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

Chamber members:

A little bit of old news that somehow escaped the last Roundup edition starts us off today. The Governor was in the area to talk about the new interchange in Joliet/Shorewood on I55. See below if you hadn’t heard already.

Don’t forget to check out the listings below about grant programs, studies, and webinars that may impact your organization.

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

Governor Pritzker Announce I-55 Improvements, New Interchange with Illinois 59 in Will County
Governor JB Pritzker joined the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), local officials, and community leaders to announce the start of multiple improvements to Interstate 55 through Joliet and Shorewood, including several capacity, access, and safety enhancements, highlighted by a new diverging diamond interchange with Illinois 59. The $93 million project is another major investment in Will County infrastructure through Gov. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital program to create jobs, improve mobility, and promote economic opportunity in a key part of the state.

“Through Joliet and Shorewood, I-55 serves nearly 60,000 vehicles a day, but there is only partial access to both communities at the Illinois 59 interchange,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Thanks to a $93 million investment from our Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan, we are making several capacity, access, and safety enhancements — all while building a new diverging diamond interchange with Illinois 59. This major project to rebuild I-55 and Illinois 59 is an investment in our communities, in our families, in our workers, and in our future — one that is prosperous for all Illinoisans.”

The centerpiece of the project involves IDOT building a new bridge to convert the I-55 interchange with Illinois 59 into a full-access, diverging-diamond design to improve safety and traffic flow, with the East Frontage Road relocated and reconstructed. Auxiliary lanes will be added to I-55 between the Illinois 59 and U.S. 52 interchanges to improve safety by better accommodating vehicles entering and leaving the interstate. The Illinois 59 intersection with Seil Road will be improved and modernized. Pedestrian access will be built across I-55, with the addition of sidewalks and a multiuse trail. New noise and retaining walls also will be built along I-55.

Advance work started in 2021. The entire project is expected to take two full constructions seasons to finish, with an anticipated completion date in late 2024 or early 2025.

“The Rebuild Illinois capital program has been transformational for our state, and I know the project announced today will benefit our area,” said Assistant Majority Leader Natalie Manley (D-Joliet). “I’d like to thank Gov. Pritzker for funding these critical improvements to Interstate 55, which will absolutely further the safety and efficiency of Will County’s transportation infrastructure.”

“I-55 serves as an economic lifeline for our region,” said Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). “Throughout the years, this roadway has become known as one of the state’s main logistics and distribution corridors. This has cemented Will County as an economic hub for our region. These improvements will ensure our communities are able to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

“Our highways, roads, and bridges connect our communities and provide businesses with a network to expand and grow throughout our region,” said Senator Eric Mattson (D-Joliet). “The investments we are making here will help create jobs, promote safe conditions for drivers and further set the stage for economic development in Will County.”

“This significant investment in Will County’s infrastructure will improve road safety, create jobs and support economic opportunity in our area,” said state Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr. (D-Elwood). “Will County and the 86th district are key parts of Illinois, and I am glad we are receiving the infrastructure investments we need.”

Working on the project will be graduates of the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, an IDOT-initiative partnering with South Suburban College in South Holland and Kennedy-King College in Chicago to provide minority and female students the opportunity to get on-the-job experience toward full-time work and a career in the construction trades.

Many other programmed road and bridge improvements in Will County are made possible by Rebuild Illinois, Gov. Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan capital program, including the $1.2 billion reconstruction of Interstate 80 and four other I-55 interchanges: $170.1 million for Airport Road/Lockport Road and at Illinois 126 in Romeoville as well as $140.4 million for Lorenzo Road and Illinois 129 near Braidwood. Also programmed in IDOT’s six-year multiyear program is $86.9 million for reconstruction and widening of U.S 52 from River Road to Houbolt Road in Joliet and Shorewood.

In addition, the new $80 million Weber Road diverging-diamond interchange with I-55 in Romeoville and Bolingbrook will be substantially complete later this fall.

