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Congress Adds $310B for PPP Small Business Loans

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Congress has approved $310 billion in additional funding for an emergency small business loan program aimed at helping employers such as law firms avoid layoffs during the downturn in the economy caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

On April 23, the House voted 388-5 to approve the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The Senate had approved the measure April 21. President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign the bill into law quickly.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin welcomed the new funding.

“The PPP, implemented by our partners at the Small Business Administration, has provided assistance to more than 1 million small businesses with fewer than 10 workers,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “The Program is already helping more than 30 million Americans, and with this additional funding, we expect tens of millions more will be able to receive critical relief.”

The PPP program has become the target of increasing criticism after the U.S. Small Business Administration on April 16 announced that the $349 billion originally authorized by Congress had been exhausted and the agency would no longer be accepting PPP loan applications.

Critics contend that many cash-strapped small businesses were denied loans as well-heeled businesses acted quickly to apply for loans in the “first come, first serve” program. Others claim that certain lenders favored wealthier clients in processing PPP loan applications in the rush to obtain loans before funding dried up.

Experts have been recommending that law firms, like other small businesses, should seriously consider applying for the relief under the program in light of its historically favorable loan terms.

However, banking industry groups are warning that much, if not all, of the new money authorized by Congress will be eaten up by PPP loan applications already in process.

The Paycheck Protection Program was created under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law on March 27. Launched on April 3, the SBA program provides small business job-retention loans to pay for eight weeks of payroll expenses and certain overhead to keep workers employed.

Section 1102 of the CARES Act permits the SBA to guarantee 100 percent of loans under the program. Section 1106 of the act provides for forgiveness of up to the full principal amount of those loans.

Generally, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for PPP loans. Qualifying nonprofits, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors can apply for loans.

The maximum loan amount is $10 million, with a fixed 1 percent interest rate and maturity of two years. The loans do not require collateral or personal guarantees, and the first payment is deferred for six months during which no interest accrues.

Under an interim SBA rule, the loan amount is generally calculated by multiplying the applicant’s average monthly payroll for 2019 by 2.5. The average monthly payroll calculation excludes an employee’s annual salary in excess of $100,000 and includes commissions, tips and benefits such as sick leave and health insurance.

The SBA forgives that portion of a loan used for payroll costs and other designated operating expenses for up to eight weeks from the date the loan is disbursed but only if at least 75 percent of loan proceeds are used for payroll costs. Other expenses eligible for forgiveness include mortgage interest, rent payments and utilities, but payment of those non-payroll costs may constitute no more than 25 percent of the eligible loan forgiveness amount.

Copyright © 2020 BridgeTower Media. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright, 2020, Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly (RI)

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Need Income? Here Are 8 Safe Stocks That Yield More Than 2.5%

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Need Income? Here Are 8 Safe Stocks That Yield More Than 2.5%

With interest rates at all-time lows, it is becoming increasingly difficult for investors to earn a decent yield in today’s environment. Savings accounts pay a little more than 1% and Treasurys pay even worse.

For seniors or retirees looking for income, there are a handful of companies that have been paying a consistent dividend for more than 100 years that also have a yield higher than 2.5%.

Here are eight companies to take a look at:

Coca-Cola

Symbol: KO
Dividend Yield: 3.6%

Coca-Cola is the newest addition to the list, with 2020 marking the 100th year that the company has paid a dividend. The company also announced in February that it was increasing the quarterly dividend, making it 58 straight years where the payout has increased. Even with health trends shifting away from sugary drinks, the company has a robust product lineup. It has also been expanding into new beverage lines like coffee and energy drinks.

Chubb

Symbol: CB
Dividend Yield: 2.9%

Chubb is an insurance company based in Switzerland that primarily writes policies for property and casualty, accident, health, life and reinsurance and is the largest publicly traded property and casualty company in the world. In addition to paying a dividend for more than 100 years, the company has also raised its payout to shareholders for 27 consecutive years.

General Mills

Symbol: GIS
Dividend Yield: 3.2%

You probably recognize General Mills’ brands every time you head to the grocery store. They own brands like Cheerios, Wheaties, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs and many more. The company has been paying out a dividend for more than 120 years and have increased that payout for 15 straight years.

Colgate-Palmolive

Symbol: CL
Dividend Yield: 2.5%

Another company with plenty of household brand recognition, Colgate-Palmolive owns brands like Colgate, Palmolive, Speed Stick and Tom’s of Maine. The company has paid out dividends for 125 years and has raised its dividend consistently for the last 57 years.

Procter & Gamble

Symbol: PG
Dividend Yield: 2.8%

The company owns iconic brands like Pampers, Tide, Bounty, Charmin, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders. It has been paying a dividend for more than 100 year and has raised that dividend every year for the last 63 years.

Johnson Controls

Symbol: JCI
Dividend Yield: 3.6%

Based in Cork, Ireland, the company provides fire, HVAC and security systems for buildings. The company has been paying a dividend to shareholders since just after it was founded in 1887, a streak of 133 years.

Consolidated Edison

Symbol: ED
Dividend Yield: 4.3%

Starting way back in 1823 as the New York Gas Light Company, Consolidated Edison provides gas, electric and steam power to New York City and Westchester County, NY. The company has a long history of paying dividends to shareholders dating all the way back to 1885, a streak of 135 years.

