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Target Store

Target, Costco, And Other Major Retailers Gearing Up To Reopen To The Public

Stores and businesses that have been deemed as “essential” within the past few months are beginning to take steps to return to a life of normalcy. Customers are eager to return to some of their favorite establishments, however, some worker safety/labor groups are nervous that these companies are prematurely pulling back on health and safety measures while we’re still very much battling this deadly pandemic. 

More states and cities have begun loosening their stay-at-home orders, so it makes sense that businesses like Target, Walmart, Costco and Kroger are following suit. Last week New York City, which was previously an epicenter for the virus to spread, allowed retail stores to set up curbside pickup for their customers. California permitted all schools, gyms, movie theaters, and bars to reopen with modifications, and some states have opened nail salons, massage parlors, and bowling alleys. However, it’s these states that have decided to reopen that are now seeing massive spikes in case numbers. 

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More than 117,000 American citizens have died due to the Covid-19 virus; for comparison that’s more American lives lost than in World War 1. The economy has been heavily impacted with over 40 million individuals filing for unemployment within the past three months, and recently the stock market began to drop again due to fears of a second wave. 

“The safety measures retailers are rolling back are good practices for preventing both Covid-19 and future pandemics. We should keep simple prevention measures such as these in place as long as possible as we move towards reopening the economy to ensure a new wave of infections does not force us to again shelter in place,”  said Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Riverside.

Currently there are no federal requirements for how or when these “essential” stores are able to reopen, it’s more so up to the state or local governments. Costco, specifically, is beginning to bring back their free samples in a number of stores nationwide. The CFO of Costco, Richard Galanti, claims that all the samples are pre-packaged and the company will likely put up a plexiglass barrier between the server, samples, and customer. 

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A spokesperson for Target recently announced that they would be reopening the Starbucks located within the store in some locations but they’re taking “a careful market-by-market approach, and in some cases store-by-store, to ensure [they] prioritize the health and safety of our team and guests.”

“There’s a collective and growing recognition that [retailers] are likely falling well below pre-pandemic profitability levels as a percentage of sales. They need more in-store sales across categories — not just grocery and not just online or click-and-collect. They want feet through the door,” said Doug Stephens, founder of consulting firm Retail Prophet.

Obviously there’s a strong desire to get everyone back to work and to return to a life of normalcy, however, prematurely loosening these restrictions could potentially further influence how bad of a second wave America will face in the fall. Labor groups are taking to social media to express their disapproval of the decision for these establishments to reopen. While most are emphasizing their new health and safety procedures, it still doesn’t seem like enough for some. 

Regardless, it’s important that everyone continues to listen to their healthcare providers and protect themselves as much as possible when out in public.

Polio Vaccine

Polio Vaccine Could Provide Temporary Relief For Covid-19 Patients

A vaccine to cure the Covid-19 virus has been health officials number one priority since this pandemic initially began a few months ago. Now, some experts are looking at polio vaccines as a baseline for providing temporary protection against the coronavirus. 

There’s already a slew of research and evidence that supports certain vaccines protect children against a wide range of infections, even beyond what the creators of the vaccine are even aware of; hence the desire to try it as a protection from Covid-19. According to a team of experts who recently discussed this option in Science Magazine, an oral polio vaccine is safe, cheap and already widely available. 

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Over 1 billion polio vaccines are produced every year, and they’re used in over 140 countries throughout the world. The vaccine alone has essentially eradicated polio as a disease, so there’s hope that it could help lead scientists to a Covid breakthrough. Like most vaccines, the polio one uses a weakened version of the polio virus itself to allow the body’s immune system to properly respond to/kill the infection. 

When vaccines contain a live-version of the virus within it, no matter how weakened, they typically are much stronger than annual vaccines, like the flu shot, and are much more long-lasting, which is why most of us barely remember even getting the polio vaccine. This is why scientists are hoping this particular vaccine could lead to one for the coronavirus, as a one-and-done vaccine would be the most ideal way to contain and eradicate the virus. 

