With Warning to Democrats, Manchin Points the Way for Biden’s Agenda

Republican senators, singed by their experience on the pandemic aid bill, responded to Mr. Biden’s gestures to bipartisanship by issuing a chilly statement saying that the last time he made a public plea to work together, “the administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, pushed the administration to negotiate an infrastructure measure that would represent about 30 percent of the $2.25 trillion being proposed, before turning to budget reconciliation for any additional spending increases.

“My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Mr. Blunt said.

Importantly, Republicans have no interest in the corporate tax increase that would essentially undo their most significant legislative achievement of the Trump era. Neither do business groups, which have helped broker some bipartisan compromises on economic issues in the past but have lost some power in recent years as populist impulses have swept both parties.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, called the tax proposal “an effort to rewrite the 2017 tax bill,” which itself passed via budget reconciliation with no Democratic votes.

The Trump tax law “in my view was principally responsible for the fact that in February 2020 we had the best economy of 50 years,” Mr. McConnell said. “But they are going to tear that down.”

Still, business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Mr. Manchin’s appeal could prod Mr. Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure. Such deals could including spending big on research and development for emerging industries, like advanced batteries, in the supply chain bill, which carries bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate. They could also include spending a few hundred billion dollars on highways and other surface transportation projects. That could satisfy at least some of Mr. Manchin’s quest for bipartisanship and give both parties the ability to claim victory.

View Source

Music Venues’ Quest for Billions in Federal Aid Is Halted by Glitch

As the government prepared on Thursday to start taking applications for a $16 billion relief fund for music clubs, theaters and other live event businesses, thousands of desperate applicants waited eagerly to submit their paperwork right at noon, when the system was scheduled to open.

And then they waited. And waited. Nearly four hours later, the system was still not working at all, sending applicants into spasms of anxiety.

“This is an absolute disaster,” Eric Sosa, the owner of C’mon Everybody, a club in Brooklyn, tweeted at the agency. In social media forums and Zoom calls, frustrated applicants banded together to vent and share their anger.

The Small Business Administration, which runs the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, attributed the problems to “a technical issue” that it said it was working to address.

the same thing happened again, weeks later, when a new round of funding became available.

Applicants for the grant program were incredulous that the agency was not better prepared — especially because the funds are to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who get their applications in early have the best chance of getting aid before the money runs out.

“It pits venues against each other because we’re all mad-dashing for this,” Mr. Sosa said in an interview. “And it shouldn’t be that way. We’re all a community.”

For businesses like Crowbar, a music club in Tampa, Fla., getting a grant is a matter of survival. Tom DeGeorge, Crowbar’s primary owner, took out more than $200,000 in personal loans to keep the business afloat after it shut down last year, including one using its liquor license as collateral.

More than a year later, the club has reopened with a smattering of events at reduced capacities, but the business still operates in the red, Mr. DeGeorge said in an interview.

months of lobbying by an ad hoc coalition of music venues and other groups that warned of the loss of an entire sector of the arts economy.

For music venues in particular, the last year has been a scramble to remain afloat, with the proprietors of local clubs running crowdfunding campaigns, selling T-shirts and racking their brains for any creative way to raise funds. For the holidays, the Subterranean club in Chicago, for example, agreed to place the names of patrons on its marquee for donations of $250 or more.

“It’s been the busiest year,” Robert Gomez, the primary owner of Subterranean, said in an interview. “But it’s all been about, ‘Where am I going to get funding from?’”

sent out an alert warning of “serious concerns” with the program’s waste and fraud controls. The Small Business Administration’s current audit plan “exposes billions of dollars to potential misuse of funds,” the inspector general wrote in a report.

Successful applicants will receive a grant equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue from 2019, up to $10 million. Those who lost 90 percent of their revenue (compared to the prior year) after the coronavirus pandemic took hold will have a 14-day priority window for receiving the money, followed by another 14-day period for those who lost 70 percent or more. If any funds remain after that, they will then go to applicants who had a 25 percent sales loss in at least one quarter of 2020. Venues owned by large corporations, like Live Nation or AEG, are not eligible.

The application process is extensive, with detailed questions about venues’ budgets, staff and equipment.

“They want to make sure you’re not just setting up a piano in the corner of an Italian restaurant and calling yourself a music venue,” said Blayne Tucker, a lawyer for several music spaces in Texas.

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.

View Source

As U.S. Prospects Brighten, Fed’s Powell Sees Risk in Global Vaccination Pace

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, stressed on Thursday that even as economic prospects look brighter in the United States, getting the world vaccinated and controlling the coronavirus pandemic remain critical to the global outlook.

“Viruses are no respecters of borders,” Mr. Powell said while speaking on an International Monetary Fund panel. “Until the world, really, is vaccinated, we’re all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won’t be able to really resume activity with confidence all around the world.”

