Feb 3, 2021
COVID TEST KITS AVAILABLE TO ABILENE EMPLOYERS
On Jan. 22, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statewide directive asking local Chambers of Commerce to work with state emergency management officials to make COVID-19 Rapid Test kits available to employers.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce has agreed to serve as a test kit distributor on a first-come, first served basis. Each test kit will contain 40 tests and can be administered by the employer in the event a suspected infection exists in the workplace which will in return allow employees to resume work more safely and quickly.

“From the Chamber’s perspective, it is our hope that by indicating a downward trend among those tested we may see a more rapid and full reopening of our local economy,” said Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. “Testing through use of these free test kits is entirely voluntary.”

COVID-19 EXPOSES MORTGAGE MARKET VULNERABILITIES
The COVID-19-induced financial market shock in March 2020 significantly disrupted the market for agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS)—those guaranteed by Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association), Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.) and Ginnie Mae (Government National Mortgage Association).

Mortgage real estate investment trusts (MREITs), which invest in mortgage loans and securities backed by residential and commercial properties, are viewed as the marginal investors in the agency MBS market. MREITs principally finance these holdings with short-term debt and became deeply affected by the COVID-19 shock. To quickly generate liquidity, they sold agency MBS—a deleveraging that contributed to market volatility.

The Federal Reserve responded to these dynamics by purchasing agency MBS and, for the first time, agency commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Lessons learned a decade earlier during the global financial crisis about the adverse effects of dysfunction in core asset markets proved instructive in the Fed response.

Source: dallasfed.org
PERSONAL INCOMES AND SAVINGS REMAIN HIGH
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported income and savings data for December on Friday. Income rose 0.6% and savings 6.8% compared to November. Income is now 2.4% higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Savings is a whopping 71% higher.

Throughout the aftermath of the COVID-19 shock, income and savings data have been anomalies compared to other economic contractions. Both have risen sharply since February of 2020. During previous contractions they declined, which makes sense because many people lost their jobs and businesses’ incomes fell. It follows that savings fell too as families had to dip into reserves to make ends meet.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported income and savings data for December on Friday. Income rose 0.6% and savings 6.8% compared to November. Income is now 2.4% higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Savings is a whopping 71% higher.

Throughout the aftermath of the COVID-19 shock, income and savings data have been anomalies compared to other economic contractions. Both have risen sharply since February of 2020. During previous contractions they declined, which makes sense because many people lost their jobs and businesses’ incomes fell. It follows that savings fell too as families had to dip into reserves to make ends meet.
What’s going on? The story of why income has remained elevated this time is one of government support. The pandemic relief payments and higher unemployment benefits boosted incomes April through July. Then the return of workers to previously lost jobs kept incomes afloat through the end of the year, as did extra unemployment benefits for some of those out of work.

In December, the monthly increase in income was from workers earning more and higher government transfer payments. The increase in transfer payments came from higher unemployment benefits and a new round of checks that Congress passed at the end of the year helped, as well as a bump in payments to medical providers.

The increase in savings was likely caused by the surge in virus cases in November and December. That lead to people spending less (consumption was down in December) because they were less willing to go out and because renewed government restrictions in some areas closed many stores, mostly restaurants and bars.

Bottom line: Strong income and savings levels are two of the key reasons analysts expect a strong bounce for the economy later this year when reduced virus levels should allow us to go back to something closer to normal. Consumers will have the money to spend when that time comes. Expect them to spend strongly on services they have not been able to spend on in nearly a year, such as restaurants, bars, travel, tourism, and other forms of entertainment like movies, theaters, and sporting events.

—Curtis Dubay, Senior Economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
B-1BS TO DEPLOY TO NORWAY
U.S. B-1B bombers will deploy to Norway for the first time, in both a message to Russia and a sign of the growing importance of the Arctic. B-1Bs from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, will fly out of Orland Air Base on the coast of the Norwegian Sea. While bombers have repeatedly flown alongside Norwegian aircraft, this will be the first time Lancers will operate out of a base in the country, according to U.S. European Command.

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FEB 3 PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM (PPP) The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was re-launched in 2021 as a result of the Economic Aid Act signed into law December 27, 2020. It is now open for small business owners to submit applications directly to participating SBA lenders, but not for long. Applications must be received by PPP lenders no later than March 31, 2021. This free webinar takes place at 2:00 PM and will discuss the specifics of the PPP. Register Here.

FEB 24 MICROSOFT 365 PRODUCTIVITY & PLANNING Get the most out of your Microsoft 365 applications! In this training we’ll show you how to use the tools available in Microsoft 365 to maximize your business’s productivity and organization. This virtual webinar event is free and open to the public. Register here.

MARCH 24 SECURITY AWARENESS Did you know your team is your first line of defense when it comes to your business’s cybersecurity? Learn how to boost your defenses by training your team on Security Awareness. This virtual webinar is free and open to the public. Register here.

MARCH 25 & 26, APRIL 1 & 2 ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPY VIRTUAL TRAINING SERIES The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission are leading this series on development training suited for large and small organizations from any discipline with limited development staff. They will highlight the best practices while facilitating dynamic group interactions to help attendees build and strengthen their fundraising "tool-kit" so they can more effectively and sustainably achieve their mission. Click Here to learn more and Click Here to Register Now.