Debt Relief Payments to Minority Farmers Will Start in June11 min read
The United States Department of Agriculture said on Friday that it will begin making loan forgiveness payments in June to thousands of minority farmers as part of the Biden administration’s $4 billion debt relief program.
The initiative, part of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that Congress passed in March, has been criticized by white farmers, who claim that it is a form of reverse discrimination, and by banks, which have complained they are losing out on profits from lost interest payments. Delays in implementing the program have frustrated Black farmer organizations, whose members have struggled financially for years and received little help from the Trump administration’s farm bailouts last year.
The U.S.D.A. will initially make debt relief payments for about 13,000 loans that were made directly by the agency to minority farmers. The next phase will apply to the approximately 3,000 loans that were made by banks and guaranteed by the U.S.D.A. That will begin “no later” than 120 days from Friday, the agency said.
“The American Rescue Plan has made it possible for U.S.D.A. to deliver historic debt relief to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, said in a statement. “U.S.D.A. is recommitting itself to gaining the trust and confidence of America’s farmers and ranchers using a new set of tools provided in the American Rescue Plan to increase opportunity, advance equity and address systemic discrimination in U.S.D.A. programs.”
Borrowers will receive letters from the U.S.D.A. next week with information about their loan balances. After farmers confirm the amount they are due to be paid, the U.S.D.A. will disburse payments. The agency is paying an additional 20 percent on top of the outstanding loan amounts to cover associated taxes and fees.
Despite the resistance from banks, the U.S.D.A. said it will begin the process of paying off the guaranteed loans this summer.
Lenders have been arguing, through their lobbyists, that the government repayment program will deny them income that they long expected. The banks want the federal government to pay money beyond the outstanding loan amount so that banks and investors will not miss out on interest payments or money that they would have made reselling the loans to other investors.
The U.S.D.A has said that it does not have the authority to cover the banks’ lost interest income.
Soaring prices and a shortage of available homes are starting to hold back the blazing U.S. housing market.
Sales of existing homes fell 2.7 percent in April, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. It was the third straight monthly decline after a surge in transactions earlier in the pandemic.
Mortgage rates have crept up since the start of the year, which has likely put a crimp in demand. But the main force holding back sales isn’t a lack of willing buyers. It is a lack of homes for them to buy — especially at prices they can afford.
The median sales price of an existing home was $341,600 in April, up 19.1 percent from a year earlier. Both the price and the increase were record highs. The number of homes on the market rose in April but was down 20.5 percent from a year ago and remained close to a record low.
As a result, competition for homes can be intense. The Realtors said that 88 percent of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month. A quarter of buyers paid cash. At Redfin, the online brokerage, half of all homes sold in recent weeks have gone for more than their asking price, up from about a quarter a year ago.
“Even if demand comes down, supply is the issue, and until we see more homes come on the market, that’s going to limit sales,” said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive. “When you meet a new buyer you almost say, ‘Good luck.’”
The increase in remote work during the pandemic has led to an increase in demand for homes, particularly outside of city centers. That demand has remained as the economy has begun to reopen, even as millions of millennials are reaching the age when Americans have historically looked to buy homes. But the combination of high prices and limited inventories is making it especially hard for young people to get into the housing market.
“First-time buyers in particular are having trouble securing that first home for a multitude of reasons, including not enough affordable properties, competition with cash buyers and properties leaving the market at such a rapid pace,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in a statement.
Stocks on Wall Street fell on Friday to end a second consecutive week of losses as the price of cryptocurrencies dropped again.
The S&P 500 lost 0.1 percent on Friday, bringing its losses for the week to 0.4 percent. The benchmark index dropped 1.4 percent last week.
The Nasdaq composite fell 0.5 percent, though it ended the week slightly higher than where it started.
Bitcoin was down nearly 9 percent on Friday, to about $36,250, wiping out its gains since February.
