Corona-cash is a-comin’


March 26, 2020

We could all use #SomeGoodNews… And John Krasinski was channeling our office cheermeister Bobby yesterday when he asked for stories of things that’ve recently made people smile. 1.5k+ people responded with sauce-covered babies, adorable dogs, and — of course — Office memes.

Corona Cash Cometh

Big Businesses and Average Joes are lining up for corona cash. But who’ll get what?

This week, Subway and Mattress Firm announced plans to stop paying rent in the coming months due to corona-closures. 

Millions of workers who recently lost their restaurant and retail jobs would ALSO love to cancel their rent… but they’re even less likely to get away with it.

It’s clear that businesses and employees are hurting. In this uncertain time, they’re turning to the same place for relief: Uncle Sam’s checkbook.

And yesterday, the Senate approved a $2T stimulus bill 

In total, the new stimulus package is more than twice as much as Congress coughed up after the 2008 financial crisis. 

Here’s how the corona-cash is expected to be divvied up:

1. Individuals and families will get $301B in direct assistance:

  • Individuals who earn <$75k/year will get a $1.2k check.
  • Families will receive an additional $500 per child. 
  • Assistance decreases for people who earn >$75k/year and stops for those who earn $99k+.

2. ~$350B in loans are earmarked for small businesses:

  • They’ll be available through June 30, and forgiven for businesses that keep paying their employees.
  • Companies with <500 employees can access loans of up to $10m to pay their staff.
  • But many small businesses say they’re already running into problems getting financial assistance, and say they could go under before the new rescue money is doled out.

3. Unemployed workers will get $250B in benefits:

  • Unemployment assistance will increase by $600 for the next 4 months.
  • Benefits will extend for an additional 13 weeks and will apply to non-traditional employees like gig workers.

4. ~$500B in loans and other aid will be set aside for corporations, states, and local governments:

  • $454B of the money will be available through a fund controlled by the Federal Reserve.
  • The rest will be set aside for specific industries (including $29B for passenger and cargo airlines).

State and local governments will get $150B. When news of the deal broke yesterday, the Dow Jones rose more than 11%.

But critics still worry it’s not enough

Some critics told The New York Times that the government should be prepared to lend up to 5x more than this bill’s $2T to prevent further closures and layoffs.

The House is expected to vote on the measure on Friday.

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Anti-Social Media

Come on baby, do the iso-lation: How social networks are encouraging us to stay home

If you still haven’t gotten the message, everybody’s doin’ a brand-new dance now. It’s called the (social) isolation. And your social networks want to make sure you know all the steps.

In fact, they’re kind of turning it into a game.

And canceling plans is for winners, baby

Before the coronavirus pandemic turned us all into hermits, Snapchat’s Zenly was all about sharing your location so you could meet up with friends IRL. 

But this week, the app rolled out a Stay at Home challenge — it ranks you and your buds based on how much time you’re spending in your house. It’s an introvert’s delight — high scores for staying in more!

Instagram’s getting into the game, too: Its new “Stay at Home” stories occupy dedicated space in your story lineup. They show off how well the accounts you follow are following stay-home orders. 

Adam Mosseri, the ‘gram’s CEO, said the feature was so popular that it almost brought IG to its knees.

Your social apps aren’t the only ones keeping score

A company called Unacast launched a Social Distancing Scoreboard that assigns counties and states a letter grade, using the change in the distance we travel as a rough proxy for how well we’re staying put.

The top scoring state as of Wednesday afternoon? That’d be, um… DC. The residents of our nation’s capital may hate taxation without representation, but they don’t seem to mind isolation without representation.

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Pandemic Pursuits

The economy might be toast, but the sourdough biz is on the rise

In the heat of lockdown, we’re all baking sourdough now

Everyone from The New York Times to Quartz to your friends on Instagram and Twitter are serving up sourdough recipes for our long weeks of COVID-19 isolation. One of our favorites: pandemic sourdough waffles

How to explain sourdough’s sudden popularity? It may be about more than just the extra time we have to pursue neglected hobbies. Some academics think that kneading dough gives us more control in our lives, at a time when we have so little.

Yeast is disappearing, and it’s all Instagram’s fault

Sourdough fever is not entirely a phenomenon of the social-distancing era. In the Before Time, — you know, on February 25 — CNBC hailed the “comeback” of sourdough, which had seen an 11% sales jump in the past 4 years.

Although groceries are running out of yeast and other baking staples, Big Flour — AKA the North American Millers’ Association — would like to reassure you that there’s no grain crisis. Empty shelves are a byproduct of slow supply chains, not shortages.

The buns are hot, and bakeries across the country are cashing in 

With amateur bakers leavening in numbers, bakeries like Bien Cuit in New York have seen big upticks in the number of customers buying their sourdough starter kits. 

A Vermont-based seller of baking supplies, King Arthur Flour, told The Washington Post that it has received more than 22k messages so far this year. As one Bien Cuit employee explained, “I’m getting the vibe that people are baking more bread at home.”

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Waffle Worries

The Waffle House Index just hit a code red

Yesterday, Waffle House declared a #WaffleHouseIndexRed, reporting that 418 of its restaurants across the country had been closed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Waffle Houses are an authority in times of disaster

For years, FEMA has used Waffle Houses — which are open 24/7, 365 days a year — to informally measure disaster severity. The chain’s consistent response across its restaurants reveals which areas have been most damaged.

A Waffle House location is considered:

  • Green, it it’s open with a full menu;
  • Yellow, if it’s open but serving a limited menu;
  • Red, if it’s closed.

Usually, the Waffle House Index is used during natural disasters… 

During Hurricane Katrina, the most damaging hurricane in US history, Waffle House closed 107 locations across Louisiana and Mississippi.

In this case, many of the 418 closures were clustered in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast regions. The company said it was seeing few customers and “rapidly losing the ability to offer enough work hours” to its employees.

As of yesterday, there were still 1,574 Waffle Houses open, but if “shelter in place” orders continue across much of the US, it’s likely that Waffle House closures could continue.

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Snippets

🚚 A question many people might be struggling with: Is it ethical to order non-essential products during a pandemic?

🏡 Nextdoor used to be known for craziness. Now it’s known for neighborliness.

⛳️ One sport that’s managing to survive the pandemic: golf.

📹 Thermal cameras were once the domain of the military. Now the market for them is exploding.

🐶 The happiest shortage we’ve heard about: NYC is running out of dogs to foster.

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