Coronavirus mortgage tips: What to do if you can’t reach your lender

How to pause your mortgage during coronavirus

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As the economic effects of measures taken to combat the spread of coronavirus begin to permeate across the U.S., many people are taking measures to alleviate their financial burdens.

One of the biggest regular payments for households is mortgage payments. Experts have advised individuals to get into contact with their lenders if they find themselves in a situation where they do not think they will be able to meet their obligations.

There are often many options on the table if you reach out – and a lot of lenders are allowing borrowers to skip payments without being charged late fees or being considered delinquent.

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However, many Americans are finding themselves under the same financial pressures at the same time. The U.S. economy lost 700,000 jobs last month – and 10 million people filed for unemployment over the last two weeks, highlighting how deeply the coronavirus outbreak has begun to affect the U.S. economy and the average American.

That means, when you call your lender, you may have trouble getting through.

“Lenders' call centers are bonkers right now,” Holden Lewis, home and mortgage expert at NerdWallet, told FOX Business. “They're overwhelmed by calls, and some of them are short-staffed so employees can sit an appropriate distance from one another.”

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One thing you can try if this situation applies to you is to visit your lenders’ website instead of calling. On the mortgage account sign-in pages, there are often links to forms you can fill out, Lewis noted.

The lender may ask how you have been affected by the coronavirus situation.

And even where websites are concerned, traffic is likely higher than usual.

“Be patient with the websites,” Lewis advised. “Some of them are slow to load. You might have to wait until late night.”

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Mortgage loan application volume increased 15.3 percent in the week ending March 27 – driven by an uptick in refinance activity – according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. That’s because mortgage rates, which have been volatile, plunged. Refinancing can allow people to reduce their expenses.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home were 24 percent lower when compared with the same period last year.

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Sailors Cheer Navy Captain Removed For Pleading For COVID-19 Help

Sailors stationed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt gave a warm send-off to their captain after he was removed from duty for criticizing the Navy’s response to a coronavirus outbreak on the ship.

Capt. Brett Crozier was removed from the command of the 5,000-person vessel after a scathing letter he wrote asking the Navy for stronger measures to control the outbreak got leaked to the public.

But he still has the support of his crew. Numerous videos posted on social media showed sailors loudly chanting “Captain Crozier” as he disembarked from the ship.

A group of sailors on the ship gave a statement to NBC News defending Crozier’s letter.

“There was nothing alarming or sensationalist in Capt. Crozier’s letter,” the statement said. “It was simply a recitation of the bleak facts facing this warship. Capt. Crozier has the full faith and confidence of this crew, who would sail with him again at a moment’s notice.”

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently docked in Guam while the crew gets tested for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, The Hill is reporting that more than 60,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Crozier’s reinstatement.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told Reuters on Friday that Crozier will not be thrown out of the Navy but rather reassigned after an investigation determines if disciplinary action is appropriate.

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Council tax deferral: How to defer council tax payments

The Government’s £500million hardship fund, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget last month, will provide council tax relief to households strapped for cash from the impact of coronavirus. Councils will receive the funding and will provide support where they see fit. But who is eligible, and how do you apply for council tax support?

Who is eligible for council tax support?

All Brits of working age who receive council tax support are eligible to benefit from the hardship fund.

Council tax support, or council tax reduction, is a benefit to help those on low income or on a few different types of benefits to pay their council tax bill.

The amount of support will vary between different areas of the country, since each local council is responsible for deciding how to operate the scheme in their area.

READ MORE- Council tax: Do we have to pay council tax this month?

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  • Council tax and coronavirus: Can you get money off your council tax?

How much support will I receive?

The amount of support you will receive depends on the following:

  • Where you live – each council runs its own scheme
  • Your circumstances (eg income, number of children, benefits, residency status)
  • Your household income – this includes savings, pensions and your Partner’s income
  • If your children live with you
  • If other adults live with you

You may get more Council Tax Support if you receive a disability or carers benefit.

Those who receive the Guarantee Credit Part of Pension Credit may get their council tax paid in full.

If you don’t get this, but have a low income and less than £16,000 in savings, you may still be eligible for some help.

Pensioners who live alone may get a discounted bill or may receive council tax support.

