many dry months before touring and live events return at anything like prepandemic levels.

The grant program also offers help for Broadway theaters, performing arts centers and even zoos, which share many of the same economic struggles.

The Pablo Center at the Confluence, in Eau Claire, Wis., for example, was able to raise about $1 million from donations and grants during the pandemic, yet is still $1.2 million short on its annual fixed operating expenses, said Jason Jon Anderson, its executive director.

“By the time we open again, October 2021 at the earliest, we will have been shuttered longer than we had been open,” he added. (The center opened in 2018, at a cost of $60 million.)

The thousands of small clubs that dot the national concert map lack access to major donors and, in many cases, have been surviving on fumes for months.

Stephen Chilton, the owner of the 300-capacity Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, said he had taken out “a few hundred thousand” in loans to keep the club afloat. In October, it reopened with a pop-up coffee shop inside, and the club hosts some events, like trivia contests and open mic shows.

“We’re losing a lot less than we were losing when we were completely closed,” Mr. Chilton said, “but it’s not making up for the lost revenue from doing events.”

The Rebel Lounge hopes that a grant will help it survive until it can bring back a full complement of concerts. And if its application is not accepted?

“There is no Plan B,” Mr. Chilton said.

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Minority Entrepreneurs Struggled to Get Small-Business Relief Loans

Of the 1,300 Paycheck Protection Program loans that Southern Bancorp made last year, many went to customers who had been turned away by larger banks, Mr. Williams said.

In a recent Federal Reserve survey, nearly 80 percent of small-business owners who are Black or of Asian descent said their companies were in weak financial shape, compared with 54 percent of white business owners. And Black owners face unique challenges. While owners from all other demographics told the Fed that their main problem at the moment was low customer demand, Black respondents cited a different top challenge: access to credit.

When Jenell Ross, who runs an auto dealership in Ohio, sought a Paycheck Protection Program loan, her longtime bank told her to look elsewhere — a message that large banks like Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo delivered to many of their customers in the program’s frenzied early days.

Days later, she obtained a loan from Huntington Bank, a regional lender, but the experience stung.

“Historically, access to capital has been the leading concern of women- and minority-owned businesses to survive, and during this pandemic it has been no different,” Ms. Ross, who is Black, told a House committee last year.

Community lenders and aid organizations took a shoe-leather approach to filling the gaps.

Last year, the American Business Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group, worked with local nonprofits to create a “community navigator” program that sent outreach workers to Black, minority and rural businesses in Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas. They plowed through roadblocks, Whac-a-Mole-style.

Language barriers were common. Many business owners had never sought a bank loan before. Several didn’t have an email address and needed help creating one. Some hadn’t filed taxes; the coalition hired two accountants to help people sort out their financials.

“Our folks literally went door to door and walked people through the process,” said Rebecca Shi, the group’s executive director. “It’s time-consuming.”

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Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Point in the Pandemic: Live Updates

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week to 657,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the lowest weekly level of initial state claims since the pandemic upended the economy a year ago.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 684,000.

In addition, there were 242,000 new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits, a decrease of 43,000.

Unemployment claims have been at historically high levels for the past year, partly because some workers have been laid off more than once.

“The labor market will benefit from a reopening, but it will take time for a complete recovery,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. “The economy is doing well, but the job market is still far away from where it needs to be.”

Although the pace of vaccinations, as well as passage of a $1.9 trillion relief package this month, has lifted economists’ expectations for growth, the labor market has lagged behind other measures of recovery.

Still, the easing of restrictions on indoor dining areas, health clubs, movie theaters and other gathering places offers hope for the millions of workers who were let go in the last 12 months. And the $1,400 checks going to most Americans as part of the relief bill should help spending perk up in the weeks ahead.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, said she hoped for consistent employment gains but her optimism was tempered by concern about the longer-term displacement of workers by the pandemic.

“We’ve passed the point where you can just flip a switch and the lights come back on,” she said. “We need to see a sustained increase in hiring, which I think we will see, but the concern is that it won’t be so robust. It takes longer to ramp up than it does to shut down.”

Most of United’s new flights will connect cities in the Midwest to tourist destinations.
Credit…Sebastian Hidalgo for The New York Times

United Airlines plans to add more than two dozen new flights starting Memorial Day weekend, the latest sign that demand for leisure travel is picking up as the national vaccination rate moves higher.

Most of the new flights will connect cities in the Midwest to tourist destinations, such as Charleston, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina; Portland, Maine; Savannah, Ga.; and Pensacola, Fla. United also said it planned to offer more flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America in May than it did during the same month in 2019.

