Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Election day has passed, so no more commercials or signs for some time. Congratulations to each and every candidate for their courage to add their names to the ballot and kudos for making it through the campaign process. With that said, there were many races on the ballot, but we focused on 6 of them to be exact with our candidate forums. Here are the results of the City of Joliet Mayoral and District races for city council seats.
Terry D’Arcy will become the next Mayor of Joliet. Larry Hug (District 1), Pat Mudron (District 2), Sherri Reardon (District 3), Cesar Cardenas (District 4), and Suzanna Ibarra (District 5) are all leading their district races. As of right now, Cardenas carries a 67 vote lead (this race had 134 votes separating first and fourth place), and Ibarra carries a 50 vote lead ahead of official results pending provisional and mail-in ballots so not 100% over yet. Stay tuned for final results.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Illinois Back to Business Grant Program Open for Restaurants, Hotels, and Arts Industry
Today is the day! The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is officially accepting applications for the Back to Business (B2B) COVID-19 grant relief program. If your small business or organization is still grappling with the impacts of the pandemic in the restaurant, hotel, and arts industries, you could be eligible to receive relief funding. Awards provided to eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations under this program will be sized based on losses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so that all eligible applicants receive an award. Read more below to see if your business or organization is eligible and how to make sure your application is submitted correctly.
The application portal is now officially live and ready to accept your application. Click this link to submit your application today. Don’t wait until the last minute — submit your application as soon as it is ready. Make sure to submit your application by May 10. Any application submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for consideration.
Submit your application here. If you come across any issues submitting your application, a technical support help desk is currently available seven days a week from 8am to 8pm CDT. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for help with your application.
The technical support help desk is powered by Submittable, a public benefit corporation dedicated to streamlining the grant application, team review, and program reporting process for organizations that award grants. Their team is available to answer grant application questions and troubleshoot the grant application portal with applicants.
You can visit this link to read in more detail about the exact eligibility requirements for each program area as well as detailed FAQs that will answer many of your questions. In the meantime, here are eligibility highlights for each grant.
- Grants of up to $50,000 to restaurants or taverns that have incurred losses
- Eligible applicants meet the following:
- 50 or fewer employees
- Must have experienced a loss in revenue of at least $5,000 due to economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
- In operation by March 12, 2020, and maintains active operations in Illinois at time of application
- Must provide an active food and beverage license
- Additional eligibility requirements apply. Visit this link to view more details.
- One-time grant of up to $1,500 per room
- The per-room amount will be prorated, depending on the number of rooms across all eligible applicants, such that all eligible applicants receive a grant.
- Eligible applicants will include hotels and motels meeting the following criteria:
- In operation in Illinois by March 12, 2020, and maintain active operations in Illinois at time of application
- Not providing short-term rentals (e.g. program excludes timeshares and vacation rentals)
- Additional eligibility requirements apply. Visit this link to view more details.
- Grants to arts and cultural businesses and organizations that experienced losses
- Eligible applicants will include independent live venue operators, performing or presenting arts organizations, arts education organizations, museums, or cultural heritage organizations that have:
- Experienced a loss in earned and/or contributed revenue of at least $5,000 due to economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Been in operation in Illinois by March 12, 2020, and maintain active operations in Illinois at time of application
While the FAQs available here are sure to answer many of your questions, we want to make sure your application is completed correctly so there are no issues when you submit.
Lawmakers approve kindergarten reform, plan to address childhood literacy
Lawmakers are looking at several ways to improve learning outcomes and access for young students in Illinois. Last Thursday, members of the House of Representatives approved a proposal that would require school boards in Illinois to provide full-day kindergarten starting with the 2027-2028 school year. The measure, House Bill 2396, was met with bipartisan, though not universal, support, passing out of the House on Thursday on an 87-23 vote.
“I think we can all recognize that our children are our most important resource in the state of Illinois,” Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, said on the House floor Thursday. “As we look to move forward with our pre-K program and the governor’s smart start program, I hope we can recognize that kindergarten is a pivotal piece of a child’s learning journey.”