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How do I apply for council tax support?

If you aren’t already receiving council tax support, you can apply here.

All you need to do is pop in your postcode and you should be redirected to your council’s website.

This website should give you all the information you need to know.

If you are still unsure, the website will give you all the relevant contact information to speak to someone who can help.

If you are already receiving council tax support, your revised bill will come through in the next few weeks.

If it is not reduced, you should contact your council to check whether you are eligible for support or not.

If your bill is normally £150 or less, you may not have to pay council tax at all.

If it is more, it should be reduced significantly if you are eligible.

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Mortgage holiday warning: ‘Do not assume’ Vital expert advice to homeowners amid COVID-19

The economy has taken a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic grinding businesses to a halt. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has offered vital measures to keep the public afloat but Britons must not expect these to be put in place automatically. Finance expert Sean Farrington explained to the BBC that the public must contact their banks in order to see what applies to them personally.

Speaking to BBC’s Newscast, Mr Farrinton said: “If you’ve got a mortgage, most bankers will lend you payment holiday on your mortgage.

“Similar with loans you might have with banks already.

“Credit cards, not so much payment holidays but a lot of places are waiving fees and offering credit extensions.

“If you need to get through the next few months and you have to find some money from somewhere that’s one way.”

He continued: “All these things, you have to speak to your bank.

“Don’t just assume because you’ve read it somewhere.

“Speak to your bank. Lots are offering interest-free buffers, somewhere are waiving it as well.

“Those are ways of getting loans but if you’re after something new that’s pretty hard at the minute because the Government’s not really said anything about that.”

It comes as more than one in five millennials who had been saving for their first home are diverting the money towards coping financially day-to-day, a survey has found.

Some 22 percent of 26 to 40-year-olds who had been hoping to get on the property ladder will be dipping into their savings instead, according to the research from credit checking company TransUnion.

The housing market is grinding to a near halt as people put off their moving plans. Lenders are giving extensions on mortgage offers, to enable those who had been on the brink of moving to do so at a later date.

Some lenders have also been temporarily restricting the range of mortgages they are offering to new borrowers, particularly affecting those with lower deposits – such as first-time buyers.

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The survey of more than 1,000 people – carried out on March 23 and 24 – looked at the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It also found that more than a third (35 percent) of 26 to 40-year-olds are preparing to tap into savings and 22 percent are borrowing money from a friend or family member.

More than seven in 10 (72 percent) in this age group said the coronavirus pandemic had already affected them in some way financially.

This was a higher proportion than older age groups, but lower than Generation Z adults aged 18 to 25, with 78 percent in this group saying their finances had been hit.

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Red America Is Becoming a 'Democracy Desert.' Coronavirus Threatens to Make It Worse

The coronavirus emergency threatens to become a constitutional crisis. Several states have rescheduled primaries and other elections, amid warnings that we must act quickly to enact a national vote by mail system in case the pandemic continues toward November’s presidential election.

It’s an urgent moment. But the problems within our system have also been exacerbated by a patchwork of state-by-state election laws that create wildly disparate access to the ballot box and to voter registration. Just as dangerously, many leaders and state governments have politicized voting rights in such a way that may make it more difficult for leaders to quickly resolve important issues around this fall’s election in a nonpartisan manner.

We will need to act resolutely to ensure a fair and free vote, after a decade of toxic partisan gerrymandering, “surgically targeted” voter-ID bills, and disingenuous commissions investigating nonexistent “voter fraud.” But this conversation will be held against the backdrop of a political map that is not only filled with red and blue, but covered with “democracy deserts” — entire swaths of the nation where voting rights fail to grow.

In blue Vermont, a new emergency law allows the governor and secretary of state to send every registered voter an absentee ballot this fall. In red Arizona, that same measure failed in March. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republicans have fought efforts to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter ahead of next week’s election there, likely looking to drive down turnout in a crucial state supreme-court election. Georgia’s Republican house speaker screamed that quiet part aloud, as well, criticizing a decision by the secretary of state simply to send voters absentee-ballot applications: “This will certainly drive up turnout,” said Rep. David Ralston, and “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.”

