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

Chamber members:

For those that couldn’t join us this past Wednesday, here is the link to the State of the City address from Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk –

Today’s Roundup shares some great news for local projects funded by the federal spending bill. The bill moved quickly through the House and Senate this week after behind the scenes negotiations and just awaits the signature of President Biden. Also, a few new state bills and reports to share.

Enjoy your weekend, but first mark your calendar for our next Legislative Coffee. We’ll be virtually meeting with IDOT Secretary Osman and a few others to talk about all of our regional ongoing transportation topics. Join us on March 23rd!

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

Congressman Foster Secures Nearly $19 Million in Community Project Funding for 11th District
Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) announced that all 10 Community Project Funding (CPF) requests he made on behalf of the 11th Congressional District of Illinois were included in the final House-passed omnibus spending bill for a total of $18,870,000.

Under guidelines issued by the Appropriations Committee, each Representative could request funding for up to 10 projects in their community for Fiscal Year 2022. Projects were restricted to a limited number of federal funding streams, and only state and local governments and eligible non-profit entities were permitted to receive funding. Additional information on the reforms governing Community Project Funding is available here. In compliance with House Rules and Committee requirements, Congressman Foster has certified that he and his immediate family have no financial interest in any of the projects selected. Links to these certification forms are available here.

“During my time in Congress, it’s always been one of my top priorities to ensure Illinois receives its fair share of federal resources, and I am proud to announce this community project funding that will benefit countless people in our district,” Foster said. “We received many worthy project submissions and narrowing it down to 10 wasn’t easy, but I am proud of the projects that were selected and the opportunity they represent to improve our community.”
The Omnibus appropriations bill will now go to the Senate for a vote and if passed, to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The 10 projects that will receive funding for the 11th Congressional District are:
(Listed in alphabetical order)

360 Youth Services
Amount funded: $3,000,000
Project description
360 Youth Services is one of only two major LGBTQ+ homeless and at-risk youth housing organizations within the state of Illinois. 360 Youth Services is seeking a Youth Affordable Housing Resource Center to provide youth-specific housing and homelessness prevention services in DuPage, Kane, Will and the additional surrounding counties.
The Center will be a regional access point for trauma-informed mental health care, crisis intervention, family services, vocational training, educational support, rental assistance, legal aid and LGBTQ+ affirming services for ages 13-24. Non-congregate design will provide safe shelter during health emergencies, ability to meet changing needs for shelter, and safe, dignified shelter for youth of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

City of Joliet
Amount funded: $3,500,000
Project description
The City of Joliet is in the process of developing a new Lake Michigan water source to replace the City’s existing groundwater source, which will no longer be able to meet demands by 2030. Declining water levels make the aquifer unsustainable as a long-term water source for Joliet and other nearby communities. For its new Lake Michigan water source, the city will purchase finished water from the City of Chicago and pump it more than 30 miles. This option was selected after a thorough evaluation of alternatives, in which other sources were ruled out due to the inability to obtain sufficient and consistent quantities of water and/or potential challenges in meeting future treatment requirements. The project aims also to address a broader regional water shortage. The project funds will be used to replace aged, leaking watermains in the City of Joliet’s distribution system in order to reduce non-revenue water, a requirement to become a Lake Michigan water user.

Cornerstone Services
Amount funded: $1,050,000
Project description
Cornerstone Services provides progressive, comprehensive services for people with disabilities, promoting choice, dignity, and the opportunity to live and work in the community. The agency is a recognized leader in providing the support necessary for individuals with disabilities to live and work in the community and are guided by the belief that people with disabilities are entitled to live in their own communities and make choices for themselves, like everybody else.
Cornerstone is seeking funding for the construction of a Wellness Center. The Wellness Center includes additional professional offices, bathrooms, a fitness club, warming kitchen, and a large meeting room. The offices would provide space for nursing, behavioral care, clinical staff, and other professionals dedicated to the holistic well-being of consumers, many of whom are diagnosed with a mental illness or co-occurring mental illness/substance use disorder. The fitness club would be free of charge and provide a safe and accommodating space for those with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Housing Authority of Joliet
Amount funded: $3,000,000
Project description
The City of Joliet, Will County and the Chicagoland Metropolitan Region have a substantial deficit of affordable housing units. Affordable housing for low to middle income, working families is currently a priority across the State of Illinois and the nation as a whole to support the continuation of economic growth and diversity in home ownership. HAJ is proposing to purchase a shuttered golf course and utilize the 147 acres to build affordable and market rate housing, homes for a homeownership program and community amenities.
The funding would be used towards Phase 1 of this five-year project leading to affordable housing for low to middle income working families to support the economic growth and diversity in local communities.