Exxon-Mobil

Symbol: XOM
Dividend Yield: 7.7%

The massive energy company started as two spinoffs of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company, Exxon and Mobil. The two companies merger in 1998, but investors in the companies have been receiving consistent dividend payments since way back in 1882.

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Social Media Stocks Slip As Trump Issues Executive Order

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Social Media Stocks Slip As Trump Issues Executive Order

Social media stocks slipped yesterday after President Trump signed an executive order granting the government broader authority to crack down on social media companies. Twitter fell 4.45%, Facebook dipped 1.61% and Google’s parent company Alphabet dropped 0.08%. Twitter took the biggest hit because Trump said if the company doesn’t operate honorably, he hinted he would consider shutting the company down.

Trump says social media companies have gained “unchecked power” and have taken on the roles of editors and publishers of the content on their websites. His executive order would remove their “liability shield” if they engage in censorship.

What is Section 230?

Section 230 allows tech companies to moderate user-generated content on their site without becoming legally liable for it as a publisher typically would.

The law allows companies to engage in “good Samaritan” moderation of “objectionable” material. This, then, comes without the companies receiving a publisher or speaker treatment. Section 230 allows platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube to take down terrorist content. It also allows them to track and take down harassing messages while still enjoying other legal protections.

What the law doesn’t allow, and what Trump says the platforms are doing, pertains to selectively moderating what messages users see to silence conservative voices.

“They’re doing things incorrectly, they have points of view,” Trump said at the White House. “My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That’s a big deal,” he also stated.

Trump’s Order

Trump said the order would also prevent taxpayer dollars from going to any company that engages in what Trump referred to as deceptiveness. This is in addition to limiting these protections for companies that acted with bias.

Trump’s executive order comes just days after Twitter added a fact-checking feature. The social media site added the new feature alongside two of the President’s tweets about mail-in ballots and fraud. After Twitter added the fact-checking features, Trump then accused the company of engaging in “political activism.”

He also tweeted, “So ridiculous to see Twitter trying to make the case that Mail-In Ballots are not subject to FRAUD. How stupid, there are examples, & cases, all over the place. Our election process will become badly tainted & a laughingstock all over the World. Tell that to your hater @yoyoel.”

“Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election,” the president also said Wednesday night — on Twitter. “If that happens, we no longer have our freedom. I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016, and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!” he then added.

Reactions

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company is taking a different approach to moderating content on his social media platform.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

The interest in updating Section 230 to remove the liability shield for publishers isn’t just a goal for Republicans. It actually has bipartisan support.

This past January, Democratic nominee Joe Biden proposed revoking Section 230 completely. “The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.” Biden also never responded to follow-up questions about this statement.

Even former Democratic candidate also Bernie Sanders supported the idea, adding, “Tech giants and online platforms should not be shielded from responsibility when they knowingly allow content on their platforms that promotes and facilitates violence.”

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Mark Cuban Proposes ‘Use it Or Lose It’ Debit Cards to Boost Recovery

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Mark Cuban Proposes ‘Use it Or Lose It’ Debit Cards to Boost Recovery

Mark Cuban hasn’t been shy about voicing his ideas to get our country back on the road to recovery. His latest proposal is that the government issue debit cards to US households to help businesses by boosting consumer spending. The caveat to Cuban’s plan is that the debit cards have a “use it or lose it” feature.

“… I think we need to do a debit card program where we give money literally to each household and make it ‘use it or lose it,’ whether it’s $1,000, or $1,200, or whatever that number is, every couple of weeks and say, ‘You have X number of days to use this debit card, or you lose the money that’s been deposited on there.’”

Cuban came up with the plan. As he said, “we’ve got to get to a scenario where consumers have enough confidence to go out there and spend money… the primary reality is no business can survive without sales. And two-thirds of the economy is consumer-generated demand.”

Without an increase in business, many businesses can’t afford to re-hire their employees. Even if they could, some are receiving more money from their unemployment benefits than they are from working.

Cuban’s Plan

Cuban says his plan is a “perfectly timed stimulus program” and “…by doing that, and timing it right, that’s going to create demand for these companies so they can afford to bring their employees back after they’re off of all that unemployment CARES enhancement.”

The CARES Act became law in March. It added an extra $600 weekly payment on top of the amount someone receives under state law. Those additional benefits will end in July unless the government extends it.

Cuban has also proposed that the government start a federally-guaranteed jobs program. He said these should give people “confidence in their jobs” and help start the rehiring process.

“We’re going to have to have a transitional, not permanent transitional federal jobs program,” he said. He also included jobs like the ones created during the pandemic to track and treat COVID-19 patients.

“And so we’re going to need to hire people, millions of people, you know, preferably for testing, tracing, tracking, supporting vulnerable populations, long-term care, you know, giving people jobs that they know, are stable, because that gives them the impetus to spend money,” Cuban added.

Criticisms

While Cuban’s plan would absolutely boost consumer spending, Scott Baker, an associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University says it won’t help every industry.

“Some industries you won’t be able to stimulate this way,” said Baker. He also said that the plan cant help the tourism industry. He said this because, even with extra money in their pockets, Americans aren’t travelling.

Baker also says that during economic uncertainty, most Americans will delay durable goods purchases, like electronics, appliances and vehicles.

Cuban, who has become more vocal about his ideas to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic, also hasn’t officially ruled out a 2020 presidential run.

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