Unfortunately, Congress has already begun playing politics with the vote. Voting-rights groups asked for $4 billion toward these efforts — the equivalent of pennies for democracy in a bailout plan that could run toward $6 trillion, once action by Congress and the Federal Reserve is totaled. The stimulus package hammered out last week by Senate negotiators, however, includes only $400 million, a woefully inadequate first step that will do little to guarantee every voter, in every state, can vote this fall without risking their health.

In an interview on Fox and Friends earlier this week, President Trump derided the vote-by-mail efforts as “crazy,” saying they would lead to “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Indeed, the foundational notion of one person, one vote depends largely on where you live. One nation, indivisible, increasingly looks like two when it comes to voting rights: One inclusive, the other exclusive; one that works to make voting easier, and the other redoubling efforts to discourage it. Can we meet the current challenge to ramp up vote-by-mail and expand online registration when the two parties have such foundational differences on electoral reform? Are both parties equally committed to a safe and fair election this fall? Looking at their actions, it’s hard to say that the answer is yes.

When rural or urban neighborhoods lack access to a grocery store with fresh vegetables, they’re called “supermarket deserts.” Voting rights resemble something similar: More than 59 million of us live in a state so gerrymandered that one or both chambers of the state legislature is controlled by the party that won fewer votes statewide in 2018. Access to vote has been limited or curtailed. Entrenched legislators then feel so untouchable that they’re willing to overrule ballot initiatives and undermine judicial rulings.

Many states across the South and Midwest have introduced dramatic new barriers between citizens and their right to vote. The process accelerated in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, gutted key enforcement mechanisms in the Voting Rights Act that had required many of these states to “pre-clear” any voting changes through the Department of Justice.

Freed from any federal oversight, these states rushed to make it more difficult for individuals to register, harder for organizations to conduct registration drives, aggressively purged voting rolls, shuttered precincts, placed seemingly targeted barriers before college students, and demanded specific forms of ID before casting a ballot.

Meanwhile, largely along coastal America, the story is different. State legislatures have enacted new protections of voting rights, expanded absentee and early voting, modernized election machinery to ensure confidence in the results, and launched new automatic voter-registration efforts that have greatly expanded turnout.

If forward-looking states have become innovative laboratories of democracy, others more closely resemble meth labs. In 2019, Tennessee passed legislation that threatens nonprofits with criminal penalties or crippling fines if a voter-registration drive submits paperwork that’s incomplete or includes too many mistakes. A judge put the law on hold while it’s challenged in state and federal court.

Legislators in New Hampshire, Arizona, Texas, and Florida have worked to make it more difficult for college students to vote on campus, or in the community where they attend school and live at least nine months out of the year. Red states including Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Indiana have embarked on aggressive voter purges and ensnared a disproportionate number of minority voters.

Consider Georgia, where 313,000 voters are at risk of being eliminated from the voting rolls as elections officials continue an aggressive purging of the state’s master registration list. That follows a 2017 purge that canceled the registration of more than 540,000 voters, the largest mass voter expulsion in American history.

Those voter purges, meanwhile, are part of a national trend. More than 17 million voters were culled from the rolls between 2016 and 2018, according to the Brennan Center for Justice (an additional 16 million were wiped in the previous two years),and while every voter purge is not voter suppression, officials often get it wrong in ways that make it look that way. Studies show that states with a history of voter discrimination (including Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and Virginia) have purged at the highest rates.

Texas, meanwhile, would make it a felony for anyone to cast an ineligible ballot, even by accident. Arizona looked to dial back early voting and expand voter-ID requirements. And legislatures in Missouri, Utah, Michigan, and Idaho worked to unwind popular initiatives won by citizens demanding reforms politicians had refused to make. In Florida, where 64 percent of voters approved a 2018 state constitutional amendment ending felony disenfranchisement, lawmakers added an additional burden instead — complete repayment of any fines and fees connected to the sentence or prison term — that many critics compared to a poll tax.

If parts of red America resemble democracy deserts, much of blue America is blooming.

In Washington state, soon after Democrats captured the state Senate in 2017 and attained trifecta control, lawmakers adopted automatic voter registration, which allows citizens to sign up to vote almost any time they interact with a state agency. Then they added Election Day registration, which allows citizens to sign up and cast a ballot the very same day.

