Sunday, July 26, 2020

Losers and winners in the Pandemic

In every situation there are Losers and winners and so is the case with this Pandemic. It is hard to say for now which will come on top and which will go under but a clearer picture is emerging slowly which may change in the future. Lets start with some Losers, which includes bars and restaurants, big live events, air travel and theme and entertainment parks, movie theaters and Broadway shows to name a few where there will be social distancing and hence less crowds to deal with. Although a good thing for the lucky few who manage to get into these areas but bad for the owners as they will lose out tons of money with less people coming in and the added costs of hiring people to clean their areas thoroughly and every day and even every hour to make sure their guests feel comfortable enough to come in and in turn get a good word of mouth when telling to their friends and relatives. Apart from the huge losses to live events like concerts and sports and also theaters and theme parks, and shows, they managers of these places will have to hire people just to make sure their customers maintain social distancing. Cleaning every thing after each show or event will entail huge amounts of business expense.

I don’t know how the airlines and other places used to packed houses and people on top of another will be able to sustain profit when they will have almost 50 percent capacity then before. They will either have to raise their prices or keep open for longer hours then usual. The movie theaters are in a precarious situation as people would not want to go there right now to sit beside a person who may or may not show the symptoms of the virus. In such a situation, there would be have to be some spacing done between each individual so as to make people ease of mind. But even if that happens, it will really take a long time to have a packed house full of people in a theater and Studios are adjusting to that by releasing movies to streaming web sites before they will hit the theaters or even bypassing it completely. Hopefully people will come back to enjoy theaters as the Drive in boom seems to be coming back which is a testament of people becoming hungry to come back to normal routine but in a small place it will be hard to have social distancing when the virus is still the rage.

The airlines are in a bit of a pickle too since social distancing is impossible in a confined place for a number of hours where you can’t go anywhere unless you land on the ground. And the idea of leaving the middle seat is also absurd as the planes will fly at a huge loss and to make up for the huge loss along with cleaning the planes thoroughly will not be feasible and some of the airlines may go out business if they are unable to innovate and find ways to either increase the prices of the seats exponentially or get more out of what is now free to force people to buy everything.

With unemployment so high, nobody is going to be in a mood to go shopping for non essential items especially handbags, clothing, jewelry and other stuff which you can make do without and last longer what you already have. As such department stores which cater to these items will struggle to strive but it seems the carnage is starting now with some well known name brands apply for Bankruptcy protection and the rest of it relying on online sales which will become more of a norm in the future as the Malls will be only for people who are bored at home and can’t go on vacations to socialize with a distance in these less than full places.Broadway shows in the U.S. are supposed to open in the fall, lets see how they fare as again they are in confined place and will have to make sure there is distance between people and thus will lose out much of the revenue due to empty seats.

The restaurants, bars and hotels are another place where will be bloodbath in terms of how many are going to survive. Although some restaurants are surviving on take out deliveries but it is not enough to make up for full in dining. Also the servers are losing out to all the tips since the delivery does not include tips. The bars are under severe pressure as I don’t believe they have even the option of take out and must rely on full open bars with noisy customers to make a profit. The hotels will survive as each room is in itself a self contained quarantine center but they will have to make sure that it is cleaned every day.

Sports arena are another big area where the virus can spread as they thrive on big crowds, people will return but it would not be the same crowds for a long period of time unless one takes precaution which will be hard in an area where people are very close by cheering on their favorite team.

Doctor offices and dental offices along with labs and other health providers are also going to take precautions especially the dental offices where the dentist and the staff can put on the mask but the patient has open up their mouths, I don’t know how this will work. I have been holding onto my dental appointments until this virus potency is reduced somewhat and I can safely open my mouth.

I am sure many places will be struggling too like gyms and swimming pools, day care centers, and any places where it is not that easy to replace it with work from home situations. As such it will be long time even after the vaccine is found, people will feel safe to venture into close areas since the vaccine will have to deliver to people and administered. So we are all in for a bumpy and unpredictable ride for the future.

The unemployment benefits controversy

A massive portion of the huge stimulus package passed by the U.S. Congress was to give each American individual USD 1,200.00 and their dependents USD 600.00. Also included was the extension of the unemployment benefits to include USD 600.00 each week on top of the state benefits. The federal benefits will expire on July 31, 2020 unless extended. These extended federal benefits were meant to a safety cushion against the historic unemployment that is now raging in the U.S. due to the pandemic. Now the problem is the federal government has also extended loans to businesses hurt by this pandemic with the condition that they must retain their employees when their business opens. Now the extra 600 dollars in addition to the state benefits have created the undesirable effect for people who are making more now while sitting at home doing nothing than working and this has also make life difficult for small businesses to attract new or even former workers because the workers would be making less than by just claiming unemployment.

Although the federal benefits will end in July 31, 2020 if not extended but people are still hoping that it may be extended due to a new bill introduced in Congress extending it to January 2021 or whenever the government decides the end of pandemic. Besides its massive debt it has created and the overly generous benefits given to people, it has also created a shortage of staff who are willing to take an essentially pay cut by going back to their work place while there is no vaccine for this virus. In order to make sure that the economy does not collapse by the weight of the massive unemployment, this massive bill was passed which has now unintended consequences. It would have been better that the federal benefits should have been limited to USD 400 instead of 600 and should have lasted till November or December so that there would have been incentive to come back to work. It was already known that the virus is not going to end on July 31, 2020 and neither would the economy bounce back on the same day. Now with the bickering going on in Congress, it would be prudent that the first stimulus package even if it was going to be late should have been packaged in such a way to last longer than July 31, 2020 but as they say hindsight is always 20/20

