U.S. House considers increasing dollar amount of pandemic relief payments to taxpayers
The U.S. House of Representatives is, at the time of this writing, considering a vote to increase the amount of pandemic relief to individual taxpayers from the current $600 to $2,000. President Trump and House Democrats are aligned on this issue, but the increase is expected to face considerable push back in the Republican controlled U.S. Senate. Mr Trump argued yesterday that the pandemic relief passed by Congress over the weekend contained unnecessary spending and argued that these funds be reallocated to American taxpayers.
Reuters reporting that the United States Senate has passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package which includes a one-time $600 payment to eligible American taxpayers. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation later today.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released a summary of a Federal reserve survey assessing the lower and middle income communities’ perception of quality of life during the pandemic. The summary has been reproduced below.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
For immediate release: November 9, 2020
A national Federal Reserve survey of organizations serving low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities shows that eight months into the pandemic, many aspects of life—from employment to education to public health—are deteriorating.
55 percent of organizations said income loss, job loss, or unemployment impacts from COVID-19 got modestly or significantly worse in their LMI communities since August; 24 percent said these got modestly or significantly better.
44 percent said impacts on basic consumer needs (changes in needs for housing, food, and other personal needs) worsened since August; 22 percent said things got better.
51 percent indicated that disruptions to business (for example, short- or long-term closures, supply chain disruptions, or reduced demand) worsened since August; 26 percent said these got better.
58 percent reported that impacts on education worsened since August, such as through disruptions to childcare, K-12, and higher education; only 19 percent said things got better.
45 percent said pandemic-related impacts on health worsened; 19 percent said these got better. This includes changes in access to adequate health care and insurance or impacts on mental and physical health.
When asked how COVID-19 has affected their organization or agency, about two thirds said demand for their services has increased as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than a third noted a corresponding decrease in their ability to provide services in LMI communities. This was similar to findings from the same survey administered in August.
The Federal Reserve seeks to promote the economic resilience and mobility of individuals and communities across the United States, including LMI and underserved households. Increasing economic opportunity is not only good for individuals and communities but also is vital to the overall economy. Amid the pandemic, the Fed is deepening its existing outreach to gather useful information as conditions evolve.
“The Federal Reserve Board on Friday adjusted the terms of the Main Street Lending Program in two important ways to better target support to smaller businesses that employ millions of workers and are facing continued revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. In particular, the minimum loan size for three Main Street facilities available to for-profit and non-profit borrowers has been reduced from $250,000 to $100,000 and the fees have been adjusted to encourage the provision of these smaller loans. The Board and Department of the Treasury also issued a new frequently asked question clarifying that Paycheck Protection Program loans of up to $2 million may be excluded for purposes of determining the maximum loan size under the Main Street Lending Program, if certain requirements are met, which should also help smaller businesses access Main Street loans.
The Main Street Lending Program supports lending to small and medium-sized for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition before the COVID-19 pandemic but lack access to credit on reasonable terms. To allow borrowers time to recover from the pandemic, the program offers several five-year loan options, with deferred principal and interest payments for qualified businesses and nonprofits. Loan documents reflecting the new terms are expected to be available to registered lenders within the next week.
To date, the Main Street program has made almost 400 loans totaling $3.7 billion, providing support to businesses from a wide range of industries. The program was established with the approval of the Treasury Secretary and with $75 billion in equity provided by the Treasury Department from the CARES Act.” — Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
NEW YORK, Oct. 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — A new survey of U.S. business executives concludes corporate decision makers find large urban areas less attractive business locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Released today at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Annual Conference, which is being held virtually from Dallas, the study shows that nearly 50% of the executives surveyed reported that large urban areas – cities with a population of more than 1 million – are less attractive as business locations due to COVID-19. Respondents also reported that their perception of some state’s business climates has deteriorated due to the way some states have handled the pandemic.
Conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI) every three years, the “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey has tracked trends in economic development since its inception in 1996. In light of COVID-19, this year’s survey also includes findings about how the pandemic affects corporate location decisions and perceptions of U.S. cities and states.
