Daily Archives: May 13, 2020

FILE- In this June 15, 2018, file photo, twenty dollar bills are counted in North Andover, Mass. Default on your federal student loans and the government can take up to 15 percent of each paycheck to satisfy your debt. The Education Department can also withhold federal benefits like tax returns and Social Security payments. Garnishment is an effective tool to recoup unpaid loans, private collection agencies enlisted by the Education Department took in over $841.6 million via wage garnishment in the 2018 fiscal year, but it inflicts serious financial strain on borrowers who are already struggling. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Small Business Development Center based out of Buffalo State College has been helping businesses get through COVID-19.

“Our goal is to move a person forward, advance them in their entrepreneurial activity,” said Center director Susan McCartney.

The Center usually works with around 1,000 small businesses in a year, this year, they are tracking 3,000.

“We look at all the options and with business owners one thing is not a sure thing for everyone,” McCartney said.

The all encompassing approach is done through confidential sessions where the center will look through all parts of the business to see how they can prepare for a post-COVID-19 world.

“We have to look toward what we can be doing right now,” McCartney said.

McCartney also believes that, the main thing to help these small businesses, shopping at them.

“Shop local, that is a sure fire way to get buffalo back,” McCartney said.

For anyone who wants to get in touch with the Small Business Development Center, they can be reached at 716-878-4030, or their website here.

They are working remotely so social distancing can be followed.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Advice from the top U.S. disease control experts on how to safely reopen businesses and institutions during the coronavirus pandemic was more detailed and restrictive than the plan released by the White House last month.

The guidance, which was shelved by Trump administration officials, also offered recommendations to help communities decide when to shut facilities down again during future flareups of COVID-19.

The Associated Press obtained a 63-page document that is more detailed than other, previously reported segments of the shelved guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It shows how the thinking of the CDC infection control experts differs from those in the White House managing the pandemic response

The White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan that was released April 17 included some of the CDC’s approach, but made clear that the onus for reopening decisions was solely on state governors and local officials.

By contrast, the organizational tool created by the CDC advocates for a coordinated national response to give community leaders step-by-step instructions to “help Americans re-enter civic life,” with the idea that there would be resurgences of the virus and lots of customization needed. The White House said last week that the document was a draft and not ready for release.

It contains the kinds of specifics that officials need to make informed decisions, some experts said.

“The White House is pushing for reopening but the truth of the matter is the White House has just not had a comprehensive plan where all the pieces fit. They’re doing it piecemeal,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Such detailed advice should have been available much earlier, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University expert on the spread of diseases.

“Many different places are considering how to safely develop return-to-work procedures. Having more guidance on that earlier on might have been more reassuring to people. And it might have have prevented some cases,” Morse said.

From the start, CDC staffers working on the guidance were uncomfortable tying it specifically to reopening, and voiced their objections to the White House officials tasked with approving the guidance for release, according to a CDC official granted anonymity because they were not cleared to speak with the press.

The CDC’s detailed guidance was eventually shelved by the administrationApril 30, according to internal government emails and CDC sources who were granted anonymity because they were not cleared to speak to the press. After The AP reported about the burying of the guidance last week, the White House asked the CDC to revive parts of it, which were sent back for approval, according to emails and interviews.

On Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified before a U.S. Senate committee that the recommendations would be released “soon.” He provided no further details. Internal government emails show that Redfield had repeatedly sought White House approval for CDC’s guidance, starting as early as April 10.

Both the CDC document and the White House’s published plan recommend communities reopen in phases as local cases of coronavirus subside.

One of many differences, however, is advice for when communities should allow for the resumption of nonessential travel.

The shelved CDC guide advises communities to avoid all nonessential travel in phases of reopening until the last one, when cases are at the lowest levels. Even then, the CDC is cautious and advises only a “consideration” of the resumption of nonessential travel after 42 continuous days of declining cases of COVID-19.

The White House plan, by contrast, recommends that communities “minimize” travel in Phase 1, and that in Phase 2, after 28 consecutive days of decline, “Non-essential travel can resume.”

As of Tuesday, CDC’s web page on travel guidance during the pandemic still linked to the White House plan. The stricter guidance is not there.

Another stark difference in the final White House plan and that designed by epidemiologists at the CDC is the latter’s acknowledgment that COVID-19 cases will likely surge after states reopen, and that local governments need to continuously monitor their communities closely.

The White House’s final reopening plan lacks guidance on how local communities can track information beyond positive cases. But the CDC document offers thoughts on how to plan for where case increases might occur more quickly, using demographic information. The CDC says local leaders could take special notice of the number of households with limited English literacy in an area, how many people live in poverty or have no health insurance coverage, and even what it calls areas of “civic strain” caused by the virus, such as places where many workers were sick or lost wages due to shutdowns.

The White House plan offers few such specifics and instead provides broad guidance, such as “Protect the health and safety of workers in critical industries,” and advises states to “protect the most vulnerable” by developing “appropriate policies.”

