State of Illinois Proposed Rules Open for Public Comment 
Proposed Rules Open For Comment 
The following rules have been proposed by State of Illinois agencies and are open for public comment.   To see a comprehensive list of rules which could impact small businesses, visit www.ildceo.net/regalert.    You can learn about rules and submit comments regarding their impact  by clicking on " submit comments ".   
 
The Department of Public Health proposed amendments which will impact nursing homes providing skilled or intermediate care.  

The Department of Revenue proposed  amendments which will impact vehicle dealers that accept trade-ins and their customers.  

The Department of Agriculture proposed amendments which will impact operators of pet boarding kennels licensed by the Department of Agriculture.  

The Department on Aging proposed amendments which will impact businesses and non-profit agencies seeking to become certified Community Care Program (CCP) providers.  

The Department of Revenue adopted an emergency amendment and proposed a companion proposed rulemaking  which will impact adult use cannabis sellers.  

For more information on any of the above proposed rules, contact Katy Khayyat at (217) 558-0190 or email Katy.Khayyat@Illinois.gov .    
Federal Regulatory Corner
US Citizenship and Immigration Services Announcnes Earlier Registration & Lottery Process for H-1B Visas
On Jan. 9, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the implementation of the H-1B visa registration process for H-1B cap subject individuals. The H-1B program allows companies in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations of highly specialized knowledge. There is a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, and an extra 20,000 visas for beneficiaries with a U.S. master's degree or higher.

The initial registration period will start on March 1, 2020, and USCIS intends to close this registration period on March 20, 2020. Petitioners must register using an online account at www.uscis.gov.  Employers and their authorized representatives can set up these accounts before the registration period. Petitioners must electronically submit a separate registration request for each person it seeks to petition for a cap-subject H-1B visa, and the cost is $10 per registration. A petitioner may only submit one registration per beneficiary. USCIS will notify registrants with selected registrations from the initial registration period no later than March 31, 2020. Petitioners with selected registrations will able to file a complete H-1B cap-subject petition within the filing period indicated on the notice. In prior years, petitioners submitted complete applications on April 1st for the H-1B visa lottery.  
  • Read the Federal Register notice here.
  • Advocacy contact: Janis Reyes at (202) 619-0312.
NLRB Extends Time for Submitting Responses to Initial Comments on Proposed Rule Concerning Students
In order to allow sufficient time for responses to the large number of initial comments received, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has extended the time for submitting responses to initial comments on its proposed rule concerning the definition of "employee" under Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed rule would exempt from the NLRB's jurisdiction undergraduate and graduate students who perform services for financial compensation in connection with their studies. The original notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 84 FR 49691.

The submission window for responses to initial comments will remain open and interested parties may now file responses on or before Friday, February 28, 2020. 

The Federal Register is expected to announce and publish this extension of time during the week of February 3, 2020.

Responses to initial comments should be submitted either electronically to  www.regulations.gov, or by mail or hand-delivery to Roxanne Rothschild, Executive Secretary, National Labor Relations Board, 1015 Half Street S.E., Washington, D.C. 20570-0001. 

Click  here to read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and request for comments in the Federal Register. Click  here to read the original press release regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Need Help With Federal Regulatory Issues?
There are two main ways you can connect with SBA's Office of Advocacy and share your concerns about regulatory burdens on small businesses: 1) Fill out this formand share it with your small business colleagues.2)  Talk to your regional advocateabout regulatory issues your small business is experiencing.
Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Program Ready to Connect

In February, the Illinois Office of Broadband opened the application period for its first round of Connect Illinois broadband grants. A wide range of potential grantees - such as broadband providers, communities, or cooperatives - are encouraged to apply.

The Connect Illinois program seeks to extend critical broadband access to homes, business, and community anchor institutions throughout the state, while driving economic development and advances in such areas as distance learning, telehealth, and precision agriculture.

The Connect Illinois broadband investment represents an integral and strategic component of the comprehensive 2019 Rebuild Illinois infrastructure program and the state's five-year economic plan.

