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There's a simple way Apple and other companies can help the economy – CNN

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Politicians in Washington are stepping up to the plate, too. Congress is reportedly close to approving a financial aid package to help struggling consumers and businesses.
Another leg of stimulus could potentially come from Corporate America. Companies can (and should) help the economy by putting their ample cash reserves to work.
Companies have a lot of cash, and many of them are starting to realize that they can put it to work for better use than simply rewarding shareholders with stock buybacks and dividends: They can support their workers and other Americans too.

Big businesses have a lot of cash on hand

Non-financial companies in the United States (i.e. companies excluding banks) have more than $1.5 trillion or so in cash on their balance sheets, according to analysis from Moody’s from late last year. That’s a lot to work with.
If that is used to help people struggling from the coronavirus outbreak (i.e. employees, rather than investors), then that could go a long way toward keeping the US economy afloat in the midst of the pandemic.
Blue chip American firms such as Facebook (FB), CVS (CVS), Walmart (WMT), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Kroger (KR) are among several that have already announced bonuses for some of their workers.
Fed takes emergency action to stave off a depression
“It’s unprecedented. So Corporate America stimulus makes sense on a case-by-case basis,” said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist with Brown Brothers Harriman.
Much of the stimulus could come from the tech industry. After all, Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook, Cisco (CSCO), and Oracle (ORCL) had nearly half of the cash — about $638 billion of it — that Moody’s cited in its report.
Companies (like Apple) that still have a lot of cash sitting overseas should easily be able to bring much of that money back to the United States following tax law changes in 2017 that lowered the tax rate for repatriating offshore assets.
Companies that binged on buybacks now seek bailouts from taxpayersCompanies that binged on buybacks now seek bailouts from taxpayers
Cisco pointed out in an email to CNN Business that it’s already planning to donate $225 million in cash to global nonprofits as well as charities in its corporate backyard to help low-income residents of California’s Santa Clara County.
And Facebook said it is working closely with vendors to make sure its employees stay safe and healthy.
“Facebook will pay contingent workers that cannot work due to reduced staffing requirements while working from home, when we close an office, when we choose to send an employee home or when they are sick,” said Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison in a statement to CNN Business.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Oracle were not immediately available for comment. But several of these companies have already been using their cash to help those in need.
In addition to announcing cash bonuses for workers, Facebook has also set aside $100 million for cash grants to small businesses.
Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers for its fulfillment centers to keep up with online shopping demand. And Apple has also announced various cash donations as well as plans to give away industrial face masks to health care workers in the United States and Europe.
It’s a start, but Corporate America probably should — and hopefully will — do even more.

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U.S. economy lost jobs in March for 1st time since 2010 – CBC.ca

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The U.S. economy shed jobs in March, abruptly ending a historic 113 straight months of employment growth as stringent measures to control the novel coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and factories, all but confirming a recession is underway.

The Labor Department said employers cut 701,000 jobs last month after adding a revised 275,000 in February. The unemployment rate shot up to 4.4 per cent from 3.5 per cent. That’s the biggest monthly increase in the jobless rate since 1975.

According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls had been forecast to decrease by 100,000 jobs last month, snapping a record streak of employment gains dating to October 2010. Unemployment was seen rising to 3.8 per cent.

Friday’s report is far from an accurate depiction of the economic carnage being inflicted by the contagious coronavirus. The government surveyed businesses and households for the report in mid-March, before a large section of the population was under some form of a lockdown, throwing millions out of work.

The report could sharpen criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the public health crisis, with U.S. President Donald Trump himself facing criticism for playing down the threat of the pandemic in its initial phases. Already, data has shown a record 10 million Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March.

April numbers likely to be much worse

With jobless claims, the most timely indicator of labour market health, breaking records over the last couple of weeks and a majority of Americans now under “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders, Oxford Economics is predicting payrolls could plunge by at least 20 million jobs in April, which would blow away the record 800,000 tumble in March 2009.

“The economy has fallen into the abyss,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

“Everywhere you look Washington and state governments were not prepared for the rapid spread of the virus and the devastating damage that would be done to the economy if businesses were shut down and workers sent home.”

Economists also worry the sudden closure of businesses could make it difficult for the Labour Department to accurately capture the magnitude of layoffs.

There are also perceptions that a $2.3 trillion US fiscal package signed by Trump last week, which makes generous provisions for the unemployed, and the federal government’s easing of requirements for workers to seek benefits could also be driving the jobless claims numbers higher.

“The April report should better reflect the severity of the recession, though the exact numbers are hard to pin down,” said Michelle Meyer, a U.S. economist at Bank of America Securities in New York. “Businesses that have closed won’t be responding to the survey.”

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How an energy jobs coalition can help the US economy bounce back | TheHill – The Hill

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The chorus is growing louder: in addition to halting the increases in coronavirus cases, we need an energy stimulus package focused on rebuilding the economy. Job creation and infrastructure development will be key.

With unemployment filings reaching nearly 10 million, it is clear we are in the midst of an economic calamity leading to significant business closures and further job losses, despite the stimulus packages enacted by Congress to date. We need to create new jobs, protect the livelihoods of American people and ensure the future resilience of our economy

In normal times and in crisis, we are completely reliant on energy, water, transportation, communications and finance infrastructures to keep our economy running. Energy has a special place in this critical infrastructure mix. The Department of Homeland Security describes it as the “key enabler of all other infrastructures… Without a stable energy supply, health and welfare are threatened, and the U.S. economy cannot function.”  

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Within the energy sector, electricity — the “uber” infrastructure on which all others rely — deserves special attention. It is essential for running our hospitals, operating ventilators, charging our phones and computers and communicating via internet-enabled video conferencing — critical for our current makeshift economy.  