“We propose the use of OPV (oral poliovirus vaccine ) to ameliorate or prevent COVID-19. Both poliovirus and coronavirus are positive-strand RNA viruses; therefore, it is likely that they may induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms … Oral poliovirus vaccine in particular, could provide temporary protection against coronavirus disease,” said Konstantin Chumakov of the FDA and Dr. Robert Gallo of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, of the research team. 

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Dr. Gallo is famous for co-discovering the virus that causes AIDS and Chumakov has been working in the FDA’s vaccine division for years. The oral polio vaccine that these two are suggesting will also create something known as the “herd effect.” Herd “immunity” in the science community is when a majority of a given population (about 70%-90%) becomes immune from an infectious disease thanks to a vaccination. 

When new vaccines are created, it can be difficult to get the “herd effect,” or a majority of the population to get behind a vaccine that’s new to the market, however, based on the severity of the coronavirus and rate in which its been spreading, most individuals will likely want a vaccine the second it becomes available. 

Currently, the coronavirus has infected more than 2 million individuals in the United States alone. 114,000 Americans have died so far due to complications brought on by the coronavirus, and while not even experts are sure when a vaccine will become available, they’re hopeful that one of the hundreds of vaccine options out there will be ready by the beginning of 2021. 

Closed Due to Coronavirus

2.5 Million Jobs Were Created In May, But The Economy Is Still Suffering

Over 30 million Americans have lost their jobs during the first two months of the Covid-19 pandemic. The month of May, however, offered a glimmer of hope, as the unemployment rate decreased from 14.7% to 13.3%, and 2.5 million individuals regained some sort of full-time employment. 

In April alone 20 million Americans lost their jobs due to Covid-19 related reasons. Originally, economists were predicting the unemployment rate to increase to 20%, and while those experts have so far been refuted, the economic damage that’s already been done is vast. 

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As all 50 states begin easing their quarantine restrictions, more individuals have been able to return to work, or find new work more easily. Within May, 1.2 million new jobs were created, and the weekly rate of job loss went from 6.6 million in April, to 1.9 million just last week. Obviously, 1.9 million jobs lost per week is still a shocking amount of individuals losing their source of income during a global pandemic, however, during a time of such economic/political unrest, it’s better than nothing. 

“America is now witnessing a shift from temporary to permanent layoffs. The US pandemic initially hit the leisure and hospitality industry hardest, now the damage is spreading further, states are running out of cash and companies are burning through their stimulus checks. The longer this goes on, the bigger the chance of permanent consequences. Without further help from Washington local governments and businesses will have to make some very uncomfortable decisions,” says Jason Reed, a professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

The unemployment numbers that we see everyday on the news don’t even give the full scope of the situation. In a broader measure of unemployment that specifically counts workers who have either given up looking for a job, or are currently part-time looking for a full-time job, the numbers show even more historical numbers. The specific measure is known as U6 and the rate of unemployment went from 7% to 21.2% throughout the entire pandemic. 

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“The sheer volume, size and rapidity of losses is something I have never seen before. It took the US 16 months to reach a peak of 10% unemployment in the last recession. I’m hopeful the job market can start recovering in the months ahead, but worry a lack of political action could lead to deeper losses,” William Rodgers, the former chief economist at the US Department of Labor, who also has been studying the jobs report for 20 years. 

The federal government has since signed off on $1.6 trillion in funding to help the economic impact of Covid-19, however, a majority of that fund has already been spent. Rodgers also emphasized that the closing of more businesses is what’s going to continue to hit the economy the hardest, especially if we receive a second wave of cases amid all the protests that have been occurring throughout the past month. 

Congress is discussing another aid package that would distribute $3 trillion to American citizens, however, the Republican senators are resisting that plan. However, with the future of this pandemic and its continuous economic impact still unknown, the people need the government on their side now more than ever.

Remember, if you’re planning on attending a protest within the coming weeks, continue to practice social distancing as much as possible, and wear a mask at all times. Wash your hands, clothes, and body the second you get home, and keep listening to your healthcare officials.