With $400 million in appropriated funding, Connect Illinois is the largest state broadband matching grant program ever. Simply put, Connect Illinois aspires to achieve broadband equity and broadband innovation through targeted investment and meaningful public-private partnership. For more information, visit www2.illinois.gov/dceo/ConnectIllinois.
Department of Employment Security Migrates to State Tax Lien Registry
IDES logo Businesses looking for tax liens and releases filed by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) can now search and use the State Tax Lien Registry, IDES announced today.  Prior to this migration, businesses looking for tax liens filed by IDES were required to search separate records in individual counties throughout the state, which proved to be costly to taxpayers and time consuming for those conducting searches and gathering information.

The online registry, operated by and shared with the Illinois Department of Revenue, provides a central, searchable database to locate all active liens and releases filed by IDES.  The migration will improve efficiencies and lead to the receipt of more timely data for those seeking information regarding lien filings while reducing state filing fees, which can cost the department hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
The registry now serves as the only source for searching and obtaining tax lien information.  All liens distributed by IDES will now be issued through the State Tax Lien Registry.

Liens issued prior to the migration will be searchable and viewable in the State Tax Lien Registry.  Certificates of Releases must be presented to the County Recorder's office in the county in which they were originally recorded to remove them from public record. 

There is no cost and no sign-up required to search or use the registry.  To search the State Tax Lien Registry, visit MyTax.Illinois.gov and select the Businesses tab on the top of the webpage.

For more information or questions concerning the State Tax Lien Registry or the migration, please contact IDES at 800.247.4984 or visit IDES.Illinois.gov.
Illinois Releases Applications for Cannabis Infuser, Transporter and Craft Grower Licenses
The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has opened the application process for Cannabis Infuser, Transporter and Craft Grower Licenses, including for social equity applicants. The applications are available on the Department's website here .  IDOA will begin accepting completed applications on Friday, February 14 and all Cannabis Infuser, Transporter and Craft Grower applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. CST on Monday, March 16, 2020. 
Those who qualify as social equity applicants will receive additional points on their application and are eligible to receive technical assistance, grants, low-interest loans and fee reductions and waivers.

In coordination with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, IDOA will be hosting informational workshops across the state to answer questions and assist applicants. Additional information about the timing and location of workshops will be available in the coming weeks.

"These craft grower, infuser and transporter licenses are vital to the success of Illinois' emerging cannabis industry," said Jeff Cox, Bureau Chief of Medicinal Plants at IDOA. "We will ensure each of these licenses is selected through a fair, unbiased and anonymous process."

The non-refundable application fee for all licenses is $5,000; Social Equity Applicants may be eligible for a fee waiver if they meet certain income and ownership limits, in which case the application fee is $2,500.  If selected, a Craft Grower will pay an annual licensing fee of $40,000, a Transporter will pay an annual license fee of $10,000 and an Infuser will pay an annual licensing fee of $5,000. All licensing fees are reduced by 50 percent for Social Equity applicants. For 2020, IDOA may issue up to 40 Craft Grower licenses, 40 Infuser licenses and an unlimited number of Transporter licenses.
Licenses will be awarded to applicants by July 1, 2020.
IDOL Wants Workers to Know Their Rights Regarding Time Off
Labor
The old saying, "You have to work to get ahead," has merit, but you also need some time off to be a good, healthy worker. In Illinois most full-time workers are legally entitled to time off each calendar week.

The One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA) provides employees with a minimum of 24 hours of rest in each calendar week and a meal period of 20 minutes for every 7.5-hour shift beginning no later than five hours after the start of the shift. The law does not apply to part-time workers.

"While there are some exceptions to this law, most full-time workers have the right to meal breaks and a day of rest each calendar week," said Michael Kleinik, director of the Illinois Department of Labor. "Workers can voluntarily choose to work more, but workers who believe they are improperly being denied time off should contact our office for assistance."

