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Lowe’s and Home Depot on Friday became the latest retailers that will begin requiring all their customers to wear masks.
Lowe’s said the new policy would take effect on Monday, adding that it would supply masks to any customer who needed one.
Home Depot’s mask requirement will start Wednesday. The company said children and customers with medical conditions would not be required to wear facial coverings.
“As a retailer offering essential goods, we have a responsibility to our associates, customers and small businesses in communities nationwide to help provide a safe shopping experience,” Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Lowe’s and Home Depot joined a growing number of retailers including Walmart and Kroger that said this week that they would begin requiring customers to wear masks in their stores.
The announcements come as masks have become a contentious political issue in certain parts of the country, where some political leaders have resisted calls from health experts to mandate masks.
Companies like Apple, Best Buy and Starbucks have also mandated masks in their stores.
This week, the National Retail Federation called for a nationwide mask mandate in stores, stressing the need to protect retail employees from infection.
Delta Air Lines has told pilots it will not furlough them for a year if they accept a 15 percent cut to guaranteed pay, according a memo sent to staff on Friday.
“Our approach is to spread the work of a smaller airline among all our pilots to preserve all jobs — that would be unheard of in our history,” John Laughter, senior vice president of flight operations, said in the memo, which was reviewed by The New York Times.
In a statement, the airline’s pilots union, the Delta Master Executive Council, accused the company of sidestepping negotiations, saying it was “not in a position” to consider the proposal outlined in the memo.
“Being that we are in active negotiations, having met with the company just yesterday, we are surprised that Delta decided today to negotiate in public directly with our pilots,” said the union, which represents 14,000 pilots. “It is imperative during this process to maintain an environment that gives our negotiating committee the breathing room to work professionally and productively.”
The federal stimulus that Congress passed in March provided airlines with $25 billion to pay workers as long as the companies refrained from substantial job cuts through Sept. 30. Delta received $5.4 billion in mostly grants and some loans, second only to American Airlines, which received $5.8 billion.
American said this week that it might have to furlough as many as 20,000 workers when that federal program ends. United Airlines, which received $5 billion, said last week that it could cut as many as 36,000 jobs.
All three airlines have offered employees buyout and early retirement packages to avoid deeper cuts. At Delta, 1,700 pilots have accepted voluntary packages, though more may volunteer before a Sunday deadline. Last month, the airline sent out legally required notices to nearly 2,600 pilots, warning them that they could be furloughed in the months to come. It was not immediately clear if those pilots would be spared under the new proposal.
Airlines with unionized pilots and flight attendants typically guarantee those workers a minimum number of flight hours per month. Under the Delta proposal, the airline would reduce that minimum guarantee by up to 15 percent. Any pilot who works more than the minimum would be paid accordingly and the airline would unwind the reduction as it adds more flights.
Like other airlines, Delta saw a steady rise in passengers just a few weeks ago, but that growth has stalled as coronavirus infections surged in much of the United States. The airline this week reported that revenue declined by 91 percent during the depth of the coronavirus crisis in the second quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he thinks Congress should consider automatically forgiving all small loans that were given to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Businesses have been complaining about the complexity of applying to have loans turned into grants through the small business lending program that was created to help employers weather the coronavirus pandemic. Some lawmakers have called for turning all loans under $150,000 — about 86 percent of all loans issued — into grants that do not need to be repaid.
Mr. Mnuchin, testifying before the House Small Business Committee, did not specify a threshold for automatic forgiveness, but said the concept is “something we should consider.” He also said that there should be fraud protections or a simple level of reporting to ensure that the money was used appropriately.
Approximately $520 billion of the $660 billion loan program has been allocated. Mr. Mnuchin said that he would like Congress to extend the program so that small businesses that already received money can apply for more. He said that the next phase of the program should focus on businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and that applications should be prioritized based on a combination of how much revenue a business lost and its size.
“There should be a second check available to the businesses that are hardest hit and there should be requirements around that,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on Congress on Friday to work with the Trump administration to pass additional stimulus legislation by the end of the month as the resurgent coronavirus left the trajectory of the economic recovery uncertain.
The request comes as millions of Americans are about to see their expanded unemployment insurance benefits expire and as lawmakers embark on an intense week of negotiations over what would be the fourth significant bailout package since the virus shuttered large swaths of the U.S. economy earlier this year. Lawmakers will return to Washington on Monday to start the talks.
Democrats have already passed a $3 trillion bill that will function as their starting position, and Republicans are expected to detail their own proposal next week with an eye toward keeping the price tag below $1 trillion. The two sides have staked out opposing positions on a number of issues, including how to modify the Paycheck Protection Program, liability protections for schools, businesses and frontline medical workers, and whether to tie additional funding for schools to a commitment to reopen in-class education this fall.
In prepared testimony before the House Committee on Small Business, Mr. Mnuchin said that the next round of money should be targeted to industries that have been hardest hit, as well as smaller businesses and low- to middle-income families. Mr. Mnuchin also said that the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable small business loans, should be extended but with a focus on helping the restaurant, hotel, travel and hospitality sectors.
“We are monitoring economic conditions closely,” Mr. Mnuchin said in his prepared remarks. “Certain industries, such as construction, are recovering quickly, while others, such as retail and travel, are facing longer-term impacts and will require additional relief.”
The Treasury secretary was joined at the hearing by Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, whose agency has been responsible for deploying the $660 billion paycheck program.
Lawmakers questioned both Mr. Mnuchin and Ms. Carranza about where the money has gone, why it took so long and whether it was getting to businesses that need funds. Data released on loans over $150,000 showed that while much of the money has gone to restaurants, medical offices and car dealerships, Washington lobbying shops, high-priced law firms and special-interest groups also received big loans.
Several lawmakers suggested that the ability of small businesses to get their loans forgiven was too complicated and could potentially leave businesses saddled with debt.
Asked about that issue, Mr. Mnuchin said that automatically forgiving all small loans is “something we should consider.”
Xingcheng, an out-of-the-way factory town on China’s northeastern coast, makes swimwear that is exported to Australia, Germany, the United States and dozens of other countries — in total, a quarter of the world’s swimwear, it estimates.
This year, though, when China forced its people to stay home to stop the coronavirus, Xingcheng’s production of trunks, bikinis and one-pieces ground to a halt.
Then, just as China started getting back to work, the epidemic became a pandemic, and the rest of the world began shutting down. Demand for Xingcheng’s swimsuits dried up. Factories and workshops that reopened — masks, disinfectant and temperature checks in place — had very little to do.
“Nobody was working. Nobody was earning money,” said Yao Haifu, 42, who has worked in swimwear factories in Xingcheng for more than a decade. “In a word? It was difficult.”
The global contraction is hitting all of China’s giant export sector hard. The country’s exports were up only 0.5 percent in June from a year earlier, even as the overall economy rebounded more strongly. But as Chinese industrial towns go, Xingcheng may take longer than most to recover.
And so, with a peak season’s worth of sales already largely lost, Xingcheng’s factories are scraping by an order at a time, waiting for world governments to get a grip on the illness. For fear to abate and economies to mend. For more people to venture back into the water.
Two former Federal Reserve chairs, Janet L. Yellen and Ben S. Bernanke, who fought the financial crisis in 2008, urged a congressional committee to do more to support the economy, and said that the central bank may need to go further on a loan program for midsize businesses and banking regulation as the pandemic wears on.
In published testimony, the former Fed officials stressed that Congress may need to provide more support, and said that although the government’s debt load should be a long-run concern, it should not be a binding constraint in the current crisis.
In particular, they said Congress should do more to help states, which are seeing reduced sales tax and other revenues along with growing costs. That could force many local government to start cutting jobs, weighing on economic growth.
Ms. Yellen said the budget shortfall for states alone could total $550 billion through 2022, based on one study.
“Nothing is more important for restoring economic growth than improving public health. Investments in this area are likely to pay off many times over,” they said. The former officials added that “with unemployment still very high, enhanced unemployment insurance should be extended, and complementary programs like food stamps should be adequately funded.”