While some advanced economies, including the United States, are moving quickly toward widespread vaccination, many emerging market countries lag far behind: Some have administered as little as one dose per 1,000 residents.

Mr. Powell joined a chorus of global policy officials in emphasizing how important it is that all nations — not just the richest ones — are able to widely protect against the coronavirus. Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said policymakers needed to remain focused on public health as the key policy priority.

fresh data showed that state jobless claims climbed last week. Mr. Powell pointed out that the burden is falling heavily on those least able to bear it: Lower-income service workers, who are heavily minorities and women, have been hit hard by the job losses.

raising corporate taxes.

“For quite some time, we have been in favor of more investment in infrastructure. It helps to boost productivity here in the United States,” Ms. Georgieva said, calling climate-focused and “social infrastructure” provisions positive. She said they had not had a chance to fully assess the plan, but “broadly speaking, yes, we do support it.”

But the White House’s plan has already run into resistance from Republicans and some moderate Democrats, who are wary of raising taxes or engaging in another big spending package after several large stimulus bills.

Some commentators have warned that besides expanding the nation’s debt load, the government’s virus spending — particularly the recent $1.9 trillion stimulus package — could cause the economy to overheat. Fed officials have been less worried.

“There’s a difference between essentially a one-time increase in prices and persistent inflation,” Mr. Powell said on Thursday. “The nature of a bottleneck is that it will be resolved.”

If price gains and inflation expectations moved up “materially,” he said, the Fed would react.

“We don’t think that’s the most likely outcome,” he said.

View Source

New State Unemployment Claims Rose Again Last Week

The job market remains challenging, with the government reporting Thursday that initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose last week.

A total of 741,000 workers filed first-time claims for state jobless benefits last week, an increase of 18,000, the Labor Department said. It was the second consecutive weekly increase after new claims hit a pandemic low.

At the same time, 152,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 85,000.

Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.

“It’s surprising and disappointing,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said of the increase in state filings. “But our expectation remains that as large sections of the economy come back online, recovery in the labor market will be ongoing.”

$1,400 stimulus payments for most individuals, which should bolster consumer spending.

Although the rise in regular claims was a setback, the drop in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims was encouraging, according to AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. “It’s still movement in the right direction,” she said.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, said the decline in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims could be a sign that the most vulnerable workers were finally benefiting from the uptick in hiring.

“They’ve been living on fumes, but it suggests that some of these gig workers don’t need the unemployment insurance as much as they did before,” she said.

employers added 916,000 jobs in March, twice the gain in February and the most since August. The unemployment rate dipped to 6 percent, the lowest since the pandemic began, with nearly 350,000 people rejoining the labor force.

Still, there is plenty of ground to make up.

Even after the job gains in March, the economy is 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020. Entire sectors, like travel and leisure, as well as restaurants and bars, are only beginning to recover from the millions of job losses that followed the pandemic’s arrival.

“The claims numbers are a reminder that the labor market recovery, while we still expect it to happen, has a ways to go,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics. “Things are opening up, but not uniformly, and many people are still out of work.”

View Source

Veterans Next Up to Receive Delayed Stimulus Checks

More than 25 million lower-income Americans whose stimulus payments were delayed finally received them on Wednesday. And one group still waiting — certain veterans and their beneficiaries — can expect their payments to arrive next week, the Internal Revenue Service said.

The payments have been issued in groups, with the first batch landing in accounts on March 17. But many people who receive government benefits and don’t meet the income thresholds necessary to file a tax return hadn’t gotten money because the I.R.S. didn’t have the files needed to process their payments. They included Americans who receive benefits from Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, the Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Affairs.

On Wednesday, 25 million delayed payments, worth about $36 billion, landed. The largest block, or $26 billion, went to more than 19 million Social Security beneficiaries, including those who receive retirement, survivor or disability benefits. Another three million payments, worth nearly $5 billion, went to Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries. And about 85,000, payments, or $119 million, went to Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries.

Some Veterans Affairs beneficiaries are still waiting. But as long as no issues arise, nonfiling veterans and their beneficiaries who receive compensation and pension benefit payments can expect their money to land on April 14. The status of their payment should become available in the I.R.S.’s Get My Payment tool on Saturday or Sunday.

Wednesday’s batch also included more than one million payments to Americans who already received one in March but were eligible to receive a new or larger amount based on their 2020 tax return. Those so-called plus-up payments were valued at more than $2 billion.

View Source

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.”

View Source

Americans Have Saved a Lot of Cash, and They Are Ready to Spend It

Economists think the big job gains reported on Friday are just the beginning. One reason: U.S. households had $2.4 trillion in savings in February, $1 trillion more than a year earlier. And that was before the latest wave of $1,400 relief checks started going out in March.

The primary factor holding back spending has been the pandemic, which has prevented people from spending on restaurant meals, vacations and concert tickets. But with the vaccine rollout accelerating, that could soon change.