“Under Gov. Pritzker’s leadership, IDOT is delivering a multitude of transportation improvements that will solidify Will County as one the country’s major inland ports and a jobs creator for the state,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Projects like these all across Illinois are improving quality of life and making our state an ideal location to start a career, build a business and raise a family.”

For local governments in Will County, Rebuild Illinois has meant an added $45.1 million in motor fuel tax revenues over the past three years to advance projects. Also, local governments have received $51.1 million in Will County as part of $1.5 billion earmarked for municipal, township, and county projects in Rebuild Illinois for road and bridge improvements, traffic signal upgrades, new storm sewers, sidewalk replacements and other long-term maintenance needs statewide.

Push to further boost Illinois rainy-day fund looms this fall
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza has stated that Illinois needs to have the intention to build upon what is now a $1 billion rainy-day fund into a fund greater than $2 to $3 billion when all is said and done. This figure would be necessary to deal with any future financial crises. She is urging for review this fall of laws that would be able to funnel extra income found into the once decimated fund.

With state coffers flush with higher-than-expected tax collections, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a fiscal 2023 spending plan in April that directed $1 billion to the state’s long-neglected price range stabilization fund. A recent deposit of $180 million pushed the price range stabilization fund up over the $1 billion mark.

Mendoza will press lawmakers throughout their annual fall veto session to support HB 4118 that puts in place triggers for greater deposits.

Making the Case for Cannabis Company Access to Capital
Some 2,100 cannabis entrepreneurs met this week at the Palmer House Hilton to hear about how capital can be infused into the burgeoning weed industry. It’s the kind of business break those attendees at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference dream about: the ability to secure capital or get a bank loan to build their businesses.

Lawmakers and executives headlining the panel discussions expressed some hope that the Senate might actually pass the SAFE Banking Act that would make it easier for cannabis businesses to access banking services. The measure has already received House support numerous times, but has so far gone nowhere in the Senate. The latest discussions on Capitol Hill have centered on whether the banking bill can be paired with some criminal justice provisions that would placate Democrats without alienating Republicans.

“In a town that moves at a glacial pace, we’ve made tremendous progress,” said Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican who’s long been an advocate for passage. “We’ve seen small victories.” John Sullivan, the executive vice president of Chicago-based Cresco Labs, one of the country’s largest cannabis companies, echoed Joyce.

“We’ve seen SAFE Banking passed six times in the House. This is the first time I’m optimistic,” he said during the panel discussion. “Politics can be posturing. A lot of talk, with two sides opposed. But for the first time we’re seeing senators, Republican and Democrat, talking about getting something done on cannabis.” There was rustling in the crowd at the comments, and a few folks rolled their eyes. They’ve heard it before.

Legislation that’s garnered less attention is the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act, which would allow for a different means of support to cannabis companies. Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.) said the bipartisan CLIMB Act “would remove a major barrier” keeping cannabis companies from trading on Wall Street — while Canadian companies already can.

More importantly, he said, the CLIMB Act would open up opportunities for businesses in under-served communities by allowing them to utilize services such as Small Business Administration loans and economic development programs that currently aren’t available to cannabis entrepreneurs.

Like the SAFE Banking Act, Carter said, CLIMB can’t pass without bipartisan support. To show how important it is, he gave a shout-out to Illinois Republican Congressman Rodney Davis who attended the event and backs the legislation. Davis and Carter also met with social equity cannabis entrepreneurs from Illinois and around the country. Davis said the CLIMB Act “should be easy” legislation to pass “even in a divided government” knowing that it helps so many people.

Retail Sales Grew Above Inflation in August
In August, retail sales rose 0.3%. With inflation at 0.1% last month, this means a real increase in spending. The ongoing consumer strength gives hope that it can keep the economy afloat while the Fed raises interest rates to fight inflation. One key thing to watch in the coming month is interest-sensitive spending categories.

The housing market is cooling with interest rates rising. We should expect a similar decline for other spending that relies on borrowing. The decline in spending at furniture and electronics and appliance stores follows this pattern. The rise in spending on cars bucks it, but the lingering supply chain issues for automotive companies means it may be an outlier.