Illinois should focus on business, education reforms to reverse population drops
Illinois lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize the state’s population is in decline and say something needs to be done to reverse the trend. The latest U.S. Census data released last week shows population trends for counties across the United States. Of 102 Illinois counties, 92 lost population over the year ending June 2022. Cook County was the second largest loser of people in the U.S. behind Los Angeles County in California. Census data also shows Illinois has lost significant population to outmigration nine years in a row.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said he sees the decline in his Chicago community. “I think that if you look at the numbers, it’s clear that we have a loss of people in the state of Illinois,” Ford remarked in an interview. “Even in the community that I live in, Austin, we’ve lost population.”
State Sen. Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills, said his community and family are seeing the exodus from Illinois for better opportunities elsewhere. “My own son has moved to Chattanooga,” Stoller said. “Chattanooga was the same size as my home town of Peoria just 10 years ago and now it’s double the size because they have attracted a new Volkswagen electric car plant and that’s where my son works, in Chattanooga.” Stoller said Tennessee has more job opportunities and notes it also has no income tax.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker denied the state is losing population, saying Illinois has increased in size. “We did not lose population as you saw when the Census Bureau data came through for the 2020 census,” Pritzker said. “We actually gained population especially as they looked more closely after the initial announcements at what happened state to state.”
That doesn’t comport with public Census data, including reapportionment where Illinois lost a seat in the U.S. Congress, or IRS data showing Illinois tax filers moving to other states. Pritzker’s comments also don’t comport with private data from moving companies showing Illinois leading the nation in outbound migration.
Stoller said the first step to addressing the issues is to admit there’s a problem and to “not put our heads in the sand.” He further stated “If we want to be attracting people to Illinois, we need to start with our tax environment, our business regulations, to promote jobs, to promote economic opportunity.”
Ford suggested that things the state is already doing will reverse population decline. “We’re investing more money in higher ed, we’re investing more money in growing childhood education and we’re investing more money in businesses,” Ford said. “I hope this will help drive people back to Illinois and sort of stop people from leaving the state.”
The U.S. Census shows Illinois at 12.6 million, down from 12.7 million the year before.
Senate votes to lift nuclear construction ban
The Illinois Senate approved a measure on Thursday that would lift a 1980s-era moratorium on nuclear power plant construction. Senate Bill 76, sponsored by Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, was approved on a 39-13 vote. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“The bill is going to come to the House with a lot of momentum,” Rezin said in an interview after the bill passed. “The unions are out and working their members to explain the importance of the bill and to just explain the technology.”
Rezin said on the Senate floor that the bill would specifically allow for the construction of small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs. These reactors operate at a much smaller scale than traditional nuclear reactors and are built in factories and assembled on site. SMR proponents say they can be deployed in places like factories, replacing the need for things like coal-fired cogeneration plants. “This is a large change in energy policy for the state of Illinois,” Rezin said. “It’s important to have a robust discussion and make sure the bill’s been vetted.”
Senate proponents of the bill, including Sens. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, and Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, said that lifting the ban would help the state attract investment in new technology. Cunningham said the moratorium is preventing the state from “sending signals out to the market” for investment in new energy technology, including SMRs and using nuclear power for hydrogen generation. “I’m here to make Illinois stay relevant, to make Illinois stay at the table,” Joyce said. “With the moratorium in place, we’re not even part of the conversation.”
Rezin noted during floor debate that the federal government has signaled support for nuclear reactors and made funding available for small modular projects. The Department of Energy has several grant programs for the development and demonstration of SMRs. “By lifting this ban, it allows Illinois, should they choose, to go after federal dollars that are provided by this administration, the Biden administration, who is embracing, supporting and investing in advanced nuclear reactors,” Rezin said.
Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, said the bill was “still not fully baked,” adding that the question of what is done with nuclear waste still doesn’t have a solution. “Whether it’s one pound or a thousand pounds, it’s still nuclear waste,” he said. “We can’t wait for a national strategy, in my opinion.”
The state’s ban went into effect in 1987 and was intended to remain in effect until the federal government identifies a national nuclear waste disposal strategy. In 1987, Congress identified a site in Nevada as the nation’s repository for nuclear waste, although later opposition from the state and the White House quashed that plan. No national disposal site has been designated.
