gender pay disparities; a measure to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour; and legislation enacting a national paid family and medical leave program, which the House included in the budget reconciliation package.
The Senate will most likely not heed many of those requests given Republican opposition to the proposals and the need for 60 votes to end debate on legislation outside of the budget reconciliation process.
In a request Congress may be able to meet, Biden will call on lawmakers to send him bicameral competitiveness legislation reconciling House and Senate bills designed to boost domestic research and development, innovation and production to allow the U.S. to better compete with China. Biden will also tout the economic benefits of legislation Congress passed last year, including a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law and a bipartisan infrastructure law.
He will lay out specific infrastructure metrics he expects to meet in the coming year of the latter law’s implementation, including improving 65,000 miles of roads and 1,500 bridges; over 600 airport projects; 15,000 new public transit buses, ferries and subway cars; more than 500 Army Corps of Engineers projects to strengthen supply chains, improve waterways and reduce flooding; and about 400 new water projects replacing lead pipes and improving drinking water.
Biden will also announce executive orders focused on antitrust actions designed to lower costs in the ocean shipping industry and initiatives to improve conditions in nursing homes. In addition to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-led initiatives for the latter, Biden will call on Congress to appropriate nearly $500 million to CMS to support health and safety inspections at nursing homes and to raise the dollar limit on financial penalties levied on poor-performing facilities from $21,000 to $1,000,000 per instance.
Building Blocks of Success: IDOT announces March dates for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program workshops
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops in March as part of its continuing Building Blocks of Success series for firms interested in participating in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, strengthening their skills and bidding on state construction projects.
The workshop dates and topics are:
• March 16, 10 a.m. to noon: Force Account (T&M) Work
• March 17, 10 a.m. to noon: Contracts
• March 21, 10 a.m. to noon: Materials A to Z
• March 22, 10 a.m. to noon: Getting Paid
• March 24, 10 a.m. to noon: Daily Documentation
Future topics covered include understanding insurance and bonding requirements, scheduling work, avoiding pitfalls, steps needed to be certified as a DBE firm and more.
Building Blocks of Success will continue through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, is available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required.
Questions can be directed to IDOT’s DBE Resource Center at (312) 939.1100.
As part of Gov. Pritzker’s historic and bipartisan Rebuild Illinois program, IDOT is helping to deliver the largest capital program in state history. IDOT strives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the implementation of this program, including contracting and workforce participation.
Administered by IDOT, the DBE program provides minorities, women and other eligible small businesses opportunities to participate in highway, transit and airport contracts that are federally and state funded. For more information on becoming a certified DBE and learning more about IDOT resources that are available, visit www.idot.illinois.gov/dbe.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry