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Raging virus triggers new shutdown orders

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The uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak is prompting government officials across the nation to impose new restrictions on consumers and businesses, sapping the economy’s momentum and delaying the recovery of millions of jobs lost during the recession.

Washington’s failure to provide additional financial support is compounding the economic distress. Though Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell this week repeated his call for a fresh round of pump-priming, the economy for now is left to navigate a winter of disease and loss unaided.

On Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) tightened limits on restaurants and indoor gatherings, effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday, while the governors of California, Oregon and Washington state issued a joint statement discouraging travel and advising visitors to quarantine upon arrival for 14 days. The mayor of New York City, meanwhile, warned parents that public schools could close as soon as Monday.

Similar measures are taking effect or under consideration elsewhere, including Chicago, where the mayor on Thursday issued a stay-at-home advisory just hours before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) threatened a mandatory statewide order. The renewed clampdown is reminiscent of the worst days of the pandemic in early March, when sports leagues, movie theaters and restaurants abruptly went into hibernation in hopes of curbing the contagion.

Those steps were only partly successful and came at great cost. By the end of June, the economy had shrunk by $2.2 trillion — more than Italy’s entire annual output. Now, as communities around the country inch toward new shutdowns, the economy is again at risk. Consumers are growing more pessimistic about the future, according to the latest University of Michigan confidence gauge. And even before new restrictions were announced, they had begun cutting back on spending.

“We see stronger growth in 2021. But we need a bridge to get there,” said economist Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “The outlook is honestly quite dark.”

The backsliding comes after a stronger-than-expected rebound from this spring’s abrupt recession. Slightly more than half of the 22 million Americans who lost their jobs when nonessential businesses closed have returned to work, and the current 6.9 percent unemployment rate is well below the double-digit figures that most Wall Street economists originally had forecast. Output expanded in the third quarter at a record rate.

Yet with more than 11 million still jobless, the United States is in danger of squandering the hard-won progress it has made in rebuilding the economy. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the rampaging virus represented “an emergency of the highest magnitude.” But she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have held no talks on a new rescue package.

In El Paso, local officials have deployed 10 mobile morgue trailers to handle a backlog of corpses. The county’s top elected official this week extended a shutdown of nonessential businesses until Dec. 1, ordering residents to stay home and avoid travel.

The pandemic has driven roughly 300 companies out of business in the border community, according to David Jerome, the president of the local chamber of commerce. An additional 300 companies — restaurants, hair salons and retail shops — have only enough cash on hand to survive for less than a month.

“We’re hitting a bit of a tipping point,” Jerome said. “People are getting to the point where they’re pretty stretched. People are vulnerable.”

Eight months into a historic crisis, the United States appears to be suspended in a sort of economic purgatory. The labor market is slowly healing, with initial unemployment claims falling for four straight weeks. But the virus outlook is grim and getting grimmer.

On Thursday, the United States for the first time reported more than 150,000 cases in a single day. Within the next week, the daily total will top 200,000 and is likely to reach 300,000 by early December, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics.

By mid-December, hospitals will be swamped with twice as many coronavirus patients as during the pandemic’s earlier waves “unless most large-population states impose much more severe restrictions on the leisure and hospitality sectors, and on indoor gatherings, very soon,” he wrote in a note to clients Friday.

Consumers already have begun retrenching. Spending by 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholders through Nov. 9 was 7.4 percent below last year’s level and had “fallen notably” over the past two weeks, according to economist Jesse Edgerton of JPMorgan Chase.

Investors are profiting despite the worsening health situation. On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 400 points and is up more than 11 percent this month. Yet millions of American households are suffering a silent financial squeeze.

Between the end of September and the end of October, the number of Americans saying it was “very difficult” to pay their usual household expenses rose by more than 2.3 million, to 34.8 million, according to the Census Bureau’s pulse survey.

In Los Angeles, Micah Martin, 57, has been struggling to survive since losing his job as a health-care training consultant. He finally received unemployment benefits this summer just as he was preparing to move back to his parents’ home in Oklahoma.

“Since then, it’s been living off fumes,” he said. “I’m aggravated that Nancy Pelosi and McConnell haven’t come up with a compromise. It’s really put a hardship on me and a lot of other people.”

Los Angeles County health officials warned Friday that tighter activity limits may be imminent if a recent surge in coronavirus cases isn’t contained. The county already is operating under the most restrictive conditions in California’s four-tiered system.

“Covid seems to be out of control here,” Martin said. “I haven’t been to a restaurant since February.”

There are reasons to hope the economy will fare better in the next few months than it did during the pandemic’s first wave. Doctors have more experience treating covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More Americans are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. And a highly effective vaccine could be widely available by April, according to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease specialist.

“The American people’s reaction to the surge will be significantly different from what it was in the spring,” said Michael Strain, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute. “The risk of dying has gone down considerably relative to the spring. People may be willing to take more risks.”

That seems to be true in the resort town of Branson, Mo. Gail Myer, vice president of family-owned Myer Hotels, said the company has kept employees and guests safe through mask-wearing, social distancing and enhanced sanitizing and hygiene.

Though business is down significantly, and he has reduced his workforce by one-third, Myer said October was the company’s best month this year. November could be even better.

“People are tired of not being able to do things they consider normal, and they are also figuring out how to travel comfortably,” Myer said. “I think the economy in the U.S. is getting better and people are figuring out how to make it work for them.”

But the $3 trillion in federal support that cushioned the blow to the economy in the spring is now absent. The resurgent virus may depress activity no matter what government officials do.

“More businesses will be at risk of permanently going out of business, which would dampen labor demand and potentially spur new rounds of layoffs. This suggests the labor market recovery could meaningfully slow or even reverse in coming months as the country tries to get the virus under control,” economists at Bank of America said Friday.

In Chicago, restaurateur Kevin Boehm, 50, closed two of his 20 restaurants and laid off 1,800 of his roughly 2,000 employees in the spring. With the virus spreading uncontrollably, city officials on Oct. 30 reimposed a ban on indoor dining just one month after they had relaxed restaurant capacity limits.

Over a 27-year career, Boehm has had an oven explode in his face and seen a restaurant burn down. But with revenue off by 80 percent, the pandemic has pushed him and his partner in the Boka Group to the brink.

Now, as Boehm contemplates multimillion-dollar financial losses and the prospect of additional layoffs, he is looking to Washington.

“We need Republicans and Democrats to step up and give us the help we need,” he said. “You can only take so many punches.”

The House last month passed legislation to provide $120 billion in grants to independent restaurants amid warnings that 85 percent of them could fail without assistance. But the Senate has yet to act on the measure.

Ryan Rivett, chief executive of My Place Hotels of America, is also counting on new stimulus legislation. His extended-stay hotel chain remained open throughout the pandemic, with managers of some properties sleeping on site to compensate for reduced staffing.

Rivett received a forgivable government loan earlier this year, which was intended to prevent layoffs. But while he can adjust his labor costs as demand fluctuates, his loan payments are less flexible.

“The absence of stimulus is our bigger worry,” he said. “I don’t want to lose our business because we can’t service our debt.”

The economic outlook is clouded by the limited nature of some new restrictions. As the escalating health emergency threatens to overwhelm hospital systems, restrictions are spreading to politically conservative states, such as West Virginia, Iowa and Wyoming, that had resisted such measures during earlier phases of the pandemic.

But such efforts remain controversial. In Texas, a state appeals court on Friday blocked El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s shutdown order, saying it conflicted with the governor’s call to reopen the economy.

In New Germany, Minn., Jean Stelten-Beuning, owner of Top Dog Country Club, an upscale dog-boarding facility, is worried about the next few months.

Last year, at her 35-acre site, complete with a heated canine swimming pool, she boarded 105 dogs over Thanksgiving weekend. Now, as officials urge caution about traveling for the holiday, she expects just 35.

She has halved her 28-person staff, as her revenue dropped 55 percent. The state’s daily case total this week reached a new high and the governor ordered new limits on restaurants and other indoor gatherings.

“If the numbers keep growing and these shutdowns keep expanding, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s going to be pretty bleak.”

Source:- The Washington Post

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Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy – Maple Ridge News

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Indigenous communities have been left out of the Canadian cannabis economy, and a group of Indigenous chiefs are out to change that for the good of their communities.

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y First Nation says a consortium they’re calling “All Nations Chiefs” has worked for months to negotiate an agreement for on-reserve cannabis distribution directly with the province – but to no avail.

“It’s been two years since the rollout where they did not consult adequately with First Nations,” said Gladstone. “We are trying to find a way to participate in this new economy.”

To get there, they’ve organized an online forum with All Nations Chiefs from the communities of Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets for the morning of Dec. 2. Organizers have invited Premier John Horgan, stakeholders, and the public to join them in the virtual dialogue on the cannabis question.

Gladstone described the recalcitrance from provincial counterparts as “another pathway out of poverty blocked” for First Nations communities across Canada, noting that only four per cent of Canadian cannabis licences are Indigenous-affiliated.

“That four per cent should be disturbing to everyone,” he said.

The group has also launched a petition that had almost 1,500 signatures by Nov. 27.

“We are asking Honourable Premier Horgan to take real action towards reconciliation and honour his government’s platform commitment to the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) by allowing First Nations to participate in B.C.’s cannabis industry,” according to the petition preamble.

Since legalization, local First Nations leaders have been trying to control their own their destinies by finding a way to participate in the emerging economy “on a nation-to-nation basis,” the chief said.

Shxwha:y officials decided to go the route of applying for a Section 119 licence agreement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Agreement Act, Chief Gladstone explained.

A Section 119 licence is required to legally distribute cannabis from retail stores on reserve land, and involve the province entering into agreements with individual First Nations, which supersede the Act. Only one community has signed such an agreement to date, the Williams Lake Indian Band. The Shxwha:y application used the Williams Lake vision as their model.

Some of the on-reserve cannabis stores in the area without provincial licensing have been operating in what government officials would describe as a grey area legally, while leaders are trying to negotiate a better way, with formal applications pending.

They started on-reserve stores under the inherent laws of their nation rather than under provincial licensing, some by enacting cannabis laws through land codes.

Those models differ from the route chosen by the owners of the first fully licensed cannabis store on reserve, which is The Kure on the Skwah reserve.

“The ultimate goal is to codify and harmonize the laws and regulations among all three levels of government,” Gladstone underlined.

But months later they are stymied, with no timeline, feedback or any response from the provincial government on their application. So they’re stepping up the pressure.

“We are reaching out. If they don’t answer, it’s a direct way of saying they are not interested in working toward a government-to-government relationship. There’s just no other way to interpret this.”

The online forum next Wednesday will focus on solutions to bring inclusivity and diversity to the nascent cannabis sector with First Nations involvement.

They feel they’ve put in the work to give the province a workable model.

“Now all we ask is recognition for our inherent right to trade and barter,” Gladstone said.

Chief Gladstone tells a story of how cannabis has changed everything in his village and beyond.

In total more than 100 people are working in the on-reserve stores around the Chilliwack area.

“These workers are not on CERB or social assistance,” Gladstone said.

As of a couple of years ago there were only four people working in Shxwha:y village. Now there are 13 jobs being held down currently at the store, and another 30 at the cultivation facility, where All Nations Cannabis Corp. is a Health Canada licensed cultivator and licensed producer applicant.

“It’s changed the standard of living for many in our village, going from abject poverty to a tier closer to the middle class,” Gladstone said. “So this is a success story.

“What we’re saying to the province is: ‘Don’t destroy this miracle of economic revival.’

“We’re just asking for co-operation.”

