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NFIB Weekly News

NFIB Weekly News Leading the News

NFIB: Covid-19 Pandemic Seriously Affecting Small Businesses (03/24/2020)

Bloomberg (3/23, Jeff Kearns) reported, “More than three-quarters of small businesses in the U.S. have been hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey conducted Friday.” An NFIB statement was quoted saying, “Owners are taking the threat to their business seriously. ... Many owners have already sought out financial help and more are planning to do so in the near future. The outbreak will leave few, if any, owners unscathed. We know the economic impact will be immense.”

Bloomberg Law (3/20, Subscription Publication) reported that “in a virtual town hall hosted by the DOL Wage and Hour Division Friday,” business groups, attorneys, and others “flooded the Labor Department with questions on how the agency plans to implement new coronavirus-related paid family and sick leave requirements.” Bloomberg Law said, “Many participants, including [NFIB] advocates...want the agency to define how a business with under 50 workers will be able to demonstrate that offering leave would jeopardize their business viability.” NFIB legal center executive director Karen Harned was quoted saying, “We’re asking that the department seriously consider all that it can do to make the exemption for those employers with fewer than 50 employees as broad as possible. ... Anything you all can do to make the exemption process as streamlined, easy-to-understand, and as simple as possible would be greatly appreciated.”


Mnuchin: Administration Will Do “Whatever We Need To Do” For Economy (03/17/2020)

The Washington Times (3/14, Boyer) reported President Trump “and his top advisers acknowledged Saturday that some major employers and even whole sectors of the U.S. economy are shutting down temporarily due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the cost to taxpayers will be enormous.” Treasury Secretary Mnuchin told reporters, “There are parts of the economy that are shutting down or slowing down dramatically.” Mnuchin added, “It would be premature to comment on specific money. I use the analogy of we’re in a baseball game, and we’re in the early innings. We have 100 different things that we’re looking at. Whatever we need to do, we will do.” Mnuchin continued, “We are committed to use all the tools and all the resources of the government to make sure that we protect the economy.”


Social Distancing Poses Difficulties For Small Businesses (03/17/2020)

The Washington Post (3/13, Whalen) reported, “As daily routines shut down in D.C. and beyond over the novel coronavirus, customers are disappearing for the small businesses that make up 44 percent of the U.S. economy.” Social distancing measures are “vital for public health but terrible for business at all levels of the economy — first and foremost for entrepreneurs who rely on foot traffic and social gatherings to make ends meet.” NFIB director of research Holly Wade said “public-facing” businesses face particularly acute difficulties.


NFIB Opposes Congress’s Coronavirus Response Measure Over Paid Leave Requirement (03/17/2020)

Bloomberg (3/16) reported, “The Senate is under tremendous pressure to send President Donald Trump a bill passed by the House to help Americans deal with the coronavirus outbreak, but complaints from a few GOP lawmakers and technical snags could delay action for up to several days.” The NFIB “has opposed the measure over a requirement that businesses with 500 or fewer employees provide paid sick and family leave, even though the federal government would cover the tab.”


Legislators Urge IRS To Postpone Tax Filing Deadline (03/17/2020)

The Hill (3/13, Brufke) reported Reps. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) “are calling on the IRS to push back its tax filing deadline in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” In a letter dispatched on Friday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, the lawmakers “argued that an additional 90 days should be provided to help mitigate the impact the virus is having on local communities.”


Small Business Optimism Remains High In February (03/10/2020)

NFIB’s Optimism Index (3/9) increased slightly in February to 104.5, “among the top 10 percent in the 46-year history of the survey.” The survey saw increases in respondents expecting better business conditions, job creation, and openings. NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg is quoted saying, “February was another historically strong month for the small business economy, but it’s worth noting that nearly all of the survey’s responses were collected prior to the recent escalation of the coronavirus outbreak and the Federal Reserve rate cut. Business is good, but the coronavirus outbreak remains the big unknown.”


Business Climate

Trump, Mnuchin Say 20% Unemployment Rate Is Extremely Unlikely (03/24/2020)

The Washington Post (3/18, A1, Werner, Stein) reported that on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin “told Republican senators...that the unemployment rate could skyrocket to 20 percent, a level President Trump said Wednesday would be ‘an absolute worst-case scenario.’” Reuters (3/18) reported that on Wednesday, Mnuchin “clarified” that the unemployment rate “would not spike to 20% if Congress follows...Trump’s coronavirus rescue plan.” Mnuchin is quoted as saying, “I didn’t in any way say, ‘I think we’re going to have that.’ If we follow the President’s plan we will not have it.”

The Hill (3/18, Elis) reported Mnuchin added, “What I said was just a mathematical statement, which is 40 percent of people employed in the private workforce are employed by companies of 500 people or less. It was just a mathematical statement to say that if half of these people were to lose their jobs, this is what it would be. ... But we’re not going to let that happen.”