The airline has seen ticket sales rise in recent weeks, according to Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of domestic network planning and scheduling. Customers are booking tickets further out, too, he said, suggesting growing confidence in travel.

“Over the past 12 months, this is the first time we are really feeling more bullish,” Mr. Gupta said.

Airports have been consistently busier in recent weeks than at any point since the coronavirus pandemic brought travel to a standstill a year ago. Well over one million people were screened at airport security checkpoints each day over the past two weeks, according to the Transportation Security Administration, although the number of screenings is down more than 40 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

Most of the new United flights will be offered between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend aboard the airline’s regional jets, which have 50 seats. The airline said it would also add new flights between Houston and Kalispell, Mont.; Washington and Bozeman, Mont.; Chicago and Nantucket, Mass.; and Orange County, Calif., and Honolulu.

All told, United said it planned to operate about 58 percent as many domestic flights this May as it did in May 2019 and 46 percent as many international flights. Most of the demand for international travel has been focused on warm beach destinations that have less-stringent travel restrictions.

“That is one of the strongest demand regions in the world right now,” Mr. Gupta said. “A lot of the leisure traffic has sort of shifted to those places and it’s actually seen a boom in bookings.”

Delta Air Lines issued a similar update last week, announcing more than 20 nonstop summer flights to mountain, beach and vacation destinations. Both airlines have said in recent weeks that they have made substantial progress toward reducing how much money they are losing every day.

“Institutions that focus on diversity and do it well are the successful institutions in our society,” said Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair.
Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said on Thursday that the central bank was trying to make its economic employee base more racially diverse and he was not satisfied with its progress toward that goal so far.

“It’s very frustrating, because we have had for many years a strong focus on recruiting a more diverse cadre of economists,” Mr. Powell said while speaking on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” after being asked about a New York Times story on the Fed’s lack of Black economists. “We’re not at all satisfied with the results.”

Only two of the 417 economists, or 0.5 percent, at the Fed’s board in Washington were Black, according to data the Fed provided to The Times earlier this year. By comparison, Black people make up 13 percent of the country’s population and 3 to 4 percent of the U.S. citizens and permanent residents who graduate as Ph.D. economists each year.

Across the entire Fed system — including the Board of Governors and the 12 regional banks — 1.3 percent of economists identified as Black. The Fed has been making efforts to hire more broadly, Mr. Powell said, including by working with historically Black colleges.

“It’s a very high priority,” Mr. Powell said of hiring more diversely. “Institutions that focus on diversity and do it well are the successful institutions in our society.”

The Fed chair was also asked about how he would rate the central bank’s sweeping efforts to rescue the economy as markets melted down at the start of the coronavirus outbreak last year. In addition to cutting its policy interest rate to near zero and rolling out an enormous bond-buying program, the Fed set up a series of emergency lending programs to funnel credit to the economy.

Rolled out over a frantic few weeks, the programs included ones that the Fed had never tried before to backstop corporate bond and private company loan markets.

“I liken it to Dunkirk,” Mr. Powell said, referring to the rapid evacuation of British and Allied forces from France in World War II. “Just get in the boats and go.”

Despite the speed of the decision-making, Mr. Powell said that he looked back on the results as positive.

“Overall, it was a very successful program,” he said. “It served its purpose in staving off what could have been far worse outcomes.”

Esther George, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said she expected inflation to “firm,” given time.
Credit…Ann Saphir/Reuters

Esther George, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says that although the outlook for growth has improved as vaccinations increase and the government rolls out relief packages, the path of the pandemic remains a major question hanging over the U.S. and global economies.

“We’re not out of this yet,” Ms. George said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s hard to know what the dynamics will be on the other side.”

Ms. George said she was focused on labor force participation as a sign of the job market’s strength more than the headline unemployment rate, which has fallen to 6.2 percent from a 14.8 percent peak but misses many people who aren’t looking for new jobs after losing theirs during the pandemic. Participation, the share of people working or looking, remains a hefty two percentage points below its prepandemic levels.

“That might be the thing I really watch in the coming months,” she said.

Ms. George expects inflation to “firm,” but that the process is likely to take a while, she said, and it is “too soon to say” whether it will end with a more meaningful rise. Some prominent economists have begun to warn that prices, which have been low for decades, could rise rapidly as the government spends big and the Fed keeps rates at rock bottom to support the economic recovery.

“Wages are a very telling factor in a story about inflation,” Ms. George said.

Many economists look for faster growth in compensation as a signal that inflation is sustainable, not just driven by short-lived supply constraints or temporary quirks in the data.

Ms. George’s colleagues, including Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, have been clear that they expect prices to move higher this year but will not necessarily see that as an achievement of their inflation goal. The Fed redefined its target last year and now aims for 2 percent annual price gains, on average, over time.

