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$600 unemployment benefits are ‘life-saving’ for this waiter: ‘I’m right at the edge’

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Matt Marfoglia, a waiter at the Tasting Kitchen in Los Angeles, was furloughed in March. Enhanced unemployment benefits are helping him make ends meet financially, but they may end after July.

Matt Marfoglia

Matt Marfoglia was living paycheck to paycheck before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, while unemployed, he’s barely scraping by. 

The 51-year-old was furloughed from his job as a waiter at The Tasting Kitchen, a high-end Italian eatery in Los Angeles, in March.

The one thing that’s kept him afloat: an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits provided as part of a recent federal relief measure.

Even with the extra benefits, Marfoglia has been pocketing about $1,600 less per month.

But that aid will lapse after July, absent government action — potentially sending his income, and that of millions of other Americans, off a cliff amid the worst employment crisis since the Great Depression.

“To be honest, I’m terrified,” Marfoglia said. “I’m right at the edge right now.”

Marfoglia is one of nearly 30 million people currently receiving unemployment benefits, a figure well above any other period since the unemployment insurance system was created in the 1930s.

The crisis was spurred by the swift and unprecedented economic carnage wrought by Covid-19, which led to a virtual lockdown of the U.S. economy to halt spread of the virus.

$600 unemployment benefits

The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion relief package enacted in March, greatly expanded unemployment benefits, in part by tacking a $600 weekly enhancement onto traditional benefits paid by the states.

State benefits generally replace less than half a worker’s prior take-home pay. The $600 enhancement aimed at fully replacing prior wages for the average worker (about $1,000 a week).

But not all workers are average — some make more and some less, relative to prior pay.

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Researchers at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago found that about two-thirds of workers eligible to collect unemployment insurance can receive benefits that exceed lost earnings.

Normally, it’s not ideal policy for unemployment benefits to exceed job pay, according to labor economists, who said it may cause distortions in the labor market. Republicans have argued it could create a disincentive for people to return to the workforce.

Yet many believe it was good policy at the time, when the health crisis forced people to shelter in place rather than work.

Perhaps more important, antiquated state unemployment systems couldn’t handle a change to their benefit formulas to ensure pay didn’t exceed prior wages, according to economists and lawmakers.

That update would have delayed payments by weeks or even months, causing undue hardship for Americans relying on the aid to pay rent and food bills, they said — which ultimately pushed Congress to compromise on the $600 benefit, which was administratively easier.

States have struggled to pay claims even with the simpler formula. Some jobless workers went months without seeing one check.

Even now, three months after the lockdowns began, Eugene Scalia, the Trump administration’s top labor official, refused to say during Senate testimony whether states would be in a place to cap benefits at 100% of individuals’ prior wages.

‘Barely’ survive

The $600 in extra aid is scheduled to end after July 31.

Democrats want to extend it, but Republicans, emboldened by unexpected job gains last month, are unifying in opposition against it.

That complicates the situation for workers like Marfoglia, who can’t yet return to work and depend on the enhanced benefits for their livelihood.

Marcus, a food server at a Boston-area Marriott hotel who was furloughed in March, would get about $300 a week from Massachusetts’ unemployment system absent the extra benefits. (He requested his last name not be used for privacy concerns.)

Being on unemployment “isn’t a wonderful gift to me,” the 58-year-old said.

His state unemployment pay doesn’t factor in tip income and is therefore lower than it would be otherwise. Massachusetts, among the most generous states, pays up to $1,200 a week to recipients.

“I’d survive [without the $600 benefits], but barely,” Marcus said.

Research shows that a large share of Americans across all income bands were teetering on the edge of financial hardship even before the pandemic.

About 46% of people who make more than $75,000 a year live paycheck to paycheck or spend more than their means (via credit cards, for example), according to a Finra Investor Education Foundation report published in 2019. That’s true of 62% who make between $25,000 and $75,000 a year, and for 70% of those who make less than that.

Democrats passed a bill in the House of Representatives that would extend the $600 benefit until early next year. They’ve also proposed gradually reducing the aid by tying it to economic conditions like a state’s unemployment rate.

But Republicans want the policy to end after July, arguing that Congress should be promoting work over unemployment.

The economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, versus an expected loss of 7.5 million.

“Now we’re facing a much different situation than we were in mid-March,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “States are reopening.

“Employment recently turned positive,” he added. “We need to shift our focus to helping people safely return to work.”

Some economists believe the risk of people not returning to work is overstated and that ending relief after July could cause undue financial hardship.

“It would cause pain among millions of families, drive down economic activity and impede our recovery,” Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a tweet. “OK to modulate. Terrible to let expire.”

Labor-supply incentives, while not irrelevant, may also be less of a concern during a pandemic than in a normal recession, according to the University of Chicago report.

Some Republicans are considering policy alternatives like a back-to-work bonus that would pay cash to those who find jobs.

‘Economic shock’

The ability to return to work isn’t necessary a given, though.

There are still 21 million people who remain unemployed.

The country’s 13.3% unemployment rate, while lower than April’s 14.7%, is still higher than at any period since the Great Depression.

The Federal Reserve estimates the unemployment rate will fall to 9.3% by the end of 2020 — still around where it was at the height of the Great Recession a little over a decade ago.

“This is the biggest economic shock, in the U.S. and in the world, really, in living memory,” Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, a Trump appointee, said Wednesday. “We went from the lowest level of unemployment in 50 years to the highest level in close to 90 years, and we did it in two months. Extraordinary.”

Job losses have disproportionately hit certain groups, such as Blacks, Hispanics, women and lower-wage workers harder. 

Millions of workers currently on temporary layoff, or furlough, will likely lose their jobs permanently, and those industry jobs probably won’t return “for quite some time,” Powell said.

Among restaurants, there are 4.7 million fewer jobs in the “food services and drinking places” industry since February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s despite the industry rehiring 1.4 million people last month.

Restoring the remaining jobs could be a tall order given social distancing guidelines and restrictions like capacity limits.

If unemployment indeed remains high through the fall and into winter, things could start getting especially dire for those those out of work. States generally provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits in normal times, and some as little as 12 weeks. 

The CARES Act extended the maximum duration of those state benefits by 13 weeks through December. Some workers who started collecting benefits in mid-March could run out by early September in less-generous states and by early December in others — leaving them with no financial safety net.

‘Life-saving’

Marfoglia, who has worked in various Los Angeles restaurants for three decades and said he served as a private waiter for actress Jodie Foster on a few occasions, made roughly $5,600 a month after taxes while employed.

He gets less on unemployment, which pays about $4,000 a month between the state and enhanced benefits.

The bulk goes toward monthly bills — about $3,600-$3,700 a month, split between rent, a car payment, auto insurance, credit card debt, health insurance over the state exchange, a cell phone bill, two loans and necessities like groceries and gasoline.

That leaves little for unexpected expenses. Recent car maintenance, for example, will cost him about $500.

The $600 has been “life-saving,” Marfoglia said. Without it, his unemployment pay would be more than halved.  

“I’m not living high on the hog,” Marfoglia said. “I’m paying my bills.

“The income I earned, I needed to earn that to live.”

Marfoglia has already negotiated a rent reduction with his landlord, which he’ll have to repay, and has consolidated monthly credit card debt, which roughly halved his monthly bill to $320.

Marfoglia, who’s single, only got $120 from a federal stimulus check due to his income level. (The CARES Act provided individuals with $1,200 if their income was less than $75,000 before tax.)

Even if he could find a job in another industry over the short term to make ends meet, Marfoglia is skeptical he’d be able to replace his prior job’s wages.

“I’m really scared because of the fact the money might not continue … [and] to think I may lose everything,” he said.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/13/expiring-600-unemployment-benefits-are-essential-for-some-workers.html

Crunchbase

The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Crunchbase

Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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Coinpedia

GenTech Proudly Secures Deal with TruLife Distribution to Drive Growth in SINFIT Digital Sales

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Denver, CO, October 21, 2020 – OTC PR WIRE – GenTech Holdings, Inc. (OTC PINK: GTEH) (“GenTech” or the “Company”), an emerging leader in the high-end Premium Coffee (www.secretjavas.com), Hemp Wellness (www.hakunasupply.com) and Functional Foods (www.SINFITnutrition.com) marketplaces, along with its SINFIT Nutrition brand (“SINFIT”), is excited to announce that the Company has signed a new marketing, sales, and distribution agreement (the “Agreement”) with TruLife Distribution (“TruLife”) (TruLifeDist.com), a leader in marketing, distribution, compliance, e-commerce, and advisory services in the Functional Foods marketplace. The main focus of the new Agreement will be to accelerate the growth of e-commerce sales of SINFIT products, particularly over the Amazon.com platform.

TruLife provides direct access to sales on Amazon, Walmart, Rakuten, Wish, TopHatter, and other top e-commerce platforms, allowing clients to instantly list, ship, and sell products through any major platform, with an experienced team of experts and a proven track record of success in brand placement and digital sales strategies.

“We have already demonstrated a significant & expansive growth curve since taking control of the SINFIT brand in June,” commented Harold Vaca, VP Domestic Sales of SINFIT. “But the vast majority of that growth has been driven by large purchase orders from major distribution partners, both domestic and international. We are also committed to aggressively pursuing end-market consumer direct purchases through our e-commerce footprint, which will provide additional growth and diversify our cash flow ecosystem, making our overall strategy less dependent upon any one source of demand, while driving further growth in total sales.”

Management notes that e-commerce sales represent a sizeable portion of overall retail sales growth worldwide, with more than $3.5 trillion in online sales accounting for over 14% of total pre-pandemic global retail sales. Since the onset of the global health crisis, that ratio has shifted decisively further in favor of e-commerce sales, which is not likely to entirely revert back upon the advent of a viable and widely accessible vaccine.

Vaca added, “We have seen an epic process of market penetration for e-commerce platforms this year as major online retailers have begun to reach a much wider base of consumers – people who haven’t ever shopped much online, but have been forced to during recent months out of personal health concerns. Many of them will almost certainly continue to make use of e-commerce now that they have tried it out, at least to some extent, making e-commerce an essential sales channel for SINFIT products. TruLife has the network, team, experience, and resources to dramatically augment our e-commerce performance.”

SINFIT branded products registered over $2.2 million in global sales in 2019, and are now approved for sale and available for purchase on the Walmart.com and Amazon.com e-commerce platforms as well as in over 2,500 GNC locations in North America and over 10,000 global physical and e-commerce stores across more than 10 countries around the world.

SINFIT products as well-positioned relative to peers and to the long-term macro tailwind defining the functional foods market, which saw sales top $267 billion in February of this year on a global basis, with sales in the US reaching $63 billion, according to Euromonitor 2020. This trend is part of a larger supportive momentum in the general category, with global sales of organic food and drink topping $105 billion in 2018 (Ecovia 2019). U.S. organic food sales also reached $47.9 billion, up 5.9% in 2018 (OTA 2019). In 2019, 77% of U.S. adults used dietary supplements, an all-time high (CRN 2019). U.S. supplement sales are estimated to have reached $49.3 billion in 2019, up 6.2% (NBJ 2019).

About GenTech Holdings, Inc.:

GenTech Holdings, Inc. is a publicly traded company under the symbol GTEH. The Company launched a high-end Coffee Subscription service in early 2020 called Secret Javas, owns a Functional Food company, SINFIT Nutrition and recently closed its acquisition on Products-Groups’ “Hakuna Supply”.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements, including information about management’s view of GenTech, Inc.’s future expectations, plans and prospects. In particular, when used in the preceding discussion, the words “believes,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” or “may,” and similar conditional expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Any statements made in this news release other than those of historical fact, about an action, event or development, are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the results of GenTech, its subsidiaries and concepts to be materially different than those expressed or implied in such statements. Unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on GenTech’s future results. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. GenTech cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Finally, GenTech undertakes no obligation to update these statements after the date of this release, except as required by law, and also takes no obligation to update or correct information prepared by third parties that are not paid for by GenTech.

Corporate Contact:
invest@gentech.group

www.gentechholdings.com

Source: https://otcprwire.com/gentech-proudly-secures-deal-with-trulife-distribution-to-drive-growth-in-sinfit-digital-sales/

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