Fed’s Bullard Says Unemployment Rate Could Hit 30%. (03/24/2020)

Reuters (3/22, Schneider) reported that while “massive unemployment and a collapse in economic output” would normally be seen as “tragic,” St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard believes that under current circumstances, they should be seen as what Reuters describes “an investment in public health that lays the groundwork for a rapid rebound.” Bullard “argues that a potential $2.5 trillion hit coming to the economy is both necessary and manageable if officials move fast and keep it simple.” In addition, he “argues the shutdown measures now being rolled out are essential to shortening the course of the pandemic,” but they “must also be coupled with massive federal government support to sustain the population through its coming isolation and prime the economy to pick up where it left off.”

Bloomberg (3/22, Matthews) said Bullard “predicted the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus, with an unprecedented 50% drop in gross domestic product.” He “called for a powerful fiscal response to replace the $2.5 trillion in lost income that quarter to ensure a strong eventual U.S. recovery, adding the Fed would be poised to do more to ensure markets function during a period of high volatility.” Said Bullard, “Everything is on the table. ... There is more that we can do if necessary.”


President Trump Declares Coronavirus Pandemic A National Emergency As Virus Continues Spread In US And Around The World (03/17/2020)

The AP (3/13, Mascaro, Miller, Taylor, Colvin) reported that on Friday, President Donald Trump “declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package in Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.” The President’s declaration could free up “as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.” In addition, President Trump “also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.”


Federal Reserve Cuts Interest Rate To Near Zero (03/17/2020)

The AP (3/15, Rugaber) reported the Federal Reserve has taken emergency action “to help the economy withstand the coronavirus by slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero and saying it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds.” The AP said the “surprise announcement” Sunday signaled the Fed’s “concern that the viral outbreak will depress economic growth in coming months and that it is prepared to do whatever it can counter the risks.”


JP Morgan Chase Expects US Economy To Contract In First Two Quarters Of This Year (03/17/2020)

The New York Times (3/15, A1, Casselman, Cohen, Cowley, Dougherty, Kulish, McCabe, Weise) reported that while forecasters have been warning “of the coronavirus’ potential to disrupt the American economy,” there was “little hard evidence beyond delayed shipments of goods from China and stomach-churning volatility in financial markets. Now the effects are showing up in downtown nightspots and suburban shopping centers from coast to coast.” The Times added that with the outbreak hitting consumers, “the damage is all but certain to spread. JPMorgan Chase said Thursday that it expected the U.S. economy to contract in the first two quarters of the year, which would meet a common definition of a recession.” The Wall Street Journal (3/15, A1, Simon, Subscription Publication) said small business confidence in March fell close to its lowest levels in seven years.


Trump Says Economy Is Strong Because He Eliminated Regulations (03/10/2020)

President Trump said during a town hall with Fox News (3/5), “I say simply, I want to have the cleanest air on the planet, I want to have crystal clear, beautiful water on the planet. Our conditions now are much better than they were three years ago. ... I’ve cut regulations more than any President...in the history of our country and I did in less than three years. This is why I was able to get the country going because so many jobs were stopped by not only EPA, so many other agencies where you would have to get 11 different permits for essentially the same thing. ... One of the reasons the economy is so strong is because what we did with regulations. If the other side – we will call it the other side, affectionately – got in, they would’ve made regulations much tougher.”


Small Business Marketing

SBA To Offer Low-interest Disaster Loans For Businesses Affected By Coronavirus (03/24/2020)

The AP (3/18, News) reported, “Across the country, in industries of every kind and size, the coronavirus outbreak has devastated small businesses. If they haven’t been ordered to close by government officials, many are shutting down out of concern for employees, customers and clients or simply because business has vanished. Those that are still managing to operate are struggling mightily.” The article noted small businesses “are a vitally important economic sector of the economy, and their hardships constitute a grave threat to the U.S economy and to tens of millions of workers and their families.” In response to the pandemic, the federal government “has taken steps to make Small Business Administration disaster loans easier to obtain. They’re now available statewide in states that are hard-hit by the virus, rather than limited to specific counties or parishes where companies have suffered substantial losses. The SBA also said in a statement that it had reminded lenders that they could defer loan payments for six months.”


Coronavirus Small Business Relief Measures Under Consideration (03/24/2020)

CNBC (3/20, Adamczyk) reported that many are “wondering what will become of all the small businesses struggling to pay their bills since people across the U.S. have been advised to stay home” due to the coronavirus. Among the ideas under consideration in the government was “making available $300 billion in small business loans to employers with 500 employees or fewer.” CNBC said that “in the meantime,” those needing “immediate financial help” should consider “low-interest disaster loans” from the SBA, which “increased its funding pool from $20 billion to $50 billion in response to the virus.” Additionally, people can “reach out directly to your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and your SBA district office.”


Fintech Firms Lobby For Role In Sending Relief Funds To Small Businesses (03/24/2020)

Forbes (3/22, Pofeldt) reported, “With many small business owners in danger of running out of cash as their businesses remain closed in the coronavirus crisis, fintech companies are lobbying to disperse government relief funds to them. They say that using the digital platforms they have developed to lend money and process payrolls will be quicker than going through traditional Small Business Administration (SBA) procedures for disaster relief.” The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the International Franchise Association, payroll processor Paychex and accounting software provider Intuit, issued an open letter to President Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza and members of Congress, calling for “the government to disperse funds to employer businesses through existing payroll processors.”