Ms. George did not venture a guess of when the Fed will hit its three criteria for raising interest rates: full employment, 2 percent realized price gains and the expectation of higher inflation for some time. Some Fed officials expect to raise rates next year or in 2023, but most of them expect the initial increase to come even later.

Dan Gilbert, the chief executive of Quicken Loans, which has been based in Detroit since 2010.
Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Dan Gilbert, the Quicken Loans founder, has spent more than a decade putting billions into downtown Detroit. Now he’s broadening his scope.

The Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rocket Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage company, announced on Thursday a $500 million investment in Metro Detroit, to be spent over the next 10 years. The first $15 million will be put toward paying off property tax debt of low-income homeowners who qualified for Detroit’s Pay As You Stay initiative.

Quicken Loans has been based in Detroit since 2010, and Mr. Gilbert and his real estate firm, Bedrock, have spent billions buying and redeveloping properties there. Those efforts have been praised for revitalizing a downtown area of roughly seven square miles, but also criticized by some who contend they did not do enough to help those who live in the rest of the city.

“We feel like we’ve made Detroit into a tech boomtown,” said Mr. Gilbert. But he acknowledged that some may have felt left behind. “This can bridge that,” he said.

Mr. Gilbert added that his focus outside of Detroit’s city center stems from his work on President Barack Obama’s Blight Removal Task Force in 2014 as the city was emerging from bankruptcy. “Property taxes was the No. 1 issue that was causing the blight foreclosures,” he said.

Detroit’s housing crisis dates to “racial covenants” in the 1920s. In the mid-2000s, the city became a center of risky lending that defined the financial crisis, with subprime lending accounting for three-fourths of the mortgages in the city. (Quicken Loans settled a lawsuit with the Justice Department for its own lending practices during that time, but admitted no wrongdoing.)

The economic crisis that followed toppled a city already grappling with a dwindling population and shrinking revenue. Those who paid for the recovery were largely low-income housing owners — in many cases Black — whom the city was also accused of overtaxing. Poverty rates ascended and city services deteriorated as a result.

The investment announced on Thursday is an effort to address the lingering effects of the crisis. Twenty thousand families qualify for the tax-relief program, said Mr. Gilbert’s wife, Jennifer, who founded the Gilbert Family Foundation with her husband.

“By preserving that wealth, we also preserve opportunities for intergenerational wealth transfer,” she said. “The stability of the home allows for people to then focus on other economic opportunities that allow them to thrive.”

After the first $15 million of the initiative is spent paying back taxes of low-income homeowners, the remaining funds will be focused on, among other things, home repair and narrowing the digital divide.

The community will be vital for input, including those who qualify for the initial tax relief. “We can learn a lot about where we want to invest next and how best we can positively impact them and their lives,” Ms. Gilbert said.

A Nike store in Beijing on Thursday. Nike shares fell in premarket trading after it was criticized on Chinese social media over a statement it made about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.
Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

U.S. stock futures dipped on Thursday even as the latest weekly data on state unemployment claims showed that they fell to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to 657,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 684,000. Economists have been expecting the numbers to fall as the vaccine rollout continues and the effects of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package emerge.

European stocks were lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.8 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain fell 1 percent.

“We are here to help our small businesses, and that is why I’m proud to more than triple the amount of funding they can access,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, the Small Business Administration’s administrator.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Companies harmed by the coronavirus pandemic can soon borrow up to $500,000 through the Small Business Administration’s emergency lending program, raising a cap that has frustrated many applicants.

“The pandemic has lasted longer than expected,” Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, said on Wednesday. “We are here to help our small businesses, and that is why I’m proud to more than triple the amount of funding they can access.”

The change to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program — known as EIDL and pronounced as idle — will take effect the week of April 6. Those who have already received loans but might now qualify for more money will be contacted and offered the opportunity to apply for an increase, the agency said.

The Small Business Administration has approved $200 billion in disaster loans to 3.8 million borrowers since the program began last year. Unlike the forgivable loans made through the larger and more prominent Paycheck Protection Program, the disaster loans must be paid back. But they carry a low interest rate and a long repayment term.

Normally, the decades-old disaster program makes loans of up to $2 million, and in the early days of the pandemic, the agency gave some applicants as much as $900,000. But it soon capped loans at $150,000 because it feared exhausting the available funding. That limit — which the agency did not tell borrowers about for months — angered applicants who needed more capital to keep their struggling ventures alive.

The agency has $270 billion left to lend through the pandemic relief program, James Rivera, the head of the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance, told senators at a hearing on Wednesday.

Jane Fraser in 2019. “The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being,” she told Citigroup employees.
Credit…Erin Scott/Reuters

Complaints of “Zoom fatigue” have emerged across industries and classrooms in the past year, as people confined to working from home faced schedules packed with virtual meetings and often followed up by long video catch-ups with friends, reports Anna Schaverien of The New York Times.

But Citigroup, one of the world’s largest banks, is trying to start a new end-of-week tradition meant to combat that fatigue: Zoom-free Fridays.

The bank’s new chief executive, Jane Fraser, announced the plan in a memo sent to employees on Monday. Recognizing that workers have spent inordinate amounts of the past 12 months staring at video calls, Citi is encouraging its employees to take a step back from Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms for one day a week, she said.

“The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being,” Ms. Fraser wrote in the memo, which was seen by The New York Times.

No one at the company would have to turn their video on for any internal meetings on Fridays, she said. External meetings would not be affected.

The bank outlined other steps to restore some semblance of work-life balance. It recommended employees stop scheduling calls outside of traditional working hours and pledged that when employees can return to offices, a majority of its workers would be given the option to work from home up to two days a week.

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Small businesses can now borrow up to $500,000 through a government disaster loan program.

Companies harmed by the coronavirus pandemic can soon borrow up to $500,000 through the Small Business Administration’s emergency lending program, raising a cap that has frustrated many applicants.

“The pandemic has lasted longer than expected,” Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, said on Wednesday. “We are here to help our small businesses, and that is why I’m proud to more than triple the amount of funding they can access.”

The change to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program — known as EIDL and pronounced as idle — will take effect the week of April 6. Those who have already received loans but might now qualify for more money will be contacted and offered the opportunity to apply for an increase, the agency said.

The Small Business Administration has approved $200 billion in disaster loans to 3.8 million borrowers since the program began last year. Unlike the forgivable loans made through the larger and higher-profile Paycheck Protection Program, the disaster loans must be paid back. But they carry a low interest rate and a long repayment term.

angered applicants who needed more capital to keep their struggling ventures alive.

The agency has $270 billion left to lend through the coronavirus program, James Rivera, the head of the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance, told senators at a hearing on Wednesday.

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Live-event businesses will be able to apply for a relief grant program starting April 8.

A $16 billion federal relief fund for live-event businesses like music clubs, theaters, museums and concert promoters will start taking applications on April 8, according to the Small Business Administration.

“Help is here,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, who took office this week. “This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline.”

Applicants are eligible for grants of up to $10 million from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant fund, which Congress created in the economic relief bill passed in December. Applications will be taken in phases, starting with a two-week period exclusively for businesses that lost at least 90 percent of their revenue after the pandemic took hold last year.

Groups that lobbied for the relief money are desperate for it to start flowing, but also nervous about how long it will last. With an estimated 30,000 or more businesses eligible for the grants, those in the industry fear the available funding will quickly be consumed.

many bumps along the way.

The program for shuttered venues will be the first large-scale grant program the agency has ever run, which has made creating the program’s rules and technology systems a complicated and prolonged effort.

“We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the S.B.A., and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the venue association. “The opening can’t come soon enough.”

And this grant fund will not be the agency’s last: The $1.9 trillion relief package passed last week included $28 billion for grants through a program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, that the S.B.A. will also create and manage.

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Biden Highlights Small-Business Help, as Problems Persist With Lending Program

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Mr. Biden’s nominee to run the Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman, by an 81-to-17 vote.

Despite the concerns, Mr. Biden was met with praise in Chester, Pa., when he visited Smith Flooring, a Black-owned business that supplies and installs flooring. White House officials said the shop cut payroll over the last year, from 22 union employees to 12, after revenues declined by 20 percent during the pandemic. It has survived, the officials said, thanks in part to two rounds of loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress established last year during the Trump administration to help small businesses.

“This is a great outfit. This is a union shop,” Mr. Biden said in brief remarks. Its employees, he said, “work like the devil, and they can make a decent wage, a living wage.”

The owners of Smith Flooring, Kristin and James Smith, secured their second loan from the program as part of one of the Biden administration’s changes, which created a two-week exclusive period for certain very small businesses to receive loans. They thanked Mr. Biden for his efforts and for visiting Chester.

Mr. Biden’s aid bill, signed last week, added $7 billion to the program and funded others to help struggling businesses, including a $28 billion grant fund for restaurants. The law also set aside additional money for other relief efforts run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses, which the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.

Lenders are scrambling to carry out the administration’s changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and finish processing a flood of applications before March 31. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants called the deadline “unrealistic,” and 10 banking groups sent a letter to lawmakers urging Congress to give them more time.