Some of the state’s largest environmental groups, including the Illinois Environmental Council, oppose the measure. Jack Darin, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, told Capitol News Illinois earlier this month that his organization doesn’t believe nuclear energy is “clean energy,” citing concerns over the environmental impact of nuclear waste.
David Kraft, the head of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, an anti-nuclear advocacy group based in Chicago, has said the bill will weaken the state’s landmark energy policy, the 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. “Small modulars are not climate solutions, they’re not job generators until the 2030s and they’ll generate more nuclear waste,” Kraft said in a Thursday interview.
Kraft added he’s worried that lawmakers are not fully considering the safety implications of SMR technology. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved one SMR design, although no power plants using an SMR design are online in the United States. China and Russia both have SMRs of other designs online.
A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights. That measure, House Bill 1079, was approved in committee with a bipartisan majority, 18-3, although it hasn’t been heard by the full House.
Illinois EPA Announces $27 Million Notice of Funding Opportunity for Electric School Buses
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) Director John J. Kim announced a $27,023,485 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to fund the replacement of existing diesel school buses with new all-electric school buses located and operated in any of the three priority areas outlined in the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP). Illinois EPA will also fund a portion of new electric charging equipment if charging infrastructure is needed. This opportunity continues the Pritzker Administration’s commitment to focus Illinois’ remaining Volkswagen (VW) Settlement funding on electric transportation and infrastructure.
“Here in Illinois, we are leading the clean energy revolution—and this latest $27 million in funding for electric school buses will help us achieve our goal of 100% clean energy by 2050,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This isn’t just a win for our environment—it’s a win for our state’s children who deserve a healthy environment from the moment they step onto a school bus. I strongly urge all eligible school districts to apply for this funding as we create a cleaner Illinois, together.”
“Illinois has committed a significant portion of the VW Settlement funding to electric school buses because they provide a healthier environment for Illinois students,” said Director Kim. “Through the VW Settlement funding, Illinois has prioritized electric transportation and infrastructure to bring cleaner air to Illinois.”
Through this funding opportunity, Illinois EPA intends to fund projects in the three priority areas outlined in the VW BMP and specified in the NOFO:
- Priority Area 1: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties, Oswego Township in Kendall County, and Aux Sable and Goose Lake townships in Grundy County.
- Priority Area 2: Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties.
- Priority Area 3: Champaign, DeKalb, LaSalle, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon, and Winnebago counties.
Eligible applicants include school districts that own their buses or commercial school bus providers. Purchased buses must serve a school district within one of the three priority areas. Existing diesel buses must be engine Model Year 2009 and older diesel-powered Class 4 – 8 school buses and must be scrapped within 90 days of the new bus being placed into service.
In April of 2022, Illinois EPA submitted a revised BMP to the VW Settlement Trustee, focusing Illinois’ remaining $84.3 million on electric transportation and infrastructure. The goals of the revised plan include reducing nitrogen oxide emissions in areas where the affected VW vehicles were registered. The revised BMP takes into consideration areas that do not meet federal air quality standards for ozone and bear a disproportionate share of the air pollution burden, including environmental justice areas.
All required forms and information can be found on the Driving A Cleaner Illinois webpage: https://epa.illinois.gov/topics/air-quality/driving-a-cleaner-illinois.html. Applications for the Driving a Cleaner Illinois – Volkswagen All-Electric School Buses NOFO will be accepted through 5:00 PM (CST) on September 5,2023.
All applicants must pre-qualify through the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act Grantee Portal.
City of Joliet sends out new Economic Development Newsletter
If you are a business, investor, entrepreneur you should know the city and their economic development partners are here to work with you in developing and growing your business and investment in Joliet.
This newsletter will be published on a regular basis to connect you to valuable business resources and information that may lead to new opportunities. In each issue, you will find a wealth of information such as:
- grant opportunities
- redevelopment opportunities
- upcoming infrastructure projects
- new business openings
We ask that you call the Economic Development department at 815-724-4060 or send an email to: email@example.com in order to be added to the mailing list.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry