What Businesses Can Expect From the Phase 4 Stimulus Package

Congress is set to begin negotiations on the next round of stimulus. For business owners, new measures could bring more tax relief, renewed access to forgivable loans, and more.

With prior stimulus measures set to expire in the next few weeks and the economy continuing to falter as the pandemic resurges across the country, Congress will meet this week and next to hammer out a new relief measure. 

The House already passed its Phase 4 bill, known as the Heroes Act, in May. The $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief bill would provide assistance to state and local governments, extend enhanced unemployment benefits, and offer additional economic impact payments to taxpayers, among other things. The bill has been up for review since the end of May, though Senate Republicans, who prefer a measure with a far lower price tag, have been loath to consider it. They’re expected to introduce their own version of a relief bill this week that will have to be reviewed and negotiated between the two chambers before theyrecess in early August.

Several economic proposals that will affect small and midsize businesses have been building consensus among lawmakers for weeks, so the final version of the Senate bill could contain elements of all of them.

Here are six things you likely can expect from the Phase 4 bill.

1. The PPP will go on, but in a different form.

The Paycheck Protection Program, the $669 billion forgivable loan program aimed at beleaguered small businesses, will continue, predicts Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. At the very least, he says, there will be a continuation of the program, which was recently extended through August 8.

It’s also possible the PPP will become more targeted. Testifying at a House Small Business Committee hearing Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed interest in “topping off” the approximately $130 billion in remaining funds and extending the program. But he noted that it would need to be focused on certain industries like hotels and restaurants that can demonstrate actual losses, resulting from the pandemic. “This time we need to do a revenue test,” he said. 

A proposal that has been gaining ground with lawmakers, dubbed the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, or P4, offers to extend the PPP and open it up to companies that already received PPP loans (excepting for publicly traded companies), as long as they can show financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

There’s been widening support for streamlining the PPP forgiveness process, too. While certain loans are now eligible for the EZ loan forgiveness application, there’s greater interest in easing things further for smaller businesses by automatically forgiving all PPP loans under $150,000 or $250,000. On that note, Mnuchin at Friday’s Small Business Committee meeting confirmed interest in blanket forgiveness. “Yes, that’s something we should consider,” he told lawmakers.

2. Local communities will get a boost.

The next iteration of relief funding likely also will focus on companies in low-income and rural areas, as well as minority-owned businesses, which experienced difficulty accessing the PPP. Bradley notes that the Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund (RELIEF) for Main Street Actwould earmark $50 billion for cities, counties, and states to support small business local relief funds. One of the key flaws of the PPP is that it failed to reach the smallest businesses and minority-owned companies that often did not have traditional banking relationships prior to the pandemic. As this program would be run through local institutions–and not banks–the effort is seen as potentially better suited to reach these businesses. While the U.S. Treasury would operate the program, as written in the bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in mid-May, banks would not be involved.

Funding for block grants, operated by states and local governments, could also get replenished. The Cares Act initially provided $150 billion in federal aid to state and local governments across the country, some of which went toward grant funding for local business. 

3. More tax relief is on the way.

Currently, PPP funds don’t count as taxable income, but an Internal Revenue Service ruling prevented businesses from being able to deduct traditional business expenses paid for by those funds if forgiven. That may change soon. A bill that would allow the deduction with some guardrails, called the Small Business Expense Protection Act, was introduced in the Senate in early May.

The Phase 4 bill also is expected to bolster and expand access the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), says Bradley. Currently, companies that have tapped the PPP can’t access the ERTC, which was enacted as part of the Cares Act to incentivize businesses hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic to retain employees. As part of a proposal, dubbed the Jumpstarting Our Businesses’ Success Credit (or JOBS Credit) Act, which was introduced in May, the refundable tax credit–now equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in qualified quarterly wages–would increase to 80 percent of up to $15,000 in wages each quarter for up to three quarters. Bradley adds that there’s also potential for the ERTC to expand eligible expenses to include a limited amount of fixed costs.