Joliet Area Historical Museum
Amount funded: $3,000,000
Project description
The Old Joliet Prison is primarily managed by the Joliet Area Historical Museum, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit entity, in partnership with the City of Joliet. The funding will be used to course correct the trajectory of the conditions of these buildings and ensure the safety of staff and guests. The Prison Rehabilitation plans has labor and construction partners who are willing to stretch every dollar for maximum use. The project is “shovel ready” and in accordance with the economic recovery from the global pandemic, will help to create and sustain much-needed construction jobs, while restoring an historically and culturally significant site in an economically challenged area of the city.

Public Action to Deliver Shelter Inc. DBA Hesed House
Amount funded: $1,620,000
Project description
Hesed House is the second-largest homeless shelter in the State of Illinois, and the largest shelter outside of the city of Chicago. This project would convert a 16,000 square foot warehouse space to a 24/7/365 social-distanced shelter connected to their Comprehensive Resource Center (CRC), where case management occurs, helping people with counseling through traumatic experiences, financial guidance, job guidance, and more. Most critically, this project would allow Hesed House to no longer require adults in their overnight emergency shelter program to leave the property during daytime hours. This will create greater access to and engagement in the critical health and human services in the CRC needed by up to 323 guests to end their homelessness.

Quad County Urban League
Amount funded: $425,000
Project description
Quad County Urban League (QCUL) was founded in 1975 by a diverse group of local leaders responding to the absence of a community-based organization to address the needs for academic achievement, job placement and training, equal access to employment, housing and cultural enrichment for low-income and displaced citizens.
The QCUL Aurora Youth Careers Program for Construction and TDL (Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics) will serve academically at-risk, homeless and low-income, or unemployed youth, ages 16-24, who are out-of-school or attend Aurora Public Schools and who reside in Congressional District 11. Participants will enroll in the program for education and skills training to enter a registered apprenticeship and/or gain entry-level employment in construction or TDL industries. The Aurora Youth Careers Program will improve the quality of life for low-income residents who are lacking constructive job skills. These career opportunities are life changing for residents who are members of historically underrepresented populations.

Stepping Stones, Inc.
Amount funded: $2,000,000
Project description
Stepping Stones, Inc. is a not-for-profit providing clinical services and recovery support for those seeking treatment for substance use disorders. Stepping Stones proposes to construct an 8-unit apartment building on their property at 1621 Theodore Street and 1620 Plainfield Road. Seven units will house a mother and 1 or 2 of her children. Each unit would be 750 sq. ft and include 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. One unit would house a House Manager and an Assistant House Manager. Recovery based housing for women and their children is not available in Joliet and the surrounding area. Lack of access to safe housing and other auxiliary services is a significant barrier to recovery, especially for women with families.

Tri-Council Development Fund
Amount funded: $975,000
Project description
The Tri-Council Development Fund will develop and facilitate an Industrial Painting Pre-apprenticeship (IPP) program in industrial painting in direct cooperation with unionized industrial painting apprenticeship programs throughout Illinois. The IPP will develop individuals, particularly women and minorities, to enter and continue in the industrial painting trade. Aurora, Illinois-based North Central Illinois Finishing Trades Institute (NCIFTI) will function as the main training partner.  The IPP will also be held through apprenticeship programs in Chicago (affiliated with Painters District Council No. 14) and Southern Illinois (Painters District Council No. 58), having an expansive and regional impact. Each program is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. Funds will support the costs of training and student support services that mitigate barriers to persistence in apprenticeship.

Will-Grundy Medical Clinic
Amount funded: $300,000
Project description
The Will-Grundy Medical Clinic is a not-for-profit organization that provides free medical and dental care to adults who have no health insurance or medical care entitlements. Care is provided by physicians, dentists and other professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to the Clinic. Their Housing, Healthcare and Hope Program (HHH) focuses on facilitating comprehensive healthcare access for individuals who are experiencing housing insecurity/homelessness.
They are requesting funds to renovate a 120-year-old facility for a program that provides access to comprehensive, quality health care services including behavioral health services coupled with targeted and intensive housing and case management services. The program will provide an addition 1,000 mental health visits per year to Will County, addressing health-related needs of people who are homeless or at-risk Stable housing is fundamental to both maintaining good health and minimizing the costs of unnecessary emergency room utilization and hospital admissions.