Facebook App

Facebook Employees ‘Outraged’ With Mark Zuckerberg For Keeping Trump’s Protest Posts Up

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been put under fire by his own employees this week after claiming that he wouldn’t be taking any enforcement action against a post made by the President of the United States following the murder of George Floyd.

US Stimulus Check

Why You May Have Not Received Your Stimulus Check Yet

More than 150 million Americans have received their coronavirus stimulus checks in the mail, however, if you’re in the same group as the other half of the country who has still yet to see their payment, there’s a few reasons as to why that can be true. The money in general is a part of a much larger financial relief package that was approved by the federal government when this pandemic began. It’s intended to help ease the damaging effects Covid-19 is having on the economy, and the IRS is still continuously sending out checks. 

First things first, you need to check your eligibility to receive a stimulus check. You can use the IRS’s website to check your eligibility, but the guidelines themselves state that an individual will be eligible for a stimulus check if they are a single US resident making an income less than $99,000, file as the head of the household and earn under $146,000, file jointly without children and earn less than $198,000, or are a parent to a child aged 16 or younger. 

The IRS could potentially have scheduled your payment for later in the year. As previously mentioned the IRS is still actively sending out stimulus checks, so there’s still a decent amount of Americans who haven’t received their payments simply because they’re still en route. In April, the IRS estimated that it could take up to 20 weeks to send every check, which could lead to some receiving their payments as late as September. 

If you’re receiving a paper check and not a direct deposit, your check will take even longer to get to you as the paper checks are processed and distributed at a much slower rate, luckily, there’s much less Americans receiving paper over digital. Once the check is mailed out, the IRS claims it will take around two weeks to be delivered. 

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Your bank could also be struggling to process your check if you’re receiving direct deposit. It can be difficult for banks to process an electronic money payment from the IRS when all of their clients are receiving the same amount of money at varying times. If your bank wasn’t able to process your check, however, the only thing that will happen is the payment will be sent back to the IRS and they’ll end up mailing a paper version to the address listed on your 2019 tax return. 

The IRS could also still be waiting to process your 2019 tax return and banking information. This is especially likely if you moved/changed banks within the past year. Along those same lines, the information that the IRS has on file for you could also be outdated in terms of your current address and bank. Remember, they’re using your information from your 2018/2019 tax returns, so make sure that information is accurate. 

If you’re past-due on child support payments the IRS claims that your payment may be delayed or completely deducted until they receive that money. However, if you’re in that position the Bureau of Fiscal Service should have already told you. 

If you’re claimed as a dependent on your parents tax return you also will not be receiving payment, and to children of divorce, depending on each parents income, the parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their 2019 tax return will receive payment. 

Again, if you’re unsure of your eligibility status or have even more questions as to why you haven’t received your payment yet, check out the IRS’s website where they lay out in much more depth the specifics of these stimulus payments.

AstraZeneca

U.S. Orders 300 Million Doses Of Potential AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine

The United States has recently secured 300 million doses, or one third of the world’s supply, of AstraZeneca’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine by pledging to give up to $1.2 billion for funding. Although there is no vaccine currently that has been proven to eradicate the coronavirus, world leaders all over are trying to restart their stalled economies by funding these experimental ones for distribution. 

President Donald Trump along with the U.S. Department of Health agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to accelerate AstraZeneca’s development on the vaccine. They also wanted to ensure that they would have enough vaccines  for nearly every American; America has about 350 million residents, hence the 300 million doses. 

“This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

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The vaccine was initially referred to as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, but has since been shortened to AZD1222, based on the vaccine’s chemical composition. It was initially developed at the University of Oxford, where an elite team of researchers and scientists have been working tirelessly on Covid-19 drug treatments and vaccines since this entire pandemic began. 

