We continue our efforts to keep you informed of key legal developments relating to COVID-19. Today, we focus on developments in economic relief programs, as well as state and local issues, including the repeal by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission of the amendment to the rules of evidence applicable to its hearings on COVID-19 cases. For our previous updates, please see HERE.
SBA Programs. SBA-approved banks as well as other non-banking and non-depository institutions have begun processing loans and grants funded by last week’s additional appropriations to the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program ($310 Billion) and Economic Disaster Loan program ($60 Billion). Additional rules and guidance are updated daily on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s (the “Treasury”) webpage (see HERE).
Main Street Lending. We have previously reported on Main Street Loans, announced by the Federal Reserve on April 9th (see HERE) for small and medium sized businesses. We await further guidance from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve and will update you as that information becomes available.
Minority Business Development Agency Innovation Grants. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency recently announced its Inner-City Innovation Hub Grant competition. It will award $2.8 million over the next two years to support and fuel economic innovation of minority-owned start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in inner cities and urban areas. The deadline is May 15, 2020. For more information, see HERE.
Facebook Small Business Grants. Facebook has partnered with Ureeka to provide grants of up to $4,000 to small businesses in Chicago/Cook County (as well as other U.S. regions and other countries). Specific criteria include: (1) 2 to 50 employees; (2) in business for at least one year; (3) impacted by COVID-19. The deadline to apply is May 8th. For more information, see HERE.
Workers’ Compensation. As we previously reported, on April 16, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (“IWCC”) amended its evidentiary rules to allow a “rebuttable presumption” that – with respect to workers compensation claims before the IWCC – any first responder or front-line worker (terms that are broadly defined under the Governor’s Stay-At-Home Order) who contracts COVID-19 during the Governor’s disaster declaration period did so in the course of his or her employment. Before this amendment, any worker who claimed to have been injured on the job was required to prove that his or her illness or injury was caused by work duties in order to receive benefits. Therefore, the new rule significantly lessened the standard for advancing a compensable claim.
The new rule was met with opposition by various business groups who criticized it based on: (1) its breadth, as it could be applied to any worker deemed “essential” under the Governor’s shelter-in-place orders, including those working remotely; and (2) its potential overwhelming cost to businesses, especially as they struggle to meet payroll and retain workers. This opposition culminated in the filing of a lawsuit supported by dozens of trade groups in Sangamon County last week. On April 23, 2020, Judge John Madonia issued a temporary restraining order to block implementation of the new rule.
Over the weekend, the IWCC announced that it had voted to repeal the new rule. As a result, workers’ compensation claims will revert back to the prior standard, where the claimant must show that the illness or injury was directly caused by work duties.
However, while these developments settle the issue for the time-being, further attempts at implementing the “rebuttal presumption” should be expected. In fact, initial indications are that IWCC is forming a task force with the aim of drafting legislation with an identical or similar rule to be voted on by the Illinois General Assembly.
Given its potential impact on employers and employees, we will continue to follow and report on any new developments on this issue. In the interim, feel free to reach out to let us know if you have questions or concerns.
Virtual City Meetings. As we noted in our April 23, 2020 update, Chicago’s City Council is now holding all its meetings virtually. The City Council’s next virtual meeting is scheduled for May 20, 2020. Other City committees and agencies such as the Committee on Aviation, the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals have followed suit and are holding regularly scheduled meetings virtually. However, agenda items have been limited, in some cases, to matters that can be productively addressed in a virtual format.
Chicago COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced the creation of a COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce comprised of industry experts, community leaders and regional partners (See the full press release HERE). The Taskforce will provide critical insights to help Mayor Lightfoot as her administration works to balance its health response with a strategic economic response that addresses the many challenges presented by COVID-19. Five working groups will offer policy recommendations and plans to the Lightfoot administration. The five working groups are organized by the following subject matter:
We will continue to send periodic updates on topics that may be helpful to your businesses. If you have a particular issue that you’d like us to address or if you’d like to be removed from the distribution list, please let us know.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Gery Chico, Jon Leach, and Alpita Shah