The House of Representatives is meeting today to discuss passing a fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill. The bill began life as a smaller, $250 billion bill meant solely to refill the third stimulus bill’s small business loan program, but following extended negotiations, Democrats added extra money slated specifically for small businesses in minority and rural communities, hospitals, and testing programs. The latest, $484 billion version of the bill passed the Senate on Tuesday via voice vote and is expected to pass the House tonight. President Trump has announced his intention to sign it shortly after that.
It’s clear, as it was two weeks ago when the third bill passed, that the economy is in a dire spot. The latest unemployment insurance figures out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released today, showed that millions of Americans were still filing initial unemployment insurance claims at record levels. Fear of the virus and the economic fallout from measures taken to control it have fueled fierce debate over whether sustained quarantines are doing too much and about when states should open up.
Georgia state appears to be leading the pack. Brian Kemp, the governor, said his state would begin lifting restrictions on hair salons and some other businesses as soon as Friday, April 24. Other governors announced intentions to lift quarantines, but on less rapid timeframes and in less detail.
Unemployment Claims Maintain Breakneck Pace
4,427,000 people filed for unemployment insurance during the week ending with April 18. That’s down 810,000 people compared to the revised figures for the week before, which saw 5,237,000 filings. Including the results from the second half of March, when layoffs due to the coronavirus first began to spike, more than 26 million people have lost their jobs—essentially erasing all of the job gains of the recently departed, slowly booming economy. Read the full story here.
The Role of Technology in Surviving and Adapting
One of the more positive stories coming out of the coronavirus crisis is the move by manufacturers across the country to switch their production lines to produce everything from PPE to redesigned ventilators. But what’s enabling the most successful of these companies to make the switch? Generally, technology. According to a recent survey by Pulse, 49% of companies changing their production lines to accommodate new products are using automation or robotics to do so. Read the full story here.
In a fusion of automation with manufacturers devoting their products to the fight against the coronavirus, Brain Corporation has announced they will launch a $1.6 million program to donate cleaning robots to essential businesses. According to Brain Corp., the autonomous floor scrubbers will be able to provide more than 8,000 total daily hours of deep cleaning that would otherwise have to be done by an essential employee. Read the full story here.
Manufacturers Doing Their Part
Vonco Products LLC announced today that it would produce new products to meet COVID-19 demand, including stand-up hand sanitizer pouches, isolation gowns, food service gloves and shoe covers. The Wisconsin-based manufacturer makes liquid-tight medical fluid bags and other medical devices and says the coronavirus outbreak has driven “two straight months of record demand,” says CEO Keith Smith.