The law defines a calendar week as seven consecutive 24-hour periods starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning and ending at midnight the following Saturday. Under this law, employers may ask IDOL for exceptions to the act by applying for permits to work employees the seventh day. If IDOL grants a permit, it requires a statement from the employer demonstrating that all employees who will be working seven days in a row are in fact volunteers. The number of permits granted in a year is limited
The law also has exceptions for some employees, including farm workers and coal miners, security guards as well as workers classified by Federal law as executive, administrative, or professional.

The law specifies that a day of rest must be "in addition to the regular period of rest allowed at the close of each working day."

Workers or employers who have questions regarding the One Day Rest in Seven Act can call 312-793-2800 or email DOL.ODRISA@illinois.gov  An online complaint form is also available at:
 
https://www2.illinois.gov/idol/forms/Documents/ODRISA%20Complaint%20Form.pdf.
New Initiative to Invest in Opportunity Zones Across the State
DCEO JBP
As part of Governor JB Pritzker's historic $45 billion capital program, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a new initiative to invest $12 million to support investment in the state's opportunity zones.  The agency will be issuing a competitive notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) in the coming days.  Governor Pritzker announced this new program at an event to announce a commitment by Fifth Third Bank and the Chicago-based Decennial Group to invest nearly $15 million in Illinois' opportunity zones. 

DCEO will invite communities, nonprofits, developers, and other stakeholders to compete for $12 million in capital grants to support projects in Opportunity Zones.  These capital grants will offer matching funds for infrastructure, utility, remediation and other site preparedness related costs for affordable housing, community development, and commercial real estate projects that will create jobs and growth.  Once the NOFO is posted, interested parties will have 90 days to prepare and submit grant applications. 

Opportunity Zones are defined as distressed or economically underserved areas census tracts. Certain types of investments made in opportunity zones that meet specific criteria stand to receive favorable capital gains tax benefits at both the federal and state levels. Illinois designated 327 Opportunity Zones in 2018, and a map of the state's zones can be found here.

In scoring grant applications, DCEO will consider criteria such as job creation, community support, project readiness and viability, the availability of matching financing, alignment of the project with the Governor's 5-Year Economic Plan, and ability of the project to have a positive economic impact in communities of need.  Applicants are encouraged to work with nonprofits, community organizations, elected officials, and other stakeholders to obtain letters that demonstrate local and regional support. 

DCEO will host workshops and webinars across Illinois to offer additional guidance on completing grant applications and answer questions. These events are being coordinated with local Small Business Development Centers across the state. Interested parties can e-mail opportunityzones@illinois.gov to sign up to receive updates on DCEO opportunity zone programming in the future. 
IDOR Reminds Illinois Businesses of Minimum Wage Tax Credit Available This Year
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is reminding small businesses they can utilize the Minimum Wage Credit starting January 1, 2020. The new tax credit is designed to help small businesses offset the state's minimum wage rate that will gradually increase to $15 an hour over the next six years. Businesses can claim now the credit on their quarterly Illinois Withholding Income Tax Returns.

"Illinois small businesses should take advantage of this tax credit," said acting Director David Harris. "Raising the wage for hardworking Illinois families was one of Governor Pritzker's top priorities and he worked to ensure that small businesses and nonprofits remain competitive during the transition period. Along with a new capital bill and tax credits for apprenticeship programs and research investments, this measure will help fulfill this administration's goal of fostering an environment that will grow jobs and reward hardworking families."

Beginning this year, businesses and nonprofits with 50 full-time equivalent employees or less are eligible to offset a portion of the minimum wage increase cost from their withholding income taxes. The maximum credit amount allowed is 25 percent of the difference between the new minimum wage and what each employee was paid previously. The percentage allowed each proceeding year will decrease before sunsetting in 2026 for most small businesses. Eligible businesses can claim this credit by filing Form IL-941, Illinois Withholding Income Tax Return, and a new schedule.