Lawmakers reach $1.5T deal on government funding package
Congressional negotiators have reached a bipartisan deal on a $1.5 trillion sprawling omnibus package to fund the government, as pressure mounts on lawmakers to wrap up spending talks under the wire amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

The legislation includes what Democrats have lauded as the biggest increase to nondefense discretionary spending in four years. The GOP has also touted a $42 billion increase for defense spending in the package, saying the deal achieves dollar-for-dollar parity for defense and nondefense increases.

The bill also will include about $14 billion in emergency funding to boost humanitarian, security and economic assistance for Ukraine and central European allies amid the Russian invasion, in addition to over $15 billion in COVID-19 supplemental funding offset by rescission of previously appropriated funds.

The bill moved at lightning speed through Congress, passing the House less than 24 hours after it was unveiled early Wednesday morning. The Senate passed a massive bill late Thursday evening to fund the government and provide new Ukraine-related aid, sending the 2,741-page bill to President Biden’s desk. Senators voted 68-31 on the bill that came less than two days after the bill was introduced.

The Senate also passed by voice vote a days-long continuing resolution to buy time to get the massive legislation, which funds the government through the end of September, to Biden’s desk, after which he’s expected to sign it.

Inflation and Jobs Update
U.S. inflation had been estimated to have climbed to another four-decade high in February with skyrocketing energy and commodity prices related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine expected to push costs even higher. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal expected that the Labor Department would report that the consumer-price index hit a 7.8% annual rate in February. The index for goods and services across the economy is measured throughout the month.

President Biden got a jolt of political pain on Thursday with the actual release of new data showing inflation reaching a 40-year high of 7.9 percent. The startling figure was a reminder, even amid the international crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the fate of Democrats in this November’s midterm elections will be decided by issues close to home.

The Labor Department on Wednesday said there were 11.3 million job openings in January, down slightly from the previous month’s revised 11.4 million—a new high.

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund News
SB 2803 amendment 2, UI Trust fund passed out of the Senate by a vote of 33-15-0. This bill appropriates $2,000,000,000 from the State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Fund to the Department of Employment Security for payment to the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund for partial repayment of Title XII advances, including prior year cost. This bill is a vehicle/placeholder for further discussion. The agreed bill process on this matter is still ongoing.

Gov. Pritzker and DCEO Launch $3.5 Million Investment in ‘Regional Planning to Spur Economic Recovery’ (RISE) Program
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a $3.5 million investment to accelerate local economic recovery initiatives. Through the launch of the Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Development (RISE) initiative, the State will offer competitive grants to help local governments and economic development organizations (EDOs) create new regional or local plans to promote economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. After the grants are awarded and plans are created, DCEO will offer grantees the opportunity to apply for funding for specific projects included in their plans. This program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“My administration is launching the RISE grant program to ensure an economic recovery that puts the local needs of communities at the heart of the conversation,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With these grants, local governments can better craft economic development plans that reflect the specific impact of the pandemic on their region. This is a key component of my $1.5 billion economic plan to revitalize the economy, and I invite communities in need to apply for this support.”

With the RISE Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), DCEO is seeking grant applications to accelerate Illinois’ economic recovery by developing new or updating local, regional, or community-centered economic plans. Grant awards will be up to $150,000.  RISE empowers local governments and regional EDOs to create meaningful plans that align with the state’s overarching economic plan, with a focus on specific initiatives and investments that support recovery from the pandemic.

“Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we are helping local Illinois communities identify what they need to build back stronger and better, which will help continue our state’s robust economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia I. Garcia. “The RISE program will provide the resources localities need to conduct meaningful economic planning processes that utilize the expertise of local and regional partners who know the needs of their communities best.  These plans will include tangible next steps to help communities recover from the pandemic – like reactivating commercial corridors, building more affordable housing, or making investments that improve quality of life – that will then be eligible for follow on implementation grants from DCEO.”

Grants will reimburse awardees for costs associated with developing an economic recovery plan, including salaries or contractual costs, research, outreach, and public meetings as well as expenses associated with administering the grant, such as meeting space rentals and printing.  The NOFO application is open and will continue accepting applications through May 9, 2022.

