PPP loans were supposed to be forgiven. Business owners say they’re still waiting.

“Congress created the PPP when it passed the CARES Act in March, aiming to funnel billions of dollars through banks to businesses that were suffering from widespread lockdowns during the pandemic. The loans were mainly meant to cover payroll, a way to keep employees earning money while stopping companies from going under, and were designed to be completely forgiven if used properly.”

“The SBA released an “EZ application” for PPP forgiveness on June 16, but business owners can’t submit the forms directly to the agency — they have to go through their lenders instead. And both banks and the SBA have barely gotten things off the ground.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the SBA received only about 56,000 decisions on whether to forgive loans from banks by September 8 — which amounts to just 1 percent of the 5.2 million loans issued. None had actually been forgiven as of October 1. Meanwhile, the SBA issued new information and rules on July 23, August 4, and August 11, and it still hadn’t finished creating a process for reviewing lenders’ decisions as of August 14. On October 1, the SBA said it would start forgiving loans after banks and borrowers complained.”

“Even once the forgiveness process truly gets underway, many business owners aren’t sure exactly what paperwork will be required of them. Sixty-eight percent of the Main Street Alliance survey respondents were concerned that the process wasn’t clear, with two-thirds saying they don’t understand what’s eligible for forgiveness given the many changes in the program, and over half were confused about what documents are required. The details matter: About two-thirds fear not getting their loans forgiven, while 43 percent are concerned they won’t have any recourse if they feel a decision isn’t fair.”

Japan’s new prime minister has just one year to save the country from crisis

“As of October 21, Japan — a country of around 127 million people — had more than 90,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,600 deaths. That’s not bad compared to much of the world, but the pandemic caused the nation’s economy to shrink by around 28 percent between April and June, the largest contraction since the country started keeping records in 1980.

That’s bad news on its own, but Japan was already dealing with a years-long economic slump due in part to an aging workforce. It’s a trend Suga’s keenly aware he must reverse, and doing so starts with minimizing the virus’s spread. “Reviving the economy remains the top priority of the administration,” Suga told reporters just after becoming prime minister on September 16.”

How the Pandemic Is Worsening America’s Racial Gaps

“In the middle of a pandemic that has killed roughly 1 in every 1,020 Black Americans — a disproportionate death toll likely to worsen as coronavirus cases spike in much of the country — it’s not just lives that are being imperiled. Racial wealth gaps are worsening, and progress towards economic equity is being undone.”

““When the pandemic translates into a disproportionate burden on low-wealth households, that is correlated with race,” says Jones. “The median wealth of white households is between 9 and 10 times as much as the median black household. And during this pandemic, the people with the lowest level of the wealth don’t have the emergency savings to hold themselves over.”
At the same time, Black and Latino workers are more likely to have “frontline” jobs that put them at heightened risk of Covid infection. For many, it’s a bind: You have less of a financial cushion to fall back on and need the work. But the job itself puts you at heightened risk of Covid infection, your health insurance is generally tied to your job, and if you lose it and catch Covid, you face potential financial ruin. Even when the pandemic ends, Jones expects that Black and Latino households will be “worse off, relative to white households, than when it began.””

“For years, workers have had a continually eroding level of leverage in the workplace. The ways companies have redefined labor as “external contractors” basically causes more and more people to not be covered by workplace protections. During this pandemic, those people couldn’t get unemployment insurance at all. It’s indicative of a larger problem: The labor market is being reoriented in a way where workers have less and less power. One reason that’s important is that if you don’t have a lot of say, you’re going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place: forced to either not work, or to go to work under far less-than-ideal circumstances in terms of protections from Covid infection and other health problems. Do they have the right protective equipment? Do they have sick leave? Probably not.

Related to health care, we have health insurance driven by where you’re employed. During a time like this — a pandemic with acute and chronic health implications and high rates of unemployment — going in and out of access to health care is particularly devastating. In the long run, we need some form of universal health care access to offset this problem of people losing their access to health care if they lose their jobs.”

” We found that people are sensitive to changes in their paychecks from month to month, and that’s particularly true for Black and Latinx households and households with a low level of liquid assets. What I mean by liquid assets are savings and other assets that are either cash or which can be quickly converted into cash — so your bank account, your savings account, and some investments you can quickly cash out. The households with the lowest level of liquid assets had the most vulnerability. When there were changes in their income, they had to make bigger adjustments, or adjustments that were going to be more painful. Relative to white households, Black and Latino households were more sensitive to those fluctuations, and that seems to be a result of the fact those households generally have less in terms of liquid assets, which is related to broader racial wealth gaps driven by a number of factors”

America needs to close down

“The past few months have been an American experiment with Covid-19: Can the country keep bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses open while fighting the virus with milder measures, including some social distancing and widespread masking?