Neighboring Oregon pioneered the use of automatic voter registration in 2016; a study showed that it not only added 270,000 people to the master rolls, but also increased the diversity of the electorate and drove turnout higher by between two and three percentage points. AVR’s success on the West Coast led to its passage in a total of 16 states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Voters in Nevada and Michigan, meanwhile, adopted AVR through popular 2018 ballot initiatives.

Pennsylvania lawmakers approved a bipartisan package of electoral reforms this year that will make registration easier and voting more convenient. It creates a new vote-by-mail option that’s not only open to everyone but also creates the longest voting window in the nation, and extends the pre-election registration deadlines. New York approved a similar package.

In order to keep a public-health crisis from turning into a democracy crisis, politicians are going to have to end the voting wars, find common ground, and expand, together, things like online voter registration and no-excuse absentee balloting. They will need to empower local elections officials to begin counting absentee and mail-in votes prior to Election Day. Eight months scarcely seems like enough time to make all of this work under good conditions, let alone a pandemic.

Ensuring that our democracy stays strong through an emergency should be nonpartisan. Vote by mail favors neither side. The right to vote is the right that sets all others in motion. But during the Senate debate on Tuesday, Republicans lined up in opposition, arguing that protecting access to the ballot box was somehow playing politics with a crisis.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called efforts to establish early voting and equal vote-by-mail access “a naked attempt to use a public-health emergency as a smoke screen for their radical agenda.” New early voting requirements, according to Sen. John Barasso (R-WY), “have no place in an emergency rescue package for the American people.” Over Twitter, quarantined Utah Sen. Mike Lee insisted that Congress should play no role in mandating equal access to early voting. As for election assistance funding, “that has nothing to do with COVID-19,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

How we conduct an election during a pandemic has everything to do with COVID-19. These senators could not be more wrong or short-sighted. They need only look to the March chaos in Ohio, where health fears forced Gov. Mike DeWine to postpone primary elections just hours before polls were scheduled to open. They should listen to worried election administrators in Wisconsin, deluged by a half-million absentee ballot requests for the state’s April 4th primary, more than double the number received in 2016. And they should study the growing list of states that have also pushed primaries into spring, which includes Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Our democracy deserts could affect the fall election: Some states might step up and fully fund vote by mail themselves, while others do not. Some states may protect poll workers and voters from long lines, and others may subject them to health risks.

More frightfully, it’s enough to make some wonder whether the real purpose behind the GOP’s lack of urgency is to make it so difficult to safely hold elections in some states this November that state legislatures must exercise their constitutional right to choose Electoral College electors, tipping crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into chambers gerrymandered to advantage Republicans even when they win fewer statewide votes.

Can we put an end to the unchecked growth of unfair democracy deserts? Will we reinvigorate our commitment to political equality for everyone, no matter where you live, in this moment of unparalleled crisis? The kind of nation we will become lies in the balance.

David Daley is the author of the national best-seller “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count.” and “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”

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Your boss can SPY on you with Zoom – including seeing if you're not watching screen and reading your private chats

YOUR boss could reportedly spy on you while you're using video chat app Zoom.

Many workers are having to turn to Zoom for virtual conferences due to the coronavirus outbreak but they may not realise their actions are being watched.

The privacy issue apparently surrounds the Zoom chat feature.

If you send a chat to someone directly you may assume no one else can see it.

However, an eagle-eyed professor has noticed that the in-meeting chat feature can save automatically, meaning everyone in the conference can see what you said.

The anthropologist tweeted: "FYI: If you're having a committee meeting via Zoom and you use the chat function to privately write to someone, your colleagues may not see it in real time, but it shows up when the chat is downloaded and put in the minutes folder."

The minutes folder of the chat could be controlled by your boss if they have called for the meeting.

The host of a Zoom chat can also control who can chat to who and whether the in-meeting chat function is turned off altogether.

The professor advised people not to private chat on Zoom unless they want the host to see.

He added: "To answer a few questions: it wasn't my chat, it was a completely innocuous chat, and yes, I agree with everyone who has said to treat anything you do online as if it it public information."