Illinois' minimum wage was last raised in 2010 (to $8.25). Raising the wage to $15 an hour is estimated to impact 1.4 million Illinoisans, according to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute at the University of Illinois.

Visit IDOR's website tax.illinois.gov for information on how to calculate this credit, as well as additional resources, including IDOR's withholding income tax Information Bulletin FY2020-13 and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
SBA News
2019

SBA's Tax Guide Can Help Your Small Business Meet Tax Obligations 
Your business will need to meet its federal, state, and local tax obligations to stay in good legal standing. Your business structure and location will influence which taxes your business has to pay.

Check out the SBA tax guide to help determine how your small business can meet federal, state and local tax obligations.  Learn more.

Do You Export or Import?  These Resources May Help
In an effort to educate the trade community to ensure about their responsibilities as importers to comply with customs regulations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection created a handout with tips on getting packages cleared and delivered quickly. Click here to view.

The Chicago Regional Growth Corporation's Export Grant Program awards up to $5,000 to companies in the seven-county Chicago region to implement their export plan. The grant reimburses up to 50% of eligible expenses related to the plan. The deadline for applications is Feb. 28. Click here to apply.  

National Cash Awards Available for Businesses Innovating to Hire Workers With Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its Administration for Community Living, seeks proposals from businesses who are, or plan to, expand their talent pipelines to increase their hiring of workers with disabilities. Submitting a proposal is easy, and HHS encourages businesses to work with a local disability network partner as they develop the proposal. HHS-ACL will award a total of $380,000 through a three-phase competition.   Learn more at acl.gov/challenge
News from the IRS 
IRS Helps Workers, Businesses With New Gig Economy Tax Center
The gig economy is any activity where people earn income providing on-demand work, services or goods. Often, it's through a digital platform like an app or website.

The IRS has launched a new Gig Economy Tax Center on IRS.gov. There, digital platforms and businesses will find information on classifying workers, reporting payments, and filing taxes for a digital marketplace or business. Workers within the gig economy will find helpful tips and essential forms to accurately manage their taxes.

Opportunity Zone Guidance 
The IRS recently issued final regulations providing details about investment in qualified opportunity zones (QOZ). The final regulations modified and finalized the proposed regulations issued on Oct. 28, 2018 and May 1, 2019. They provide additional guidance for taxpayers eligible to make an election to temporarily defer the inclusion in gross income of certain eligible gain.

Regulations Regarding Publicly Held Corporations
The Treasury Department and the IRS issued proposed regulations to reflect changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on the tax deductibility of officers' compensation by publicly held corporations. IRS Notice 2018-68 was released on Aug. 21, 2018, providing initial guidance on this deduction limitation.

New Online Assistant Helps Determine Correct Amount of Income Tax to Withhold from Workers' Pay
The IRS has launched a new online assistant designed to help employers, especially small businesses, easily determine the correct amount of federal income tax to withhold from their workers' pay. The new Income Tax Withholding Assistant for Employers is a spreadsheet-based tool designed to help employers easily transition to the redesigned withholding system (no longer based on withholding allowances), which went into effect on Jan. 1.

Hiring in the New Year?  Don't Forget the Work Opportunity Tax Credit
There's a valuable tax credit available to those who hire long-term unemployment recipients and others certified by their state workforce agency. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.
Today's Challenge, Tomorrow's Reward:  Building Opportunity for Minority and Female Owned Firms
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting the 30th Today's Challenge, Tomorrow's Reward on Feb. 10 and 11 at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. The longtime conference hosted by IDOT's Office of Business and Workforce Diversity provides female- and minority-owned business with opportunities to make connections and develop skills to grow and succeed.

Over two days, Today's Challenge, Tomorrow's Reward offers workshops and seminars on best practices, as well as networking opportunities, for firms and contractors wanting to do business with the state through the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program.

Topics covered will include how to become certified, financing, insurance, bonding, marketing your company, negotiating agreements, cybersecurity and creating a safe working environment. Industry leaders and IDOT staff will be leading sessions as well on how to bid on, participate and deliver projects. A special awards presentation will conclude the conference.