Six months after spring shutdowns ended, the answer is clear: The milder approach isn’t working.

The US surpassed 100,000 daily new coronavirus cases on November 4, and it’s gone on to regularly break new records for coronavirus cases since then — with the most recent high exceeding 180,000 on Friday. Hospitalizations have skyrocketed to their highest level of the pandemic, leaving a growing number of hospitals around the US, from Arizona and Texas to Ohio and Tennessee, nearing or at capacity. And deaths are climbing: now above 1,000 a day once again, with a growing likelihood that the country will surpass 2,000 or even 3,000 a day in the coming weeks and months — on top of the more than 246,000 Covid-19 deaths that America has seen so far.”

“To avert possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths in the months before a vaccine becomes widely available, the US needs to close down once again. That means temporarily shuttering in-person, indoor services at nonessential businesses, particularly bars and restaurants; restricting larger gatherings, including in private homes; and encouraging, or outright mandating, people to stay home as much as possible — only going out for food, work, exercise, health care, and other basics needs — and limit their social interactions to their own households.”

“if closing down is necessary again, Congress should make similar moves — from boosting unemployment insurance to offering financial aid, even a bailout, to the businesses most affected. This wouldn’t just ease people’s economic suffering but also make closing down more bearable and, as a result, more sustainable.”

“we’ve now seen again and again what happens when countries try to keep indoor businesses in particular open as cases remain elevated or go up. Unlike many countries in Europe, Asia, and Oceania, the US never truly suppressed cases, outside of a handful of states, largely because it moved to reopen so quickly. That’s left the country in a vulnerable position as we barrel to what may be the worst Covid-19 outbreak the country will ever see.”

“A Health Affairs study found government-imposed social distancing measures reduced the growth rate of coronavirus cases, particularly the longer measures remained in place. A study in The Lancet produced similar results. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Delaware found its lockdown, paired with contact tracing and a mask mandate, contributed to 80-plus percent drops in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by the summer.

A more pessimistic working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, while lockdowns reduced Covid-19 cases, their effect might have been limited because people were already voluntarily staying home at the time. But that still means the concept of people social distancing and limiting their interactions is effective. (That differs from the situation today, where increasingly fewer people are voluntarily distancing.)”

“In September, Israel suffered what was the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the world at the time. The country first tried milder, more targeted measures — and, after they failed, imposed a lockdown. And despite some public opposition, it worked to massively reduce cases from October to this month.”

“There are real downsides to closing down. Throughout the pandemic, people have reported more mental health problems, and drug overdose deaths have increased. There are massive economic problems, with the spring lockdown producing record-shattering unemployment filings (in the millions) and likely increases in poverty only averted by the CARES Act passed by Congress.

The effects of the lockdown were also unequal. While wealthier people in office jobs could largely transition to working from home, lower-income workers either lost their jobs as their employers shut down or were effectively forced to work in “essential” workplaces. A Nature study, looking at cellphone data, found that mobility during the spring lockdown dropped significantly more in higher-income communities than in their lower-income counterparts.”

“many of these problems could be mitigated with more action by Congress.”

“A key mistake made during the spring lockdown is that the US didn’t use the time it bought productively. Instead of building a national testing and tracing system, President Donald Trump’s administration punted the issue down to the states. Congress and state officials should take steps to ensure things go differently this time around — building up testing and tracing regimes, and full cooperation between states’ systems, to keep the US safe as cases are, hopefully, suppressed closer to zero.

In addition, all levels of government could use the time to prepare for widespread vaccine distribution.”

“A big reason that states aren’t closing down right now is because they simply don’t have the resources or reach, especially as they deal with an economic downturn, to offer enough financial support to individuals and businesses hurt by new restrictions. The federal government does.”

“The alternative, at the current rates of spread, is we go through the winter and into the spring with a widespread scourge that kills possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans and, ironically, impedes our ability to reopen more of the economy as much of the public remains terrified of going out while cases are high and it takes months to roll out a vaccine. (There’s historical evidence for this: A preliminary study of the 1918 flu pandemic found the US cities that took stronger measures against outbreaks saw quicker economic recoveries.)

Everyone wants to go back to normal. As unpopular as closing down may be right now, it’s how we can do it sooner rather than later.”

Study pinpoints places, from gyms to restaurants, where people are at high risk of contracting COVID-19

“The study, which was published in the journal Nature, used cellphone data to track the hourly movements of 98 million people from 57,000 neighborhoods to points of interest, like restaurants, churches and stores, for two months, starting in March. The location data, which was collected by SafeGraph, a company that aggregates anonymous location data from mobile apps, came from 10 of the largest U.S. cities, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

The research team then compared those movements with COVID-19 case counts for each area. Next they used a model to simulate different scenarios, like reopening some venues while others stayed closed. The researchers also estimated COVID-19 infections based on restrictions, or lack thereof, in these areas.