The unemployment crisis of 2020

As many of you in the United States and around the world may be reading or experiencing the high unemployment figures which is getting scarier day by day. The pandemic has closed down the biggest economies of the world thus exacerbating the precarious situation of people living paycheck to paycheck. As the economies start to open, the main issue will be if there will be demand for the services most of the low income people are employed in. For the United States, the unemployment situation has gone really bad as unemployment is approaching levels not seen since the great depression of the 1930s (which many people right now don’t know about). Although the government of the United States have passed a stimulus package to cushion these unemployed people with $600 per week additional employment aid but this is due to expire on July 31 of this year and nobody is sure that the economy will pick up by then to make sure that the people out of a job will have enough to pay their bills. I have been there in their shoes, being unemployed almost four times in my life and so the sheer panic that one would not be able to feed themselves or their families without a job is a terrifying thought.

With historically high unemployment rate, the 50 states unemployment offices are being overwhelmed with claims that are taking forever to pay out the unemployment benefits. Since the states for whatever reason did not invest in the long crumbling systems, when this pandemic came along, their systems crashed and they had to hire people and update their systems. But with less revenue coming into state treasuries, it is hard catching up to do. Since I live in New Jersey and work in New York City, I had to apply for New York unemployment insurance and it took me less than 10 minutes to file and get approved in day or so. Those were the days but the system in place was not used to this kind of overwhelming unemployment claims that have crashed or made the states’ benefits systems crash and unable to respond after some people calling them for hundreds of times or logging in for hours and days on end without any resolution of their benefits claim. This is a wake up call (if they wake up) for states to update their systems and make sure the claims are given out even if has to operate 24 hours a day to fix it because the bills will not stop while you are sleep or wait for your benefits to arrive.

The Housing Crisis that Covid-19 is creating now

Of all the continuing pain and horror that Covid-19 (the coronavirus or simply Corona or commonly pandemic) is inflicting on the wold economy, add to it the housing market namely the renters and mortgage paying lot like me. The renters are so much up in arms because they have lost their jobs that the U.S. Congress had to pass a law that during Pandemic, no renter can be evicted solely on the basis on their inability to pay their rent on time. Although a great initiative and a great help to millions of renters who are unable to pay their rent due to loss of job and/or have their work hours reduced due to low demand, it has created a movement of rent strikes aimed at forcing the landlords to stop collecting rent and stop their eviction process until this pandemic ends. There is a great deal of resentment against landlords right now but it must be emphasized that the majority of the landlords are mom and pop operations with three or less houses to rent and all these houses are mostly under a mortgage. These mom and pop landlords depend upon the rental income to pay their mortgages, utilities and other upgrades of the houses and also of their daily expenses.

I have been a Landlord and I know how it feels to be under pressure financially. Not all Landlords own their houses and most of them are under mortgage and if for one month their rents are not being paid, it cascades into a financial crisis since the Mortgage and property taxes and utility bills and maintenance does not stop. I can understand that people who have lost their jobs are increasingly under financial stress and juggling to pay their pays and how to prioritize them. Will they want to pay their mortgage first and keep roof under their heads or will they pay their car payments in order to drive to groceries and job interviews if any. Will they keep their health insurance or buy groceries with their unemployment insurance and government assistance. These are hard questions and most of the people who have little to none financial cushion are having sleepless nights and get their dignity kicked to the ground by going to food banks for the first times in their lives. These same questions are being addressed by the same small time landlords whose rents are being put on hold.  Although it is a commendable idea that rents should be frozen until this pandemic ends (God knows when it will end) but the rush to stop their rent payments will also affect the small mom and pop landlords who will have no choice but to stop Mortgage payments and in turn will get notices from the banks for foreclosure which will also hurt the renters. The best thing now is to provide direct assistance to renters who have lost their jobs by giving them at least 50 percent of their rent payments and persuade the landlords to lower their rents by the same percentage for at least a year until the economy starts to recover somewhat.


On the lighter side-Movies-Trolls World Tour (2020-Animated) –Voices of Anna Kendrick, Justine Timberlake

When the hard rock trolls try to conquer the other music genre trolls to create a one dimensional and one music world, other trolls band together to stop it. Although it was overwhelming to keep up with the characters, but it was all fun. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island (2020) – Michael Pena, Maggie Q

A group of people descend on an island where supposedly all their fantasies come true but quickly discover the deadly secrets the island harbor. Could have been more gory and bloody but played it safe. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Turning (2020)-Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard

A girl gets a job caring for two siblings in a mansion and gets trapped there with horrifying results. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Gretel & Hansel (2020) – Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey

A brother and a sister search for food in an isolated forest only to find an evil witch trying to get her hands on them. I struggled to complete this movie with no horror involved. Not Recommended

Sunday, July 5, 2020

On the lighter side-Movies- Lost Bullet (Balle Perdue) (2020-French)- Alban Lenoir, Nicolas Duvauchelle

A small time crook on the mend and working for police as their mechanic defends his innocence when his cop friend is killed by crooked cops. French movie which you can view as English dubbed or some other languages including the original French. I went with the original language and read the subtitles as I am more comfortable with it. Low budget action movie with some action and car chases. Available on Netflix.  Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-The Mandarin Mystey) (1936-B&W) –Eddie Quillan, Charlotte Henry

Ellery Queen, the detective investigates the disappearance of a valuable Stamp. Very Short Murder mystery. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Pulse (Kairo) (2001-Japan) – Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso

A group of people try to investigate that otherwordly spirits are trying to enter human world via internet. Slowly moving dated movie with very little creepy stuff going on. Not recommended