DCEO is accepting applications from units of local government and economic development organizations. The program calls for plans that will address job losses and business closures, adaptation to shifting economic trends in the area, and critical economic and public health infrastructure.  Applications for recipients that face financial and capacity constraints, or that propose a plan for an area with a concentration of underserved communities or a high impact of COVID-19 will be prioritized for an award. Following the first phase of RISE, grantees will have the opportunity to apply for grants to fund specific initiatives or investments outlined in their economic plans.
Plans will be required to include specific initiatives or capital investments that will accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and that are eligible for ARPA funding. Regions covered by plans can have a regional scope or be more focused on a community level. Grantees will be required to assemble stakeholders to represent a community or region, conduct research on prospective economic assets and challenges, conduct outreach with local and regional stakeholders, and develop strategies that address the impacts of COVID-19 and that are tailored to the strengths and vulnerabilities of the community and region. Where possible, community plans developed through the RISE program should align with goals and areas of focus included in the Governor Pritzker’s 5-year Economic Plan to Revitalize the Economy.

RISE is a key component of Governor Pritzker’s plan to revitalize the economy, bring people back to work and support local business and communities amid the fallout of the pandemic. This program builds on the $250 million Back to Business (B2B) grants program, $45 million Rebuild Illinois Downtown and Main Streets, and $10 million for Tourism Attraction and Festival Promotion grants. These programs are underway now, and actively awarding funds for communities and businesses across the state.

The deadline to apply for the Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Development (RISE) Grant Program is May 9, 2022. DCEO will be hosting an overview and technical assistance session on the new program on March 17th for prospective applicants – register online for the free webinar here. For updates on the program or other upcoming economic recovery grant opportunities, please check DCEO’s website.

Surging prices spur talks of repealing Illinois’ gasoline tax
As gasoline prices approach $5 a gallon, some are calling for the repeal of Illinois’ gas tax. When Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office in January 2019, total state gas taxes totaled 31 cents. Now they are up to 63 cents. With 19 more cents tacked on from the federal government, Illinoisans are feeling the pain at the pump.

During a stop in Bloomington Wednesday, Pritzker said it is tough all over. “It’s not an Illinois-specific problem,” the governor said. “This is literally every country in the world is experiencing this and every state in the United States.”

Illinoisans currently pay the second highest taxes on gas in the country, a number that doubled after Pritzker took office due to the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois multi-year capitol construction plan. That measure doubled the state’s gas tax and included annual gas tax increases tied to inflation, among other tax and fee increases.

Pritzker has proposed freezing the annual gas tax increase this year, but it would only be a temporary move and the tax would still be more than double than just a few years ago.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, told The Center Square the state gasoline tax should be repealed entirely. “That is one of the most regressive taxes that we have,” Wilhour said. “It disproportionately burdens working-class folks and disproportionately burdens rural folks.” Several Democratic governors are calling on the federal government to suspend the federal gas tax but Pritzker has not indicated whether he is on board.

While in office, Pritzker has been an advocate of the green and environmental movements and their policies. On Wednesday, he was asked what can be done about surging gas prices. “I guess if you can find any silver lining it might be that people will more likely choose when they go to buy a new car to go to electric,” Pritzker said.

Illinois lawmakers advance pension buyout extension fueled by $1B of bonding
The Senate Pensions Committee advanced the legislation laid out in HB 4292 in a bipartisan vote Wednesday, setting the stage for a floor vote later this month, according to committee Chairman Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago. The measure passed the House Feb. 24 and has Gov. Pritzker’s support.

“What this bill does is simply authorize the administration to issue another billion of bonds and extend this buyout program in an attempt to capture further savings,” Martwick said. “By using bonds to pay for the buyouts we are leveraging those returns even further because we are getting low-cost bonds and we are leaving assets in the pension system.”

Pension and Rainy-Day Funding Mandate Proposal
Governor Pritzker’s 2023 budget proposal includes significant boosts to the state’s rainy day ($879 million) and pension stabilization funds ($500 million). Comptroller Susana Mendoza and other Democrats are proposing a change to state law that would mandate consistent payments into both funds when the state’s bill backlog is low.

Officially known as the Budget Stabilization Fund, it was created in 2001 as a reserve so the state could pay its bills in a timely manner, especially during regular months of the year when revenues are lower than other months. The goal was to maintain a reserve fund equal to 5 percent of the state’s annual revenues.

Current law, however, requires deposits into the fund only when the state’s general revenue estimates increase by 4 percent or more over the prior year, something Mendoza said has not happened since the fund was created.

A subject hearing on that bill, HB 4118, is scheduled. Rather than being triggered by higher-than-expected revenues, the bill would mandate automatic monthly transfers of about $17 million into the rainy day and pension funds when the bill backlog stands at less than $3 billion (the bill backlog currently stands at $4 billion).

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct