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Coronavirus update: 20 million have applied for unemployment, the small business loan program is out of money

Chinese rules are keeping much-needed supplies from reaching the U.S.

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Photo (c) D-Keine - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 640,291 (610,774)

Total U.S. deaths: 31,015 (26,119)

Total global cases: 2,090,110 (2,006,513)

Total global deaths: 139,469 (128,886)

Another huge jump in unemployment claims

Initial claims for unemployment benefits now total more than 20 million since the U.S. economy shut down to mitigate the effects of the conroavirus (COVID-19). In the week ending April 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 5,245,000, a decrease of 1,370,000 from the previous week's revised level. 

The Labor Department’s four-week moving average was 5,508,500, an increase of 1,240,750 from the previous week's revised average. Even though there was an encouraging drop-off in claims from the previous week, the numbers show a staggering number of people have applied for benefits in a very short period of time.

It marks the highest level of the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate in the history of the seasonally adjusted series. The previous high was 7.0 percent in May of 1975.

Out of money

The $350 billion portion of the CARES Act for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans has been distributed, and the program is now officially out of money. More businesses need loans, and both the White House and Congress have talked about appropriating more, but nothing has happened so far.

Congress is still on its Easter/Passover recess, and the House does not plan to return to Washington until early May. The loans were highly popular with small businesses and their employees since the money would not have to be repaid as long as the borrower didn’t lay off any employees during the term of the loan.

Lost in transition

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has been playing catch-up when it comes to adequate testing and getting enough protective gear for medical personnel and first responders -- not to mention average consumers.

Officials thought they had made significant headway with the purchase of a major shipment of emergency supplies from China, but those much-needed items have yet to arrive on U.S. shores. The Wall Street Journal reports that new Chinese government export rules are apparently the reason those supplies are still sitting in warehouses.

And according to The Journal, the supplies are being purchased from an American company that has its production plant in China. The U.S.-owned factory apparently lacks a certification required by the new rules to export its products.

Starbucks considers reopening some cafes

As businesses start thinking about getting back to normal, Starbucks is considering plans to reopen cafes in parts of the U.S. that have been less affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The coffee chain shuttered its U.S. and Canadian cafes on March 21, limiting service to drive-thru and delivery. The shutdown order was scheduled to expire on May 3. 

In a letter to employees today, CEO Kevin Johnson said the company plans to “monitor and adapt” to local conditions before deciding to reopen its cafes, a system he said was used in China to determine when to reopen stores.

Around the nation

  • Missouri: Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a cease and desist letter to a Branson-area business, Tuning Element, for allegedly inflating the prices on KN95 masks. "We will continue to investigate and work with businesses to root out and combat price gouging,” Schmidt said. 

  • Michigan: Two Rockford-area businesses have agreed to stop marketing and selling phony products they claimed would help protect people from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The state’s attorney general says Frequency Apps Corp. and Biores Technologies Inc. signed an assurance of voluntary compliance (AVC) document and agreed not to market or sell the “Coronavirus Defender” patch. 

  • Utah: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is optimistic that the state’s economy may reopen sooner than officials previously estimated. Cox said the state has far fewer cases of the virus and hospitalizations than early models predicted.

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