Business Briefs – April 21, 2020

Gov’t Relief Loans to Restaurant Chains Draw Complaints

NEW YORK (AP) — Some big restaurant chains have obtained loans from the government under a small-business relief program, leading business groups to call for changes to the program before Congress provides it with new funding. The $350 billion program, designed to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis, ran out of money Friday, leaving some small businesses shut out. Shake Shack, one of the chains that received money, said Monday it will return its loan to give smaller restaurants a chance to get government money. Congress and the White House are close to an agreement that would add $300 billion to the program.

Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Among Banks Sued by Small-Business Owners

(Bloomberg) – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and US Bancorp were sued by small businesses that accused the lenders of prioritizing large loans distributed as part of the virus rescue package, shutting out the smallest firms that sought money.

The four banks processed applications for the largest loan amounts because they generated the highest fees, rather than processing them on a first-come-first-served basis as the government promised, according to lawsuits filed Sunday in federal court in Los Angeles.

As a result, thousands of small businesses that were entitled to loans under the program administered by the Small Business Administration, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, were left with nothing, the plaintiffs said.

JPMorgan declined to comment on the lawsuit.

United Air Sees $2.1 Billion Quarterly Loss on Plunge in Sales

(Bloomberg) – United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it expected to record a $2.1 billion loss in the first quarter as the global spread of the coronavirus essentially halted air travel, leading sales to plummet.

The pretax loss, a $1 billion adjusted loss, came as revenue dropped 17% from a year earlier to $8 billion, the carrier said Monday in a regulatory filing. The results are preliminary and subject to change.

United’s announcement is the first for big U.S. airlines and presages a gruesome set of earnings reports after flights were curtailed worldwide.&

White House, Congress Get Closer On $450B Virus Aid Talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration and Congress are working toward agreement on more than $450 billion to boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money. It would also include funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. The Senate met briefly Monday in a pro forma session, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up another such session for Tuesday and could act on the deal if an agreement is reached. The package is nearly double the $250 billion White House request of almost two weeks ago. It was originally designed as an interim step aimed at replenishing payroll subsidies for smaller businesses.

Florida Slowest State in U.S. to Process Unemployment Claims

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Federal data shows that Florida has processed its hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims more slowly than any other state. U.S. Department of Labor figures show Florida at the absolute bottom among all 50 states and the District Columbia in the percentage of the unemployed it is serving, lagging behind states big and small. Nearly 7 of every 8 Floridians who managed to file claims during the three weeks from mid-March until early April were waiting to have them processed. The state is already among the most inhospitable places to be unemployed, and the economic downturn from the coronavirus outbreak has only added to the misery.

Some U.S. Manufacturers Reopening Amid Fierce Political Heat

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing and at least one other heavy-equipment manufacturer in the U.S. are resuming production amid pressure from President Donald Trump to reopen the economy and resistance from governors who say there is not enough testing to keep the coronavirus in check. Boeing says it is putting about 27,000 people back to work this week building passenger jets at its Seattle-area plants, with virus-slowing precautions in place, including face masks and staggered shifts. Doosan Bobcat, a farm equipment maker and North Dakota’s largest manufacturer, is bringing back about 2,200 workers at three factories around the state. Similar reopenings are underway in Europe, where the crisis is ebbing in some places.

Cyprus: Turkey’s Latest Gas Drilling Proof of ‘Expansionism’

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey continues to pursue “illegal expansionist plans” in the east Mediterranean by again attempting to drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights, the Cypriot government said Monday. The Cypriot government said the latest target of Turkish drill ships is in waters south of Cyprus that span two sections — or blocks — of the economic zone where the island nation has exclusive rights and licensed energy companies Eni of Italy and France’s Total to carry out exploratory drilling.

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