4. Stimulus checks will be back but they may be less generous.

The Heroes Act passed by the House supports another round of stimulus checks that the Cares Act authorized in March for millions of taxpayers: individuals earning under $75,000 would get $1,200, while married couples with less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income would get $2,400. The bill also would provide an additional $1,200 for up to three dependents, regardless of age. 

Senate Republicans are likely to take a more conservative approach to the payments. Last week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the next round of stimulus checks may be less than $1,200, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in early July stated the next round of stimulus checks may be limited to those with incomes of around $40,000.

5. Enhanced unemployment benefits will continue, but get a haircut.

The Cares Act’s enhanced unemployment insurance, which offered an additional $600 per week on top of existing state benefits, is set to expire at the end of July. Many employers found the measure complicated the task of rehiring employees, who were suddenly earning more on unemployment than at their former jobs.

To avoid that issue–but also ensure laid off or furloughed workers have support–Bradley says that lawmakers are considering more targeted subsidies that would vary the amount offered on a federal level to better coordinate with what’s available at the state level. So between the variable federal supplement and those provided by each respective state, unemployment benefits would replace 80 to 90 percent of a worker’s former wages, up to a maximum federal benefit of an additional $400 per week.

The enhanced benefits also may come with a hiring bonus. The Paycheck Recovery Act, proposed in mid-May, offers low-wage workers–those earning less than $40,100 annually–a $1,500 rehiring bonus upon returning to work.

6. Businesses will receive greater liability protections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his desire to see greater liability protections for employers. The details of his approach are still unclear, though Bradley says it’s likely that the Phase 4 bill will allow for some form of safe harbor for companies that make good-faith efforts to follow public-health guidelines.

This article was written by Diana Ransom for Inc.com

Uber is reportedly in talks to buy food delivery firm Postmates for $2.6 billion

Uber is changing tack after acquisition talks with Grubhub fell through by switching its attention to food delivery startup Postmates, the New York Times reports.

Three sources familiar with the matter told the Times that Uber and Postmates were holding ongoing acquisition talks. One of the sources said Uber is offering to buy Postmates for roughly $2.6 billion.

Uber was reportedly in acquisition talks with food delivery startup Grubhub earlier this year, but Grubhub announced on June 11 it was instead merging with European takeaway service Just Eat. Sources told CNBC Uber walked away from the deal over concerns it would attract antitrust scrutiny.

As a much smaller player in the food delivery business, Postmates could be a safer option.

According to analytics firm Second Measure, Postmates makes up a significantly smaller chunk of the US market than Grubhub. Grubhub captured 32% of food delivery sales in 2019, while Postmates made up 10%. Uber Eats meanwhile accounted for 20% of the market.

Antitrust fears are not the only possible reason why Uber may have walked away from Grubhub, various reports emerged that the two firms struggled to agree on a price for the acquisition. Just Eat paid roughly $7.3 billion to acquire the startup.

Uber’s desire to bolster its food delivery service has reportedly been spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for taxi services has plummeted while food delivery has skyrocketed.

Two sources told the Times Postmates has also held sale talks with Grubhub and DoorDash over the past year.

Postmates confidentially filed plans for an IPO with the SEC in February 2019, but has yet to go public. Sources told Reuters on Monday that the company is considering reviving its IPO plans due to the boom in food delivery brought on by the pandemic.

Uber and Postmates were not immediately available to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

This article was written on BusinessInsider.com by Isobel Asher Hamilton

Get Away In Your Own Backyard


Summer travel plans are up in the air right now as federal and local governments sort through the best strategies for keeping COVID-19 under control. Although it’s disappointing to put off a vacation or big family party you’ve been planning forever, there are still recreational options right in your backyard that will get your family outside safely. If you’re starting to reschedule your summer, keep these ideas in mind to make the most out of the months ahead.

Stay safe

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, social distancing is still Rule 1.

The CDC recommends that you and members of your household stay at least six feet away from other people, even in open air. If you visit a public park, avoid group activities or team sports like basketball, soccer, or football that put you in close contact with other people and shared equipment. Avoid public facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Hiking trails and taking bike rides are good alternatives.

Also, make sure you bring along a cloth face covering and some hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and wash up when you get home.

