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 Illinois State Police proposed rules which will impact individuals and businesses licensed to sell firearms.  Learn more and submit comments here.    
The Illinois Gaming Board proposed rules which will impact entities licensed under the Sports Wagering Act that qualify as small businesses.  Learn more and submit comments here.    

The Department of Revenue proposed rules which will impact cannabis cultivation centers, craft growers and dispensaries.  Learn more and submit comments here.    

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.
US Department of Labor Unveils New Joint Employer Rule
In January, the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) announced its new "joint employer" rule, which narrows the definition of joint employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the federal wage and hour law. The new rule provides clarity for small businesses.

The new rule takes effect on March 16 and will limit the situations under which employers, such as a contractor and a subcontractor, can be considered to jointly employ a group of workers under the FLSA, which makes both parties responsible for wage and hour violations such as unpaid overtime.   This is the first significant update to the joint-employer rule in more than 60 years - a win for small businesses.

The rule includes a four-factor balancing test to determine whether businesses share liability for FLSA wage and hour violations. To determine whether a second company is a joint employer of a worker, DOL will examine whether the presumed joint employer hires or fires the employee; supervises and controls the employee's work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree; determines the employee's rate and method of payment; and maintains the employee's employment records.

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at 12:00 CST, the DOL will offer a public webinar to provide compliance assistance on the final rule. Register for DOL Webinar on the Joint Employer Final Rule.

Need Help With Federal Regulatory Issues?
There are two ways you can connect with SBA's Office of Advocacy and share your concerns about regulatory burdens on small businesses: 1)   Visit this site and complete the form regarding federal regulatory burdens.  2) Talk to your regional advocate about regulatory issues your small business is experiencing.
Illinois Launches Technical Assistance Programs for Social Equity Applicants Seeking Cannabis Licenses
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced an initiative to support social equity applicants seeking to enter the cannabis industry. Following a competitive selection process, DCEO announced it will provide three partner organizations $500,000 to offer technical assistance - in the form of mentoring and coaching on important topics such as business planning, finances, compliance, and industry best practices - across the state:  Teague International Corporation, Chicago NORML and Oakton Community College. DCEO has also posted an application that allows social equity applicants for dispensary, infuser, craft grower, and transporter licenses to apply for low interest loans to support the costs of starting up and running a cannabis business.   
Technical assistance will be available to social equity applicants interested in the craft grower, infuser, and transportation licenses before the March 16, 2020 application due date.

DCEO's partners will offer the following forms of assistance:
* Teague will host a series of deep dive seminars across the state before the deadline where applicants can receive mentoring and instruction on starting a business and entering the cannabis industry.  The first of these seminars will be taking place from February 27th - 29th.  Attendees will be able to follow-up for one-on-one counseling.

* Oakton Community College will build upon its current cannabis education program by partnering with the Cannabis Business Alliance of Illinois to offer a series of forum-style presentations, small group workshops, and one-on-one counseling at its campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie.  A schedule and sign-up form can be viewed here.

* Chicago NORML will create a series of online webinars focused on five topics:  staffing and employment practices, legal compliance, tax planning and compliance, cannabis industry best practices, and diversity planning and community engagement.

These services will be funded by $500,000 from the Cannabis Business Development Fund, created by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.  The fund is primarily supported through the licensing fees of the first round of dispensaries and cultivators, among other sources.

More information and a frequently updated schedule of seminars and workshops can be viewed here. Social equity applicants can access the low-interest loan application here. Technical assistance and low-interest loans will only be available for social equity applicants.
Illinois to Provide Opportunity for Minority-Owned Businesses to Become State Vendors
The Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) announced it will be providing an opportunity for traditionally underrepresented minority-owned businesses in the IT/Telecom industry to become vendors for the state. The department will issue a Project/Resource Sheltered Market (PRSM) solicitation in the coming weeks. The PRSM program offers minority, women and persons with disabilities owned businesses in the IT/Telecom industry the opportunity to bid on State projects, with the goal of increasing supplier diversity in Illinois. Businesses interested in responding to the solicitation must be Business Enterprise Program (BEP) certified in order to participate.

The upcoming PRSM will be the third solicitation developed in response to the Sheltered Market Report conducted by the Business Enterprise Council in 2013. The report found significant disparities in the State of Illinois' contracting with minority and women business enterprises in the IT/Telecom industry. Participation in sheltered market solicitations is limited to entities certified by the Illinois Department of Central Management's (CMS) BEP program.