Oxford has been working on countless treatments but has been mainly focused on finding a 100% effective vaccine; they even were able to start human trials for a vaccine last month. Once the most recent version of AZD1222 was produced, British drug-maker AstraZeneca began the process of licensing the vaccine for future development. Obviously, the use of the vaccine as treatment to create immunity against the coronavirus is top priority, but until there’s a substantial amount of evidence that proves its effectiveness, it can be up to two years until we see a real vaccine hit the market. 

The deal between the US and AstraZeneca also states that when the vaccine is in its final stages of development scientists can perform a clinical trial on up to 30,000 Americans to test its effectiveness; with that amount of individuals participating it’s likely the vaccine will be relatively successful by that point. 

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In general AstraZeneca is going to try and ship out at least 400 million doses of the vaccine worldwide with its first round of distribution. Once they have a more secure means of manufacturing, that number will increase to one billion doses and so on until the whole world has access. The earliest that the company believes they could start dealing out the vaccines would be this September, in fact, they’re hoping to get 30 million people vaccinated by then.

“A Phase I/II clinical trial of AZD1222 began last month to assess safety, immunogenicity and efficacy in over 1,000 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years across several trial centres in southern England. Data from the trial is expected shortly. There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. Governments, drugmakers and researchers are working on around 100 programmes, and experts are predicting a safe and effective means of preventing the disease could take 12 to 18 months to develop,” according to reports.

So far only a few potential vaccines have gotten to the point of human trials, which is the most critical part of vaccine development. Other major drugmakers, like Johnson & Johnson, are also developing potential vaccines and creating deals with our world leaders to ensure that Americans have access to these treatments when they’re finally market ready. For now, only time will tell when that will be.

J.C.Penney

J.C. Penney Filing For Bankruptcy And Possibly Closing 200 Stores

The coronavirus pandemic has been impacting the economy since it first entered into the United States. Over 30 million people have lost their jobs in a matter of weeks, leading to tens of thousands of businesses closing, including some of the biggest names in retail. 

Most recently, J.C. Penney announced this Thursday, May 14th, that they would be filing for bankruptcy, likely by the end of the week. The beloved retail giant has been around since 1902, and advisers from the company announced that they’re hoping to file for the bankruptcy protection, but also believe there still might be a chance to negotiate between the retailer and its lenders.

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As of February this year, J.C. Penney employed about 90,000 Americans with full-time and part-time positions. Those workers were spread throughout 846 department stores all throughout the country, and through their negotiations advisers are hoping they only will have to close around 200 of those; while that is still a large number of stores, given the state of the economy, J.C. Penney executives say that would be their best bet. 

Previous reports have claimed that The Plano, a Texas-based retailer, is going to be filing for bankruptcy in the town of Corpus Christi; also in Texas. The initial negotiations sought out to grant the retailer a $450 million loan to help finance the entire bankruptcy, however, in order to meet the specific requirements for that loan, J.C. Penney would likely have to have its stores open to make enough revenue.  

The company may need to wait until June to get a proper court hearing to finalize all the bankruptcy documents, and if all runs smoothly, J.C. Penney will begin to have access to that major loan to try to keep their company as afloat as possible. 

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“In filing for bankruptcy, J.C. Penney will join fellow department stores Neiman Marcus and Stage Stores as victims of the pandemic, which has forced their doors shut but whose ailments far predated the virus. Department stores have struggled to maintain a foothold in U.S. retail, as brands sidestepped them by selling to shoppers directly, and shoppers have abandoned the mall in which many are based,” according to CNBC.

The reality for J.C. Penney, however, is that the company has been seeing a decline in sales since 106, long before this pandemic was even thought of as a possibility. For example, the 846 stores that were open before Covid-19 is just 25% of the amount of retail locations the company had in 2001. In 2019, J.C. Penney made about $11 billion in sales, and while that may seem like a lot, when they were thriving in 2001 they made about three times that amount. 

2010 was the last time an investor really tried to revive the retailer to return back to its 2001 glory. Bill Ackman and Ron Johnson invested in the company and implemented many new ideas to try to draw customers back into its aisles. However, after a few years, they could tell consumers were literally not buying what they were selling, so they pulled out of their investment and the company had to take out a $2.25 billion loan. 

