Predicting that COVID-19 — along with the social distancing measures put in place to contain the outbreak — would result in a loss of $225 billion in restaurant sales over the next three months and cost 5 million to 7 million people their jobs, the National Restaurant Association asked the Trump Administration to create a $145 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.
“The restaurant industry is one of low margins, tight cash flow, and a workforce that depends on us for their livelihood,” Sean Kennedy, EVP of Public Affairs, wrote Wednesday in a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Without aggressive action from the federal government, many restaurants that are a staple of local communities will simply never resume service.”
He went on to say that the restaurant and foodservice industry needed immediate liquidity to compensate for reduced revenue attributed to coronavirus-related declines in order to pay employees, maintain service operations, meet transactional and financial obligations.
In order to maintain solvency, the NRA requested that the U.S. Treasury create the program within 15 days of enactment and provide grants with minimal delay.
According to an internal analysis by the organization’s economists, a three-month shutdown of the restaurant industry would also be a $675 billion hit to the economy overall, since every dollar spent in restaurants generates an additional $2 elsewhere in the national economy, the NRA said.
Specifically, Kennedy’s package calls for the government to:
- Offer $35 billion for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief assistance. This program is used when regions and communities — and their local businesses — may not recover after a federally declared emergency or disaster.
“The unprecedented business disruption for restaurants and hospitality industry companies has led to significant concerns about whether businesses will be able to reopen this year. This targeted financial assistance will allow some businesses to maintain their commitment to their communities and hopefully prepare for a return to normal operations,” the letter stated.
- Assistance in allowing businesses to defer mortgage, lease and loan obligations as most small businesses do not have long-term cash reserves.
- $100 billion in federally backed Business Interruption Insurance. As of March 17, 28 states or territories have ordered closures for their restaurants and bars, according to the NRA, and an additional number of counties and municipalities have also mandated closures. While many businesses have invested in Business Interruption Insurance and Contingent Business Interruption Insurance, most policies can deny claims due to a “Virus” exclusion, the letter said.
Rather than engaging in a protracted dispute and arbitration process, Congress must approve a timely insurance program through the U.S. Treasury Department that allows businesses to receive their insured benefit under an expedited time frame, the letter said.
“As we enter a 12-to-18 month period of tremendous uncertainty in the hospitality industry, these insurance claims must be approved quickly and utilize a federal backstop similar to the program created for airlines after 9/11/2001,” Kennedy wrote.
- Federal loan program equal to lost revenue. Create a federal loan program for a business to get a loan equal to lost revenue during an emergency three-month period with the option for extension through 2020. The loan would receive forgiveness as long as the employer keeps its workers on the payroll without reducing their pay, including workers self-quarantining or on paid sick-leave.
“Before coronavirus, the recruitment and retention of employees was the top challenge for the restaurant industry,” the letter stated. “Amid this current massive economic disruption, the industry may lose its workforce for years to come. This critical legislation would permit employees to stay on payroll, maintain employer benefits, and avoid additional long-term harm to the restaurant industry. This legislation also keeps more Americans in the workforce rather than on public assistance — when the ongoing public health emergency subsides — Americans will be ready to get back to work.
- $45 billion in expanded access to effective, efficient and affordable federal and conventional loans.
- $130 Million in disaster unemployment assistance, which will help employees with financial benefits during interrupted employment due to closures and
other emergency-related hardships. DUA benefits are payable to individuals (whose unemployment continues to be a result of the major disaster) only for weeks of unemployment in the Disaster Assistance Period.
- Fix the Qualified Improvement Property technical correction. Congress can help the economy immediately by fixing QIP so that businesses can (a) amend their returns and receive money back that they effectively overpaid in taxes, and (b) receive the benefit of bonus depreciation, as a stimulus measure. This fix has been scored at a zero-cost to the federal government, according to the NRA.
- Assistance in allowing businesses to delay, defer, or forgo tax obligations. Tax and financial forbearance from states and banking institutions on sales and income taxes, property taxes and other payments that directly impact a small business’s cash flow. States must expedite refunds for any over-payments of estimated taxes.
- Tax credits for businesses that are retaining employees. Congress can quickly pass the Employee Retention Tax Credit, which has been utilized to protect
employees and employers during similar emergency situations.
- Reduced credit card interchange fees, expanding upon the Durbin Amendment under the Dodd-Frank legislation.
- A Temporary Payroll Tax Cut that increases economic activity. Reduce the employee shares of Social Security payroll taxes by two percentage points (from 6.2% to 4.2% for employees) and hold the Social Security Trust Fund harmless through a transfer of general revenue. Employees/consumers will receive more pay in each paycheck immediately through a reduction in payroll tax withholdings.