PRSM is targeted toward BEP-certified vendors when there is a resource needed for a specific and well-defined project. An Invitation for Bid (IFB) will be issued to prequalified PRSM vendors, who are able to bid for projects that fall into the following IT skills categories:

*             IT Planning Services
*             Information Security Services
*             Software/Application Development Services
*             Teaching and Learning Services
*             Mobile Technology Services
*             Web Content and Development Services
*             Desktop Services
*             Networking Services
*             Infrastructure Services
*             Customer Support Services

Minority IT/Telecom suppliers wanting to work with the State of Illinois through PRSM, who are not currently BEP certified, should contact CMS' BEP office at 312-814-4190 or via email at BEP.CMS@illinois.gov to obtain information on certification.

DoIT anticipates PRSM will be published in the coming weeks. DoIT is encouraging vendors who intend to submit offers for the upcoming solicitation to register now in the Illinois Procurement Gateway (https://ipg.vendorreg.com/) and the Illinois Procurement Bulletin (BidBuy) (https://www.bidbuy.illinois.gov/bso/login.sdo). To submit bids, vendors must also have a current Department of Human Rights Employer Eligibility Number. Taking these steps will help to ensure that vendors are ready and have completed some of the required paperwork in advance of the solicitation posting.
Are You an Apprentice With a Story to Tell?
WorkNet New
Are you an apprentice with a story to tell? The " Why I Apprentice" national JFF contest is calling upon today's youth to share with the world why being an apprentice has changed their life.
 
Whoever can answer the big question in less than a minute could win $1,000 and a trip to New Orleans to attend the JFF Horizons conference where the winning video will be shown to a nationwide audience of more than 1,000 educators, training experts, and employers! Second place will win $500, and third place will win $250!
 
Here is how the contest works:
  • In videos of no more than 60 seconds, contestants share what they like best about being an apprentice--what they've learned, how much they've grown, and how much fun they've had.
  • Entries are due March 31.
  • The panel of judges will select the top videos. These will be posted on YouTube, where teens all over the country will be able to see them.
  • The first-place winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to New Orleans for the Horizons summit!
This competition is open to youth ages 16 to 21 who are participating in Registered Apprenticeship Programs in the United States. This is an opportunity to tell a story, be creative and is also a chance to inspire others. 
 
Learn more by checking out the video challenge website.  And download the flyer here.

Explore all of the apprenticeship resources available on Illinois workNet on the Apprenticeship Illinois site and the Illinois workNet Event Calendar.
New Law Guarantees Tips are the Property of the Employees Who Earned Them
Legislation signed by Governor JB Pritzker clarifies an existing state law and makes it crystal clear - employees own their tips.
 
The law, which took effect the beginning of this year, amends the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. The law states that gratuities are the property of employees, and that their employers cannot retain them.
 
The law requires gratuities to be paid to employees within 13 days after the end of the pay period during which the gratuities were earned. Employers are required to pay tipped workers a minimum of 60 percent of the state's minimum wage - which rose to $9.25 an hour on January 1 -- and the tips and wage combined must equal at least the minimum wage.
 
The law does not prohibit a tip pooling arrangement among employees as permitted by law.   Workers or employers who have questions regarding the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act can call the Illinois Department of Labor at 312-793-2800 or email DOL.Questions@Illinois.gov .
EDA Launches the Build to Scale Program
EDA Launches the Build to Scale Program, a Redesign of its Regional Innovation Strategies Program - 2020 Competition Open for Applications

EDA is pleased to announce that it has redesigned its Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program. With a 40 percent budget increase and recent reauthorization, the new program is called Build to Scale (B2S), which builds regional economies through scalable startups. The modernized brand better reflects the spirit of the entrepreneurship communities it works to serve.
 
Congress has appropriated $33 million for the RIS program in FY20, and EDA has designed a streamlined application process to help address the program's growing demand. The increased funding and improved application process will enable EDA to reach more communities and scale the impacts of this program. 


The Build to Scale Program supports regional economic growth through three separate competitions:
 
VENTURE CHALLENGE
The FY20 Venture Challenge, formerly known as the "i6 Challenge," makes $26 million available to support entrepreneurship and accelerate company growth in communities, regions or combinations of regions.
The Venture Challenge awards grants to intermediary organizations like accelerators, universities, and non-profits supporting new business ventures that are:
  • scalable by nature,
  • challenging the status quo of markets,
  • commercializing technologies, and;
  • furthering job creation
CAPITAL CHALLENGE
The FY20 Capital Challenge, formerly known as "Seed Fund Support," makes $5 million available to increase access to capital in communities where risk capital is in short supply.
The Capital Challenge provides operational support for:
  • the formation, launch, or scale of investment funds that seek to invest their capital in scalable startups
  • organizations with a goal to expand capital deployment within a community, region, or regional industry (i.e. angel networks or investor training programs)
INDUSTRY CHALLENGE
The new FY20 Industry Challenge makes $4 million available to support entrepreneurship and accelerate company growth within the Blue Economy. The FY20 Industry Challenge is produced and co-funded in partnership with the Department of Energy.