“Now in its ninth iteration, the Winning Strategies survey reveals the changing perceptions of location decision makers, as well as the tools and tactics that help shape those perceptions,” said Julie Curtin, president of DCI’s economic development practice. “The confluence of a global pandemic, a presidential election and intense scrutiny of equity policies is putting a renewed interest on how location decisions are made, so the results from this year’s survey are especially interesting for communities and site selectors alike.”
Key findings from the 2020 survey, which is based on the aggregate responses of 316 corporate executives with site selection responsibilities, include:
States with the Best Business Climates: Texas ranks No. 1 with 48% of respondents citing the state as having a favorable business climate, followed by Georgia at No. 2 with 25%, North Carolina at No. 3 with 22%, Florida at No. 4 with 18% and Tennessee at No. 5 with 13%.
States with the Worst Business Climates: California has held the distinction of being the least-favorable state for the past seven editions of the survey, with the percentage rising from 57% in 2017 to 63% this year. New York, Illinois and New Jersey have also been ranked in the top five for the last three editions of the report.
Corporate executives are closely watching the presidential election and expecting to pivot if needed. A majority of respondents (55%) reported that should President Trump be re-elected, they—or their clients—will be more likely to explore locations in the United States.
Talent continues to rule the decision-making process. Even as the country has seen unemployment rates skyrocket since the start of the pandemic, skills gaps continue to exist and access to skilled talent remains the top location factor in site selection searches.
Even amidst the pandemic, companies are moving forward with location decisions. 55% of respondents reported that their company will make a location decision (such as move, expand or consolidate) during the next 24 months—5 percentage points up from 2017.
About DCI Development Counsellors International (DCI) is the leader in travel and economic development marketing — increasing visitors and business inquiries for places across the globe. Since 1960, DCI has worked with more than 500 cities, regions, states and countries, helping them attract both investors and visitors. DCI has offices in New York, Denver, Toronto and Los Angeles. For more information, visit aboutdci.com or follow @aboutDCI on Twitter.
For five months now, the United States has been in lock-up. One of the ugliest hashtags I have seen and heard used is #AloneTogether. At first it reads like an oxymoron. If we are alone, how can we be together. It sounds like the status of the last few years of my first marriage. Sharing space with an energy pulling against you is draining.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be casting a new meaning on that phrase. If you have the misfortune of having to share more time in energy draining space with a spouse that you are considering divorcing, #AloneTogether may be the last rallying cry before calling a divorce attorney.
Technology may also impact how we view the phrase. Zoom calls and TEAMS meetings are a growing part of the workplace lexicon. The spaces that we enjoyed being alone in at home have become offices and digital conference rooms where everything from sales pitches to digital happy hours are taking place.
For the extra sensitive, walking down a sidewalk and observing people take the extra precaution of taking a wider berth around you while hindering their own breathing by wearing a mask can be disconcerting. The slightest attempts at saying “hello” or “good morning” are increasingly avoided because of fear that the slightest exhale from a fellow human may lead to a 14-day quarantine or time in a hospital on a ventilator.
In theory, the state quasi-mandated environment of staying away from each other should result in a reduction in analog contacts as our world goes increasingly digital. Hard for kids to get into school fights when kids are at home distance learning. Tough to get in a shouting match with a restaurant cashier over an order when Uber Eats, Grub Hub, or Door Dash is picking up your food.
There will be controversies; they will continue. We are humans, taking conflict to levels that exceed what other lifeforms endure. Legal philosophy should have us asking “Why are we engaging?” or “What is engagement?”. Society will have to come up with tweaks to the rules for human engagement in a digital age where a corona virus is forcing on a global scale the reconstruction of society. Should judges have to consider new threshold principles before trying to apply statutes, laws, rules, code, from a pre-COVID, non-artificial intelligence world to an issue before them arising out of a digital environment? Will we need a new definition for personal spaces? For zones of danger?
In the area of political law how we structure political engagement and eventually the rules for engagement are already taking on a new twist. For example, the recent squabble in the United States over funding for the U.S. Postal Service appears to be a result of the controversy over the use of mail-in ballots and the possibility of mail fraud. As I ponder these questions, I suspect that new legal principles will appear as COVID-19 continues to change how we address the question of whose rule should prevail during political conflict.
