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COVID-19 Real Estate

College Students Organize Rent Strike Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

One University of London student recently told the story of how he and 200 other fellow students are currently involved in a rent strike due to their inability to afford housing amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

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.

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.

Rental Car

Rental Car Industry Has Come To A Halt Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Rental car companies typically account for about 10% or more of annual new car sales in the United States. It’s estimated that anywhere from 1.7 million to 2 million new cars were purchased through rental companies in 2019 alone. However, like most industries in the world right now, the coronavirus pandemic has caused rental car companies to suffer greatly. 

Rental car companies get around two-thirds of their business from airport locations, but obviously not a lot of individuals are utilizing those facilities at the moment. In fact, the rate of flying via airplane in the United States has decreased by a whopping 94% since the beginning of April. As a direct result of this drop-off, way less people are needing to rent cars. 

Hertz recently made headlines when they announced that they were filing for bankruptcy last week as a result of missing multiple payments to their group of lenders due to a massive drop off in new car purchases. Hertz’ main rival, Avis Budget, has been able to keep themselves in business by immediately cutting off all plans to sell new cars when the pandemic began, and by planning to continue cutting purchases of new cars by 80% within the coming months; Avis is still struggling and losing money, but because of this quick thinking they’re remaining economically viable for now. 

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Enterprise has also found themselves in a relatively viable position as well, however, it’s important to note that even the rental companies that are doing the most “successfully” amid the pandemic still have to deal with lots upon lots of thousands of unused cars that they normally would be gearing up to sell to third-party dealers right now.

At the moment, major sports stadiums throughout the country, such as the Dodgers and Angel Stadium in California, have been called upon to store these unused cars for the time being while no one is attending any sports games. The Los Angeles Times posted a photo of these parking lots, joking that it seemed as though Californians were all in the stadium still cheering for their favorite teams. 

“Hertz said it has sold 41,000 cars from its US fleet and another 13,000 cars in Europe in early March, but that the halting of used car auctions and closure of many used and new car dealerships essentially brought sales to a halt. The difficulty in continuing to sell cars is one of the reasons it cited as the cause of its bankruptcy filing. Avis Budget said it already cut its US fleet by 35,000 in the first half of March,” according to reports from CNN. 

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Rental companies are still preparing to sell these cars, however, and are even estimating they can sell hundreds upon thousands of cars; there are currently about 1.5 million unused rental cars in the US. 

All companies are considering some pretty severe price cuts to get rid of the vehicles, which could be extremely beneficial to anyone in the market for a new car. Now, buyers can likely expect to see these companies listing these late-model cars with relatively low mileage, barely any use, and at a significantly lower price than what’s to be expected (depending on the specific car of course). 

“The sales to rental car companies typically are among lowest-margin sales made by the automakers, especially compared to retail buyers who are more likely to pay for the higher priced options. But while sales to rental car companies “aren’t necessarily the most profitable sales, they move the metal, and generate cash that is needed right now,”  said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for automotive research firm LMC.

Like all industries throughout the world right now, only time will tell how this pandemic continues to impact business and its economic viability.

AIRBNB

Airbnb Hosts Continue To Struggle Supporting Themselves Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Worldwide travel has come to an obvious halt, and one of the largest markets that’s felt the direct effects of that is the tourism industry. More specifically, many Airbnb hosts are planning to sell their properties as a means of making up for the money they would normally be earning from the beginning of the summer vacation season.

The real estate market in general is really unbalanced at the moment. Depending on what part of the country you’re living in, how badly the pandemic has impacted your region, and how many individuals are even still willing to proceed with their real estate transactions while the economy is so low, many aren’t able to bring their real estate realities into fruition. 

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Airbnb hosts are gearing up to lose thousands of dollars in lost bookings, cancelled trips, and an overall lack of business. The struggle comes when it’s time for hosts to pay for things such as housing bills, maintenance costs, mortgage payments, and any other payments that are normally covered by the money they earn from hosting. This is hitting homeowners who own multiple properties especially hard as well. 

“We have been working to support our community through multiple efforts, including committing $250 million to help support hosts who were affected by COVID-19-related guest cancellations and $17 million to our Super Host Relief Fund. Our internal data points to guests’ desire to travel and we are preparing to help hosts welcome them as soon as possible, which includes new cleaning measures as well,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement

Airbnb has had to lay off about 25% of their workforce amid the pandemic, but also began making these major job cuts before coronavirus even entered into the States. In March, Airbnb hosts were already protesting the company they worked for, claiming that executives rely too heavily on its hosts to make money for the company.

