New stimulus bites the dust: Here’s what to do now

Plus, did SNL pay for a live audience and restaurants hunker down

Oct 09, 2020 | Current events | Government
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Trump calls off stimulus negotiations until after the election, kind of

It’s been six months since the CARES Act was passed, and Americans waiting on aid are feeling more whiplash than fans at Wimbledon. Last Thursday, the $2.2 trillion revised HEROES Act passed in the House, but its odds of passing the Senate remained slim. Then on Tuesday, Trump sent stocks and spirits spiraling with a tweet calling off all stimulus negotiations until after the election. That’s in spite of a dire warning that came just hours earlier from Jerome Powell, where the Federal Reserve chair forecasted “tragic” economic fallout if aid isn’t offered up soon. Later that same night, the President backtracked slightly, tweeting support for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and billions in aid for airlines and small businesses. The DOW responded on Wednesday, with a 500 point rally. If all this back and forth has your head spinning, here are some tips for how you can take your financial future into your own hands:

  • Remember that Uncle Sam paused repayments and interest on federal student loans through December
  • Consider using any freed-up funds to pay down other debts or build your savings
  • To lower your monthly expenses, use the Albert app, and we might be able to negotiate your bills down
  • Many states are still offering emergency rent and utility assistance programs that you might qualify for
  • If you own a home, the CARES Act mortgage forbearance program might allow you to pause or reduce your payments for a while

Restaurants now serving outdoor dining, all winter long

Restaurants have had a tough year — 1 in 6 has permanently closed and 1.4 million people have lost jobs. This summer brought a temporary bright spot, as restrictions eased and distanced outdoor dining drew patrons back in. In August, restaurant sales were down a mere 9% year over year (that’s peanuts compared to the 78% April drop). But with winter on the way comes a new set of challenges, and restaurants are shelling out cash to make it to spring. Around half of the US’s million restaurants are installing expensive propane gas heaters to the tune of $200/day in heating costs. In Chicago, expect to see heated Cozy Cabins cropping up all over town. The parking-spot sized glass enclosures will keep diners warm al fresco and safely separated from other groups. And indoor-only restaurants are getting creative too, imposing 90-minute limits on patrons’ mealtimes to compensate for the revenue lost to limited capacity caps. Time will tell if these innovations are enough to keep restaurants afloat, but one thing is clear: patio heaters are coming out ahead. One big-box retailer reported heater sales are up 1,500% this year, and we haven’t even hit Halloween.

Overall US jobs growth is slowing but IKEA sees an uptick

Like restaurants, September job growth overall is struggling. Disney and major airlines laid off tens of thousands of furloughed workers. Nearly a million women dropped out of the workforce. And a disappointing jobs report showed only 661,000 new jobs were added, signaling the economic recovery may be losing steam. But with people (still) sheltering in place and renovating their homes, one popular Swedish furniture retailer is on the up and up. IKEA is slated to open 50 new retail locations this year (compared to just 30 last year), and the company’s e-commerce sales have jumped 45%. The new retail locations will focus on smaller footprints in urban areas (think city Target-esque style setups). Hopes are high that the new locations will create jobs in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. No word yet on if IKEA’s trademark meatballs will be sold in the smaller stores.

Live from New York, it’s a real studio audience?

If you tuned into Saturday Night Live at Home back in April, you probably remember the all-digital episodes felt a bit stifled without a live (and laughing) audience. But with New York state still operating under strict media production guidelines, Lorne Michaels needed a loophole to fill 30 Rockefeller Plaza for the show’s October 3 season 46 premiere. Per the department of health, TV shows are not allowed to host an audience, unless (and here it comes) the audience is made up of paid cast and crew. The lucky few who snagged seats for Saturday’s show were also paid for their time, with show-goers receiving checks for $150 from Universal Television. Audience members were also required to take a rapid COVID test and sign a health waiver prior to filming. On Monday, the state’s health department said the show could go on, confirming SNL complied with its reopening guidelines. For healthy and entertainment-starved comedy fans, “SNL audience cast member” could be a side gig worth looking into.