The Blue Economy is generally defined as sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of marine ecosystems. For this solicitation, the definition is broadened to include both freshwater and marine activities.

The Industry Challenge will award grants to organizations that are:
  • Supporting commercialization of blue economy technologies
  • Improving competitiveness of blue economy startups
  • Increasing connectivity and collaboration between blue economy stakeholders
  • Leveraging the blue economy to support innovation and job creation
EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) leads the Build to Scale Program, which is authorized under Section 27 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. ยง 3722). Please visit the Build to Scale webpage for more information.
America's SBDC Celebrates 40 Years # SBDC Day

America's SBDC Celebrating 40 Years - #SBDC Day

SBDC  Day is a national, collective proclamation of the success and impact America's Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have across the nation in economic development and the small businesses community. The fourth America's SBDC Day will take place on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
 
SBDC Day unites the nearly 1,000 SBDC centers across the country and the hundreds of thousands of clients they serve by sharing, in real time, the success stories and notable impacts SBDCs collectively have on the small business community at large. This special day will be celebrated with social media campaigns, public relations initiatives, online and in-person events and more. 
 
SBA News
2019

504 Loan Program Could Be the Right Fit For Your Small Business
If you'd like to purchase land, renovate buildings, or acquire heavy machinery, consider the SBA's 504 Loan Program, in which a Certified Development Company (CDC) and a traditional lender partner to help a small business owner obtain the loan. Our friends at SomerCor, an SBA-certified, non-profit small business lender, recently shared some information about the program on their blog:

1. Startups are eligible to apply! The 504 loan program is not limited to established businesses. Startups must put between 15-20% down, dependent on the type of real estate purchase. But unlike a conventional loan, they still have access to below market rate interest terms.

2. The SBA 504 loan program is available a broad range of businesses.  Manufacturing, healthcare, restaurants, hospitality, retail, daycares, breweries, and more may be eligible for a 504 loan. The program may be a good fit for any small business looking to purchase land, space or fixed assets.  Continue reading.  

Find an SBA-Approved Lender
Didi you know you can get anything from $500 too $5.5 miion to fund your business through SBA-backed loans?  These programs help small businesses owners and entrepreneurs who are creditworthy but don't qualify for conventional financing.  If you can't get a loan with reasonable rates and terms, contact your local SBA Lender to see if you are eligible.  Looking for an SBA-approved lender near you? Our free Lender Match tool can help! 

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Road Tour - Champaign June 4, 2020
Innovation is coming to a city near you! SBA recently announced the launch of its 17-state SBIR Road Tour, and it will stop in Champaign, Illinois on Thursday June 4th.   The tour will connect entrepreneurs working on advanced technology to one of the country's largest source of early stage funding - the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. 

The SBIR Road Tour is a national outreach effort connecting entrepreneurs working on advanced technologies to the country's largest source of early stage funding - the SBIR/STTR programs. Also known as America's Seed Fund, the SBIR/STTR programs provide over $3.7 billion in funding to small businesses each year in a wide variety of technology areas.

The Road Tour stop will provide attendees with an opportunity to hear directly from the participating federal agency program managers that administer over 5,500 new awards annually and to meet one-on-one with program decision makers.

It will be held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in partnership with University of Illinois Research Park, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Technology Entrepreneur Center, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, CUSBDC, Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Illinois University Incubator Network.  For more information, visti  https://www.sbirroadtour.com/contact/.  
News from the IRS 
IRS Updates Guidance on Business Expense Deductions for Meals and Entertainment 
The Internal Revenue Service issued proposed regulations on the business expense deduction for meals and entertainment following changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

The 2017 TCJA eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation. It also limited the deduction for expenses related to food and beverages provided by employers to their employees.

These proposed regulations address the elimination of the deduction for expenditures related to entertainment, amusement or recreation activities and provide guidance to determine whether an activity is considered to be entertainment. The proposed regulations also address the limitation on the deduction of food and beverage expenses.

The proposed regulations affect taxpayers who pay or incur expenses for meals or entertainment. These proposed regulations generally follow Notice 2018-76, issued on Oct. 15, 2018, which provided transitional guidance on the deductibility of expenses for certain business meals.

Taxpayers affected by this change and other interested parties may submit comments on the proposed regulations. The IRS will hold a public hearing on these proposed regulations on April 7, 2020.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit Extended to January 2021 
The IRS recently announced that the  Work Opportunity Tax Credi t (WOTC) has been extended to Jan. 1, 2021.The WOTC is a federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.
Global Agriculture Competition/ Future Agro Challenge Midwest

The Peoria Innovation Alliance is excited to announce that registration is now open for the only United States site for global startup competition Future Agro Challenge from April 13th to 15th in Peoria, Illinois  ( https://www.facmidwest.com/register).

Designed as a snapshot of the agri-food innovation ecosystem from across the US, Future Agro Challenge Midwest will welcome agripreneurs, corporations, investors, and industry eperts from across the United States to the River City. Future Agro Challenge's mission is to find real, sustainable solutions to the complex global food puzzle challenging food insecurity, biodiversity, and climate change by bringing together a passionate and innovative ecosystem of agripreneurs, farmers, investors, corporates, researchers, and industry experts. The organization's vision is to build dialogue and be a convener to find the best revolutionary and feasible solutions beyond borders for the global food puzzle at national, regional, and global level that can be held up high for the world to see there are other ways.

Jake Hamann, Executive Director of the Peoria Innovation Alliance says: "We are excited to partner with FAC Global as well as fellow ecosystem builders from across the Midwest to not only bring this monumental event to Greater Peoria, but to help set the groundwork for FAC USA and the growth of a nationwide organization." "Our rich history as an agricultural hub as well as our centralized location in the heartland of the US makes Peoria the ideal venue to host such an important event that not only benefits our local economy but helps progress the entire regional, national, and global agricultural ecosystem" says Hamann. Finalists from this event will have the opportunity to receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Future Ago Challenge Global Championships taking place in Thessaloniki, Greece the first weekend of October 2020.

These championships are the highlight event within the Global Agripreneurs Summit (facagro.com/gas) where the winning agripreneur from over 60 nations across 5 continents competes at an international level to be entitled the Agripreneur of the Year to receive dedicated resources to help them grow their business and expand into new markets. The Global Agripreneurs Summit showcases cutting-edge solutions from farm to fork; industry experts and stakeholders meetups for the potential of new synergies and cross border opportunities; and delivers the global stage to learn insights from influencers and controversial voices from the field of sustainability, food security, production and traceability. 

Interested agripreneurs, investors, and corporations can get additional information, review competition criteria, submit entries, purchase tickets and secure sponsorships at https://www.facmidwest.com.
OSHA Develops Coronavirus Information Site for Employers and Workers
OSHA Develops Coronavirus Information Site for Employers and Workers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a website which provides information for workers and employers about the evolving coronavirus outbreak first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The information includes links to interim guidance and other resources for preventing exposures to, and infections with, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  Click here to visit the site. 
Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center News
Tip of the Month - Do You Need a GSA Schedule?

After registering in the System for Award Management, many new small business government contractors receive calls and emails from third-party consulting firms promisng to help them "get on a schedule" with the GSA.  While GSA Schedules are lucrative due to the high volume, multi-year contracts for which contractors can compete, it is important to realize that not every small lbusiness government contractor needs to get onto a GSA Schedule.

One easy way to determine whether a GSA Schedule is worth pursuing is to ask your PTAC counselor to help you do some market research, using tools like EasyGovOpps or the Schedule Sales Query Plus System.  If the total amount of money that the government  spends on your primary NAICS code falls into the billions, but only a small portion of that total is procured using a GSA Schedule, it may not be in your best interest to invest the time and energy it takes to get on a schedule. Another way to determine if a GSA Schedule is right for your business is by asking federal small business liaison officers how exactly their agencies prefer to procure your type of goods or services. If the majority of procurements for your items are accomplished via task orders on a GSA schedule, then it may be worth your while to pursue becoming a schedule holder. 

Keep in mind that having a GSA Schedule grants you only a "license to hunt." You will need to indicate in your marketing collateral that you have a GSA schedule so that agencies know that they can procure items via that contract vehicle.  

Finally, be aware that the GSA allows contractors two years after they initially obtain a schedule contract to make their first $25,000 via their schedule. Every year after that, the GSA requires you to make a minimum of $25,000 annually in schedule sales. If you fail to meet this threshold, you risk being removed from your schedule contract.

Your Illinois PTAC Assistance Program
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- Madon Sheet Metal LLC
In 2017, John Madon and his partner, Dan, came to the Illinois Small Business Development Center at College of DuPage with plans to open a brewery. For several months, they worked with advisor, Sara Troyer, to develop a business plan and funding strategy. In December of 2017, the brewery was put on hold as their jobs as union sheet metal workers became too busy to balance the start a new business.

In 2019, John reached back out to Sara with plans to open his own sheet metal shop, with Dan onboard as his welder and first full-time employee. With the help of the SBDC, John was able to obtain a $300,000 private loan to start the business. A few months later, the shop location was picked in Elk Grove Village near O'Hare and will be open for business in the New Year.
"Since our first meeting I knew I was in good hands. Both Sara and the SBDC have been an invaluable resource to someone like me who had an idea but needed help getting on the right track. Thanks to your help and support I've been able to set up a plan of attack, obtain funding, secure a space, get my ducks in a row with the state, set up my accounts payable and receivable, and will hopefully be open for business within the next few weeks. I will always be grateful for your knowledge, kindness, and willingness to help."

March  2020
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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