On Wednesday, the Senate’s top Democrat called for the immediate release of the CDC’s guidance. “America needs and must have the candid guidance of our best scientists unfiltered, unedited, uncensored by president Trump or his political minions. The CDC report on reopening the country is an important piece of that guidance,” said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

Schumer’s resolution was quickly defeated when Republican Indiana Sen. Mike Braun blocked it, saying CDC’s guide would bog down the economy.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Tuesday that lifting stay-at-home orders too quickly could lead to serious consequences, both in deaths and economic hardship. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has continued to push states to act to right a free-falling economy.

The CDC’s guidelines stress the dangers of states and regions going it alone in such perilous times. The agency advises a national approach, rather than a patchwork, because policies in one state will in time affect others.

“Travel patterns within and between jurisdictions will impact efforts to reduce community transmission too. Coordination across state and local jurisdictions is critical — especially between jurisdictions with different mitigation needs,” the report states.

 

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Avianca Holdings had known since late March that the Colombian airline’s cash pile would only cover a few months of expenses while its entire fleet sat grounded because of aggressive anti-coronavirus lockdowns

In those conditions, Sunday’s bankruptcy filing was hardly a surprise. What was surprising was the absence of one key stakeholder: the Colombian government.

That stands in stark contrast to countries like France, Germany and the United States, which made protecting their airline industries an early priority of the crisis. At stake for Avianca, the world’s second-oldest airline, are 20,000 jobs, mostly in Colombia.

But Bogota’s mostly hands-off approach is hardly an exception among the Latin American governments, which have largely ignored the industry’s clamor for bailouts.

In public, LATAM Airlines Group (LTM.SN), Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes (GOLL4.SA), Aeromexico (AEROMEX.MX) and Avianca AVT_p.CN, among others, say they are actively negotiating government rescue packages. But behind the scenes there is growing concern about when results may materialize and if it will not be too little too late.

“It is not coming fast enough,” said one airline source, who requested anonymity to not affect his carrier’s negotiations.

Avianca’s own numbers paint a grim picture for a carrier that recently showed enough promise to draw interest from United Airlines (UAL.O), which sought a close business partnership. At the start of the year, Avianca was worth $470 million – it is now worth $17 million, two pennies a share.

By the end of March, after a week on the ground, Avianca had $304 million in available cash with almost no money coming in and mounting expenses. By May, it would have used more than half of that just to make two months of payroll and settle a debt payment.

As the debt deadline approached, its chief executive Anko van der Werff publicized Avianca’s need. It was to no avail.

“In Latin America we have not seen as much (government) help as in other regions,” said Gonzalo Yelpo, legal director at ALTA, a regional airline industry group.

Analysts warn that the crisis could be particularly hazardous for carriers in the region, who lost money in recent years while most others basked in profits. ALTA has warned of a “bankruptcy pandemic.”

“The starting point is worse for Latin American airlines,” said Maurício França, of L.E.K Consulting, which estimates Brazil’s airlines lost 11 billion reais ($1.89 billion) between 2014 and late 2019.

Avianca’s bankruptcy could start to turn the tide, but it’s unclear how fast.

On Monday, Colombia said it would consider rescue loans for Avianca.

On Tuesday, Peru said it was considering helping carriers, including foreign airlines. But that comes too late for Avianca, which is shutting down its Peru operation and laying off 1,000 employees there.

In Brazil, airlines have been deadlocked on loan negotiations for weeks. Chile said “direct aid” was not on the table for LATAM, its largest carrier.

In Argentina and Mexico, left-wing governments have suggested they will not rescue big companies, although taxpayers directly own Aerolineas Argentinas, complicating the politics.

AIR TRAVEL GROUNDED

Avianca faced a perfect storm with its home base in Colombia and hubs in El Salvador, Ecuador and Peru.

Those four countries shut down all commercial air travel to protect their fragile healthcare systems. But it left Avianca grounded.

Avianca’s closest rival, LATAM, did not suffer to the same extent because it can still fly in Chile and Brazil, its main markets.

Now Avianca, which had agreed to buy more than 100 Airbus jets before 2029, faces an uphill path to recovery. It agrees it neither needs nor can afford those aircraft.

In the short-term, Avianca says it expects spending to significantly outpace its revenue, signaling that it “may eventually need a substantial new infusion of capital.”

Panama’s Copa Holdings SA (CPA.N), similarly grounded with nowhere to fly, is about a third smaller than Avianca and has said it was burning through $85 million a month.

Even at that rate, Avianca would have cash for less than four months. Almost two months have already gone by.

Making things worse, the coronavirus pandemic is at an earlier stage in Latin America than in the United States, Europe or Asia, pushing back any likely economic reopening.

“The shutdown in Latin America was in a way tighter and stronger,” said an industry source. “And now there’s bigger reluctance there on reopening the markets.”

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima, Carlos Vargas in Bogota and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Editing by Christian Plumb and Sam Holmes.