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Retail Sales Fall as Americans Await New Round of Stimulus Checks: Live Updates

sales in January surged by 7.6 percent — a gain likely fueled by stimulus checks that were deposited at the end of last year. The increase in January, revised upward on Tuesday, benefited a broad array of retailers. Consumers spent more on goods, including at furniture sellers and department stores, as well as in restaurants, in a positive sign for an economy that has been battered by the pandemic.

The data suggests that the recovery in consumer spending is likely to be bumpy as the retail sector recovers from shifts in consumer spending and a new round of stimulus payments arrives in Americans’ bank accounts. Retailers saw largely uneven sales for the better part of last year, as consumers flocked to big-box chains and grocery stores and spent less at many apparel retailers and restaurants. Balancing out those categories is likely to take a combination of stimulus money, vaccinations, improvements in unemployment numbers and warm weather.

“It was obviously going to slow down a bit,” Mickey Chadha, a retail analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said of the February sales.

“Going forward, the new stimulus checks that are going out as we speak are definitely going to be a positive for retail sales in March and through April,” he added. “All indications are, as the vaccines roll out through the country and the pandemic gets under control, this capacity to spend is only going to fuel further sales in retail.”

Economists at Morgan Stanley had forecast a 0.7 percent gain in February sales based on the outsize gains in January, and also predicted that new stimulus money arriving in late March and early April would drive a spending surge in coming months.

President Biden signed into law a nearly $1.9 trillion relief plan last week, and direct payments of $1,400 per person are already making their way to the bank accounts of low- and middle-income Americans.

“Some of that money is bound to flow into retail — it just has to,” Mr. Chadha said.

The law, known as the American Rescue Plan, also extends $300 federal jobless benefits through Sept. 6 and provides billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Emmanuel Faber, who stepped down as the chairman and chief executive of Danone, had attracted the ire of activist investors.
Credit…Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Emmanuel Faber, the chairman and chief executive of the French consumer group Danone, abruptly left the company on Monday under pressure from activist investors. Now, shareholders of the company, which owns Evian and several yogurt brands, are fighting among themselves about it.

CtW, an adviser to union pensions with more than $250 billion in assets, sent a sharply worded letter to Artisan Partners, the firm that led the revolt over Mr. Faber’s leadership. The twist in the letter, which was reviewed by the DealBook newsletter, is that CtW owns a “substantial” number of Artisan shares — and said that the fund needed the sort of governance shake-up it pushed for at Danone.

Artisan had criticized Danone’s performance versus competitors like Nestlé and Unilever, calling for boardroom changes, including someone other than Mr. Faber becoming chairman. Mr. Faber had been chief executive since 2014 and added the chairman role in 2017. Danone said at the beginning of the month that it would search for a new chief executive, but Mr. Faber would remain as chairman. Mr. Faber shed both of those roles on Monday.

“The appointment of new leadership and better corporate governance will strengthen the company for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Artisan said in a statement on Monday welcoming Mr. Faber’s departure.

CtW says Artisan’s own policies are inconsistent with its demands for Danone. Notably, one person, Eric Colson, serves as Artisan’s chairman and chief executive. “Artisan’s call for an independent chair at Danone while maintaining the positions of C.E.O. and chair combined on its own board is inconsistent with best governance practices,” wrote Dieter Waizenegger, CtW’s executive director. He also questioned the firm’s use of “large discretionary cash bonuses” and demanded a discussion with Artisan’s management by the end of the month.

Artisan did not respond to a request for comment.

Danone, which reported $28 billion in sales in its latest fiscal year, was the first public company to adopt the French legal framework of “Entreprise à Mission,” which allows companies to take greater consideration of social and environmental issues in their business model. Some 99 percent of shareholders, but not Artisan Partners, approved the move in June last year.

The turmoil raises the question whether business models that take all stakeholders into account can survive resistance from activist investors focused primarily on shareholder returns. Danone said in a statement announcing the management changes that it “believes in the necessity” of combining “high economic performance” with Danone’s “unique model of a purpose-driven company.”

The Foxconn chairman and chief executive, Young Liu, said the company was considering sites in Wisconsin or Mexico to produce electric cars.
Credit…Johnson Lai/Associated Press

The Taiwanese electronics behemoth Foxconn, which is aiming to become a contract manufacturer of electric cars, is considering a plant in the United States for production of its first battery-powered vehicles, the company’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Foxconn is weighing whether to use its facility in Wisconsin or one of its plants in Mexico to make its clients’ vehicles, Young Liu, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said at a news briefing in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

Foxconn, best-known for making iPhones for Apple, has moved eagerly to expand its car business as the world shifts away from internal combustion engines. Last month, it signed an agreement with the California-based start-up Fisker to develop a new electric vehicle. The two companies said they would aim to start jointly producing cars in 2023, with a goal of eventually making more than 250,000 of them a year.