President Donald Trump yesterday held a press briefing on the status of the United States’ efforts to control spread of COVID-19. What gave me pause was the President’s cloudy description of advanced communications and the lost opportunity to promote broadband. The President said this about technology and connecting people:
“Nursing homes in higher-risk areas will be receiving more funding. This money can be used to address critical needs, including the hiring of additional staff, increasing testing, and providing technology support so residents can connect their families and they can connect to their families. They are having a tremendous time. They want to be with their loved ones. They can’t do it, so what we’re doing is we’re working it so that we can connect — have them connect with their families if they’re not able to visit.”
According to the President, $5 billion would be allocated to nursing homes from the Department of Heath and Human Services provider relief fund. Mr Trump’s statement implied that some of this funding would go toward connecting nursing home patients and their families. But a review of HHS allocation targets did not identify any amounts going toward nursing homes for additional communications facilities. The Administration’s signaling of this intent does not appear to be included in the actual allocation program.
Mr Trump may have had an eye on applying political messaging to secure votes from the elder population in general and the nursing home population in particular given controversy around a directive by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat of New York, to not prohibit the placement of patients in nursing homes based solely on the possibility of having COVID-19. Critics of the Governor’s actions have been quick to point out the risk to elderly non-infected nursing home residents. Hours after Mr Trump’s remarks on the elderly and COVID-19, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, referred to Governor Cuomo’s decision to locate infected patients in nursing homes as a “disastrous decision” that amounted to an impeachable offense.
That an opportunity for promoting public policy, in this case broadband for telehealth, may have been lost due to prioritizing political messaging is unfortunate. The loss could have been mitigated by using specific terminology and definitions in one or two sentences rather than using a broad term such as technology. It is another lesson to readers of and listeners to political messaging to remain aware of as much of the existing political environment when assessing the value of political statements.
Dubai Police have recently began equipping their officers with innovative smart helmets fitted with thermal imaging cameras designed to detect people running a high fever – a common symptom of COVID-19. The helmet can identify a high temperature from the safe distance of five meters and will send an automatic alert to the wearer if a fever is detected.
Some businesses in the U.S. are using similar thermal imaging technology to detect if customers or employees at their business have the COVID-19 symptom, which could help reopen the economy faster. Companies like Thermal Guardians have begun manufacturing these thermal imaging tools for use in public spaces such as airports, hospitals, residential communities, and businesses.
Watch this video from the Khaleej Times of the Dubai Police using the smart helmets:
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we all connect, but how people have adapted to these changes has varied depending on age. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, a majority of adults under 50 say the internet has been an essential tool for them personally during the coronavirus outbreak, while about a third 65 and older said the same. Adults 30-49 were the most likely age group to turn to the internet to replace social and business encounters, with 65% reporting that the internet was essential during the outbreak.
Adults under 50 were much more likely to hold virtual gatherings, watch online concerts or live events, and participate in online fitness courses than those over 50. A total of 87% of all U.S. adults said the internet has been essential or important during the outbreak.
AI companion robots have been used for years to help patients struggling with illness feel comforted when loved ones are unable to be by their side. For some medical professionals, the robot of choice is Paro — an artificially intelligent companion seal invented by roboticist Takanori Shibata. Paro’s companionship qualities have been effective at reducing the use of psychotropic drugs, improving blood pressure and oxygenation levels, and stoking emotional responses in Alzheimer’s patients.
During the coronavirus pandemic, new use cases for AI companion robots have surfaced. In addition to patient care, Paro has been used as a stress-relief tool for overextended virus testing employees and to combat loneliness in frontline workers that have isolated themselves to protect their families from contracting the disease.
“Since we can’t have human interaction right now, it’s certainly a lot better than nothing,” said MIT robotics ethicist Kate Darling about the use of AI companion robots during the pandemic.
Other companion robots on the market include Sony’s child-monitoring dog Aibo and Joy for All’s animal-like robots, to name a few.