Overall, the researchers determined that opening restaurants at full capacity led to the largest increase in infections. Opening gyms, cafes, hotels and motels at full capacity also created a jump in infections.”

“It’s not all doom and gloom: The researchers found that putting a 30 percent occupancy cap on all venues could dramatically decrease infections. Infections were further decreased when the cap was at 20 percent.

It’s important to note that this is a model — it didn’t definitively link cases to these spots. Instead it found that the locations are likely to contribute to the spread of the virus.

But there have been real-world examples that suggest the latest findings are onto something. In October, an indoor spin class in Canada was linked to at least 69 cases of COVID-19. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared a case report detailing how up to 87 percent of the members of a choir in Washington state became infected after a 2.5-hour practice alongside a member with COVID-19 who was asymptomatic. And a report published by the CDC in September found that adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have reported dining out at a restaurant than those who did not contract the virus.”

Pandemic on course to overwhelm U.S. health system before Biden takes office

“The United States’ surging coronavirus outbreak is on pace to hit nearly 1 million new cases a week by the end of the year — a scenario that could overwhelm health systems across much of the country and further complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s attempts to coordinate a response.

Biden, who is naming his own coronavirus task force Monday, has pledged to confront new shortages of protective gear for health workers and oversee distribution of masks, test kits and vaccines while beefing up contact tracing and reengaging with the World Health Organization. He will also push Congress to pass a massive Covid-19 relief package and pressure the governors who’ve refused to implement mask mandates for new public health measures as cases rise.”

““If you want to have a better 2021, then maybe the rest of 2020 needs to be an investment in driving the virus down,” said Cyrus Shahpar, a former emergency response leader at the CDC who now leads the outbreak tracker Covid Exit Strategy. “Otherwise we’re looking at thousands and thousands of deaths this winter.””

“The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 has spiked to 56,000, up from 33,000 one month ago. In many areas of the country, shortages of ICU beds and staff are leaving patients piled up in emergency rooms. And nearly 1,100 people died on Saturday alone, according to the Covid Tracking Project.”

“even if Biden and his task force start promoting public health measures now, it will take weeks to see a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths — even if states clamp down. And there is little indication that the country will drastically change its behavior in the near term.”

“in the Dakotas and other states where the virus is raging, governors are resisting calls from health experts to mandate masks and restrict gatherings. On Sunday morning, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem incorrectly attributed her state’s huge surge in cases to an increase in testing and praised Trump’s approach of giving her the “flexibility to do the right thing.” The state has no mask mandate.

And unlike earlier waves in the spring and summer that were confined to a handful of states or regions, the case numbers are now surging everywhere.”

California Infections Rise; N.Y. Restaurant Curfew: Virus Update

“Texas’s Covid-19 caseload topped 1 million as the second most-populous U.S. state contends with some of the worst local outbreaks of the pandemic’s latest wave.

Texas cases reached 1,010,364, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The Lone Star state has surpassed California’s tally, despite having just three-fourths the population. Almost 20,000 Texans have perished from the virus.”

European countries with spiraling Covid-19 outbreaks are shutting back down

““Lockdowns only make sense if they’re followed by testing and tracing,” Steven Hoffman, director of York University’s Global Strategy Lab, summed up. “Otherwise you’ve endured a painful experience without any longevity in its benefit.”

Indeed, countries that didn’t use the lockdown, and post-lockdown, period as effectively are now faring worse in the second wave.”

The 4 simple reasons Germany is managing Covid-19 better than its neighbors

“what exactly is Germany getting right?

What’s often cited is an effective deployment of technology, such as a contact tracing app, to fight the pandemic. There’s the frequently praised mass testing program, which rivals South Korea’s, and the oversupply of ICU beds — controversial before the coronavirus, now lauded. It also helps that Angela Merkel has a doctorate in quantum chemistry and heads a country that treats scientists, like the Berlin-based virologist and podcaster Christian Drosten, like superstars.

Yet this is far from the whole story of Germany’s relative success.”

“Over the past few weeks, I talked to doctors, health officials, and researchers in Germany— including some of the country’s first Covid-19 responders — and elsewhere to get a deeper perspective on why Germany has had better-than-average pandemic performance in Europe.

I heard, again and again, four explanations for the country’s coronavirus success. They had nothing to do with tech, Merkel, or hospital beds. And they’ve been largely overlooked.

Let’s call them the L’s: luck, learning, local responses, and listening. While the pandemic certainly isn’t over, and Germany is facing a pivotal moment with a record number of new infections, these factors may be the reason Germany bends the curve quickly once again.”