Most European markets rose, with data showing more evidence of the European economy strengthening as it emerges from lockdowns and vaccines are rolled out faster. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent, led by gains in consumer companies.
Oil prices rose. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 3.1 percent to $63.86 a barrel.
Sales of existing homes in the United States fell 2.7 percent in April, the National Association of Realtors said. Soaring prices and a shortage of available homes have started to hold back the blazing U.S. housing market, and April showed the third straight month of sales declines after a surge in transactions earlier in the pandemic.
IHS’s measure for U.S. manufacturers and service providers climbed to a record. The Purchasing Managers Index for the country rose to 68.1, from 63.5 a month earlier. “Business confidence across the private sector improved in May,” IHS reported.
Retail sales in Britain surged in April as nonessential stores were allowed to reopen. The volume of sales increased 9.2 percent from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. It was more than double the forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Shopping for clothes led the resurgence.
Across the eurozone, activity in the services sector jumped in May. The Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 55.1 points from 50.5 in April, IHS Markit said on Friday. A reading above 50 signals expansion. The index for manufacturing was little changed from the previous month at 62.8.
“Growth would have been even stronger had it not been for record supply chain delays and difficulties restarting businesses quickly enough to meet demand, especially in terms of rehiring,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, wrote in the report.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago is facing backlash over her decision on Wednesday to grant one-on-one interviews exclusively to journalists of color.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called the decision “overt racism.” A Latino reporter from The Chicago Tribune said he backed out of an interview with the mayor because of it. Tucker Carlson of Fox News compared her to a Nazi and called her a “monster.”
A representative for the mayor’s office clarified in an email on Friday that the policy extended only to interviews regarding Ms. Lightfoot’s two-year anniversary as mayor this week.
Ms. Lightfoot, the first openly gay, Black woman elected to her office, criticized news outlets on Wednesday for failing to adequately diversify their staffs even as the country continues to grapple with a reckoning over systemic racism.
“I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” she wrote in a letter that was shared with Chicago media outlets.
The killing of George Floyd by the police last summer prompted nationwide reflection over racism, police brutality and diversity in the highest ranks of government, law enforcement and corporate America, including journalism.
Ms. Lightfoot also said that the lack of diversity was evident in media coverage, and challenged news outlets to hire more reporters of color, and specifically women of color.
She further defended her decision in a news conference on Thursday.
“When I look out across this podium as I’m doing now, I don’t see much in the way of diversity,” she said, adding: “So one day out of 365, I say that I’m going to mark the anniversary of my two years in office by giving exclusive one-on-ones to journalists of color and the world loses its mind.”
Ms. Lightfoot’s decision was met with criticism from conservative media circles. In its editorial on Thursday, The Journal’s editorial board compared Ms. Lightfoot’s policy to the Jim Crow South.
“This should be shocking, but the surprise is how little criticism her statement has received,” the board wrote. “Perhaps it’s simply taboo these days to criticize a Black politician who invokes race as a sword and shield.”
And Mr. Carlson said: “If someday the Chicago police rounded up the entire population of the city, Lori Lightfoot would have no trouble pulling the right ones out of line for punishment. By the way, in case you’re wondering, yes, that was a Nazi reference.”
But reaction to Ms. Lightfoot’s decision was mixed within the broader journalism community as well.
Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter who covers the mayor’s office and City Hall for The Chicago Tribune, tweeted on Wednesday that he canceled a scheduled interview with Ms. Lightfoot after her office refused his request to lift the ban.
“Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” he wrote.
There are many ways to measure how much the economy has reopened after pandemic lockdowns. One offbeat way is to compare the share prices of Clorox to Dave & Buster’s.
Nick Mazing, the director of research at the data provider Sentieo, came up with this metric to gauge shifts in postpandemic activity. The higher Clorox’s share price rises relative to Dave & Buster’s, the more people appear to be staying home and disinfecting everything than going out to crowded bars.
