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April 21, 2020

It’s Not Enough: States Burn Through Unemployment Cash

This Day in History | 1895

Woodville Latham and his sons, Otway and Gray, demonstrate their “Panopticon,” the first movie projector developed in the United States.

Good Morning Middle Americans, 

If you are struggling and waiting to get your stimulus check, or if you own a small business owner who’s been frozen out of the Federal Government’s small business loan program, you are not alone. 

You are also a micro part of the bigger, macro picture when it comes to the U.S. economy and how vulnerable we’ve become.  Part of the reason is the current pandemic, and the precautions taken to ‘flatten the curve’. Another big part of the problem is the amount of debt we’ve grown accustomed to.  The consumer economy runs on debt. And when a lot of our cash goes to paying for interest, which is nothing, really, (it doesn’t do anything) we don’t have anything tangible to show for it.  There are a lot of weird things happening right now with the economy, like oil futures dropping to below zero. That means investors were getting paid to buy oil. Let that sink in. 

Also today, that defiant Louisiana pastor who’s refused to stop holding services at his church, has a warrant issued for his arrest. 

But it’s not because he’s holding services. According to the police report, the pastor attempted to run over a protester outside his church. 

He’s also the same guy who asked his congregation to donate their stimulus checks to the church.

Seems to us like he’s giving all the people who want to return to church in a sensible way a bad name. 

In another sign of the times, Louisville Slugger, the iconic baseball bat maker has closed down it’s factory as Major League Baseball and teams sports remain sidelined. 

It’s not just sad because we don’t have sports. It’s sad, because like so many stories related to COVID-19  – it involves loss. 

Job loss. And the loss of something we used to take for granted, like wooden baseball bats. 

Finally, something to make you feel old and young at the same time. 

HBD to the Hubble Telescope. Launched into space 30 years ago today. 

Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” was topping the charts. The Berlin Wall was coming down. 

Good times. Anyway, fun to think back on happier days, and  remember time marches on and we’ll see better days again. 

NASA is celebrating Hubble’s birthday by sharing some of it’s pics taken on your birthday. 

We have a link to see a unique shot captured by Hubble of the billions-years-old galaxy on your birthday. 

Read all about it. 

-Fraser Dixon 

States Burn Through Cash for Unemployment Payments

Nearly half of U.S. states have logged double-digit percentage declines in their trust-fund balances since the end of February

(Wall Street Journal) – New York state has asked the federal government for a $4 billion no-interest loan to cover unemployment payments for people put out of work by the coronavirus pandemic as it and other states burn through funds set aside for jobless claims.

States are quickly depleting funds set aside as millions of laid-off workers apply for unemployment-insurance benefits offered by state governments, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Treasury Department data.

Nearly half of U.S. states have logged double-digit percentage declines in their trust-fund balances since the end of February, the month before the coronavirus pandemic triggered shutdowns that led to widespread job losses and record numbers of jobless claims.

States use the money to pay regular unemployment benefits, while the extra $600 payments recently added for workers laid off during the pandemic are funded through a federal stimulus package signed into law last month.

From the end of February to mid-April, New York had used about half of the trust-fund money it had on tap, representing one of the steepest declines among states.

Read more here

An Oil Futures Go Negative Showing Unprecedented Collapse

(CNBC) – A futures contract for U.S. crude prices dropped more than 100% and turned negative for the first time in history on Monday, showing just how much demand has collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But traders cautioned that this collapse into negative territory was not reflective of the true reality in the beaten-up oil market. The price of the nearest oil futures contract, which expires Tuesday, detached from later month futures contracts, which continued to trade above $20 per barrel.

West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery fell more than 100% to settle at negative $37.63 per barrel, meaning producers would pay traders to take the oil off their hands.

This negative price has never happened before for an oil futures contract. Futures contracts trade by the month. The June WTI contract, which expires on May 19, fell about 18% to settle at $20.43 per barrel. This contract, which was more actively traded, is a better reflection of the reality in the oil market. The July contract was roughly 11% lower at $26.18 per barrel.

The international benchmark, Brent crude, which has already rolled to the June contract, settled 8.9% lower at $25.57 per barrel.

Learn more here

Keeping the Faith: Arrest Warrant Issued for Defiant Louisiana Pastor

(WAFB-TV) – Police have issued an arrest warrant for the controversial pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La.

Police in Central say Spell allegedly backed up a church bus into the direction of a person protesting in front of his church Sunday.

The warrant accuses pastor Tony Spell of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the Central Police Department says.

“At first I thought he (Spell) was just turning around his bus and was going to pull away, but he just kept coming in reverse,” said Trey Bennett, the protester.

Video of the alleged incident shows the bus coming to a stop just short of where the protester was standing.

“I could see him (Spell) driving the bus. He was honking his horn loudly at me and making gestures suggesting he was yelling while he was driving. It didn’t seem real until it was physically in my face with a bus,” said Bennett.

Learn more here

Related: Embattled La. Pastor asks Members of Church to Donate Stimulus Checks

(WAFB) – A Louisiana pastor who defied the governor’s orders and repeatedly held large church services during the coronavirus pandemic is now asking congregates to donate their stimulus checks to the church.

Tony Spell, the pastor at Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La., has launched the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge, asking Americans to donate their government stimulus checks to evangelists, missionaries, and music ministers who he said have not received offerings in over a month.

Spell says he, his wife, and son have all donated their checks.

Spell appeared on CNN’s New Day Weekend on Sunday. Host Victor Blackwell questioned his decision to ask congregants for their government-issued funds.

“To say to people who you know don’t have much, you have to go and pick them up to bring them to your church, to then ask them to hand over the $1,200, the only money some people will have, and you have another option,” Blackwell posed. “Why not give that money to them? And why isn’t this a time for the church to give to those who do not have?”

Find out more here

Louisville Slugger Bat Maker Closes Factory

(NBC Sports) -The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

The company that makes Louisville Slugger wood baseball bats has closed its factory, furloughed 90 percent of its employees and shut its popular museum.

Hillerich & Bradsby Co. says it has continued to cover all health care benefits for its 171 furloughed workers. The remaining 10% of employees have taken 25 percent pay cuts.

The wood bat factory closed on March 19, three days after the Louisville Slugger Museum shut. The 120-foot bat outside its headquarters now a banner across the barrel reading “Flatten the Curve.

Read more here

Hubble Telescope Turns 30, and Still Going Strong

(CNET) – This Thursday marks 30 years since NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope into low Earth orbit with the space shuttle Discovery, and it’s been exploring the universe 24 hours a day, seven days a week for most of that time. The agency is celebrating the milestone by letting you find out which “cosmic wonder” it spotted on your birthday.

You can find out what it saw by entering the month and date on its site, as previously reported by KDVR, and you’ll be treated to an image of the discovery and a few details. NASA is encouraging people to share using #Hubble30.

Find out what the Hubble telescope spotted on your birthday here

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