Lots os people replied to the revealing tweet agreeing with the discovery.

One Twitter user responded: "Yes! The chat saves all the public conversation, and the private chats of the person who saved it (but not other private conversations).

"I would recommend going through the saved text to remove private chats before saving in your minutes folder!"

Hosts can also have other powers over the participants on the call, including 'attendee attention tracking'.

The Zoom website states: "Hosts can see an indicator in the participant panel of a meeting or webinar if an attendee does not have Zoom Desktop Client or Mobile App in focus for more than 30 seconds while someone is sharing a screen.. "In focus" means the user has the Zoom meeting view is open and active."

What is Zoom?

Here's what you need to know…

  • Popular chat app Zoom is best-known for offering video calls – including calls with huge numbers of people
  • There's a free tier with unlimited meetings, but these group chats are capped at 40 minutes
  • The most expensive tier gets you meetings with up to 1,000 participants, but there are cheaper options
  • Perhaps the only downside is that Zoom has had privacy issues in the past, which may put some businesses off

In other news, a world first drone delivery service is launching next week.

Google Maps is about to release ‘mobility reports’ showing hotspots where people are going during lockdown.

And, a conspiracy theory claiming 5G has caused the Covid-19 pandemic is doing the rounds on WhatsApp.

Are you using Zoom during a lockdown? Let us know in the comments…

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Best video editing apps on your iPhone – free and paid downloads revealed

LOOKING for a great iPhone video editor? There are loads to choose from – including some cracking free options.

We've rounded up some of the best mobile video editing apps for iPhone, to help you become the social media influencer you've always dreamed of being.

1. Apple iMovie (iPhone)

iMovie is Apple's powerful and popular video editor.

It was originally built for Mac computers, but has since been remade for iPhones – and it works a treat.

You can import clips easily, share portions of your videos, choose from loads of templates and music, and add in titles, transitions and filters.

There are also slow-motion and fast-forward modes, plus picture-in-picture and split-screen effects.

The app can also edit 4K footage, which is great news because Instagram's IGTV app also supports 4K video.

  • Get iMovie on the App Store for free – download now

2. GoPro Quik (iPhone, Android)

Quik is built by legendary action camera firm GoPro, and it's easy to tell when you load the app up.

Add in your clips and the Quik app can automatically generate an amazing YouTube pro-style video, complete with dance music soundtrack.

It's basically the perfect way to quickly turn your bundle of holiday clips into a half-decent video.

But you can also piece your final video together manually too, using a selection of available transitions, graphics and music.

The app makes it very easy to export to social media, and it's available on both iPhone and Android (for free, to boot)!

  • Get Quik on the App Store for free – download now
  • Get Quik on the Play Store for free – download now

3. Videoshop (iPhone, Android)

Videoshop doesn't have any big name backing, but it's built up a strong following nonetheless.

It's simple design, attractive layout and strong selection of features make this a hugely popular app.

You can trim clips, add animated titles, text and voice-overs, create slow-mo or stop-motion videos, and even use a neat Tilt Shift mode to add depth to your videos.

It's also possible to edit the colouring of your clips, add music, and share directly to a range of social media apps – Instagram included.

The good news is that it's free to download on both iOS and Android.

  • Get Videoshop on the App Store for free – download now
  • Get Videoshop on the Play Store for free – download now

4. Apple Clips (iPhone)

iMovie dates back to the '90s, so it's no surprise that last year Apple debuted Clips – a video editor for modern life.

It's a lighter, more trimmed down editor (at least compared to iMovie), and is designed to create clips specifically for social media.

It's an Apple creation, so it's only available on iPhone and iPad (sorry, Android users), and it's a seriously strong choice.

You can combine videos, images and music into a single, seamless video very quickly, and then share it straight to social media.

You can add animated "Live Titles" to your videos, voice dictation overlays, and filters and icons too.

And, of course, it's possible to edit and rearrange your clips, as well as trim the length, or mute/delete portions of audio.

  • Get Clips on the App Store for free – download now

5. KineMaster (iPhone, Android)

Another excellent choice is KineMaster, which describes itself as a "mobile editing revolution".

The idea is to take complicated professional-style tools, and pare them down so that they're simple enough for amateurs to use.