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The protests came specifically after Airbnb announced that it would be paying its hosts only about 25% of what they would normally make back from the company after a client cancellation. Normally, if a client cancels they still have to pay a decent fraction of the renting price (a policy that each host must specifically outline), so that the host has some revenue to make from the transaction and lost time.

“[I] shut down two listings during the coronavirus crisis, one of which was pre-planned. Some of the owners [I] work with are considering winding down more properties, or are looking for long-term tenants, further throwing her business into uncertainty. I’m scrambling trying to figure out what I’m going to do, and what’s going to happen in the future. I’m not making money. With the Airbnb business, I am just trying to minimize my losses. Only one of the houses is meeting its expenses, meaning my rent and utilities,” Christina Zima, an Airbnb host in the San Francisco Bay Area, said to CNN.

Some hosts, like Zima, are turning to Facebook Marketplace to either further rent out their untouched properties, or sell their furniture and other goods to make ends meet. However, selling your valuables online doesn’t compare to making a steady income through a business you previously ran rather independently. 

Other hosts are remaining optimistic that as new safety precautions are dealt out for hosts that their renters will begin to book their properties again. For now, like for every other industry in the country, it’s a waiting game to see how much worse the country and its economy gets amid the pandemic.

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.

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.

Stimulus Check

How To Track Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check Status

Coronavirus stimulus payments have begun being distributed to Americans all across the country. Every adult will be receiving $1,200 and an additional $500 per dependent child as a part of the Economic Impact Payments authorized by the CARES Act. These payments are meant to “mitigate the financial damage caused by the global lockdowns” according to the IRS. 

The IRS will be sending both paper checks and direct deposit payments. Direct deposit payments have already begun appearing in certain individuals accounts, while paper checks will be sent out at a rate of 5 million per week starting this week. The physical checks can take up to five months to get to everyone who’s receiving paper as opposed to an electronic payment.

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If you don’t want to wait until August/September to receive your check, there’s a few things you can do right now, but you have to move quickly. First, you need to make sure that the IRS has your correct banking information. They typically get this information from your tax returns, so if you filed your 2018/2019 return with your current banking information you should be all set. However, if you have outdated banking information on your most recent return, you’ll need to send the IRS your current status. 

You can update the information that the IRS has on file for you by visiting their website and inputting your bank details along with other basic financial information such as your income and dependents. If you don’t provide the IRS with these details, you won’t receive a stimulus check at all. The IRS needs to have all of your information processed and inputted into their official system before a check can even be signed. 

The IRS has simplified their website to be much more user friendly in light of the coronavirus pandemic and all the economic confusion surrounding it. This way, you can easily check your checks status, as well as update any information regarding your finances and banking. 

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If you aren’t sure whether or not the IRS has your correct information or not, click on the “Get My Payment” tab on the website. If your payment shows up as “pending” or “processed” you won’t be able to change any of your banking information that’s on file, but a stimulus check should likely already be on its way to you. If not, you should have the option to provide the IRS with your updated information. 

If you haven’t filed a tax return and don’t receive any Social Security Benefits, visit the website and click on the “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” tab to provide information on your dependents, income, and overall eligibility for the coronavirus stimulus check. 

As previously mentioned, you should move fairly quickly now when checking your stimulus payment status. If the IRS has the wrong information on file, the bank that it does get sent to will reject the check, and if it’s paper, the IRS will be notified and so will you, but it will likely be a very long time before you receive that notification and your money. If the IRS doesn’t have your banking details, they will automatically mail the check to your last known address, so make sure that the address they have on file is correct.

During this time of confusion and panic, we all could use all the help we can get, especially financially. To make sure you’re not left waiting indefinitely for a check that may never come, make sure the IRS has all of your correct financial information on record so you and your loved ones can receive the payment you deserve.

Real Estate

Allie Beth Allman Is Confident The Real Estate Industry Will Survive The Coronavirus Pandemic

Allie Beth Allman is known as the grand dame of Dallas real estate and now, she’s using her platform to keep the public informed about the state of the nation’s real estate industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.