About 35 percent of Americans plan to spend more on travel over the next 12 months than they do in a typical year, according to a survey conducted last month for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey. About 28 percent plan to spend more than usual at restaurants. And over all, close to 70 percent of adults plan to spend more than usual in at least one category, at least if the health situation allows.

“They have the money in the bank, they’re ready to spend it, but what was holding them back was not having a comfort about being able to go out,” said Jay Bryson, chief economist for Wells Fargo. “We’re getting into a critical mass of people that are feeling comfortable beginning to go out again.”

But there are signs that Americans remain cautious. The survey was conducted in mid-March, just as the Treasury was preparing to send the $1,400 checks to millions of households. More than half the survey respondents who expected to receive checks said they planned to save most of the money or pay down debt. One-third said they would use it for immediate needs like food or rent. Only 10 percent said they planned to spend most of the money on discretionary items.

And while many Americans may be dreaming up ways to spend the money they saved during the pandemic, those hardest hit by the crisis are still trying to regain their financial footing. Among the unemployed, 62 percent said they planned to use their stimulus check to meet immediate needs, compared with 29 percent of the employed. Only 3 percent of the unemployed said they planned to use their stimulus checks on discretionary purchases.

View Source

How the Stimulus Could Power a Rebound in Other Countries

Washington’s robust spending in response to the coronavirus crisis is helping to pull the United States out of its sharpest economic slump in decades, funneling trillions of dollars to Americans’ checking accounts and to businesses.

Now, the rest of the world is expected to benefit, too.

Global forecasters are predicting that the United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help to haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass, especially when paired with a rapid vaccine rollout that has poised the U.S. economy for a faster recovery.

As Americans buy more, they should spur trade and investment and invigorate demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions.

The anticipated economic rebound in the United States is expected to join China’s recovery, adding impetus to world output. China’s economy is forecast to expand rapidly this year, with the International Monetary Fund predicting 8.1 percent growth. That is good news for countries like Germany, which depends on Chinese demand for cars and machinery.

just begun to push infections higher in the United States — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief spending passed into law over the past 12 months. Those trends, paired with the accelerating spread of effective vaccinations, seem likely to leave the American economy in a stronger position.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said at a recent news conference.

A year ago, it was not at all certain that the United States would gain the strength to help lift the global economy.

International Monetary Fund forecast in April 2020 that the U.S. economy might expand by 4.7 percent this year, roughly in line with forecasts for Europe’s growth, following an expected slump of 5.9 percent in 2020. But the actual contraction in the United States was smaller, and in January, the I.M.F. upgraded the outlook for U.S. growth to 5.1 percent this year, while the euro area’s expected growth was marked down to 4.2 percent.

I.M.F. has signaled that the estimates for the country’s growth will be marked up further when it releases fresh forecasts on April 6.

The recent relief package continues a trend: America has been willing to spend to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout from the start.

America’s initial pandemic response spending, amounting to a little less than $3 trillion, was 50 percent larger, as a share of G.D.P., than what the United Kingdom rolled out, and roughly three times as much as in France, Italy or Spain, based on an analysis by Christina D. Romer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among a set of advanced economies, only New Zealand has borrowed and spent as big a share of its G.D.P. as the United States has, the analysis found.

In Europe, where workers in many countries were shielded from job losses and plunging income by government furlough programs, the slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt the economy, said Ludovic Subran, the chief economist of German insurance giant Allianz.

On Wednesday, France announced its third national lockdown as infected patients fill its hospitals.

Mr. Subran also questioned whether the European Union can distribute stimulus financing fast enough. The money from a 750 billion euro, or $880 billion, relief program agreed to by European governments last July has been slow to reach the businesses and people who need it because of political squabbling, creaky public administration and a court challenge in Germany.

administered only about 1 vaccine dose per 1,000 people, if that, based on New York Times data. In the United States, the rate is more than 400 doses per 1,000 people.

Still, a booming American economy poses some hazard to other nations — and especially emerging markets — as economic fates diverge.

Market-based interest rates in the United States are already climbing, as investors, sensing faster growth and quicker inflation around the corner, decide to sell bonds. That could make financing more expensive around the globe: If investors can earn higher rates on U.S. bonds, they are less likely to invest in foreign debt that offers either lower rates or higher risk.

If the United States lures capital away from the rest of the world, “the rose-colored view that we are helping everyone is very much in doubt,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance.

trade tensions with Europe, which the Trump administration treated like an adversary. President Biden met online with European leaders last week.

The U.S. stimulus packages “will be part of the water that lifts all boats,” Selina Jackson, senior vice president for global government relations and public policy at consumer products company Procter & Gamble, said during a recent panel discussion organized by the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. “We are hoping for a calm slide out of this economic situation.”

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting.

View Source