You can add in multiple layers of video, images, stickers, text and even handwriting.

There are picture-in-picture modes, a green screen option, and instant previews for your edits.

You can trim, splice and slice frame-by-frame, and you have controls for tweaking the hue, brightness and saturation of your clips.

There are oodles of transition effects (including wipes and fades), plus a host of animations and visual/audio effects too.

And you can also download additional music, fonts, stickers, overlays and other assets for your videos from the built-in KineMaster Asset Store.

It's a seriously powerful bit of kit, which explains why it's not completely free.

The app has no cost to download, but you'll have to pay £2.91 a month (or £23.25 a year) for a subscription to actually use it.

Still, you get what you pay for – and KineMaster is a very impressive mobile video editor.

  • Get KineMaster on App Store for free – download now
  • Get KineMaster on Play Store for free – download now

In other news,

 

 

Do you have any great app recommendations? Let us know in the comments!

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Small-Business Virus Rescue Kicks Off in U.S. Beset by Concerns

The Trump administration’s $349 billion small-business rescue starts Friday surrounded by concerns about its ability to handle an expected flood of applications and deliver enough aid to mom-and-pop firms hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours before the program was scheduled to start taking applications, lenders complained they lacked sufficient guidance from the Small Business Administration on how to process them. While new rules were issued late Thursday, it wasn’t clear how quickly lenders would be able to comply with them or how many would participate because of what some see as disadvantageous terms.

Advocates for lenders and small businesses also expressed concern on the eve of the program’s launch that distributing the money will take far longer than the same-day processing promised early on by the Trump administration. And with demand expected to far outstrip available funding, mom-and-pop shops will be at risk of losing out.

“There’s a sense of urgency that there’s not actually enough money in the loan fund for the number of people who actually are desperately in need of help right now,” said Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group for small businesses. “Business owners are sort of scrambling to make sure they can get a spot in line.”

The relief package for small businesses is a key piece in the $2 trillion stimulus package President Donald Trump signed on March 27 aimed at shoring up an economy that ground to a halt amid the coronavirus outbreak. The 30 million small businesses in the U.S. employ half of the private workforce and their collapse would have long-lasting effects across the country.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing Thursday night that Treasury and SBA officials including the agency’s new administrator Jovita Carranza have been working around the clock to flesh out the program guidelines with input from lenders.

“This is an unprecedented effort by this administration to support small businesses, and we know that there will be challenges in the process,” Carranza said.

Mnuchin announced at the briefing that the SBA would bump up to 1% the interest rate lenders may charge small businesses under the relief program after lenders complained that the previous rate of 0.5% was below their own cost of funds.

In addition to drawing consternation from lenders and small business owners, the rollout is coming under fire from Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas for what they said were restrictions on churches and religious non-profits.

The relief package, called the Paycheck Protection Program, allows small businesses to apply for loans of as much as $10 million, with payments deferred for six months. The loans, which are guaranteed by federal government and don’t require collateral, will be forgiven if funds are used for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utility payments for two months and if businesses retain and rehire employees.

But lenders were still waiting for guidance — which only arrived Thursday night — on what documentation they needed from borrowers and other guidelines to process the loans, said Julie Huston, chief executive of lender Immito LLC in Denver and chairwoman of The National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, a trade association of banks and finance companies that make SBA loans.

The banks will need time to review and implement the guidance and it isn’t clear whether enough lenders will sign on to the program to fill the need, Huston said.

“How crazy is this?” said Robyn Schultz, who operates Quality Electric, a commercial light industrial electrical company based in Birmingham, Alabama, that her husband’s family has run for more than 50 years.

“The government is issuing dates for people to apply, but the SBA doesn’t even have the guidelines,” said Schultz, who’d called her bank only to be told they needed more information and the local SBA office wasn’t able to help. “They can’t even tell you what you need to bring in to file the application.”

Governments the world over are taking steps to shield small businesses. Those countries with a tradition of state-aid, such as those in Europe, have proved most successful so far in rolling out initiatives.

In Germany, for instance, companies facing liquidity squeezes or whose income or capital have been eroded can ask for help from a state-run bank. In France, as of Thursday, 40,000 companies are benefiting from governments guarantees and have sought 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) of loans.

