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How the Stimulus Bill Would Affect American Businesses: Live Updates

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Across the country, chains have kept open thousands of stores, even as health experts warn that the virus is likely to spread more widely in the coming weeks.

In many states and cities, governors and mayors have mandated the closure of all but the most essential stores. Several retailers — like Sears, Kmart, and Joann Fabric and Craft Stores — have provided employees with letters they can share, arguing that their businesses are essential.

That some retail stores are staying open while others have closed reflects the piecemeal approach to combating the pandemic in the United States.

There are emergency orders limiting business to essential retailers in about half the United States, but much of the South and West has no such government restrictions. The Retail Industry Leaders Association has asked the federal government for clearer guidelines.

The airline industry is poised to receive an enormous bailout as part of the stimulus bill, a draft of which sets aside around $30 billion to pay employees of passenger and cargo employees. It also provides loans to passenger and cargo carriers in addition to some tax relief.

In exchange for the aid, airlines are prohibited from stock buybacks and dividends until a year after the loan is repaid. They must also maintain current staffing levels through September.

THE CONTEXT In recent weeks, the outlook for the global aviation business has soured significantly, with major carriers like American Airlines fighting for survival and United Airlines eliminating virtually all of its international flights for April. During that time, airline executives and industry groups had been lobbying the White House and members of Congress for aid.

THE RESPONSE As executives and union officials pored over the details of the stimulus deal on Wednesday morning, the influential president of the Association of Flight Attendants union claimed victory, calling it “a rescue package for workers.”

The stimulus will allow the troubled hotel industry to gain access to loans and other support. But what remains unclear for some owners is how quickly the money will be available and whether it will be enough to help, with travel expected to be down well into the summer.

THE CONTEXT Top executives from Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International and large hotel chains met with President Trump as they watched occupancy levels at their hotels in the United States drop through the floor in recent weeks. Lobbying arms pressed lawmakers, warning of layoffs and hotel closures.

Large hotel chains have kept investors happy in recent years with dividend and share buyback programs, but they may be barred from continuing to do so until a year after they repay any money borrowed through the program. And compensation levels for top executives will be capped.

THE RESPONSE The vast majority of brand-name hotels in the country are owned either by individuals or investors, and there is worry over how much red tape these small-business owners will face in obtaining aid. And, once they get the money, there is the question of whether it will be enough to cover expenses for more than a couple of months.

“We don’t have weeks to get this done. Hotels are closing every day,” said Cecil Staton, the president and chief executive of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which says its members own half of the hotels in the United States. “But the real question is, do you really think travel is going to return by mid-May? We don’t.”

The Rescue Plan

The stimulus includes several tax breaks that will largely benefit businesses — although it would not necessarily get cash to the companies most in need today. For instance, the bill would temporarily make it easier for big companies to take interest deductions and would roll back losses into older tax years, potentially leading to refunds.

HOW IT COULD PLAY OUT Companies that suffer enormous losses this year would be able to deduct those against profits from the past five years, potentially wiping out their old tax liabilities and generating cash refunds. If they had losses in 2018 and 2019 to offset taxes from profits in even older years, they could get quick cash refunds. But they would not see the cash from any refunds related to this year until at least early 2021.

“It is not targeted at the companies who are most in need today, so it is not an ideal way to allocate relief resources,” said Stephen Shay, a tax law professor at Harvard and former U.S. Treasury official. “It is clearly not the best way, but it’s reasonably fast compared to some alternatives.”

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Wednesday as investors sized up a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package intended to shore up the American economy, but the gains faded late in the day as debate over the bill continued without a vote in the Senate.

The legislation would be the biggest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history, and more than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress passed in 2009, during the last recession.

The S&P 500 climbed more than 1 percent, adding to a 9.4 percent gain on Tuesday that had come as investors anticipated that Democrats and Republicans would reach a deal over the plans.

Some of the companies expected to benefit from government help led Wednesday’s gains. Boeing was up more than 20 percent, helping lift the Dow Jones industrial average. American Airlines and Carnival Corporation both jumped more than 10 percent.

Investors have welcomed the plans, but few are willing to conclusively say that the worst of the market sell-off is over.

In the United States, widespread social distancing measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus have hammered consumer spending, the heart of the American economy.

Economists are expecting almost unthinkable declines in the gross domestic product in the second quarter. Analysts at Capital Economics said on Wednesday that they expected U.S. growth to fall 40 percent in the second quarter at an annualized pace, as the unemployment rate jumps to 12 percent, higher than its 10 percent peak in 2009.

