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

Chamber members:

A continuing resolution was struck so that the federal government didn’t have to shutdown which is always good news. If you haven’t seen yet, our October member luncheon will feature our Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant carrying on the tradition of delivering here “State of the County” address to our membership. It will take place Wednesday, the 19th of October at the 176 West Banquet facility. You can register to attend here.

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

Continuing Resolution Passes
The House on Friday passed a short-term funding bill to keep the government running for the next few months, narrowly avoiding a shutdown just hours until the midnight deadline. The Democratic-led House voted 230-201, largely along party lines, to advance the legislation as GOP leadership urged their members to reject the bill over disagreements about the timing and policy areas like border funds.

The legislation, known as a continuing resolution, passed the Senate on Thursday and now heads to President Biden’s desk for approval. The measure will allow the government to remain funded at the current spending levels through Dec. 16. Negotiators say it will give them more time to work out a larger agreement over how to fund the government for fiscal 2023, which began this past Saturday.

The legislation also includes more than $12 billion in security and financial assistance for Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s ongoing invasion, as well as funding for disaster relief. The White House requested emergency funding in both areas earlier this month.

More than 200 Republicans voted against the bill on Friday as GOP leaders accuse Democrats of not doing more to address border security, supply chains and inflation. Republicans in both chambers have also taken issue with the length of the continuing resolution, with many pushing to put off working out spending levels for the coming fiscal year until January, when the next Congress begins.

The House vote on Friday comes days after lawmakers cleared one of the biggest hurdles to Congress greenlighting the bill: a permitting reform proposal offered by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin had previously struck a deal with Democratic leadership to use the must-pass funding bill as a vehicle for the permitting reform measure, aimed at speeding up the approval process for energy infrastructure projects, in exchange for his vote on Democrats’ sweeping tax, climate and health care bill last month.

The proposal was stripped from the funding bill this week following growing opposition from Democrats and Republicans that threatened final passage of the overall legislation. More than a handful of Senate Democrats had called for the continuing resolution and the energy proposal to be delinked after their colleagues in the House began to line up against it over concerns it would undercut environmental reviews. At the same time, Republicans argued the reforms didn’t go far enough while drawing red lines around the issue.

The package passed on Friday also excludes supplemental funding for the nation’s coronavirus and monkeypox response, despite a request by the White House for billions of dollars, after Senate Republicans opposed the ask. The back-and-forth underscores the challenges Democrats have faced in passing funding priorities in Congress, with razor-thin majorities in both chambers.

Anticipation is building on Capitol Hill around the coming midterm elections, which members on both sides say will likely be a major factor in larger funding talks for fiscal 2023. The House began its weeks-long recess when members left Washington on Friday, and it’s unclear how much work appropriators will be able to get done between now and November.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, told The Hill on Thursday that she thinks Republicans “want to wait until after the elections” to hash out spending, though she added she thinks “there’ll be conversation” in the meantime. But lawmakers will face a time crunch after the midterms to finish work on the fiscal 2023 spending bill, setting the stage for another shutdown showdown in December as Congress also stares down an end-of-year deadline for a defense authorization bill and other measures.

Pressed about the chances of Congress having an omnibus spending bill by the next deadline, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill on Thursday: “If the past is any indication of what’s going to happen in the future, we’d be lucky for that to happen.”

Illinois Economy Positive News
Whatever its woes, Illinois’ economy remains a national leader and stands above that of any other Midwest state thanks to a boost from the Chicago area. That’s the bottom line of a new report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research group, and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Using new federal data, the report says the size of Illinois’ total economy has passed the $1 trillion mark in annualized GDP. The state first crossed that threshold in the first quarter of 2022, according to quarterly estimates from the U.S. Department of Commerce and hit $1.024 trillion in the second quarter of this year. Illinois is just the fifth state to top $1 trillion in annualized GDP, joining California, Texas, New York and Florida.