In the U.S., there are already concerns there won’t be enough funds to go around and that businesses without an established relationship with a lender will have a harder time getting funding. By one estimate, small businesses may need more than $1 trillion to replace lost revenue over the next three months.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on Tuesday there could be millions of applications when the program goes live Friday. Individual restaurants and hotels that are part of large, multinational chains or owned by private-equity firms also will be able to take advantage of the program, which could squeeze out small businesses.

Borrowers must submit a two-page application with approved lenders, who will register the loans with the SBA, verify eligibility and disburse funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply starting Friday, and independent contractors and the self-employed start April 10.

“That doesn’t mean everybody is going to get their loan tomorrow, but the system will be up and running,” Mnuchin said at the White House briefing Thursday. He said he’ll ask Congress for more funding if the money runs out.

Huston of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders estimated demand could be three times the available funds.

Small businesses that have worked with the SBA in the past or have a disaster relief loan will have a “leg up” on other small businesses because they will have a track record with SBA preferred lenders, said Brian Crawford, executive vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Due to the volume of applications likely to be processed, Frost Bank is making the loans available to existing business customers only, said Bill Day, senior vice president and communications chief.

The size of the stimulus package is unprecedented for the SBA, which is on its third administrator under Trump and is already showing signs of strain in carrying out the task. In the past weeks, so many people tried to access an existing Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that SBA’s website failed repeatedly, Bill Koontz, an SBA spokesman in California, said late last week.

Furthermore, Carranza, a former top adviser to Mnuchin, has been in the job for barely three months. The agency is seeking to boost employees and the White House is dispatching staff to help, according to people familiar with the matter.

“I’m very concerned that the systems that are perfectly adequate for normal operations just won’t be able to handle this,” said Karen Mills, a former SBA administrator.

— With assistance by Naomi Nix, Hannah Levitt, Edward Ludlow, Zachary Mider, Max Reyes, Emma Kinery, Katia Dmitrieva, Josh Wingrove, and Susan Warren

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Google Maps is about to release ‘mobility reports’ showing hotspots where Brits are STILL going out during lockdown

GOOGLE will be publicly tracking your movements during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tech giant has revealed it will publish data showing where people are going in over 130 countries.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Google's blog explains: "As global communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing emphasis on public health strategies, like social distancing measures, to slow the rate of transmission.

"In Google Maps, we use aggregated, anonymized data showing how busy certain types of places are—helping identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded.

"We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymized data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19.

"Starting today we’re publishing an early release of our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place, and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic."


The public can also take a look at the 'mobility reports' that Google publishes to its website.

In the UK the information will be on a country-by-county basis.

Each report will contain place categories like retail and recreation, bus, subway and train stations, residential areas, grocery and pharmacy, the beach and places of work.

The amount of people in these areas will be compared to the amount of people they had in them a year ago.

Google hopes the information will help officials trying to manage the outbreak.

The aim is for figures to be published regularly to show where people were going two or three days before.

Google has stressed that it will preserve the privacy of individuals.

Its data will be based on either the Google Maps app or one of Google's other smartphone services.

The UK Government Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We're working closely with tech companies to find innovative ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.

"Google’s publication of covid-19 mobility reports will help improve our understanding of the impact of the social distancing measures.

"Using anonymous data in this way is a great example of how we can do that, while continuing to protect people's personal data."

The first reports in the UK were based on information for March 29 and show that trips to most places have decreased.

Retail and recreation areas were said to be 85% less busy, parks and work places have seen just above a 50% decrease and transit stations have seen 75% less people.

Trips to places of residence have seen a 15% increase.

How to check your Google Location History

Here's what you need to know…

There are several ways to check your own Google Location History.

The easiest way is to follow the link to the Google Maps Timeline page:

  • Click here

This lets you see exactly where you've been on a given day, even tracking your methods of travel and the times you were at certain locations.

Alternatively, if you've got the Google Maps app, launch it and press the hamburger icon – three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other.

Then go to the Your Timeline tab, which will show places you've previously visited on a given day.

If you've had Google Location History turned on for a few years without realising, this might be quite shocking.