New SBA Rulings Offer Size-Status Reminder For Offerors (03/10/2020)

Behind a paywall, Law360 (3/5, Subscription Publication) reported the Small Business Administration’s Office of Hearings and Appeals “recently issued a pair of decisions that highlight an important message for all companies competing for government contracts, specifically those set aside for small businesses.” The article added, “Because the SBA generally determines an offeror’s size status as of the date of the self-certification included in its proposal, certain actions taken after that date to mitigate any perceived affiliation will not offset an adverse size determination. The SBA’s current rulemaking continues this approach, so small business contractors should make every effort to comply with relevant size standards prior to their proposal submission.”


Mastercard Commits To Helping One Million Women Entrepreneurs (03/10/2020)

Verdict (UK) (3/5) reported Mastercard has launched a new initiative Path to Priceless “designed to reaffirm the company’s commitment to women entrepreneurs.” Through the program, Mastercard has “curated a calendar of physical and digital advisement and mentorship opportunities for women business owners.” Mastercard’s Cheryl Guerin said, “Women small business owners are already making their mark despite the challenges before them, and it’s our intention to clear that path so that their ideas can reach their full potential.”


Older Small Businesses Less Likely To Choose Online Lenders (03/03/2020)

Payments Journal (2/25) reported, “Older small businesses are the least likely to choose an online lender” according to the Mercator Advisory Group’s “Small Business Mindsets and Banking Habits: Attitudes Matter” report. Only 20 percent of small businesses 10 years or older have used an online lender versus 32 percent of those five to 10 years old.


Wages and Benefits

Trump Inks Law Giving Sick Leave To Employees; Major Chains Excluded (03/24/2020)

QSR Magazine (3/19) reported that President Trump “signed a $100 billion relief package into law Wednesday night, which includes paid emergency leave for many workers.” The package would give “employees up to 14 days of paid sick leave if they are being tested for COVID-19, being treated for it, or have been diagnosed with it,” and also included “paid leave for those helping family members with the virus and for those whose children are home from school,” among other provisions. But the “expanded sick leave portion does not apply to businesses with 500 or more employees such as McDonald’s or Subway.”


Walmart Increases Wages In E-Commerce By $2 Amid Coronavirus-Fueled Demand (03/24/2020)

Reuters (3/23, Bose) reported Walmart temporarily increased its minimum wage for workers in its e-commerce warehouses by $2. The change will be effective immediately and through May 25. The move echoed rivals Amazon and Target as Walmart “attempts to manage a shopping surge brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.”


Cash-Strapped Hourly Workers Anticipate Needing To Work Even If Sick (03/24/2020)

CBS News (3/19) reported on American workers who “worry they’ll soon have to make a difficult choice”: either taking a sick day or going to work anyway. Though President Trump “signed a multi-billion dollar coronavirus emergency relief bill into law Wednesday night,” one McDonald’s worker is “skeptical help will come for her.” She said, “I would much rather go to work sick because I can’t afford to miss a day.”

A similar report in the Washington Post (3/19, Van Dam) discussed the impact of shutting down public spaces, which is “laying waste to an entire sector, especially as states such as Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio and Louisiana block all sit-down dining.” This is unlike previous recessions, when “layoffs hit factories and other producers first,” and the “carnage didn’t spread to bars or bodegas until later, when unemployed factory workers slashed their household spending.”


Treasury To Advance Funds For Employers To Meet Paid Sick Leave Requirements Under House Bill (03/17/2020)

The Wall Street Journal (3/15, Davidson, Subscription Publication) reported that Mnuchin said in a statement Saturday night that the Treasury Department will advance funds to employers to meet paid sick-leave requirements under the new House bill to combat the coronavirus. According to Mnuchin, business can use cash deposited with the IRS to pay those wages. Treasury will advance funds to cover the costs for firms with insufficient funds to draw from.


Restaurants Reevaluate Paid Sick Leave Policies (03/17/2020)

CNBC (3/11, Lucas) reported that as the number of coronavirus cases in the US rises, “companies are reevaluating their sick leave policies for hourly workers or implementing paid leave for quarantined employees.” The outbreak has “drawn attention to the plight of restaurant workers whose employers or local governments do not guarantee sick pay.” CNBC said the restaurant industry “has largely chosen not to offer paid sick leave unless it is required by law,” and many “fast-food chains leave the decision to offer the benefit to employees who work in franchised locations up to franchisees.” Eater (3/11) similarly said that many restaurant workers “can’t afford to miss a single shift, not to mention the 14 days of self-quarantine suggested for COVID-19.” Even in “places where local law entitles them to paid sick leave in some form, various regulations and loopholes mean that not everybody is eligible, aware, and employed by someone who adheres to the rules.”


Microsoft Seeks Healthcare Market With New Office 365, Azure Features (03/10/2020)

SiliconANGLE (3/6) reported Microsoft has “made a timely addition to Office 365 in the form of new Microsoft Teams features for the healthcare sector designed to ease the delivery of virtual care. The update is joined by new patient data management capabilities in Azure.”


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