The Labor Department’s weekly estimate of new claims for unemployment insurance, which will be released at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, typically draws little attention. Not this week: The report will provide some of the first hard data on the scale of the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

Citigroup economists estimate that the report could show that four million people applied for benefits last week. Other forecasters put the number a bit lower. But there is wide agreement that the total will dwarf the previous record of 695,000 new claims, from October 1982.

“In the whole history of initial claims, there’s never been anything remotely close to that,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a business data and analytics firm.

The attorneys general of Washington and 14 states sent a letter to Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, on Wednesday calling on the company to provide more paid sick leave for its workers.

Amazon has given workers two weeks of paid leave if they learn they have the coronavirus or are placed into quarantine, but the attorneys general said that “narrow criteria is particularly insufficient given the realities of the public health crisis, where the lack of access to Covid-19 testing has been widely reported.” Among other things, they said Amazon allow two weeks of paid time off for employees to self-quarantine and seek a diagnosis, as well as to care for children whose schools may have closed.

Amazon workers in a handful of warehouses across the country, including in New York City, have gotten sick from the virus. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

They are scrounging for fabric, cutting it up, stitching it together. They are repurposing drapes, dresses, bra straps, shower curtains, even coffee filters. They are building supply chains, organizing workers, managing distribution networks.

Most of all, they are sewing.

All over the country, homebound Americans are crafting thousands upon thousands of face masks to help shield doctors, nurses and many others from the coronavirus.

Legions of sewers have been called to duty in a matter of days via social media and word of mouth, their skills no longer taken for granted or dismissed as a mere hobby. They are making masks for America, much as a previous generation manufactured ammunition and tended “victory gardens” during World War II.

HUB FOR HELP

Your down payment fund was safely in cash. You had planned, perhaps for years, for the 2020 home-buying season. Then, just as the perfect home hit the market, the coronavirus turned the world on its head.

Should you go through with the purchase?

All the uncertainty about the economy may make it seem like an odd moment to consider buying a house. But the experiences of home buyers who took the leap during the Great Recession may provide some cause for comfort.

Ask us your money questions at this difficult time. If you have questions or ideas, write to hubforhelp@nytimes.com and Ron Lieber, Tara Siegel Bernard and our personal finance team will read every message.

  • The Cheesecake Factory will not be able to make rent payments on any of its storefronts on April 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

  • Nordstrom will extend its temporary store closures through April 5 and continue to pay store staff through that date, but will furlough “a portion” of corporate employees for six weeks, and the company’s executive leadership group will take a pay cut. Macy’s said that it would reduce pay for director-level employees and above starting April 1 and that its chief executive, Jeff Gennette, would not receive compensation.

  • S&P Global Ratings lowered Ford Motor’s credit rating to junk status on Wednesday, citing “supply-side and demand-side shocks” of the coronavirus outbreak on the company. Ford, which already had a junk rating from Moody’s Investors Service, said on Wednesday that it would keep its North American plants closed past March 30 because of the outbreak.

  • Hollywood agencies are moving ahead with layoffs and announcing that senior executives — Ari Emanuel among them — will forgo salaries for the remainder of the year. On Wednesday, Endeavor, a media company that includes the William Morris and IMG agencies and is run by Mr. Emanuel, laid off about 250 of its 7,500 employees. United Talent Agency instituted a companywide salary cut on Monday, with pullbacks based on income. And Paradigm, an agency with a large roster of musicians, jettisoned more than 100 of its 700 employees on Friday.

  • Gap said it would help source masks and protective gowns from its vendors for California hospitals. Canada Goose said it would reopen two manufacturing facilities to produce scrubs and patient gowns for health care workers and patients in Canada.

  • President Trump’s daily briefings on the coronavirus have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, roughly the viewership of the season finale of “The Bachelor.” On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on cable news, according to Nielsen. But some journalists and public health experts say that could be a dangerous thing: Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors have called ill-informed, misleading or downright wrong.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari, Jesse Drucker, Karen Weise, Ana Swanson, Brooks Barnes, Ben Casselman, Patricia Cohen, Niraj Chokshi, Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport, Alexandra Stevenson, David Gelles, Julie Creswell, David Yaffe-Bellany, David Enrich, Rachel Abrams, Steven Kurutz, Eduardo Porter, Clifford Krauss, Michael M. Grynbaum, Edmund Lee, Brian X. Chen, Neal E. Boudette, Elaine Yu, Daniel Victor, Jason Karaian, Kevin Granville and Carlos Tejada.

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Dallas Man Viciously Beaten, Kicked For Defending Business

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‘Please, I Don’t Have Insurance’: Businesses Plead With Protesters

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In downtown Chicago, people crawled through the partially shattered exterior window of a Nike store and ran out carrying brightly colored athletic gear and sneakers.

On Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, they ignited garbage cans and broke locks on luxury stores, sweeping up armfuls of designer handbags and jeans.

And as night fell on Minneapolis, the heart of widening protests set off by the death of an African-American man in police custody there, business owners stood outside their doors and pleaded with agitators to spare the enterprises that many said they had spent their life savings to build.

“I was outside saying, ‘Please, I don’t have insurance!’” said Hussein Aloshani, an immigrant from Iraq, waving his arms in frustration as he recounted the scene Friday night outside the deli his family owns.

Businesses across the country suffered destruction over the weekend as protesters unleashed their anger over the death of George Floyd on commercial enterprises — from the offices of major multinational corporations and banks to family-owned restaurants and bars.

In some places, demonstrators scrawled graffiti on storefronts decrying police brutality against African-Americans, or echoing some of Mr. Floyd’s final words: “I can’t breathe.”

In others, they hurled crowbars and hammers at windows, and used gasoline to burn buildings to the ground.

Public officials said they were investigating whether political agitators posing as protesters may have led some of the looting. In some cities, peaceful protesters marching against police violence were outnumbered by others, such as white anarchists, who seemed more bent on destruction than messaging.

Regardless of who the perpetrators were, many store owners said they felt like the victims of misplaced aggression. They said their businesses, already ailing from an outbreak of the coronavirus that has been particularly devastating to small and minority-owned businesses, may not recover.

“A lot of people don’t know the blood, sweat and tears that go into being a business owner and the type of sacrifices we had to go through to be where we’re at right now,” said Kris Shelby, who woke around 1 a.m. Saturday to the sound of gunfire outside his North Atlanta apartment, which overlooks the luxury clothing store he manages.

Mr. Shelby and his business partner opened Attom in 2016 with the goal of bringing luxury brands more widely available in New York and Los Angeles to their city. They have drawn in celebrity clients such as the musicians Migos and Justin Bieber and supplied clothing for the movie “Black Panther.” The store has also been a welcoming space for a diverse group of Atlanta residents, Mr. Shelby said.

But when he returned to the store at around 5 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Shelby found that all of his merchandise was gone. He watched videos posted on social media of masked young people of all races swarming through the smashed front windows and leaving with pieces of clothing and accessories worth hundreds of dollars each.

Mr. Shelby said he shared the pain of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death but did not believe that stealing would stop such incidents from happening in the future.

“It hurt. It seriously hurt,” Mr. Shelby said of Mr. Floyd’s death. “But as a black man, and this is a black-owned business, it’s just sad. It really leaves a bad taste in our mouths, to be honest.”

Ricardo Hernandez spent the weekend sleeping in a van outside the Mexican ice cream shop he runs with his wife in South Minneapolis. He negotiated with protesters by handing over ice cream and Popsicles so they would leave the shop intact.

“Just looking at this is terrible,” he said of the rubble and broken glass strewn across the neighborhood. “It’s unreal.”

On Saturday afternoon, Latino business owners in Minneapolis met in a parking lot to prepare for another night of unrest. Most owned commercial enterprises on Lake Street, where dozens of buildings had been vandalized the previous two nights.

They established shifts to ensure that the neighborhood would be monitored throughout the night. Organizers advised proprietors against brandishing weapons, and said they planned to order T-shirts with the logo “Lake Street Latino Security” to avoid being confused for looters by the National Guard troops and police officers responding to the unrest.

Maya Santamaria was at the gathering but said she planned to stay home that night because she had nothing left to protect. The building she previously owned — where she had once employed Mr. Floyd as a nightclub security guard, and where her new business venture, a Spanish language radio station, was also housed — had burned down Friday night.

Ms. Santamaria blamed the police for Mr. Floyd’s death and said they had not done enough to protect businesses in the aftermath.

“We were calling 911 and we were calling the Police Department and there was no response,” she said. She did not want officers to resort to violence against protesters, she said, but “they can’t just not come and leave us to burn, either.”

Kester Wubben’s new mail and printing business in Minneapolis had just been getting off the ground when the pandemic hit. Then over the weekend, it was looted. Televisions, an iPad and a U-Haul truck were stolen.

He had sacrificed greatly — pulling money out of his retirement savings account and working overnight shifts seven days a week at a lead factory — in order to start his Mailboxes Plus outlet.

In less than a year of business, he had developed regular customers. Miss Diggins stopped at the store a few times a month to ship packages to her daughter at college, and the pastor from Mr. Wubben’s church strolled in with a smile almost daily to check his mailbox and catch up.