Suddenly finding out that Google has an extremely detailed map of years of your real-world movements can seem creepy – so you might want to turn the feature off.

The good news is that it's possible to immediately turn Google Location History off at any time.

You can turn off Location History here:

  • Click here

However, to truly stop Google from tracking you, you'll also need to turn off Web & Activity Tracking.

You can see your tracked location markers here:

  • Click here to see locations

In other news, a conspiracy theory claiming 5G has caused the Covid-19 pandemic is doing the rounds on WhatsApp.

Your internet may be getting slower as the coronavirus outbreak causes a huge surge in web traffic.

And, social media platforms has been inundated with bots trying to spread fake coronavirus news.

What are you thoughts on this Google Maps revelation? Let us know in the comments…

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President Donald Trump Takes Coronavirus Test Again Out of 'Curiosity' and Tests Negative

During Thursday’s press briefing at the White House, President Donald Trump announced that he had been re-tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and tested negative.

“I did take a test that just came out. … I went to work. I did not wait for it, but it took 14 minutes or something to come up with the conclusion. … So that is the second one. I think I took it really out of curiosity to see how quickly it worked and fast it worked,” Trump, 73, explained.

“And it’s a lot easier. I’ve done them both. And the second one is much more pleasant,” he added.

White House Physician Sean P. Conley explained in a memorandum obtained by PEOPLE before the briefing that Trump is “healthy and without symptoms.”

“This morning, the President was tested again for COVID-19, utilizing a new, rapid point-of-care test capability. He is healthy and without symptoms. Sample collection took just one minute, and results were reported back in 15 minutes. The President tested negative for COVID-19.”

Trump first took the test in March.

Conley explained in the March memorandum regarding the test: “Last night after an in-depth discussion with the President regarding COVID-19 testing, he elected to proceed. This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative.”

The statement added, “One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free. I have been in daily contact with the CDC and White House Coronavirus Task Force, and we are encouraging the implementation of all their best practices for exposure reduction and transmission mitigation.”

PEOPLE previously reported that Trump “briefly came in contact” with Fabio Wajngarten, the communications director for Bolsonaro, who showed symptoms three days after meeting with the president at a diplomatic dinner in Palm Beach, Florida.

As for what it was like taking the first test, Trump told reporters on March 17: “[It’s] not something I want to do every day, I can tell you that.”

“It’s a little bit of — good doctors in the White House, but it’s a test. It’s a test, it’s a medical test,” he continued. “Nothing pleasant about it.”

Speaking at the same coronavirus briefing, Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for Health and Human Services, said the test required a Q-tip-style swab “that’s put in the back of the nose, all the way to the back of the throat” to the nasopharyngeal region. According to USA Today, that’s where the virus often multiplies.

The sample is then sent for testing.


News of Trump’s second test comes after it was revealed on Tuesday that between 100,000 and 240,000 people could die in America from the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the available models and data.

The peak, in this timeline, will hit on April 15 — with a lessening tail of death and infection stretching into mid-June.

This assessment was, the White House’s health experts stressed, still only a projection. And it was one that was shifting by the day, as health care workers, scientific researchers and everyday people all ramped up their own efforts to slow and treat new infections, including by practicing social distancing.

The final death toll could be lower. The new virus, which emerged only months ago, was not yet fully understood. Modeling out what it would do to people was still only an informed guess.

Even so, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert and member of President Trump‘s coronavirus task force: “This is a number that we need to anticipate.”

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump told reporters at Tuesday night’s coronavirus briefing, using some of his starkest language to date about a virus he had previously downplayed.

At the peak, more than two thousand people were projected to die daily from a respiratory illness.

That could still change, though.

“This is the thing that we need to anticipate, but that doesn’t mean that that’s what we’re going to accept,” Dr. Fauci told reporters. “We want to do much, much better than that.”

Fauci and others on the task force, along with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, urged everyone to continue to follow the federal social distancing guidelines that have been extended through April: Stay home as much as possible, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and practice regular hygiene such as good hand-washing and coughing and sneezing into your elbow.

As of Thursday, there are now at least 243,729 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, the most worldwide.

At least 6,164 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus-related illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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