One note, though: those figures are in nominal, non-inflation-adjusted dollars. And the authors concede that Illinois, “has been growing more slowly than the rest of the U.S.” That being said, Illinois’ Q2 number is 20% higher than the closest Midwest state, Ohio ($818 billion), and more than double that of Indiana ($452 billion). The state’s annualized GDP per non-farm worker ($170,298) is higher than the national average ($166,538), the report says. And if Illinois were its own country, its economy would be better than that of Poland, Turkey or Sweden.

The report suggests that it’s downstate that is holding back the state’s overall growth. From 2010 to 2019, Illinois’ overall annualized growth rate was 3.3% but downstate’s annualized growth rate was only 2.1%, half the national average of 4%.

Meanwhile, if metropolitan Chicago were its own state, its 3.7% annualized growth between 2010 and 2019 would rank 21st in the nation, the study says. That’s tied with Ohio and ahead of states like Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. And with “sound public policies,” the report suggests that Illinois could actually double its annualized GDP to $2 trillion by 2040.

Other studies have not been as chipper as this one. But economists rarely agree on anything.

Governor Pritzker Announces Approval of Vehicle Infrastructure Plan
The Illinois Department of Transportation announced that the Federal Highway Administration has approved its plan to build a reliable electric vehicle charging network throughout the state. The State of Illinois Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan addresses potential challenges and proposes locations for charging stations to ensure motorists can confidently traverse the state in electric vehicles.

“Because of my administration’s work on the nation-leading Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act, Illinois stands at the forefront of the emerging electric vehicle industry,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This funding serves as a vital complement to that work and will ensure we meet our goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. In every corner of the state, we have invested in our infrastructure and our workers, making it clear to vehicle, charging station, and auto parts manufacturers that Illinois is the best place in the nation to manufacture and drive an electric vehicle.”

“Deploying public charging infrastructure that provides convenient, accessible, reliable and equitable charging throughout the state is crucial to Gov. JB Pritzker’s goal of a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Because electric vehicles generate no tailpipe emissions, they are key to reducing air pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change. This plan puts us on the path for a more sustainable future.”

Illinois’ plan provides a framework for implementing the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, a provision of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Illinois will receive more than $148 million in federal funding from NEVI over the next five years to build out a network of public EV charging stations across the state.

In accordance with NEVI requirements, funding will be used to build EV charging stations at least every 50 miles along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors. The stations will be located no more than one mile off the designated corridor and will allow four average-range vehicles to fully charge at once in less than 30 minutes. Preliminary estimates indicate a need for a minimum of 20 stations. A map of proposed sites is included in the Illinois Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan.

Successful implementation of the NEVI program will require collaboration across government agencies, the public sector and private entities. IDOT is working closely with other state agencies on important issues such as workforce development, cybersecurity and ensuring equitable deployment of charging infrastructure. IDOT is also seeking input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment manufacturers, labor unions, potential site hosts, electric utilities and municipalities.

As a next step in implementing the EV Infrastructure plan, IDOT is developing a Request for Information to gather information from potential vendors of equipment and host sites for EV chargers.

Finally, IDOT will be hosting stakeholder meetings throughout the remainder of 2022. These meetings will be open to the public where people can learn more about the program and provide feedback. More detail on these meetings will become available as they are scheduled. Recording of previously held public meetings can be found on IDOT’s website.

As of June, there were 50,994 electric vehicles registered in Illinois and 184 public charging ports throughout the state.

Have you received your money? How to check the status of your Illinois tax rebate
Illinois’ rollout of property and income tax rebates, where millions of Illinois taxpayers are eligible, began earlier this month and is expected to continue in the weeks to come. “My office will be working diligently to get these rebates into the hands of taxpayers,” Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said in a statement once rebates began to be sent on Sept. 12. “After all, it’s your money. A total of $1.2 billion dollars will be released over the next six to eight weeks to nearly six million taxpayers.” So far two million have received their rebates as of Thursday, according to the state comptroller’s office — leaving 4 million Illinoisans still waiting.