They also said that the Fed itself may need to do more. Some of the Fed’s emergency lending efforts, like its programs that buy corporate bonds, can succeed even if they are not heavily used because they have reassured private investors and kicked markets back into gear, they said. But they added that it was too early to tell whether the Fed’s Main Street loan program, which runs through banks to provide funding to midsize businesses, is working.
The Fed’s program contains strict limits on how much debt a company can have to gain access to a loan and it also requires banks to retain a 5 percent slice of risk, while the Fed takes the other chunk.
They suggested that the Fed could consider adding a new program, similar to funding-for-lending programs run by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, that subsidize banks that make loans to qualifying borrowers.
Asked if the money the United States is printing is going to cause inflation, Mr. Bernanke had a simple answer: “No.”
“People said it would after 2008. They were wrong then, too,” he said.
Stocks rose on Friday in another day of volatile trading as investors weighed more earnings reports and the uncertain prospects for a big-ticket economic rescue package in Europe.
A rise in coronavirus cases, signs of progress in possible treatments and vaccines for Covid-19 and a slew of corporate earnings reports are all pushing and pulling stocks in different directions. That has made trading more volatile lately, with key benchmarks often changing directions midday as sentiment shifts.
Friday was no different, with stocks rising and then falling and then rising again to end the day with a small gain.
But Wall Street has still managed to climb for the past three weeks. The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent this week, and about 7 percent over the past three weeks.
On Friday, Netflix was among the worst performing stocks in the S&P 500. Its shares fell more than 6 percent after it forecast a weak current quarter, despite a surge in subscribers in the second quarter.
But two big European firms reported quarterly earnings that lifted their shares. The German automaker Daimler said a late-quarter surge in sales helped it lose less money than expected; its shares rose more than 4 percent. And the Swedish tech company Ericsson reported a rise in 5G network sales, leading to earnings that beat expectations; its shares gained more than 10 percent.
Preliminary results from the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index showed that it fell in July, as the coronavirus surged across much of the United States. Consumers account for the bulk of economic activity in the country and the dimming of sentiment could signal trouble ahead for retailers and other businesses that count on spending by Americans.
The fate of the European Union’s proposed coronavirus rescue plan was to be discussed by the bloc’s leaders on Friday and Saturday in Brussels. The plan, which is projeced to cost 750 billion euros (about $856 billion), is opposed by a few countries — known as the Frugal Four — and it remains unclear if the meeting will resolve the dispute.
British Airways will retire its fleet of Boeing 747 airplanes, the company said on Friday, citing the travel downturn and the aircraft’s high operating costs.
The decision signaled not just the finish of a storied plane’s service with the company but also symbolized the end of an era of aviation in which the next generation of planes was always expected to be bigger, as well as better.
The world’s first jumbo jet, known as the “Queen of the Skies,” the 747 revolutionized travel for the masses, but in recent years it had fallen out of favor with a number of airlines because of the costs.
The final commercial flight of a Boeing 747 by an American carrier took place at the end of 2017. But British Airways had held on, operating the world’s largest fleet of the planes, with 31 in service. A handful of other commercial carriers still fly the 747, though their use is expected to further dwindle in the coming years.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” British Airways said in a statement. “It is unlikely our magnificent ‘Queen of the Skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic.”
On May 5, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, looked into his webcam to address thousands of his employees, tell them that the coronavirus had crushed the travel industry, including their home rental start-up. Divisions would have to be cut and workers laid off.
“I have a deep feeling of love for all of you,” Mr. Chesky said, his voice cracking. “What we are about is belonging, and at the center of belonging is love.” Within a few hours, 1,900 employees — a quarter of Airbnb’s work force — were told they were out.
The moves thrust Airbnb into the center of a growing debate in Silicon Valley: What happens when a company that has positioned itself as family to its employees reveals that it is just a regular business with the same capitalist concerns — namely, survival — as any other?
Start-ups that sell everything from mattresses to data-warehousing software have long used “making the world a better place”-style mission statements to energize and motivate their workers. But as the economic fallout from the coronavirus persists, many of those gauzy mantras have given way to harsh realities like budget cuts, layoffs and bottom lines.
That now puts companies with a “commitment” culture at the highest risk of losing what made them successful, said Ethan Mollick, an entrepreneurship professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.