On Tuesday, Mr. Liu emphasized that Foxconn had not made a final decision about where to manufacture cars for Fisker or any other potential partners.

Foxconn has taken its time figuring out what to produce at its site in Wisconsin, a reflection of the complicated economics of manufacturing in the United States.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in 2018, President Donald J. Trump said it would be the “eighth wonder of the world,” as a manufacturer of flat-screen TVs. But those plans have stalled, and the company will announce what it decides to make in Wisconsin — whether electric cars or something else — before July, Mr. Liu said.

In October, Foxconn unveiled a kit of technology and tools aimed at helping automakers develop electric vehicles. It also said it was aiming to release a solid-state battery by 2024. Many companies are investing in the technology behind such batteries, which would allow electric cars to travel farther and be charged more quickly than current batteries.

“It’s just the beginning of this E.V. era,” Mr. Liu said. “We have to be ready for that.”

President Biden is scheduled to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden plans to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains an assortment of measures aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.

The aid bill created a $29 billion grant fund for restaurants and set aside additional money for several relief programs run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses that the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.

But the Biden administration’s most sweeping small-business initiative has been hindered by problems. Last month, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to get more money to freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed people.

Women and minority owners are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, and they were disproportionately shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program under earlier rules that calculated such companies’ forgivable relief loans based on the size of their annual profit. The Biden administration’s more forgiving formula lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a switch that significantly increased the money available to many applicants.

But the change was not retroactive, which has set off a backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.

JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a loan in February for $1,900. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.

“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”

Small Business Administration officials have said that only Congress can fix that disparity. Some key Democratic lawmakers say they are willing.

“I am aware of the situation facing these sole proprietors and am working to ensure they get the funds they are entitled to under the Biden administration’s rule changes retroactively,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee. “My staff and I are working with the S.B.A. and congressional Republicans to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Signal, the encrypted chat app, had stopped functioning in China as of Tuesday, in what appeared to be a block of one of the last major foreign messaging services still available in the country, where the internet is closely controlled.

Users in China on Tuesday morning reported widely that the app had stopped working. A New York Times test of the app in Shanghai and Beijing confirmed the reports. Signal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The outage appeared likely to be a government-led block. The app continued to work when users in the mainland logged on to the service via a virtual private network, software that routes their connections outside the country.

Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” which blocks anyone but the sender and receiver from reading the contents. The app has soared in popularity globally in recent months a fears have grown over data harvesting from large internet companies.

The likely block further limits communication options on China’s internet, where the government has built a sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance to control speech. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has steadily winnowed down the major foreign communication tools available to regular Chinese users. Services like Google’s Gmail, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter are all blocked.

In recent years, Signal had grown a modest following in China among activists, journalists, lawyers and others as China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.

For years, it had been a parlor game among its users in China to guess why Signal, long a well-known tool for secret communications, remained unblocked. One theory was that it helped the authorities find who was trying to hide from government spies because, when first downloaded, the app sends the new user a text message that they could possibly track. Still, China’s government often waits for apps to reach larger scale before banning them. Last month, the social media site Clubhouse fell afoul of the blocks after it soared in popularity.

Wall Street followed European and Asian markets higher on Tuesday, adding slightly to gains that on Monday lifted the S&P 500 to a record.

The S&P 500 rose about 0.1 percent in early trading while the Nasdaq composite gained more than half a percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 and FTSE 100 rose about 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Nikkei in Japan had climbed more than half a percent earlier.

The gains came despite recent turmoil about the vaccine rollout in Europe, and growing expectations of a new round of pandemic-related restrictions there.

Several European countries, including Germany, France, Denmark and Norway, have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that some people had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots after receiving the vaccine. AstraZeneca has said there is “no evidence” of a link, and the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have warned that countries suspending use of the vaccine would disrupt the rollout.

But investors are in wait-and-see mode ahead of central bank meetings this week.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will announce its policy stance and publish new economic forecasts. Analysts at BNP Paribas said the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, faces a tricky balancing act: acknowledging the improved economic outlook and increase in bond yields, while defending the central bank’s easy-money policies.

Investors have been focused on interest rates and inflation expectations for the past several weeks, concerned that resurgent growth in the United States might prompt the Fed to start to wind down efforts to keep rates low sooner than they’d expected. Fed officials have repeatedly said that they’re not concerned about lasting inflation, and that they have no intention of ending their efforts to keep the financial system functioning smoothly.

On Thursday, the Bank of England will announce a rate decision. Economists are not forecasting a change in policy.