Where to check the status of my Illinois tax rebate 2022?
For those who have yet to receive their rebate, they can check their status online by filling a “Where’s My Rebate?” application. There, applicants will enter their name, social security number or taxpayer identification number and their 2021 adjusted gross income.

How much will my Illinois tax rebate be and am I eligible?
Announced as part of the Illinois Family Relief Plan signed into law by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, eligibility for the two separate rebates depends on gross income from last year.

A maximum of a $300 property tax rebate, or the equivalent of a 2021 qualified property tax credit, can go to those reporting a gross income of $500,000 or less if filing jointly or $250,000 if filing individually.

Those with an income of $400,000 or less (jointly) or under $200,000 (single), will receive a $50 rebate if filing as single or $100 if filing as a couple. With dependents, tax filers can claim $100 per dependent up to a maximum of $300 if claimed previously.

How do I receive the Illinois tax rebate?
Those who filed a 2021 IL-1040 and Schedule ICR will automatically receive the property tax rebate, while a filing of the IL-1040 is all that is needed for an income tax rebate. Those who have dependents, however, will also need to complete a Schedule Illinois Exemption and Earned Income Credit for the income tax rebate.

The rebates are paid automatically to taxpayers and will be distributed in the same way as the original income tax refunds. However, if a taxpayer did not receive an income tax return, the rebate will be sent via paper check to their most current address.

While the rebates are being distributed, the deadline for these forms has not passed. Until Oct. 17, taxpayers can submit their IL-1040 either electronically or by paper and mailing it to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Why Accessibility is Becoming a Hiring and Retention Solution
Last year, more than 47 million Americans left their jobs. While the media often references this phenomenon as “The Great Resignation,” the US Chamber of Commerce argues that “Great Reshuffle” is a more apt term. Now, employers across all industries struggle to fill open positions, while strong candidates weigh their many opportunities.

“The talent market today is highly competitive, with organizations competing globally for the same talent due to increased remote work opportunities,” said Talent Acquisition Professional Tracy Lovgren of Verbit. As a result, companies need to consider what’s most important to employees. “Today’s talent will only consider organizations that have a culture which is diverse, inclusive and accessible to all,” she said.

Finding ways to improve work environments and the company culture to improve inclusivity is becoming necessary to attract and retain employees. While it should be clear that offering workplace accommodations and prioritizing accessibility are integral to any corporate strategy, here are some facts, statistics and numbers to back-up this assertion.

Finding people who are the right fit for open roles
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that only 19.1% of working-age people with disabilities are employed. That number shows that there is a massive pool of untapped talent. Additionally, Statista reported an employment rate of just 27.7% for people with disabilities who have college degrees or higher. More than seven out of 10 college-educated people with disabilities are sitting out of the workforce.

Lovgren and the team at Verbit are working to provide companies with the tools they need to support these employees. Now, with their dedicated accessibility partners, innovative employers can recruit talented individuals with disabilities into roles where they can thrive.

Some large companies are already leading the way. For example, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T are just a few prominent corporations that actively recruit employees with disabilities. Leaders at these organizations understand that a proactive hiring approach aimed at this demographic is good for business.

Smart hiring strategies that make dollars and sense
In best-case scenarios, businesses can find ways to do good while doing well. However, at its core, the corporate world is about growing companies and building wealth. Fortunately, when it comes to intelligent solutions for the labor shortage, the right move for the bottom line and employees is the same.

Here are a few compelling reasons why creative and inclusive hiring the right path from a business perspective is:

Boost the GDP
According to a recent Disability:IN report, if just 1% of unemployed people with disabilities joined the workforce, the result would be a $25 billion increase in the national GDP. Those numbers reveal the productivity loss resulting from so many people on the sidelines. Making workplaces inviting and inclusive could have an enormous impact on the economy. Each individual company has an opportunity to take part in and benefit from this strategy.

Keep good employees
Employers with inclusive hiring strategies that offer opportunities to people with disabilities experience a 90% rise in the retention of valued employees. Retention is a money saver, too, since it costs between 50% and 200% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them. In fact, voluntary turnover costs US companies a combined trillion dollars a year.