A block of rooms is available for a discounted rate at the Crowne Plaza until Friday, Jan. 31. Walk-ins also are welcome during the conference.  

The event is attended by subcontractors and prime contractors in construction, trucking, engineering and other consulting services. Visit idot.illinois.gov or click here for registration information and other event details.
Illinois EPA Internship Opportunity
Engineering, Science and Law Internship Program

The Illinois EPA is seeking engineering, chemistry, natural science and law students that are interested in a career in public service for our Engineering, Science and Law Internship (ESLI).  The focus of this 12-week paid internship is to provide students with real world experience in the duties and assignments of our engineering, remedial management, laboratory and legal staff and how this work is integral to the protection and betterment of Illinois' environment.  Depending on placement, interns will acquire basic knowledge of statutes and regulations; permitting; remedial site review; or laboratory technique. No other internship provides students with the knowledge and application of Illinois and federal environmental regulations that will prepare them for careers in public service, industry or the non-profit sector.

Intern placement will be in one of four areas:
Engineering (6 positions):  Interns will work in an Agency permit section. Interns will learn the application of state and federal air, water and land disposal laws and regulations to facilities through the permitting of such sources. The end result of the internship will be one or more drafted permits.

Chemistry & related fields (2 positions):  Interns will work in the Agency laboratory.  Interns will run samples; learn proper chain of custody; learn how to use and run a variety of analytical equipment. The end result of the internship will be extensive experience in a professional laboratory running samples.

Natural Sciences (2 positions):  Interns will work in either the Bureau of Water's Groundwater Section or the Bureau of Land's Site Remediation Program. Interns will be working alongside environmental protection geologists and specialists to review technical reports, assist with GIS applications and apply laws and regulations governing groundwater resource protection and contaminated site cleanups. The end result will be the ability to prepare routine and scientific documents concerning pollution control or pollution abatement.

Legal (2 positions):  Interns will work alongside attorneys preparing legal filings, reviewing legal documents, researching case law, statutes and regulations, and writing legal memorandum. The end result will be the ability to review and prepare briefs on current environmental laws.

 Eligibility criteria:
  • Be a rising Junior, Senior or Graduate student pursuing an engineering, chemistry, natural science or other related science degree; a student enrolled in Law school.
  • Be a permanent Illinois resident or attend a university/college in Illinois.
  • Be a US citizen or authorized to work lawfully in the United States during the entire period of employment.  Employment eligibility will be verified at the start of employment in accordance with applicable law.  We will not provide employment visa sponsorship for this position.
  • Possess a valid driver's license.
Applicants for this internship must:
  • Complete, sign and submit the application including a cover letter, resume, letter of recommendation and transcript. Applications must be received no later than February 28, 2020.
  • If selected from the applicant pool, attend a face-to-face interview in Springfield.  Interviews will be scheduled on Friday, March 13, 2020 and Monday, March 16, 2020.
Internship Information and Logistics:
  • Interns are paid $2039/month.
  • All positions are in Springfield at the at the Illinois EPA headquarters or laboratory.
  • Internships are 12 weeks and nominally begin on Monday, May 18, 2020 and end August 14, 2020. Start and end dates may be negotiated to accommodate varied college schedules but interns must commit to working for 12 full weeks.
  • Work hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
  • The work schedule follows the regular state of Illinois work schedule including state holidays.  Extended vacations should be scheduled before and after the dates of the internship.
  • You must provide your own housing and transportation.
  • Illinois EPA encourages interns to seek academic credit for the internship through their educational institution.  Interns are responsible for fulfilling any requirements needed to obtain academic credit and should disclose the need to seek academic credit at the time of the interview.
Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center News
Tip of the Month - Understand the Importance of Past Performance

Lack of government past performance should not deter new small businesses from entering the government marketplace. If your business is new to the government market, it's important to realize that the government does not see your lack of past performance as either good or bad. With that said, however, if you just completed the process of setting up your LLC, S-Corp, etc, you should focus on building your commercial business before entering the government market. While having core competencies listed on your company's capability statement is crucial, what's more important is that you show the government that your business has performed those core competencies, with high-quality results. 
 