By this measure, the DealBook newsletter reports, conditions have nearly returned to prepandemic levels — indeed, Dave & Buster’s recently lifted its sales forecast, as nearly all of its beer-and-arcade bars have reopened.
Two more ratios that Mr. Mazing suggest comparing are Netflix versus Live Nation and Peloton versus Planet Fitness.
The first is also nearly back to where it was before the pandemic: Live Nation is preparing for a packed concert schedule, selling tickets to people who may have already binge-watched all of “Below Deck.”
The second, however, suggests that people aren’t as eager to get back to huffing and puffing at the gym as they are content to exercise at home. As restrictions lift and people feel safer in crowds, drinking and dancing appear to be higher priorities.
FedEx said on Friday it planned to double a fuel surcharge for large customers as it continued to deal with surging demand for deliveries. Starting on June 21, customers who ship more than 30,000 packages a week will pay 60 per delivery, the company said.
Shareholders of Tribune Publishing, the owner of major metropolitan newspapers like the The Chicago Tribune and The New York Daily News, will vote on Friday on whether to approve the company’s sale to Alden Global Capital, a financial investor with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs. Alden already holds a 32 percent stake in Tribune, so the deal hinges on approval from the shareholders who own the other two-thirds of Tribune’s stock. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire medical entrepreneur who owns The Los Angeles Times and other California papers with his wife, Michele B. Chan, has a 24 percent stake in Tribune. Dr. Soon-Shiong has not commented publicly on how he intends to vote.
CNN said on Thursday that its prime-time host Chris Cuomo inappropriately offered public-relations advice to his brother, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, after a series of sexual harassment allegations threatened the governor’s political career earlier this year. CNN said Chris Cuomo would refrain from any more similar discussions with the governor’s staff. But the network said it would take no disciplinary action against the anchor, whose program was CNN’s highest-rated show in the first quarter of the year. Chris Cuomo apologized to viewers and his colleagues at the start of Thursday’s show for the calls with the governor’s staff, saying: “It will not happen again. It was a mistake.” But he also defended himself, saying that he “of course” gave advice to his brother and that he was “family first, job second.”
The government’s $788 billion relief effort for small businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program, is ending as it began, with the initiative’s final days mired in chaos and confusion.
Millions of applicants are seeking money from the scant handful of lenders still making the government-backed loans. Hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in limbo, waiting to find out if they will receive their approved loans — some of which have been stalled for months because of errors or glitches. Lenders are overwhelmed, and borrowers are panicking, The New York Times’s Stacy Cowley reports.
The relief program had been scheduled to keep taking applications until May 31. But two weeks ago, its manager, the Small Business Administration, announced that the program’s $292 billion in financing for forgivable loans this year had nearly run out and that it would immediately stop processing most new applications.
Then the government threw another curveball: The Small Business Administration decided that the remaining money, around $9 billion, would be available only through community financial institutions, a small group of specially designated institutions that focus on underserved communities.
The American steel industry is experiencing a comeback that few would have predicted even months ago.
Steel prices are at record highs and demand is surging as businesses step up production amid an easing of pandemic restrictions. Steel makers have consolidated in the past year, allowing them to exert more control over supply. Tariffs on foreign steel imposed by the Trump administration have kept cheaper imports out. And steel companies are hiring again, The New York Times’s Matt Phillips reports.
It’s not clear how long the boom will last. This week, the Biden administration began discussions with European Union trade officials about global steel markets. Some steel workers and executives believe that could lead to an eventual pullback of the Trump-era tariffs, which are widely credited for spurring the turnaround in the steel industry.
Record prices for steel are not going to reverse decades of job losses. Since the early 1960s, employment in the steel industry has fallen more than 75 percent. More than 400,000 jobs disappeared as foreign competition grew and as the industry shifted toward production processes that required fewer workers. But the price surge is delivering some optimism to steel towns across the country, especially after job losses during the pandemic pushed American steel employment to the lowest level on record.