Find a nearby National Park

According to the National Park Foundation, there are 62 sites in the U.S. that include “National Park” in their name, including such famous destinations as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

But before you load up the camper, keep in mind that the CDC recommends staying close to home. Long-distance travel will require stops to refuel, eat, and use public restrooms, which could expose you and your family to germs – as well as spread your own.

Also, even though parks are technically “open,” many of their public facilities aren’t. That means no restrooms or cafeterias. Maintaining a safe social distance could also be challenging at more popular parks, especially as the weather turns warmer.

If the big parks are outside your radius, our wider National Park System spans 419 sites, including historical battlefields, monuments, nature trails, rivers, and preserves. Take a look at the National Park Foundation’s database. There’s probably an interesting, beautiful spot near you that you’ve never noticed before.

Explore local options

Many state and country parks are open as well, with many of the same restrictions in place. You can take a long walk or bike ride with members of your family, as long as you can maintain safe distance from other folks. But depending on your local health guidelines, playgrounds and public restrooms might still be off limits. Check state and county websites for more information about what facilities are available and plan ahead, especially if you’re bringing children along.

Kids are one reason that your local neighborhood park is still a great option for a day out; emergency bathroom breaks and snack time are a lot easier to manage when your house is just down the block. Neighborhood parks can also be less of a crowding hazard, making it easier for your family to maintain safe social distance.

Of course, that empty playground is more tempting in a small park too. Before you head outside, have an age-appropriate chat with your kids about why they need to stay off public equipment.

REALLY local options

If your home has private yard space, wake up your inner child, especially if you have children of your own. Kids who see their parents really throwing themselves into family time are going to feel a little less anxious and sad about things they can’t do right now.

When you’re not working or teaching, leave your phone inside and make this family time special. Plan a treasure hunt. Lead a backyard yoga session. Organize a family soccer game. Plant flowers together. As the weather improves, move inside activities outside, like meals, story time, and board games.

Finally, use the space available to you to embrace some of the simplicity that this situation has created. Hang up a hammock or set up some extra reading chairs around the fire pit. One of the reasons we struggle to fill time during quarantine is that rushing through our normal lives makes us feel like we should always be doing something. Older children and adults should take advantage of extra downtime to think, reflect, and be creative.

We know summer travel is just one of many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life. As our country and our local communities start to reopen, please be safe, and please be in touch if we can help in any way.

What Is a Fiduciary Financial Advisor?


“A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care,” according to the Cornell Law Dictionary. (istockphoto)

IN APRIL 2016, A NEW word entered many investors’ vocabularies: fiduciary. Even for those who’d heard it before, the term took on a whole new meaning when the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule was released. All of a sudden financial advisors fell into two camps: fiduciaries and non-fiduciaries, adding a new level of confusion – and risk – to the advisor-client relationship for many investors.

Research by digital wealth manager Personal Capital found that nearly half of Americans falsely believe all advisors are legally required to always act in their clients’ best interests. Not only is this inaccurate, but it can also be detrimental to investors who unwittingly expose themselves to biased and potentially costly advice from advisors who put their own interests before investors.

“Not all advisors are required to put you first,” says Jay Shah, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Personal Capital. “Only financial advisors who are fiduciaries are required to act in the best interests of their clients.”

What is a fiduciary? A fiduciary is a person or legal entity, such as a bank or brokerage firm, that has the power and responsibility of acting for another (usually called the beneficiary or principal) in situations requiring total trust, good faith and honesty.

The most common example of a fiduciary is a trustee of a trust, but anyone can be a fiduciary. If you undertake to assist someone in a situation where they place total confidence and trust in you, you have a fiduciary duty to that person. Corporate officers are fiduciaries for their shareholders, as are attorneys and real estate agents for their clients. Some, but not all, financial advisors are fiduciaries.

When you’re the beneficiary of a fiduciary relationship, you give that fiduciary discretionary authority over your assets. So a fiduciary financial advisor can buy and sell securities in your account on your behalf without needing your express consent before each trade. Because fiduciaries have this discretionary authority, they’re held to a higher standard than non-fiduciary advisors.

The fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care. According to the Cornell Law Dictionary, “A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care.” It entails always acting in your beneficiary’s best interest, even if doing so is contrary to yours. For a financial advisor, this may mean recommending a product that results in reduced or no compensation because it’s the best option for the client.Play VideoPlayUnmuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%Current Time 0:04/Duration 1:39

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates registered investment advisors as fiduciaries, the fiduciary duty also entails:

  • Acting with undivided loyalty and utmost good faith
  • Providing full and fair disclosure of all material facts, defined as those which “a reasonable investor would consider to be important”
  • Not misleading clients
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest (such as when the advisor profits more if a client uses one investment instead of another or trades frequently) and disclosing any potential conflicts of interest
  • Not using a client’s assets for the advisor’s own benefit or the benefit of other clients

The commission concludes by stating that “departure from this fiduciary standard may constitute ‘fraud’ upon your clients,” which could result in the firm’s or investment advisor’s registration being revoked, the advisor getting barred from the industry or multi-million dollar disgorgement’s, among other penalties.

Fiduciaries have a “duty to care.” That means these obligations extend beyond the first meeting. A fiduciary will continually monitor a client’s investments and financial situation and adhere to best practices of conduct for the duration of the relationship.

“I think most investors would expect their advisors are doing that anyway, but that’s not always the case,” says Shelby George, senior vice president of advisor services at Manning & Napier, an investment manager in Fairport, New York. Non-fiduciaries are held to the suitability standard, a lower standard of care.

Fiduciary standard versus suitability standard. For advice to be considered merely “suitable,” the financial professional must only have an adequate reason to believe a recommendation fits the client’s financial situation, needs and other investments. For that to be the case, an advisor must obtain adequate information about the investment as well as the customer’s financial situation before making the recommendation.

The most common difference between “a fiduciary and an advisor acting under a suitability standard is the decision-making process,” George says. Before making a recommendation, fiduciaries undergo a prudent process designed to determine their client’s best interest. After making a recommendation, they discuss it thoroughly with the client to ensure there’s no misunderstanding about the recommendation and the fiduciary’s rationale for making it.

“Advisors acting under the suitability standard may, but are not required, to have the same depth of discussion,” George says. As a result, their duty to a client’s investments and financial situation ends once the trade is placed. These advisors aren’t obligated to monitor client accounts or financial situations on an ongoing basis.

Instead, the suitability standard only calls for fair dealing and best execution, which means the advisor must do the following:

  • Execute orders promptly and at the most favorable terms available, determined through “reasonable diligence”
  • Disclose material information
  • Charge prices reasonably related to the prevailing market
  • Fully disclose any conflicts of interest

The suitability standard does not require advisors to put their clients’ best interests before their own, nor must they avoid conflicts of interest.

“If your advisor isn’t a fiduciary, he can steer you into products that put more money into his pocket, as long as they’re considered suitable for you,” Shah says. For instance, when faced with two comparable investments, one of which has a higher commission, a fiduciary couldn’t recommend the pricierinvestment because paying more in fees isn’t in the client’s best interest. An advisor held to the suitability standard, however, could recommend the more expensive product provided it’s “suitable” for the client.

“Of course, not all non-fiduciaries are bad guys hoping to eat your financial lunch, but it’s important to understand that, legally, they can,” Shah says. “What’s more, their compensation structure could inherently make it difficult for them to act without conflicts of interests.”

How advisors are compensated. Generally, you pay for financial advice in one of three ways: advisory fees for fee-only advisors, commissions, or a combination of fees and commissions for fee-based advisors.

Fee-only advisors are either a flat or hourly rate, on a per- service basis or as a percentage of assets under management. They do not earn commissions or trading fees so their compensation is independent of the investments they recommend.

Commission-based advisors are paid from the sale of investments. They may also receive a fee from their financial institution for selling a particular product, collect a percentage of the assets a client invests or be paid per transaction.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority requires that commissions and fees be “reasonable” and disclosed at or before the time of investment. The organization’s 5 percent guideline considers any markup at or above 5 percent seldom reasonable and any commission near that threshold is subject to regulatory scrutiny and must be justified.