“Taken together, these proposals will ensure that restaurants have increased liquidity and access to necessary financing to help them survive the dramatic loss in profits caused by the coronavirus,” Kennedy wrote.
In the coming days, the association said it would submit additional recommendations as the situation unfolds.
Fed Keeps Rates At Zero, Powell Says More Fiscal Support Needed
The Federal Reserve wrapped up its last meeting before the November elections. It announced that it would keep rates at essentially zero until at least 2023. This serves as a signal that it doesn’t see inflation as an issue at all for the foreseeable future.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, “We’re going to continue to monitor developments, and we’re prepared to adjust our plans as appropriate.”
“With inflation running persistently below this longer run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved,” the Fed’s post-meeting statement said.
Uncertainty and the Stock Market
However, the Fed’s latest projections have core inflation staying below their 2% target until 2023. This leaves many observers unsure of the Fed’s actual plan to spur the inflation they desire. This uncertainty caused the stock market to drop after the announcement.
“He noted that targeting an inflation overshoot for ‘some time’ as the statement says, means that they are not targeting a ‘sustained’ overshoot. So how long is ‘some time’ if it isn’t sustained?'” asked AB economist Eric Winograd. “That imprecision is a problem that the committee is going to have to solve to reap the full benefits of the framework shift. It’s not a coincidence that the stock market, which had been in positive territory, flipped negative after the chair’s comments.”
“He’s the great and powerful Oz. Investors got duped. They thought enhanced forward guidance meant something, but when they peeked behind the curtain they realized the Fed didn’t do anything, and the market rolled over,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.
Jon Hill, a senior fixed-income strategist at BMO, added “This is dovish – lower rates for longer, higher equities, weaker dollar. The Fed is saying we’re not hiking in 2023, maybe in 2024 … What they’re saying is these are our goals. We expect to have just barely met them and even then, they’re not raising rates.”
Stimulus and Economic Recovery
Stepping ever-so-slightly into the political realm, Powell said that Congress should pass another stimulus package to support the economic recovery. He then identified unemployment aid, small business relief and funding for state and local governments as three key areas.
“More fiscal support is likely to be needed,” Powell said. “The details of that are for Congress, not the Fed.”
Republicans have repeatedly stated that they won’t provide additional funding to bailout poorly managed cities and states as part of any additional stimulus bills.
Pierre Lassonde Pt. 2: Gold Could Hit $20,000 An Ounce
Yesterday we had the first part of a recent interview by Kitco News with Pierre Lassonde, who retired as chairman of the board at Franco-Nevada earlier this year.
In today’s article, we highlight Lassonde’s comments on gold and why he thinks the Dow/gold ratio could hit 1:1 parity.
Lassonde says that retail interest in the gold market is evident by the record inflow into the GLD gold ETF this year, which has already set a record.
“If you look at gold itself, just look at the gold ETF. Look at GLD. GLD is up over 900 tons this year alone. They’ve had more inflow of money in the first 9 months of this year than any year in the past 16 years. It’s been public since 2004. It’s a record inflow of money into GLD and that’s also a precursor to what’s happening in the equity sector.”
He also says that gold prices will move higher should Democratic nominee Joe Biden win the November election. Lassonde says all the money that will be printed to finance all the new spending.
“If Biden gets in and they decide to do the kind of medicine we have in Canada, the costs are just going to blow out, they are going to have to print more money, all of that is going to fuel the gold price up.”
How high the price will rise is anyone’s guess, but Lassonde says he expects that at some time in the next 5-10 years, we will see the Dow/gold ratio to reach parity at 1:1.
When asked if that means gold will climb or the Dow will fall, Lassonde says he expects a combination of the two, but mostly a slight Dow correction with a massive increase in gold prices.
“It’s hard to see the Dow going down to 10,000 or 12,000. Could it happen? Yes, but I find it very difficult. Could it go down to 20,000? Very possibly. 17,000? Yes, 15,000? Could the gold price go up to $15,000? Absolutely. That’s what I’m talking about, but I don’t think it’s tomorrow morning. I think it’s sometime in the next 5 to possibly as long as 10 years.”
Lassonde says there have been two instances of the Dow/gold ratio reaching 1:1, and both times it occurred for different reasons. This time, he thinks we get to 1:1 due to all the money printing by the Federal Reserve.