The energy sector — in the early stages of a low-carbon transition — has seen natural gas, renewables, storage and efficiency play a greatly expanded role over the last decade and is a powerful job creator. The recently-released 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report underscores this connection: while the energy and auto sectors make up 5.4 percent of the American workforce, they created 10.7 percent of all new jobs since 2015. Translation: 915,000 new jobs, over 40 percent of them in energy efficiency alone.  

This argues for a prominent position for energy in the next stimulus package. The federal efforts during the Depression of the 1930’s and the Great Recession of 2008-2009 are noteworthy in this regard.  

During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, Rural Electrification Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Authority were established to repair and build infrastructure, initiate large scale hydropower for electricity generation and take electricity to every home and farm. Three of these programs were principally energy-related — the REA alone supported the formation of 800 rural electric co-ops and the construction of 350,000 miles of power lines.  

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  also had a significant energy focus. It kickstarted a rapid expansion of on-shore wind, initiated large scale solar deployment, supported the first commercial scale carbon dioxide capture and sequestration facility at a coal plant and laid the foundations for the development of  “smart” energy systems — as well as creating a new approach to clean energy innovation, ARPA-E, which has spawned over 80 start-ups.  

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As the public and private sectors turn their attention to rebuilding our economy, we need to seed new industries that underpin our low-carbon future and build infrastructure aligned with that future. We don’t need a physical “corps” or new federal organization as in the 1930s  — our energy systems are largely operated by the private sector and have vast infrastructures in place. But we do need an energy stimulus program built on the foundation of an “Energy Jobs Coalition” (EJC) to keep the focus on energy infrastructure modernization and job creation through 2021 and a platform for further job growth after that. 

What programs might be supported by an Energy Jobs Coalition in a new stimulus package?

Clearly, immediate relief for modest income families must remain paramount, for example, by supporting additional low-income energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Grants could also support electricity and gas distribution companies to enhance their energy efficiency programs, especially for low-income households and small businesses.  

EJC-supported programs could include capital improvements that substantially increase energy efficiency in public buildings — courthouses, city halls, etc. This is especially important for rural areas where declines in population and high unemployment have reduced tax bases. Federal buildings could be improved through an amped-up Federal Energy Management Program, saving money on utility bills that could be spent elsewhere.   

In addition, the EJC should support grid infrastructure modernization. A cost-share program to automate substations, for example, would further enable distributed generation while helping to protect the grid from cyber-attacks. Modern energy systems should be designed to support job growth while remaining aligned with the active clean energy transition. 

Programs should support the decarbonization of incumbent energy systems, such as natural gas, by providing cost-share funds to reduce natural gas flaring, produce renewable gas from landfill and agricultural waste. They should also support state grants for offsetting the cost to low-income consumers associated with replacing gas distribution systems that are leaking methane. 

The coalition’s focus could also include clean energy industry creation through both innovation and deployment investments. There are many candidates: advanced battery technologies and long-duration electricity storage, clean hydrogen supply and infrastructure, establishing regional technology innovation hubs, modular nuclear reactors, a new generation of carbon capture and removal projects — from power plants — industrial facilities and the air, offshore wind, integration of energy networks with artificial intelligence and big data capabilities, and more.  

This should be paired with financing initiatives, such as renewable, advanced nuclear and carbon dioxide utilization and sequestration tax credits, an expanded loan program for supporting state Green Banks and clean energy for tribal lands and indigenous communities. In addition, perhaps the Clean Energy Department Administration — which had bipartisan support a decade ago — should be reconsidered.

Job creation in all of these areas should be underpinned by a network of private, public and union-supported apprenticeship and training programs that directly address the need for an expanded energy workforce. For example, the Building Trades Union alone offers training and apprenticeships at over 1,500 locations across the country. 

While this is not an exhaustive list, it offers some examples of what an Energy Jobs Coalition could support in a new stimulus package — good for American workers, our economy and the planet.

Ernest J. Moniz was the 13th US Secretary of Energy (2013-17) and is the founder and CEO of the Energy Futures Initiative, a Washington-based clean energy nonprofit.

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WHO: Countries that rush to lift restrictions risk 'severe and prolonged' damage to economy – CNBC

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Countries that rush to lift quarantine restrictions designed to contain the coronavirus pandemic risk an “even more severe and prolonged” economic downturn and a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday.

“We are all aware of the profound social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” Tedros said during a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “Ultimately the best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus.”

Globally, more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, including at least 55,781 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The outbreak, which emerged in China a little over three months ago, has hit economies hard as cities shut down, putting people out of work.

Earlier in the week, WHO officials said they were deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of the outbreak.

Tedros on Friday called on countries to help their citizens by expanding social welfare programs, moving financial barriers and ensuring public health measures are “fully funded.”

“If people delay care or avoid it because they can’t afford it, they not only harm themselves, they make the pandemic harder to control and put society at risk,” he said. “This is an unprecedented crisis which demands an unprecedented response.”

On Monday, WHO officials said government lockdowns are not enough to contain the coronavirus outbreak. However, they are necessary, despite their impact on the economy and society, they said. Without them, the coronavirus would kill even more people.

“This is serious. This is a deadly virus, people will get through it, countries will get through it,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program.

World leaders need to build up their public health systems “if we’re going to get out of an interminable cycle of economically punishing lockdowns and shutdowns,” Ryan said. “We must get back to be able to control this virus, live with this virus, develop the vaccines that we need to finally eradicate this virus.”

WHO officials also said the coronavirus is impacting fights against other infectious diseases such as polio. 

“In recent years, we have driven polio to the brink of eradication,” Tedros said Friday. Many health-care workers are now supporting the COVID-19 response, causing them to temporarily halt vaccinations for polio in some cases, he said. 

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