An advisor who receives both a flat fee and commissions is considered fee-based. Fiduciaries must be fee-only or fee-based. Non-fiduciaries can be commission-based or fee-based.

The commission structure opens the door to conflicts of interest between advisors and their clients. An advisor who is paid based on the products recommended would have an incentive to steer clients toward investments that generate a higher commission. If an advisor is compensated per transaction, clients may be encouraged to trade excessively, a practice known as churning accounts.

“Many advisers do not provide biased advice, but the harm to investors from those that do can be large,” writes the Department of Labor in the Federal Register Vol. 81, No. 68. The Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that advice from advisors with conflicting incentives costs IRA investors about $17 billion per year. The council estimated that recipients of conflicted advice earned 1 percent lower returns each year.

If conflicted advice is given when a 401(k) is rolled over into an IRA, it can cost the investor an estimated 12 percent of his savings over 30 years, with those savings running out more than five years sooner as a result.

These findings, coupled with investors increasingly seeking investment guidance for retirement savings outside of an employer-sponsored plan, particularly with rollovers, provided the impetus for the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule.

The DOL’s Fiduciary Rule “is not moot.” The goal of the rule was “to encourage more transparency of fees, close certain payment loopholes, simplify retirement advice and improve investor education,” says Jason Schwarz, president of Wilshire Funds Management and Wilshire Analytics in Santa Monica, California. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found the rule “inconsistent with governing statutes” and said the department was “overreaching to regulate services and providers beyond its authority.”

President Trump told the department “to re-examine the Fiduciary Rule and prepare an updated economic and legal analysis” of its provisions. The department could then ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals could be asked to review the rule again or it could be taken before the Supreme Court.

As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals writes in its decision, the case “is not moot. The Fiduciary Rule has already spawned significant market consequences.” Many firms have removed products like high-fee, low-cost mutual funds that don’t meet the fiduciary standard, Schwarz says. The result for investors is higher-quality investments and an easier investment selection process. “I think it’s not unreasonable to expect the fees advisors charge will come down along with the fees of the underlying products they use,” he says.

“It’s impossible for the industry to roll back the change that’s taking place, as much as some institutions would like to,” Shah says. Investors are demanding more objective, transparent advice and fee structures. “Smart advisors will realize this change is coming and that advice that is ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough for today’s investor.”

Meanwhile, “among the over 300,000 brokers and advisors across the industry, the delivery of fiduciary advice is uneven, erratic and irregular,” says Knut Rostad, founder and president of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard, a nonprofit advocate of the fiduciary standard in McLean, Virginia.

*This article was written by Coryanne Hicks for U.S.News

No, You Shouldn’t Buy Snapchat Stock

a picture of the snapchat symbol laying on a lazy boy recliner

Another day another dollar in the US equity markets, and today there’s a lot of chatter about Snapchat ($SNAP). Snapchat reported quarterly earnings, or should I say quarterly losses that exceeded even the most dismal estimate from market analysts. Think about that one for a second, we knew this was going to be a bad quarter for snapchat….the company so much as told us so. So the fact that the numbers were even worse than expected may speak to a larger problem brewing at Snapchat. That problem……..Instagram. There has been a sharp deceleration in the user growth of Snapchat ever since Instagram introduced several competing features. Whether or not this is a trend moving forward remains to be seen, but there is certainly a reason for concern. These are a few reasons, amongst several others that I will not be buying $SNAP stock at $12/share and you shouldn’t either.

-MD

Welcome to #AskTheAdvisor !

Hey everybody and welcome to AskTheAdvisor! We are so excited to have our new website live so please check it out and let us know what you think. For those of you who may be new to our community, this is my personal and professional effort to help motivate people to achieve their financial goals and empower them to live a life they love. On this site you will hear about personal finance, entrepreneurship, stocks, financial fitness, and more. My passion is to see people succeed, and our goal for this site is to become a hub for all the information and resources you will need to get informed, get inspired, and motivated to set big goals and smash them.

This project is a labor of love for me so if you have a topic you want to hear about or a question you would like to ask, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Thank you for stopping by!

-MD