Increase productivity writes that hiring people with disabilities and embracing inclusivity leads to a 75% increase in employee productivity. Productive employees are crucial to profitability and competitiveness in the market.

Attract more customers
People with disabilities make up a large share of the market. In the US, the disposable income of individuals with disabilities is $490 billion. Representation among employees is a great way to attract loyal customers. Additionally, 87% of consumers say they’d rather give their business to companies that hire individuals with disabilities.

These statistics make a strong argument for recruiting, hiring and retaining more people with disabilities. Also, benefits like tax incentives and improved eligibility for government contracts illustrate the value of investing in inclusivity and accessibility. However, it’s important to note that efforts will need to exceed the requirements of accessibility laws.

Making workplaces more accessible
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is likely the most well-known law related to accessibility in the workplace. Since the ADA dates back to 1990, it isn’t anything new for employers. However, providing reasonable accommodations is the minimum effort an employer can put in regarding accessibility. In reality, many employees’ expectations far exceed the requirements of the ADA.

Today’s companies must start thinking about creating inclusive cultures beyond legal standards. One way to achieve this objective is to be proactive about workplace accessibility and build diverse teams.

Proactive inclusivity from recruiting to promoting
Genuinely inclusive companies don’t just hire for diversity. These businesses want their employees to succeed and have the opportunity to grow. While opening up hiring opportunities to diverse candidates is a great place to start, businesses will need more comprehensive plans to build their cultures from within. The companies that make these changes with intention will be creating the infrastructure and culture that will help their business for decades to come. Here are some ideas for promoting inclusivity at each stage of employees’ journeys.

Start with strategic recruiting
Many large businesses have hiring strategies that involve seeking out people with disabilities for roles in which those individuals can excel. However, most companies can’t devote resources to projects at the same scale as tech giants like Microsoft. Still, working with organizations like the National Organization on Disability can help businesses connect with skilled candidates with disabilities.

Another strategy is to contact local colleges and speak with their Office of Student Disability Services. Schools often have students eager to participate in internships or near graduation looking to start their careers.

Make the hiring process accessible 
Naturally, applications need to be accessible, but so does the interview process. For instance, if the candidate is Deaf or hard of hearing, they might need captions for Zoom meetings or an interpreter. Fortunately, this is where accessibility partners like Verbit step in to facilitate accessibility during the hiring process and beyond.

Also, new hires may need accommodations during the onboarding process, including closed captions or audio descriptions for video resources. Audio descriptions, in particular, are a tool that companies often overlook. However, when it comes to certain educational videos, this solution is vital for people who are blind or have low vision. In fact, many people with learning disabilities benefit from audio description as well.

Keep great people
Retaining employees, including those with disabilities, often requires some flexibility. Making accommodations, including a work-from-home or hybrid arrangement, might make it possible for an employee to continue to perform their role.

It’s also wise to consider mentorship programs that engage employees and ensure they get feedback and guidance. In fact, more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs. Building these professional relationships is great for the mentor, the mentee and the employer. Mentorship programs boost retention, productivity and increase the success of individual employees. They also provide a safe place for employees to express what they need. In the case of employees with disabilities, forming strong relationships with colleagues can make it more likely that they will feel comfortable requesting tools that will allow them to excel in their positions.

Support, educate and advance employees
One study showed that 58% of employees planned to leave their position because the employer didn’t offer enough opportunities for advancement. These training and skill development programs mustn’t exclude employees with disabilities. Ongoing education needs to be inclusive and offer accommodations allowing everyone to participate.

Allocating resources to build a more accessible workplace, from recruiting to promoting, will benefit companies and their employees. In today’s world, corporations can’t afford to ignore these strategies for attaining and retaining top talent. Luckily, working with accessibility experts like Verbit makes it possible to offer employees plenty of innovative accessibility solutions. As a result, businesses can be better equipped to usher in a new era of workplace inclusivity.

Stay well,

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