 

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WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, having overseen the rapid creation of the central bank’s massive network of pandemic-era programs, turns his attention Wednesday morning to where things stand on the cusp of what may be a risky reopening occurring disparately across the 50 U.S. states

Powell is scheduled to deliver remarks at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) in a webcast event organized by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and to hold a question and answer session afterwards with the think tank’s director, Adam Posen.

His appearances since the pandemic forced the Fed into a series of emergency actions starting in March have been aimed largely at reassuring people that the Fed would use its power to keep their finances afloat, and to explain the programs it had designed to do so.

His comments on Wednesday come at a different juncture, with an increasing number of U.S. governors now lifting the various restrictions on commerce and activity put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and attention turning to whether that reopening will lead to a quick return of economic activity or a second wave of infections.

“The next six to eight weeks will be fundamental” in determining whether consumers and workers feel safe enough to return to the marketplace, and if they are able to do so free of disease, Richmond Federal Reserve President Thomas Barkin said in webcast remarks on Tuesday. “We are at the brink of…some reemergence of the economy. It is a question of how do we get the pace up” of the recovery while keeping the health risks under control.

That has become a centerpiece debate in the United States, pitting the potentially catastrophic health outcomes should the virus resurge against the dire economic consequences of tens of millions out of work and business and family budgets stressed to the point of breaking.

The U.S. economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April alone and some 33 million Americans have claimed jobless benefits since late March, when many state leaders started telling people to stay home to fight the virus. Some analysts think the economy could shrink by as much as 40% on an annualized basis in the second quarter.

In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke of the risk the country could “paradoxically” end up worse off if it reopens too haphazardly and ends up with not just new rounds of infections, but a second wave of restrictions on who can go to work and what businesses can stay open.

The Fed has put in place a broad set of programs offering trillions of dollars in credit support to companies, families and financial markets meant to get the economy through this period, and, more importantly, to be economically fit enough to participate in what is hoped to be a strong recovery later this year.

Some of those programs are only just starting to open – the Fed began purchasing corporate bond exchange traded funds on Tuesday – and will be rolled out more fully in weeks to come.

There may still be more. The Fed has said it is exploring a possible program to help non-profits, for example, and it could still make more explicit promises to buy U.S. government securities in order to keep long-term borrowing costs low for a longer period of time.

But in coming weeks attention will turn more closely to what happens as states take the first steps to let diners back into restaurants, shoppers back into stores, and workers back into factories.

If the state efforts succeed in getting people safely back to work, the Fed’s programs will keep low-cost loans available for people to buy homes or cars or finance investments.

If they don’t and the pace of infections intensifies again, “there is still a lot of balance sheet capacity at the Fed, there is still a lot of lending capacity,” Barkin said.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci

 

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court is set on Wednesday to consider a dispute involving whether “electors” in the complex Electoral College system that decides the winner of U.S. presidential elections are free to disregard laws directing them to back the candidate who prevails in their state’s popular vote

    If enough electors do so, it could upend an election.

    The nine justices will hear two closely watched cases – one from Colorado and one from Washington state – less than six months before the Nov. 3 election in which presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden challenges Republican President Donald Trump.

    The litigation involves the presidential election system set out in the U.S. Constitution in which the winner is determined not by amassing a majority in the national popular vote but by securing a majority of electoral votes allotted to the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

    The cases involve so-called faithless electors who did not vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Electoral College even though she won the popular vote in their states.

    Colorado and Washington state are among the 48 states – only Maine and Nebraska excepted – with winner-takes-all systems awarding all electors to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.

    The Electoral College vote, held weeks after the general election, is often overlooked as a mere formality in which the electors – typically party loyalists – actually vote for the winner of their state’s popular vote.

    But in 2016, 10 of the 538 electors voted for someone else. While that number of so-called faithless electors did not change the election’s outcome, it would have in five of the 58 previous U.S. presidential elections.

    State officials have said faithless electors threaten the integrity of American democracy by subverting the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption. The plaintiffs said the Constitution requires them to exercise independent judgment to prevent unfit candidates from taking office.

    The justices must decide if states can penalize faithless electors with actions such as monetary fines or removal from the role. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws intended to control how electors vote. Only a handful enforce them with penalties.

    “If the Supreme Court agrees with us and in my opinion the founding fathers, they’ll find that electors are completely able to use their judgment to determine who they should vote for,” said Bret Chiafalo of Everett, Washington, one of the lead plaintiffs.

    Trump’s administration has taken no stance in the cases.

    Chiafalo and another lead plaintiff Micheal Baca were Democratic electors who sought to persuade Republican electors to disregard their pledges and help deny Trump the presidency. Baca, who now lives in Las Vegas, was a Colorado elector. They cast their ballots for moderate Republicans and not Clinton.

    Chiafalo was fined $1,000 by Washington state. Baca’s vote was canceled by Colorado officials. The electors argued that the penalties against them by their states violated the Constitution’s Article II and its 12th Amendment, which delineate the Electoral College process.

    A lower court upheld Washington state’s fine against Chiafalo and two other faithless electors. Another court concluded that Colorado’s action against Baca violated his constitutional rights.

    Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham

     

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