Ever since that point the company has struggled to remain open, and the coronavirus pandemic was the boiling point for filing for bankruptcy. Now the company is solely focused on recovery and support efforts for its employees.

Unemployment Claim

Unemployment Rates Continue To Rise Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April alone, 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs, making this the most sudden and largest decline in employment since the government began tracking the data in 1939. Those losses also account for the 870,000 Americans who lost their jobs in March as well. For comparison, during the financial crisis in 2008 around 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, total. 

The loss in employment is an obvious result of the coronavirus pandemic and multiple quarantine policies that have been enforced because of it. The unemployment rate went up by 14.7% in April, again, breaking the record for the highest level of unemployment the Bureau’s seen since it began recording monthly employment rates in 1948

Once businesses began closing and stay-at-home orders were being enforced in late March millions of Americans began losing their jobs. According to reports the leisure and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest so far with a loss of over 7.5 million jobs, and retail follows it with a loss of over 2 million jobs. 

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Historically speaking, the hardest part of a recession is rebuilding what gets lost. It took the United States the past ten years to create over 20 million new jobs for the American people after the 2008 recession, and now, all of that hard work was diminished in a matter of weeks. However, some big business owners are confident that this situation will be different, since the economic/job losses have been a result of a worldwide health pandemic. 

The larger issue is for industries that involve a more face-to-face consumer experience, such as restaurant workers, hotel employees, and local businesses. There’s going to be less of a demand for businesses like that because it’s going to be more difficult to convince customers to actually leave their homes when it’s not fully necessary. 

So what’s the government currently doing to help ensure our economy can recover from this pandemic and it’s huge economic impact? While it’s easy to make comparisons to our countries current situation and the Great Depression, we also have to understand the US lacked any sort of safety net in the 1930’s. 

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Once this pandemic began, local, state, and federal governments began acting to expand unemployment benefits and extend funding to small businesses. Stimulus checks have been dealt out to every American adult earning less than $99,000 a year, and while these programs have received quite a bit of backlash and have been viewed as not nearly enough action from the government, they have provided some relief to workers and employers across the country.

Congress has expanded unemployment benefits to include an additional $600 a week for the next four months and they also expanded who is eligible to file for unemployment benefits; contractors, self-employed individuals, and workers in the gig economy can now apply. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo claims that the state was able to hire 1,000 new employees specifically for sorting through unemployment claims. Government workers in New Jersey are also looking for experienced workers to help them work with decade-old computer programming for this process. So in a sort of sad ironic twist, the decline in the economy is simultaneously helping it rebuild itself, slowly. 

Overall, however, many Americans are disappointed in how long it’s taking all levels of government to respond to the many needs of the people right now. More than half of all Americans still haven’t received their stimulus checks, and even when they do they know it won’t be able to help much. Obviously, it’s going to take time for the US labor market to recover, but for now, the least we all can do is support one another, and continue to demand that the government does it’s job to protect its citizens.

Gilead Reports New Data For Potential Covid-19 Treatment

Gilead Sciences announced on Wednesday of this week that the preliminary results of a coronavirus drug trial showed that at least 50% of the patients who were treated showed exponential improvements to their health, and more than 50% were able to be discharged from the hospital within two weeks. 

The patients who showed improvement were given a five-day dosage of a drug known as remdesivir. 397 individuals who have been suffering from severe cases of Covid-19 were involved in the trial. This trial study was known as a “single-arm” study as well, meaning that the scientists involved did not test an antiviral drug against a control group of patients, like they’re doing at Oxford University currently with the same vaccine goal. 

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The study did, however, split the patients into two groups of individuals with Covid-19. One group received a five-day treatment of remdesivir, while the other group received a 10-day treatment. The results showed more than half of the patients in each group were discharged from the hospital in less than two weeks. 

