Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Here’s the business and tech news you need to know for the week ahead. Stay safe, everyone.
What’s Up? (Jan. 10-16)
More businesses and organizations cut ties with President Trump, his political supporters and his family’s company in recent days.
Citing Mr. Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, New York City said it would cancel its contracts with the Trump Organization, which currently operates two public skating rinks, the Central Park Carousel and a golf course in the Bronx. Financial institutions linked to the Trumps, including Deutsche Bank, the president’s largest lender, have also said they’re distancing themselves from him.
The P.G.A. of America announced that it would no longer plan to hold its 2022 championship at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. And a number of America’s biggest companies, including AT&T, Marriott International, Dow, Airbnb and Morgan Stanley, pledged to halt donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress who supported Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election.
Worse and Worse
Unemployment claims jumped sharply this past week, reflecting the toll of the pandemic’s aggressive resurgence. Economists are now predicting that the labor market may not show meaningful improvements until the spring, when the virus is hopefully (more) contained. And even then, it may take some time for jobs to bounce back.
One piece of good news, for prospective borrowers at least: Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, reiterated that interest rates would stay near zero for the foreseeable future, as part of the central bank’s effort to prop up the struggling economy.
Google, What’s My Heart Rate?
Google has completed its acquisition of Fitbit, the fitness tracking-device company, after promising regulators that it would not harvest data from the trackers to use for targeted advertising on its search engine. But critics of the deal remain skeptical, especially since Google is already fighting an antitrust lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of using unfair tactics to kneecap its rivals.
What’s Next? (Jan. 17-23)
Biden’s Big Bill
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will take office this Wednesday, and has already announced his detailed proposal for a sweeping, $1.9 trillion stimulus package — called the American Rescue Plan — aimed at battling the virus and alleviating the economic damage it has caused. So, what’s in it? More checks, for starters. Mr. Biden wants to send out $1,400 direct payments to Americans who make less than $75,000 a year. He also wants to extend emergency unemployment insurance programs through the end of September (they are set to expire in mid-March), and supplement unemployment payments with an extra $400 per week. Finally, he’s asking for more funding for school reopenings, state governments and vaccine distribution.
Your Job, or the Shot
While many Americans are breathlessly anticipating their turn for the vaccine, some are declining it. Most employers have stopped short of mandating vaccinations, but some — particularly hospitals and nursing homes — are providing incentives like cash bonuses, extra time off and even Waffle House gift cards for those who get inoculated. Others are drawing a harder line. Officials at two large long-term care chains, Juniper Communities and Atria Senior Living, said their workers had to take the vaccine if they wanted to keep their jobs, unless they had mitigating conditions like pregnancy or serious allergies.
Parler vs. Amazon
After the Capitol siege, social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook banned the president or suspended his accounts. As a result, many of his supporters flocked to Parler, an online forum that encourages its users to “speak freely and express yourself openly without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.” Or, well, it did — before Amazon, which provides Parler’s cloud computing services, shut down access to its servers and forced Parler offline this past Monday, citing “a steady increase in violent content” on the site. In an effort to reinstate itself, Parler has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, so far to no avail.
Airbnb has canceled all reservations and will block new rentals in the Washington area this week, citing the threat of another attack similar to the one at the Capitol. (The company will refund hosts who had already rented properties during that time window.)
Flo, a period- and fertility-tracking app used by more than 100 million women, settled federal charges that it had misled users about its data practices and shared their intimate health details with Facebook and Google.
Also, the value of office buildings and hotel properties, which have sat nearly empty since the pandemic started, is starting to plummet — bringing down property tax revenues at a time when state and municipal governments are strapped for money.