Some small business owners' coronavirus stimulus experience off to shaky start

JPMorgan delays coronavirus business loans over litigation fears: Gasparino

Confusion and delays come with the small business loans program. FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino with more.

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President Trump says one of the nation's top banks is doing a "great job" complying with the federal government's new pandemic stimulus plan in handing out hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to small businesses; he even singled out one of the nation's largest, Bank of America, for its work getting small businesses the money they need to survive the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

But the people on the front lines of the $350 billion loan application process, the small business owners, say their experience has been far from great. FOX Business has been contacted by several small business owners who say the loan program — which officially began Friday — is suffering from a series of defects and that loan applications are being summarily rejected for arbitrary reasons. Others say they're getting the brush-off from their bankers who say they still don't have guidance from the federal government to begin the application process even though that guidance was made official Thursday night, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

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Even more, small business owners say they find it odd that Trump in a tweet late Friday afternoon cited Bank of America for doing great work in handing out the loans. Bank of America may have been the first bank out of the gate to make the loans available to its customers Friday morning, but several business owners have contacted FOX Business through social media and other venues and said the bank found reasons to backlog their loan application or deny them altogether.

One small business owner wrote that Bank of America "is not processing our application because we don’t have a B of A credit card. This is such BS. We do all of our banking through them and they are limiting access to stimulus funds to my business because we don’t have a Credit card."

When contacted about these issues, a Bank of America spokesman declined comment but pointed to a memo circulated internally that said:

“In this first initial launch (of the small business loan program), we have focused on our full relationship clients first."

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A Treasury spokesman said, "Treasury and the Small Business Administration, in close coordination with the White House, have established an unprecedented $350 billion Main Street financial assistance program in just one week.  Billions of dollars in loans have been registered on the very first day of activity."

Of course, handing out $350 billion in small business loans — which is the target number in the government's $2 trillion pandemic economic relief effort — was never expected to run seamlessly. The $2 trillion bill was hastily cobbled together and passed on March 26 as lawmakers and the White House worried that the lockdowns to deal with the virus outbreak could lead to a severe economic recession, or worse. The early economic indicators show a dramatic slowdown in the US economy and unemployment rivaling levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, banks were on the forefront of a key piece of the plan in handing out government-backed loans to small businesses. Under the plan, the federal government will provide loans for banks to make available to small business, or outfits with less than 500 employees, with super-low interest rates. The loans will be forgiven and paid off by the government if the small business retains its workforce until the economy can resume possibly in the summer.

The program was considered key to the success of the virus relief package since small businesses employ nearly 50 percent of all working Americans, and they have been the hardest hit by the virus's impact on the economy, as salons, restaurants and other service-related companies have been shuttered laying off tens of millions of workers.

But questions immediately swirled about its effectiveness. The $350 billion size of the program seemed too small to meet the intense demand; as FOX Business reported, White House officials are considering another round of small business loans, meaning possibly tens of billions of dollars more will be added to the program.

Banks complained that even as the Friday deadline to start the loan program approached, the federal government didn't provide them guidelines on how to proceed. Those guidelines then came late Thursday, causing the nation's biggest bank, JP Morgan, to delay launching the loan program until later Friday afternoon. Other big banks, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, have yet to launch their programs as this story is published Friday.

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By Friday afternoon, several thousand loan applications were processed or about $2 billion in loans, the Wall Street Journal reported, but that well understated the size and scope of demand. Bank of America was among the first banks to begin the loan program Friday morning. By the end of business Friday, a spokesman said it had processed $7 billion worth of loans from 75,000 applications.

But according to small business owners who contacted FOX Business, its handling of the onslaught of loan applications was uneven at best. One small business owner indicated Bank of America and other banks simply refused to take applications on Friday in some parts of the country. Another said that Bank of America declined applications of customers who didn't have both a checking account and a credit card open in February of this year, as well as a broader banking relationship.

Those customers who meet all of those criteria will be given preference over those that meet just one or two, business owners tell FOX Business.

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Some Americans still aren't practicing social distancing

(CNN)With more than 25,000 positive tests and 210 deaths, New York has become the epicenter of coronavirus cases in the United States, but in recent days, the numbers in Louisiana, New Jersey and several other states also have been skyrocketing.

Louisiana, which reported no cases until mid-March, topped the 1,000 mark and the state has seen more than 500 new cases reported since the weekend, with 1,388 cases and 46 deaths by Tuesday afternoon.
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Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a federal major disaster declaration.

    In his request to the President, Edwards said Louisiana has more cases per capita than any state, except for New York and Washington.
    “We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers,” he wrote.

    New Jersey added more than 800 cases from Monday to Tuesday, for a total of 3,675 positive tests and 44 deaths. That makes New Jersey the second-highest state case total in the nation. Last week alone, New Jersey cases increased tenfold.
    The state is under a stay-at-home order. Gov. Phil Murphy said not everyone is adhering to the mandate.
    “We must have 100% compliance. This is about public health and it’s about people’s lives. Your employees’ lives, their families’ lives, and your life,” he said.
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    Michigan’s total rose from just 65 cases about week ago to 1,791 on Tuesday afternoon, including 15 deaths. Pennsylvania saw a spike of more than 200 cases overnight, bringing the total to 851 cases statewide. Of those cases, seven people have died.
    Florida and Georgia — two states where political leaders have faced criticism over their timing on enacting restrictions — both crossed the 1,000-case mark over the weekend and continue to rise significantly each day. As of Tuesday evening, Florida recorded 1,461 cases and 17 deaths, while Georgia reported 1,097 cases and 38 fatalities.
    Additionally, Indiana went from a handful of cases about a week ago to 365.

    California teen’s cause of death is ‘complex’

    The death of a Los Angeles County resident may be the first juvenile to have died from the novel coronavirus in the United States.
    But hours after saying the person died from Covid-19, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued another news release, saying there might now be an “alternate explanation” for the death.
    The department characterized the case as “complex” and despite early testing indicating a positive result for Covid-19, further investigation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be required.
    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN the person who died was a teenager.
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    The teen lived in Lancaster, California, according to county officials.
    The news came as more than 52,000 coronavirus cases were reported in the country by Tuesday evening, with nearly half in New York. At least 701 people have died.
    Coronavirus-related deaths in children remain relatively rare.
    “In the mortality data that has been provided to us, there has been no child under 15 that has succumbed to the virus in Europe,” Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during a briefing Monday. “There was the one 14-year-old in China. So we still see that there is less severity in children, and so that should be reassuring to the moms and dads out there.”
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    According to studies, two children, a 10-month-old infant and a 14-year-old boy, died in China after being infected with the novel coronavirus.
    The 10-month-old who died had a preexisting condition. The child experienced multi-organ failure and died four weeks after being admitted to a hospital in Wuhan, according to research published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
    The 14-year-old boy from Hubei province died February 7. No further details were available on his death, which was reported in a study published last week in Pediatrics that looked at 2,143 children with confirmed or suspected coronavirus.

    New York governor demands ventilators

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded the federal government take dramatic action to send thousands of stockpiled ventilators immediately to his state first, saying the Empire State’s immense coronavirus caseload threatened catastrophe in days without it.
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    He said New York needs 30,000 more ventilators on top of the 7,000 it has.
    Cuomo wants all of what he called a current federal stockpile of 20,000 ventilators to brace for the coming “apex” in cases, which he says will arrive in as soon as 14 days.
    “We need the federal help, and we need the federal help now,” Cuomo said. “New York is the canary in the coal mine. New York is going first — we have the highest and fastest rate of infection.”
    “(After) we get over that curve … I’ll send ventilators, I’ll send health care workers … around the country.”

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    The governor said his state was trying to address two other needs: more hospital beds and more medical staff.
    He said the state needed 140,000 hospital beds for an anticipated patient apex in as in soon as two weeks, yet the state now has only 53,000 beds. Cuomo said he was speaking to hotel owners “about taking over their hotels” to place some patients.
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    “I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds that we need,” he said.
    About 1,000 beds are being set up in Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center. Those beds generally will be for noncritical overflow patients, freeing up intensive care units in hospitals, Cuomo said.

    More than 40% of US live in states with stay-at-home orders

    Cuomo’s comments come as general stay-at-home orders — intended to slow the spread of the disease so medical professionals can better handle incoming cases — will be in effect in at least 17 states by Wednesday.
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    While President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to soon transition away from social distancing to help the economy, public health experts and physicians are generally urging they stay in place longer, as cases are nearly overwhelming health care systems in New York City and other areas.
    “The (distancing) we have put in place over the last eight days … you won’t see the impact of that for at least another seven or 14 days,” said Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, on NBC’s “Today” show.
    “What we’re seeing in hospitals right now are people who most likely got exposed and sick more than two weeks ago,” she said on “Today.”
    White House aides are scrambling to find a compromise option. Discussions include a phased system in which younger people — potentially under 40, according to one option — return to the workplace or business first, followed gradually by people slightly older until most of the country is back to normal, officials say.
    Last week, the White House released guidelines urging Americans to avoid eating at bars or restaurants and skip out on gatherings with more than 10 people for the rest of March.
    Health officials have said a lack of firm federal direction and residents ignoring social distancing guidelines could result in more sharp increases of cases and hospitalizations that will overwhelm the country’s health system.
    “I think we’re far away from (the end of social distancing), quite frankly,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a CNN medical analyst and infectious disease specialist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center.