When considering your company's past performance, you may want to think about adding a point of contact from each of the jobs listed on your capability statement, who will speak favorably regarding your work. Similar to providing a prospective employer with your personal and professional references, you'll want to make sure that those points of contact agree to be listed as references for your past performance, and that they'll speak highly of your company's work.

PTAC News You Can Use
As mentioned in last month's newsletter, 2020 is going to be a year of big changes in the government contracting world. One of those changes is the introduction of the Department of Defense's new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for all small business defense contractors. CMMC will eventually have five levels of compliance; however, the first level of certification was slated to be introduced in January 2020. CMMC Level One certification is considered "basic cybersecurity hygiene," and consists of 35 practices to ensure compliance among all of the contractor's systems and infrastructure.


Learn More
llinois Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are a portal for small businesses looking to enter the world of government contracting. The centers provide one-on-one counseling, technical information, marketing assistance and training to existing businesses interested in selling their goods and services to local, state, and/or federal government agencies.
 
Services include:
 
  • Help targeting appropriate government agencies
  • Automated bid lead matching services
  • Access to government specifications and standards
  • Guidance with quality assurance issues
  • Assistance with certifications
  • Identification of Sub-contracting opportunities
  • Bar Code and Packaging Information
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
  • UID (Unique Identification)
  • Contract Administration Information
  • System for Award Management (SAM) Assistance
  • Review of Bid Packages
Click here to find a PTAC near you, call 1.800.252.2923 or Submit a Question.  

The State of Illinois has special programs for small and diverse business enterprises to help you grow your revenues, enhance your credentials and build your business capacity. Click here to learn how to Sell 2 Illinois.
Spotlight on Success
Spotlight on Success- RoboThink

Danny Park and his team at RoboThink create a world in which imagination becomes reality. The company offers fun and exciting Robotics, Engineering and Coding programs where engineers, tinkerers and builders of all ages can explore the exciting world of STEM! Additionally, it's a fast-growing education franchise that uses proprietary hardware, education software and curriculum to create successful, purpose-driven and financially independent franchisees every day.

As a minority-owned business, RoboThink works in close coordination with Kevin Kim, Specialist at the Illinois SBDC International Trade Center (ITC) at College of Lake County. The fruitful relationship provided opportunities to participate in the highly sought after ExporTechâ„¢ program to create export business plans and receive grant funding through the state of Illinois' ISTEP program. In 2019 RoboThink expanded its operations, gaining partners in Gulf Coast Countries including South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, and other emerging countries. But they weren't done. With the help of the ITC, the successful company was awarded the 2019 Illinois Governor's Small Business Exporter of the Year award in the "Service Exporter" category.

For more information, visit RoboThink, LLC at http://www.myrobothink.com/
February  2019
Helpful Links
Start a Business - Illinois Small Business Development Center (Illinois SBDC)
Illinois First Stop Business Information Center
Illinois Angel Investment Tax Credit Program
Illinois Secretary of State Business Services
Comment on Any State of Illinois Proposed Rule
How Can We Help You?

Illinois Small Business Development Centers are located throughout the state and provide information, confidential business guidance, training and other resources and services for start-up and existing small businesses.

 
Whether your company employs two people or 102, you need a strong network behind you to succeed. And that's where the Illinois Small Business Development Center comes in. SBDC partners with well-respected business development organizations and educational institutions to assist you in maximizing your potential to grow and attract investors. SBDC connects you to the experts, tools and opportunities that translate into endless possibilities!
 
The Illinois SBDC program is located within the Office of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. For more information please click here.

Need Assistance?

Call our helpline at 800.252.2923 where we have English and Spanish Speaking assistance, or email  FirstStop@Illinois.gov.  

 

http://www.illinois.gov/dceo

 

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