Mr. Wubben, who is black, said he grew up five blocks from the site where Mr. Floyd was detained. He let out a weary sigh when asked whether his business would be able to recover from the damage, responding, “We might just have to let it go and try again another time.”

At the same time, he said, he understood the frustration over what had happened to Mr. Floyd. “That could easily be me. And so that’s how I look at it. That could easily be me. And it’s sad that there’s no humanity.”

He said he thought about the loss he had faced as a business owner compared with the loss of the Floyd family. “So when you equate the life to the money, which one is greater?” he said. “I can make some money again, I can start another business, but you can’t start George Floyd’s life back over. It’s ended.”

The protests in Seattle were an opportunity for Jordan Davis-Miller to demand a better future for black Americans. But it disturbed him to watch some of the thousands of people gathered downtown seize a different opportunity: to smash windows and loot retail stores. Many of them, he pointed out, were white.

“Looting Nordstrom’s and small stores is not going to do anything for us,” Mr. Davis-Miller said as he watched two white people inside the flagship Nordstrom store throw items out a shattered window. “It’s going to cause more flame to the fire and it’s going to give black people and people of color bad names. It’s not what we are here for.”

At the same time, Mr. Davis-Miller said, “It makes sense to be angry. It makes sense to want to destroy things and take things, because that’s all that’s ever been happening with any people of color. Our land, our homes, our livelihoods have been taken from us. It makes complete sense that we’d want to take that all back.”

Some business owners said they have tried to signal support for the protest movement in the hope that it would also help protect their establishments.

Derrick Hayes put up signs Friday night in the windows of his restaurant in downtown Atlanta that identified Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks as a black-owned business.

Mr. Hayes opened the restaurant after his father died, naming it in his memory. His “Dave’s Way” cheesesteaks and beef egg rolls often draw lines down the block and are favorites of black and white Atlanta residents alike.

He came in Saturday morning to find that the windows had been smashed, despite the signs he had displayed.

“Honestly, I was in disbelief,” Mr. Hayes said. “If we’re all in this together, let’s show that we’re all in this together.”

Mike Baker and Eric Killelea contributed reporting.



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N.S. small businesses hopeful for regional travel bubble to help with loss of cruise season – Halifax

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The recent announcement that the 2020 cruise ship season for the Port of Halifax will be suspended due to the pandemic means millions of dollars in revenue will be lost, not only for the provincial economy but small businesses that rely on international visitors for a large proportion of their sales.

“International visitors would represent roughly about $15 million in revenue,” Dennis Campbell said, the CEO of the Ambassatours Gray Line tour company in Halifax.

The 2020 season was expected to be a record-setting year for the largest number of vessels on the schedule to visit Halifax.

“We were looking at 203 vessel calls, carrying 350,000 cruise guests,” Lane Farguson said, spokesperson for the Halifax Port Authority.

READ MORE: Halifax cruise season suspended due to coronavirus pandemic

The impact of cruise ship tourism is wide reaching for the provincial economy as a whole. Most guests depart in the early morning hours when their vessels dock and head out on excursions within a 1.5-hour range of the city, spending money as they go.

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“Places like Peggy’s Cove are very popular. Lunenburg as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Annapolis Valley has been really growing in popularity for wine tours. Plus, a lot of other guests will just take their own self-guided tours through Halifax,” Farguson said.

For visitors that opt to wander throughout the downtown core, small businesses reap the benefits.

One of those businesses is Garrison Brewing Company, directly across from the cruise ship terminals.

“They don’t show up, then that money’s not spent and that beer is not sold and that doesn’t come back,” Brian Titus said, the founder and president of Garrison Brewing. “So really what we have to do is kind of look at this as a year that’s not going to be a record year.

“We’re going to make money but we’re not going to make a lot. We’re going to be able to keep people employed, as we have been to this point.”

READ MORE: Large cruise ships banned from Canadian waters until Oct. 31

The loss of the cruise ship season has many small businesses now focused on the local community for support. The ultimate hope is that a regional travel bubble will be created with the Atlantic provinces, but that is all contingent on how effectively the spread of the COVID-19 virus is contained.

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“We’re hoping people will travel within that region and so we’ll meet some new friends, some Atlantic Canadians and that will be great. We’ll share a beer and it will be wonderful,” Titus said.

Regardless of whether Nova Scotia opens its borders to out of province guests, Campbell is confident the season will still be a success for local staycationers.

“This is still going to be something that we can have a half-decent season with our vessels on the water, and our Harbour Hopper and restaurants, and patios, and so on,” he said.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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