    ‘Like going to war with a water gun’

    Supply shortages aren’t unique to New York. Doctors have sounded the alarm on dwindling medical supplies across the country.
    Groups around the country are sewing masks for hospitals facing dire shortages
    When it comes to personal protective equipment, Dr. Jason Halperin of Crescent Care in New Orleans told CNN staff was in “urgent need of everything.”
    Working in a hospital without that protective equipment, a nurse in a South Texas hospital told CNN, is like “going to war with a water gun.”
    “Everything is limited,” the nurse said, “PPE, ventilators, beds, negative pressure rooms, nurses, etc.”

      One Seattle intensive care nurse told CNN she was told to wear a single N95 mask “indefinitely.”
      “We’re being told that we have to use these until they’re soiled, and if they get to that point, we have to show them to our (supervisor).”
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      Some Oracle employees protest Larry Ellison’s politics

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      President Trump talks to the crowd about unemployment rates, home ownership, welfare and Opportunity Zones while speaking at a ‘Keep America Great’ rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

      Wednesday's fundraiser that Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison hosted for President Trump has upset some employees.

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      Workers at Oracle offices around the world, left their desks in protest, according to Bloomberg.

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      About 300 workers took part in a protest called No Ethics/No Work.

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      The employees reportedly spent the rest of the day involved in volunteering and civic projects.

      Ellison hosted the fundraiser for Trump this week at his ranch in Rancho Mirage, California.

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      Employees were concerned that the event harmed the company's image and violated the company's diversity, inclusion and ethics policies.

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      A petition was started with more than 8,000 signatures that wanted Oracle and Ellison to give money to humanitarian causes.

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      Some Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings

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      More than a quarter of Americans have more credit card debt than they do in emergency savings, according to a new survey released by Bankrate on Thursday. However, the personal finance company found that 49 percent find themselves in the opposite circumstance.

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      The number of U.S. adults who have more credit card debt than emergency savings went down by one percent when compared to last year’s 29 percent. It is also on par with the highest level seen between 2011 and 2018, which ranged between 21 and 28 percent.

      Conversely, the number of U.S. adults who have more in emergency savings than credit card debt increased by five percent from last year’s 44 percent. Though, at the same time, they are not saving as much as they used to. Between 2011 and 2018, American emergency funds surpassed credit card debt with a range that fluctuated between 51 and 58 percent, according to Bankrate.

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      “High rate credit card debt should be attacked with urgency,” said Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, who is also a designated Chartered Financial Analyst.

      “Utilize zero percent balance transfer offers, trim other expenses, and generate additional income through freelance work or a second job to make 2020 the year you pay off credit card debt for good,” he advised in an official statement from Bankrate.

      Forty-five percent of American households told Bankrate that they are prioritizing emergency savings growth over paying down debt. On the flip side, 38 percent of American households said they are prioritizing debt elimination over boosting their emergency savings.

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      Six percent of American households said they are focused on prioritizing both simultaneously, but an alarming eight percent said they aren’t prioritizing either.

      Younger Millennials between the ages of 24 and 30 were found to be more likely to have more credit card debt than emergency savings when compared to their older counterparts. In fact, 46 percent of young Millennials have more in credit card debt while 35 percent have more in emergency savings.

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      Consequently, this young demographic is more focused on increasing their emergency savings. Older Millennials who are between the ages of 31 and 39, on the other hand, are more focused on paying down their debt than boosting their emergency savings.

      Having a large emergency fund tends to become more important with age, according to Bankrate’s findings. When comparing the 46 percent of young Millennials that have credit card debt to those who are age 66 and older, Bankrate observed a significant decline. Only 15 percent of those 66-year-olds and above had more credit card debt than emergency savings.

      “It takes time to build emergency savings and it is a moving target as expenses increase from young adulthood to middle age,” McBride noted. “The habit of regular saving is critical to starting, growing, and replenishing your emergency savings cushion.”

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      Bankrate created its survey with a sample of 1,011 respondents.

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