“64.5% of the patients who received the shorter treatment were discharged, compared with 53.8% of the group who were treated for 10 days. This data is encouraging as it indicates that patients who received a shorter, five-day course of remdesivir experienced similar clinical improvement as patients who received a 10-day treatment course,” said Aruna Subramanian, a lead investigator of the study. 

The fact that they received almost identical results for both treatment periods is astounding news, as this means if remdesivir does lead to a successful drug treatment against Covid-19, the world will be able to use less of the drug per patient, leading to a hopeful influx in supply. 

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As of right now, there are no proven treatments for the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 3 million individuals worldwide and killed over 200,000 as of this week. Some US officials claim we won’t see a FDA approved Covid-19 vaccine for another year at least, while others are hopeful that we can see one as soon as the fall of 2020. Drug treatments, however, have taken more of a priority for many to ensure that when individuals do get infected in the future, there’s a basic line of treatment that everyone can follow; like how you take different medicine and vitamins when you have a sore throat versus the common cold.

Remdesivir has been at the center of many Covid-19 treatment trials. The drug has proven it could treat SARS and MERS which are related to/caused by the coronavirus. The most promising result that’s been seen so far is that remdesivir has reduced the overall duration of Covid-19 in patients. 

“Remdesivir is a part of a better toolbox for dealing with the coronavirus, but it’s not a home run or a cure by any means. It’s not going to be a cure, but it is going to be a drug potentially that if you use it particularly early in the course of the disease, it could reduce their chances of having a really bad outcome,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

As previously mentioned, a proper course of treatment is the biggest goal so that those who are currently suffering from the coronavirus will have the best chance at recovering quickly. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what treatments/vaccines emerge from our world’s most brilliant minds.

Small Business working during COVID-19

Small Businesses Demand Greater Financial Protections During Coronavirus Pandemic

As the many small businesses of America struggle to stay afloat during this pandemic that requires everyone to stay inside, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is working to ensure that they’re as protected as possible to survive this economic crisis. The SBA recently issued a new set of guidelines regarding their loan system that’s meant to make it less likely for big businesses to access the next round of funding that the US government deals out as a part of its small business relief program.

After the first round of small business payments were dealt out by the government, many individuals expressed their outrage online that so many large companies in the US were able to access the resources and thus take it away from actual small businesses that need the money. There are currently still thousands of small businesses across the country that haven’t received any sort of financial protections from the government, while hundreds of millions of dollars in loans have already been given to larger corporations. 

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According to the SBA, any companies now applying for coronavirus relief funding, referred to as the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP, must certify that the loans are necessary, and the only option for the business in terms of financial compensation. 

“Borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary. It is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith, and such a company should be prepared to demonstrate to SBA, upon request, the basis for its certification,”  the SBA said.

The initial round of funding dealt out $350 billion to various companies throughout the US. For the second round, an additional $310 billion will be given out to hopefully new small businesses that need it, however, industry executives aren’t expecting this fund to last that long, as the first round of PPP payments was finished after a little over a week. 

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Helping small businesses stay alive was actually president Trump’s administration’s main goal when creating the $2 trillion-plus economic response fund for the coronavirus pandemic. During the initial round of funding is when small businesses became angry, however,  as large restaurant and hotel companies were able to apply for loans up to $10 million, and a majority of the ones that did were companies that were worth more than $100 million in stock. 

JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have been two of the bigger corporations dealing with the ins and outs of these small business loans for most companies throughout the country, and thus they’re also receiving the most criticism for the first round of payments. Small businesses are claiming that this is a classic example of corporations looking out for one another while disregarding smaller businesses struggling to survive, a claim that JPMorgan has denied.

In the new SBA guidelines, the Administration is appearing to allow banks to rely on the small business claims exclusively as evidence for why they need the loan. However, the guidelines also state that any bank that dealt out a PPP loan to a larger public company in the initial round of payments can avoid any sort of repercussions by returning the relief loans within the next two weeks so the money can be redistributed.  

Hopefully these new guidelines help the millions of small businesses across the US survive to see this pandemic end and thrive once we return to a world of normal local retail therapy.