“It’s instructive to look at the past. Because twice when it’s happened, it’s happened for very different reasons. Back in 1933, the Dow lost 90% of its value between 1929 and 1933. It went from 360 to 37. The gold price went from $20 to $36. So the gold price almost doubled but the Dow itself went down 90%. In 1980, the Dow had gone down from essentially 1000 to 600 from 1966 to 1980, it came back up to 800, but the gold price as we all know, went from $35 to $800, which is 24x from the beginning. So very, very different responses to different times.”
“The ratio has been 1:1 twice in the past. It takes a 40-50 year period if you look at 1930, 1980, well we are now at 2020, so 40 years, so sometime in the next 5, 10 years I think we are going to see 1:1. But I didn’t know how we were going to get there. With COVID, I think we’ve seen the answer in a sense that if you look at our neighbor to the south, the Federal Reserve, they are printing $3 trillion, they are talking about another package in the $1 trillion to $2 trillion.”
Lassonde does caution that if we see 1:1 parity, we shouldn’t expect $15,000 or $20,000 an ounce gold to stick around for very long. He said based on history it might only be a day or two, or a few weeks at most.
“The key question here is how long is it going to be there? Don’t forget in 1980 the gold price was $800 for less than a day. If you look at the entire quarter the gold price was $675 and if you average out for the year it was less than $600. So yes, it did go to $800, but it was there literally for a day. In 1933 though it went on a little longer than that but it was certainly less than a year, I think it was probably closer to three months or something like that. So the key question is how long will that ratio be 1:1. How long are we going to see the gold price at these crazy numbers. And then what will be the inflation? What’s the dollar going to be worth? I don’t know.”
Trumps Wants a Bigger Stimulus Check
The White House made renewed calls to Congress to come up with a second bigger stimulus check. This time, President Donald Trump wants Republicans to go beyond their skinny proposal and issue a bigger relief package. This includes a bigger stimulus check for Americans.
On Wednesday, Trump urged Republicans to support a bigger COVID-19 relief bill. He tweeted: “Democrats are “heartless”. They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China. Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”
Stimulus Check Update
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany clarified the tweet during Wednesday’s press briefing. She said the president referred to the $500 billion “skinny bill” GOP Senators passed last week. Last Thursday, the Senate voted on a Republican bill on a $500 billion stimulus package. Democrats opposed it en masse, saying it did not contain enough to help everyone. The measure didn’t pass, getting only 52 votes (it needs 60 to pass). McEnany said Trump thinks that the relief amount was too little, and it “didn’t include direct payments.” The President “wants more than the $500 billion and he’s very keen to see these direct stimulus payments.”
In particular, the President looks to favor bigger stimulus checks for American households. While both parties are discussing sending a new batch of $1,200 stimulus checks, he wants a bigger amount. Trump said on Wednesday: “I’d like to see it be very high because I love the people. I want the people to get it.” The president did not say how much higher the stimulus checks should be. He did say “I like the larger amount. Some of the Republicans disagree, but I think I can convince them to go along with that.”
House Problem Solvers Caucus
Two days ago, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus proposed a compromise $1.5 trillion stimulus package. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows says that the plan was “very thoughtful.” I’m probably more optimistic in the last 72 hours than in the last 72 days,” Meadows said. He also said that if Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is willing to stay in session, a bill might pass soon. Meadows thinks the biggest obstacle remains “the amount of money that is outlined for state and local help.”
In a press release, the caucus states: “Having seen no progress on a new COVID-19 relief package in four months, and in recognition of Americans’ increasing suffering, the Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) has developed a comprehensive, bipartisan framework to meet the nation’s needs for the next 6-12 months, that can pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by the President.”
Several Democrats have already rejected the plan, saying the plan needs more money.
Top Democrats in Congress, however, are warming up to the President’s call for a bigger stimulus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that the White House’s pronouncements were encouraging. In a joint statement, they said: “We are encouraged that after months of the Senate Republicans insisting on shortchanging the massive needs of the American people, President Trump is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ in the next coronavirus relief package.”
“We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation. By the end of the week, 200,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus. The lives and livelihoods of the American people depend on Republicans abandoning their obsession with doing as little as possible while the coronavirus rages through our nation,” they said. Pelosi also committed that the House will remain in session until Congress passes another coronavirus relief bill.
While there is no definite timetable nor a clear agreement on the budget yet, Trump has helped advance the talks where a deal must be made. If there is a time for compromise, it has to be now. Otherwise, it will take an election for much-needed help to arrive.
Watch this as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is optimistic a Covid-19 relief package is still possible:
Do you think a stimulus package will pass soon? More importantly, do you agree with Trump that it should contain a bigger stimulus check? Share with us your thoughts on what the second stimulus package should contain. Comment below and let us know.
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