READ MORE: Cannabis stores rolling through the pandemic

READ MORE: Chilliwack has unique approach to cannabis retail

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
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Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy – North Delta Reporter

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Indigenous communities have been left out of the Canadian cannabis economy, and a group of Indigenous chiefs are out to change that for the good of their communities.

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y First Nation says a consortium they’re calling “All Nations Chiefs” has worked for months to negotiate an agreement for on-reserve cannabis distribution directly with the province – but to no avail.

“It’s been two years since the rollout where they did not consult adequately with First Nations,” said Gladstone. “We are trying to find a way to participate in this new economy.”

To get there, they’ve organized an online forum with All Nations Chiefs from the communities of Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets for the morning of Dec. 2. Organizers have invited Premier John Horgan, stakeholders, and the public to join them in the virtual dialogue on the cannabis question.

Gladstone described the recalcitrance from provincial counterparts as “another pathway out of poverty blocked” for First Nations communities across Canada, noting that only four per cent of Canadian cannabis licences are Indigenous-affiliated.

“That four per cent should be disturbing to everyone,” he said.

The group has also launched a petition that had almost 1,500 signatures by Nov. 27.

“We are asking Honourable Premier Horgan to take real action towards reconciliation and honour his government’s platform commitment to the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) by allowing First Nations to participate in B.C.’s cannabis industry,” according to the petition preamble.

Since legalization, local First Nations leaders have been trying to control their own their destinies by finding a way to participate in the emerging economy “on a nation-to-nation basis,” the chief said.

Shxwha:y officials decided to go the route of applying for a Section 119 licence agreement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Agreement Act, Chief Gladstone explained.

A Section 119 licence is required to legally distribute cannabis from retail stores on reserve land, and involve the province entering into agreements with individual First Nations, which supersede the Act. Only one community has signed such an agreement to date, the Williams Lake Indian Band. The Shxwha:y application used the Williams Lake vision as their model.

Some of the on-reserve cannabis stores in the area without provincial licensing have been operating in what government officials would describe as a grey area legally, while leaders are trying to negotiate a better way, with formal applications pending.

They started on-reserve stores under the inherent laws of their nation rather than under provincial licensing, some by enacting cannabis laws through land codes.

Those models differ from the route chosen by the owners of the first fully licensed cannabis store on reserve, which is The Kure on the Skwah reserve.

“The ultimate goal is to codify and harmonize the laws and regulations among all three levels of government,” Gladstone underlined.

But months later they are stymied, with no timeline, feedback or any response from the provincial government on their application. So they’re stepping up the pressure.

“We are reaching out. If they don’t answer, it’s a direct way of saying they are not interested in working toward a government-to-government relationship. There’s just no other way to interpret this.”

The online forum next Wednesday will focus on solutions to bring inclusivity and diversity to the nascent cannabis sector with First Nations involvement.

They feel they’ve put in the work to give the province a workable model.

“Now all we ask is recognition for our inherent right to trade and barter,” Gladstone said.

Chief Gladstone tells a story of how cannabis has changed everything in his village and beyond.

In total more than 100 people are working in the on-reserve stores around the Chilliwack area.

“These workers are not on CERB or social assistance,” Gladstone said.

As of a couple of years ago there were only four people working in Shxwha:y village. Now there are 13 jobs being held down currently at the store, and another 30 at the cultivation facility, where All Nations Cannabis Corp. is a Health Canada licensed cultivator and licensed producer applicant.

“It’s changed the standard of living for many in our village, going from abject poverty to a tier closer to the middle class,” Gladstone said. “So this is a success story.

“What we’re saying to the province is: ‘Don’t destroy this miracle of economic revival.’

“We’re just asking for co-operation.”

READ MORE: Cannabis stores rolling through the pandemic

READ MORE: Chilliwack has unique approach to cannabis retail

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

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Monday's fall economic statement will try to bridge current and future needs – iPolitics.ca

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The Liberal government is ready to table a fall economic statement that attempts to balance the current needs of the COVID-19 response with plans for Canada’s post-pandemic economy and social-safety net. 