A survey of investor confidence in Germany’s economic outlook rose in March, for the fourth consecutive month. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.5 percent and the DAX index of Germany’s 30 largest companies by market value gained 0.6 percent.

The Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, and owner, Louwenda Kachingwe, in their new flower shop next door.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Hatch is alive, albeit as a different place.

Louwenda Kachingwe used ingenuity and a bit of good fortune to take advantage of federal money and discounted leases to not only hold on but expand his Oakland, Calif., bar, Jack Nicas reports for The New York Times.

He lobbied city officials to close down a lane of traffic and then twice built a patio in its place. (Days of rain ruined the first patio.) He and staff built the takeout window, rewrote the menu, moved a projector and screen outside, and bought an outdoor sound system off Craigslist.

He said the Hatch was now better suited for a post-pandemic world, with more outdoor space and a takeout operation. It also suddenly has a few sister businesses.

Last month, he and the Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, opened Pothead, a flower and wine shop, next door to the Hatch. They also took on a third lease in the empty space next to Pothead as a place to build larger floral arrangements for events, to stage a new operation making bottled cocktails and sauces, and to sublease the storefront to some friends’ apparel business.

Such a bet in the midst of a pandemic was bold, but Mr. Kachingwe saw opportunity. He had just received his second $72,500 forgivable loan from the federal government, and his landlord was desperate. So Mr. Kachingwe negotiated a deal that gave him access to the three adjacent storefronts for $7,500 a month, or 20 percent more than what he was paying for only the Hatch before the pandemic. The landlord said they would assess the arrangement at the end of April.

Amazon’s warehouse in Chester, Va., where a union effort tried to organize about 30 facilities technicians in 2014 and 2015.
Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Over two decades, as Amazon mushroomed from a virtual bookstore into a $1.5 trillion behemoth, it forcefully — and successfully — resisted employee efforts to organize. Some workers in recent years agitated for change in Staten Island, Chicago, Sacramento and Minnesota, but the impact was negligible.

The arrival of the coronavirus last year changed that, reports David Streitfeld for The New York Times. It turned Amazon into an essential resource for millions stuck at home and redefined the company’s relationship with its warehouse workers. Like many service industry employees, they were vulnerable to the virus. As society locked down, they were also less able to simply move on if they had issues with the job.

Now Amazon faces a union vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. — the largest and most viable U.S. labor challenge in its history. Nearly 6,000 workers have until March 29 to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A labor victory could energize workers in other U.S. communities, where Amazon has more than 800 warehouses employing more than 500,000 people.

“This is happening in the toughest state, with the toughest company, at the toughest moment,” said Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “If the union can prevail given those three facts, it will send a message that Amazon is organizable everywhere.”

But a unionization effort in Chester, V.a., which The Times reconstructed with documents from regulators and the machinists’ union, as well as interviews with former facilities technicians at the warehouse and union officials, offers one of the fullest pictures of what encourages Amazon workers to open the door to a union — and what techniques the company uses to slam the door and nail it shut.

The tactics that Amazon used in Chester are surfacing elsewhere:

It wouldn’t have been a Carl Hiaasen column if it didn’t go on the attack. In his Miami Herald farewell on Friday, Mr. Hiaasen took aim at the sorry state of local news coverage.

“Retail corruption is now a breeze,” he wrote, “since newspapers and other media can no longer afford enough reporters to cover all the key government meetings.”

Mr. Hiaasen, 68, joined The Miami Herald as a reporter in 1976 and started his column in 1985. Along the way he became a best-selling author, writing about Florida’s underbelly and environmental devastation in comic novels like “Tourist Season,” “Sick Puppy” and “Strip Tease.” Now he will no longer have a weekly venue for skewering government officials, business leaders and the various absurdities of life in the Sunshine State.

“Nobody becomes a journalist because they yearn for mass adoration,” he wrote in his final column. “Donald Trump didn’t turn the public against the mainstream media; the news business has never been popular.”

Mr. Hiaasen also used his goodbye to pay tribute to his brother, Rob, a journalist who was killed in a gunman’s rampage at The Capital Gazette in Maryland in 2018. He also thanked The Herald’s “talented, tenacious” editors and reporters.

The paper was owned by the newspaper publisher Knight Ridder when he started working there. In 2006, the McClatchy Company, a family-run newspaper chain, bought Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. Last year Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund, bought McClatchy, and The Herald along with it, in a bankruptcy auction.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Hiaasen said he had lasted 45 years at The Herald because it was “a good fit.”

