Writing off more of that 3-martini lunch is causing a stir
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stuffed into the new emergency relief package is a morsel that President Donald Trump has long had on the buffet of his economic wish list: restoring full tax breaks for restaurant business meals. But not everyone’s happy about that. Experts say it’s not much help for an industry reeling from the pandemic. And critics deride it as an insensitive “three-Martini lunch” giveaway to business. The under-the-radar provision in the bill restores the full deductions prized by business and lobbyists for fine dining and schmoozing. Some experts say it could help at least the tonier parts of the ravaged restaurant industry — eventually, when the economy recovers from the pandemic’s dislocation.
As small businesses await new US aid, it’s too late for some
NEW YORK (AP) — America’s entrepreneurs have welcomed Congress’ long-delayed new relief package, which provides $325 billion in aid to small businesses and makes it easier for them to gain access to grants and loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. But the rescue comes too late for tens of thousands of businesses that have already closed, a consequence of a pandemic that has kept away diners, shoppers and customers since early spring. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 110,000 U.S. restaurants — 17% —have shut down indefinitely or for good, doomed by restrictions on their hours or capacity and by Americans’ reluctance to eat out.
$900B COVID relief bill passed by Congress, sent to Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has easily passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package. It promises to deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business to create a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation. The bill passed both the House and Senate in rapid succession Monday night and has been sent to President Donald Trump for his signature, expected in the coming days.
Feds sue Walmart over role in opioid crisis
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is suing Walmart, alleging the company unlawfully dispensed controlled substances through its pharmacies, helping to fuel the opioid crisis in America. The civil complaint being filed Tuesday points to the role Walmart’s pharmacies may have played in the crisis by filling opioid prescriptions and by unlawfully distributing controlled substances to the pharmacies during the height of the opioid crisis. Walmart operates more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores around the country. The Justice Department’s action comes nearly two months after Walmart filed its own preemptive suit against the federal government.
Consumer relief: COVID bill to end ‘surprise’ medical bills
WASHINGTON (AP) — People with private health insurance will see the nasty shock of “surprise” medical bills virtually gone, thanks to the coronavirus compromise passed by Congress. The charges that can run from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars come from doctors and hospitals that are outside the network of a patient’s health insurance plan. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 emergency visits and 1 in 6 inpatient admissions will trigger a surprise bill. Although lawmakers of both parties long agreed that the practice was abusive billing, a lobbying war between doctors and insurers thwarted compromise.
During crucial holiday season, US consumer confidence slumps
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A closely-watched gauge of U.S. consumer confidence tumbled in December as rising coronavirus cases dragged American optimism to its lowest level since the summer. However, rising pessimism is now spreading during the crucial holiday season, which could make or break a number of retailers, airlines, restaurants other sector that have been hammered financially during the pandemic. The December reading of 88.6 released Tuesday by the Conference Board is a sharp decline from last month, which was revised downward to 92.9, and it is far worse than economists had expected. It may be an ominous sign for an economy in which consumer spending accounts for 70% of all economic economic activity.
Nov. existing home sales fall 2.5%, following record summer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The market for existing homes cooled slightly in November, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday, after climbing through the late spring, summer and early fall despite the pandemic. Existing home sales fell 2.5% between October and November on a seasonally adjusted basis to 6.69 million annualized units. That’s the first decline in that figure since May, when housing market activity started recovering from the shutdowns of March and April due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Pandemic crushes global supply chains, workers at both ends
The coronavirus pandemic has crushed global supply chains and wreaked havoc for millions of workers at both ends. The U.S. is one of the world’s top importers of clothing. At the beginning of the pandemic in March, U.S. retailers canceled or failed to pay for existing orders worth billions of dollars, the effects quickly rippled down the supply chain. Thousands of garment factories around the world closed leading to widespread lay-offs and suspensions of employees, most of them women. From January to June of this year, imports of garments in the U.S. dropped by 26%, a loss of $17 billion for factories around the world.
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Experts say businesses can require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, but that doesn’t mean they will. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has allowed companies to mandate flu vaccines, and has indicated they can also require COVID-19 vaccines. If an employer does require COVID-19 vaccination, it doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired for refusing. You might need to sign a waiver or work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose. People can also request exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Employers also might not want to make vaccinations mandatory since tracking compliance could be an administrative burden.
Peloton … if you build it, they will come
With no sign that home workouts will fade out any time soon, Peloton cranked up its manufacturing capacity in a big way this week and it’s picking up a bunch of new fans on Wall Street. The maker of high-end stationary bikes and accompanying monthly subscriptions will spend $420 million to acquire Precor, a company whose fitness machines populate hundreds of commercial and hotel gyms. The acquisition, Peloton’s biggest to date, gives the company its first manufacturing capacity in the U.S., its biggest market, during a global pandemic that has people cancelling gym memberships and seeking ways to stay fit in the safety of their own homes. At the opening bell Tuesday, shares of Peloton spiked 12% to an all-time high.
The S&P 500 fell 7.66 points, or 0.2%, to 3,687.26. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 200.94 points, or 0.7%, to 30,015.51. The Nasdaq composite rose 65.40 points, or 0.5%, to 12,807.92, a record high. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 19.55 points, or 1%, to 1,989.88, a record high.