On Monday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will present her first fiscal and economic update since replacing Bill Morneau after the latter’s resignation in August. 

The statement will provide detailed fiscal projections for the years ahead, something the Liberals haven’t done since the pandemic began in the spring.

The Liberals will also present new measures to fight COVID-19, and lay the groundwork for longer-term and higher-cost priorities, such as national affordable child care, pharmacare, and fighting climate change — measures that interest labour, but concern business groups.

“I expect the government to be clear … that they remain committed to the priorities identified in the throne speech, and ensure that those things are going to be delivered on,” Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told iPolitics.

The throne speech included a long list of promises to green the economy and strengthen the country’s social safety net — efforts Yussuff says are vital, if Canada is to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. 

The fiscal update coincides with a second wave of COVID cases, which have prompted new public-health restrictions that have shuttered businesses and rattled the confidence of consumers entering the holiday season. 

Levels of consumer confidence for November are now at their lowest since May, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s index.

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said COVID will still be around for the foreseeable future, so Canada must have a plan to manage, rather than merely react to, the pandemic. 

“Unfortunately, up until now, the focus of governments has been: ‘Shut down and write a cheque,’ ” he told iPolitics.

Beatty said governments need to craft a more coherent strategy that better uses data and science to bring down infection rates, and allows Canadians to safely resume their lives soon as possible, while also ensuring resources get to the most vulnerable communities and economic sectors.

He said it’s wrong to think of a vaccine as a “silver bullet,” because it might not entirely eliminate the threat of COVID, and its distribution will take considerable time. The fiscal update should focus on current concerns, he said. 

READ MORE: Ford asks Trudeau for details of vaccine types, quantities, and timing

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are “very good chances” most Canadians will be vaccinated by September 2021.

He added that the fiscal update will include more support for Canadians during the pandemic, as well as plans to rebuild a “strong, resilient economy for everyone.”

Kevin Page said he expects the Liberals to punt some of their longer-term priorities to the next budget, while still presenting a comprehensive document.

“I think it will be more than a typical update; something probably looking like a mini-budget,” said Page, a former parliamentary budget officer and head of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy.

The update should focus first on getting Canadians through the current crisis, said Elliot Hughes, a former policy adviser of Morneau’s.

“There’s going to be lots of time to sketch out those bigger things down the road,” he said. “What people want to know now is that the government’s got their backs.”

Hughes, now a senior advisor at Summa Strategies, cautioned that the government needs to keep its messaging “clean and straightforward,” but should be ready to answer questions about what to expect in the near future, as well in the recovery phase.

“It’s a tricky balance, but it’s one that you need to strike,” he said. 

READ MORE: Female, racialized and young Canadians less likely to benefit from jobs increase

The statement will also update the deficit, which is expected to be Canada’s largest since the Second World War. It’s also expected to be without a fiscal anchor to manage debt levels, though Freeland has previously said there’s no “blank cheque” for spending.

A report released by RBC on Friday forecasts the annual deficit to approach $370 billion, higher than the $343 billion projected in July. The report says spending announcements will add at least $90 billion to the 2021-22 deficit, and extensions to the wage subsidy and recovery benefit could add even more. 

Yussuff, who hopes the fall update will include money for infrastructure, child care and employment insurance, said now is not the time for fiscal restraint: Spending will both prevent an economic disaster and support women and people of colour, who’ve been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, he said.

“They’re going to need to be supported if we’re going to get to a full recovery.”

Beatty, who has supported Ottawa’s emergency spending thus far, said there should be a short-term child-care program to get mothers back into the workforce. But such spending must be targeted, and this is not the time for costly programs such as universal pharmacare, he said.

“Don’t get into programs that we can’t afford: permanent recurring programs that are simply going to build in a structural deficit.”

At what exact point Canada’s debt becomes a serious concern is being fiercely debated, Page said, but bond agencies might lower their credit ratings if Ottawa doesn’t re-introduce a fiscal anchor in the near future and the debt significantly increases.

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