Business Briefs – April 27, 2020

Coronavirus Relief Pushing U.S. Deficits to Staggering Heights

WASHINGTON (AP) – One of the lasting legacies of the coronavirus pandemic will be staggering deficits in the United States. The Congressional Budget Office projected Friday that deficits will grow to $3.7 trillion in 2020, fueled largely by the four coronavirus relief laws signed by President Donald Trump. Those bills promise to pile more than $2 trillion onto the $24.6 trillion national debt in just the remaining six months of the current fiscal year. It all adds up to federal debt and deficit figures reaching levels unparalleled since World War II. Those deficits are nearly certain to persist for a generation.

AP-NORC Poll: Most Losing Jobs To Virus Think They’ll Return

WASHINGTON (AP) – One out of every four American adults say someone in their household has lost a job to the coronavirus pandemic, but the vast majority expect those former jobs will return once the crisis passes. That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Among those whose households have experienced a layoff, about 8 in 10 believe those former jobs will definitely or probably return. Another positive sign in the survey results: The percentage of workers who say their household has lost a source of income due to the virus outbreak is not significantly different from a few weeks ago.

Pelosi: No More Virus Bailouts Without State and Local Aid

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is insisting that Congress’ next economic package provide billions for financially reeling state and local governments. Her remarks to reporters Friday foreshadow a partisan fight as lawmakers look to their next steps in addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed opposition to providing more local help, at least for now. He says that many states running out of money have had budget problems that long predate the pandemic and that he doesn’t want to let states “take advantage” of the crisis to help their coffers.

Trump: Postal Service Must Charge Amazon More, Or No Loan

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump says he won’t approve a $10 billion loan for the U.S. Postal Service unless the agency raises charges for Amazon and other big shippers to four to five times current rates. The president addressed reports his administration plans to force major changes in postal operations as the price for approving a $10 billion loan that was included in the government’s $2 trillion economic rescue package. Under the rescue package legislation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must approve the loan before the Postal Service can receive the money. Officials at the Postal Service had no immediate reaction to Trump’s comments.

A Flood of Business Bankruptcies Likely in Coming Months

NEW YORK (AP) – The billions of dollars in coronavirus relief targeted at small businesses may not prevent many of them from ending up in bankruptcy court.

Business filings under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law rose sharply in March, and attorneys who work with struggling companies are seeing signs that more owners are contemplating the possibility of bankruptcy.

The most vulnerable companies include the thousands of restaurants and retailers that shut down, many of them more than a month ago.

Small and independent retailers, including those with online stores, are similarly at risk; clothing retailers have the added problem of winter inventory that they are unlikely to sell with spring here and summer approaching.

Independent oil companies whose revenue was slammed by the collapse in energy prices also are strapped, as are other companies that were already burdened with high debt levels before the virus struck.

Scammers Target Paycheck Protection Loan Program

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Scammers are targeting small businesses with a promise of access to paycheck protection loans, Sen. Susan Collins said.

Collins, a Republican, is the co-author of the Paycheck Protection Program. The program is designed to provide forgivable loans to help small businesses and their workers who have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Collins said the scammers are promising guidance and advice about getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan and asking for a fee. They’re also promising to get their victims on the top of the list for a loan even though the loans are approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Low-Tech Japan Challenged in Working From Home Amid Pandemic

TOKYO (AP) – When the Japanese government declared an emergency to curb the spread of the coronavirus earlier this month and asked people to work from home, crowds rushed to electronics stores.

Many Japanese lack the basic tools needed to work from home. Contrary to the ultramodern image of Japan Inc. with its robots, design finesse and gadgetry galore, in many respects the country is technologically challenged.

But the bigger obstacle is Japanese corporate culture, experts say. Offices still often rely on faxes instead of email. Many homes lack high-speed internet connections, and documents often must be stamped in-person with carved seals called “hanko,” which serve as signatures. So many Japanese really cannot work remotely, at least not all the time.

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