“I always felt privileged to be able to write for a paper that I read as a kid growing up here in Florida and to be writing in a place that I care about,” he said. “I was lucky to be at this paper as a reporter in the ’70s and ’80s, when Miami was catching fire. It was a hell of a newspaper, hell of a news town and I was lucky to be there.”

He said he planned to do more fishing but will continue writing books. “Nobody really retires as a writer,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “You keel face forward into the keyboard one day and that’s it.”

He added that the hardest thing to watch during his career was the shrinking of the local news industry, saying, “There are fewer and fewer boots on the ground to do the grunt work required to keep democracy informed.”

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Looming Deadline and Last-Minute Changes Hinder Small-Business Relief

The latest revision of the Paycheck Protection Program appeared to be a victory for the most vulnerable small businesses, offering more generous relief to companies like solo ventures that were eligible for only tiny loans — or none at all.

If only they could take advantage of the changes.

President Biden announced an abrupt overhaul two weeks ago to funnel more money to very small companies, some of which qualified for loans as small as $1 under the old guidelines. But the Small Business Administration updated its systems only on Friday, and with just three weeks before the program is set to expire, some lenders say there just isn’t enough time to adapt to the changes.

The result has been gridlock and uncertainty that have left tens of thousands of self-employed people frantic to find lenders willing to issue the more generous loans before the program ends on March 31.

JPMorgan Chase, the program’s largest lender this year in terms of dollars disbursed, doesn’t plan to act on the new loan formula before it stops accepting applications on March 19. Bank of America, the second-biggest lender, opted against updating its loan application and said it would contact self-employed applicants to manually sort out their applications — but wouldn’t accept new ones after 5 p.m. today.

forums like Reddit to hash out their options and to swap tips on which lenders are using the new formula and which ones are not. “Desperate for Guidance!” one typical post reads. “Reaching out to see if anyone can help me figure out this absolutely monstrous failure.”

The disarray is compounded by the other major change Mr. Biden announced last month: a 14-day window, which ends today, during which the Small Business Administration would accept applications only from companies with fewer than 20 employees. The intent was to get aid to needy businesses, especially those run by women and minorities. The vast majority of those businesses are sole proprietorships that would benefit from the new formula, and many rushed to take advantage of the priority period.

But the nearly two-week delay for the more generous rules put lenders in a tough spot: They could pause applications from sole proprietors, creating a backlog they would later have to unravel, or they could approve applications under the previous formula, which would result in much smaller loans for their customers.

Biz2Credit, which has made more loans this year than any other lender, temporarily stopped accepting applications while it worked to adjust to the new rules. It plans to resume this week, said Rohit Arora, its chief executive.

Other large lenders — including Cross River Bank and Customers Bank, which round out the program’s top five lenders — said they had begun processing loans on Monday using the new formula.

Hundreds of thousands of borrowers who have already received their loans have no way to reapply under the more generous rules, infuriating business owners like Bryan Cordova, who finalized a loan for his printing business in Round Rock, Texas, just days before Mr. Biden announced the changes.

 stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

Even before the changes were announced last month, lenders were trying to unravel extensive errors and data verification problems that had stalled tens of thousands of applications. It would take an act of Congress to push back the deadline, and lenders and trade groups are calling, with increasing urgency, for an extension.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants called the March 31 deadline “unrealistic,” and 10 banking groups sent a letter to lawmakers last week urging Congress to give them more time.

The Biden administration has not sought an extension, but key congressional leaders have said they are willing to pass legislation that would push back the deadline. The House Small Business Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday about the status of the Paycheck Protection Program.

“It’s clear that small businesses are still feeling the effects of the Covid crisis and need P.P.P.’s support,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House committee. She said Congress must “ensure this critical lifeline isn’t abruptly pulled away from small businesses.”

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland and the leader of his chamber’s small business committee, “would be open to a bipartisan agreement” to extend the deadline, according to a spokesman, Fabion Seaton.

have been waiting for months for the federal government to open a generous $15 billion grant fund for their industry that was authorized in December. But the money will not start flowing until April at the earliest, according to Mr. Coleman, the Small Business Administration spokesman.

Businesses have been barred from taking one of those grants if they also took a Paycheck Protection Program loan this year, but the $1.9 trillion relief bill that passed the Senate on Saturday would remove that restriction and count the loan toward any grant the business receives later. The bill is now before the House and is likely to be finalized by Mr. Biden this week.

That change would allow venues like the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas to get help faster. “We were thrilled to see that come through,” said Debbie Storey, the center’s chief executive.

Ms. Storey’s organization made the “painful” choice last week to forgo the grant and seek a Paycheck Protection Program loan instead, she said. Her lender had urged the center to apply this week or risk missing the deadline.

“We couldn’t afford to miss that window,” she said.

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