Sales were up at motor vehicles and parts dealers (2.8%), building material and garden supply stores (1.1%), food and beverage stores (0.5%), clothing and accessory stores (0.4%), sporting goods and hobby stores (0.5%), general merchandise stores (0.5%), miscellaneous stores (1.6%), and food and drinking places (1.1%). They were down at furniture stores (1.3%), electronics and appliance stores (0.1%), health and personal care stores (0.6%), gas stations (4.2%), and non-store retailers (0.7%).

Health Grant Program Application Now Open
Will County is committed to supporting the response to and recovery from COVID-19. The County, using the allocation of over $134 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), a part of the American Rescue Plan, has dedicated over $25 million for community groups, healthcare partners, and non-profit organizations to support a strong, resilient, and equitable recovery. Will County is opening the application to entities supporting efforts to address food stabilization, behavioral health, violence prevention, and innovative response to improved health outcomes.

Illinois Secure Choice Deadline
By this November, all Illinois employers with 16 or more employees will need to offer their own retirement program. The alternative is to sign up for Illinois Secure Choice through the state.
The Small Business Majority group is hosting a webinar with Illinois Secure Choice Director, Christine Cheng.  Christine will share information on what small business owners need to know about the State of Illinois mandate to offer a retirement savings program.  In this webinar you will learn what’s required and how to sign up for the program.
Wed, September 28, 2022 / 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT
Register Here

Verizon Small Business Grants
Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is committed to helping small businesses grow. It’s why they’ve set up a program to arm businesses just like yours with the tools and resources needed to thrive in today’s digital economy. By joining this free program, you’ll get access to courses, live coaching sessions, and invaluable learning materials, as well as the potential to apply for an exclusive pool of $10,000 small business grants.
In partnership with LISC, Verizon has committed over $1M in small business grants for 2022. To unlock the application for the current round of grant funding, register on Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, complete any combination of two courses, coaching events, and community events, and apply by November 14, 2022. (Engagements through the Personalized Mentoring feature are not included toward grant eligibility).
Applications are now open and close on November 14, 2022. All applicants will be notified about whether or not they have been selected to receive grant funding the week of
November 28, 2022.
Register today!
Need help registering? Email or call +1(800)-916-4351

ACCESS Will County Paratransit Integration and Efficiency Study
Will County dial-a-ride, paratransit, and demand response services are critical to keeping residents connected to jobs, human services, and basic living needs, especially those with low incomes and/or disabilities. Will County has launched a mobility survey and needs your help reaching Will County residents. The survey closes on October 5th.
Will County is launching Access Will County to evaluate mobility options and paratransit services. The first initiative is the Paratransit Integration and Efficiency Study, which began in May and will be completed in May 2023. In partnership with Via Strategies and MUSE Community + Design, Will County seeks to:
•          Understand existing services,
•          Identify gaps and future needs, and
•          Evaluate alternatives for coordination of services
The survey is an essential part of this process. Hearing directly from dial-a-ride users, as well as from non-users, will offer important insights that data alone cannot provide.

Illinois Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Webinar
The Will County CED, in partnership with County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and the State of Illinois Commission on Equity and Inclusion, is hosting a free virtual webinar to educate small business owners about the Illinois Business Enterprise Program (BEP). The webinar will provide an overview of the benefits of BEP, an introduction to the certification process, and how the CED can connect businesses with local resources.
BEP helps small businesses owned by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities increase their capacity, grow revenue, and enhance credentials. In 2021, the State of Illinois awarded more than $800 million in BEP contracts to businesses. Please join this webinar to help us bring more of these opportunities to Will County Businesses!
Who qualifies for the BEP Program?

  • At least 51% owned and controlled by persons who are minority, women, or designated as disabled.
  • Must be a United States citizen or a resident alien
  • Annual gross sales of less than $75 million

We will cover:

  • BEP Eligibility and Requirements
  • Procurement Opportunities
  • Local CED Business Support
  • Small Business Set Aside Program
  • Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)

Find out more and register HERE for Workshop Webinar!   Thursday, September 29 – 1pm – 2pm

Stay well,

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