Categories
Economy

Debt: ‘The first step towards change is admitting you have a problem’

A little over a year ago, 30-year-old Clare Seal was £27,000 in debt, and in denial.

Ten years of living month to month, two pregnancies and a “Pinterest-perfect wedding” had caused her to lose her grip on her family’s finances – and avoiding the issue was easier than asking for help.

Calls from the bank were diverted to voicemail. Letters piled up, unopened. Her rock-bottom reckoning, in March 2019, revealed £25,000 of credit card debt, a £2,000 overdraft, and no accessible savings.

At the time, she was a social media manager, her husband works in hospitality, and their joint income was £64,000.

Desperate to break the cycle of debt, but too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, she started @myfrugalyear on Instagram and posted a screenshot of what she owed.

The account was anonymous, but it felt like radical transparency from a woman who had until then been unable to confront the state of her finances. “The first step towards change is admitting you have a problem,” she wrote in the caption for that first post.

Fourteen months later, @myfrugalyear has almost 50,000 followers – and Seal is celebrating what would have once seemed an impossible milestone: paying down £10,000 of debt. “It feels a lot lighter,” she sighs with relief by phone from Bath.

Now self-employed as a copywriter, she cast off her anonymity earlier this year to share what she has learned in a book: Real Life Money, billed as “an honest guide to taking control of your finances”.

Waiting until she was back in the black would have made for a tidier narrative, she agrees, but she hopes that sharing her story now will inspire others to act before their debt spirals any further out of control.

“A lot of financial advice from people who have come out the other side can feel a bit smug and unattainable when you’re still in it and feeling very sensitive. What I really wanted to do is write the book that I needed to begin with.

“If what it takes for other people to be able to be more open is for me to come out and say ‘I was in this position, these are the mistakes I made’, I’m fine to talk about it.”

According to the Money Charity, the average credit card debt of each UK household is £2,595. But figures tell only part of the story of someone’s relationship to spending and saving. There are so many contributing factors – including personality and upbringing.

“At a certain age it becomes very apparent who got a good financial grounding from their parents – which is a privilege in itself,” says Seal. “Whereas you could be from a family where there was loads of money about but it was just never talked about, so you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. All of these chasms start to appear between us and our friends and our families, and they just grow bigger.”

Ever since she was a child, Seal has been inclined to spend, especially during times of emotional upheaval. When her father died, leaving her £10,000, the then 20-year-old Seal spent most of it on a holiday to Bali.

With the exception of her wedding (which, though far from extravagant, cost about £15,000), she amassed credit card debt through mostly small buys, such as houseplants and cushions – especially those she saw on Instagram.

The app encourages spending, by both targeting ads and inviting comparison with others. “Caring too much about what other people think about you can be a massive financial burden – that’s always been a massive problem I’ve had,” says Seal.

“If I could have caught myself earlier, that’s what I would say: how you and your life look to other people is not worth sacrificing your financial wellness for.”

Her social media-driven spending peaked over the summer of 2018, when she was on her second maternity leave, and especially susceptible to the pull of Instagram “tribalism”.

“A new baby can be a really isolating experience,” she says. “If you’re shown loads of women wearing a certain jumper, or carrying a certain changing bag, it can help you to feel part of something.”

While Instagram may have exacerbated her money problems, it also provided a path out of them. Starting @myfrugalyear not only removed the temptation to spend, she says, “it helped me to get over some of the shame that I felt about having projected a life that was so different to what I was living.”

Within six weeks, @myfrugalyear attracted 10,000 followers wanting to break the silence around debt, sharing experiences and support.

The online community has helped to tackle her debt. By tracking her family’s finances on an app (she uses Money Dashboard) she was able to set a weekly budget. Small changes, such as planning meals in advance and secondhand shopping, have made a big difference, allowing the family to reduce their debt by between £500 and £1,000 each month.

Stories of personal finance are often framed as individual triumphs or failures, out of context from structural factors such as government austerity and stagnating wages, or personal circumstances such as illness or leaving an abusive relationship.

Seal is careful to make the distinction between being broke, as she was for many years, and being poor – the latter being much harder to lift yourself out of by belt-tightening alone. “I haven’t had to do that climb out of poverty. There are so many factors in that, barriers that shouldn’t exist.

“For me, it’s about personal accountability and responsibility. For some people it’s not.”

Other forms of privilege, such as race and gender, are also relevant – as demonstrated by recent data showing that BAME women in the UK are already suffering greater financial and psychological consequences from the coronavirus pandemic than their white counterparts.

But among people who do earn a living wage, she has learned “you’re at just as much risk of having a really difficult relationship with money if you’re earning six figures, as if you’re earning £40,000. You can’t earn your way out of a bad relationship with money.”

The persistent moralising around money prevents many from seeking help, sometimes with tragic consequences. A 2018 report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that people with problem debt were three times more likely to have considered suicide.

The statistics are “horrifying”, says Seal – and evidence of the real toll of financial difficulty, and the shame surrounding it, on mental health. “I guarantee that for a lot of those people there was help available if they had felt able to open up about it.”

Her goal is to help people to get a grip on the “emotional side of finance” so that the subject becomes less loaded.

The message may be especially relevant now, she says, given the consequences of coronavirus for the economy. With her husband furloughed and her own work insecure, they may be slower to pay off their debt than they had hoped.

But the experience of reckoning with her finances has left her better placed to cope with the uncertainty, she adds. “All I can do at this point is be really glad that this did not happen last year.”

Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances by Clare Seal is out now

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected] In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

Five switches to live frugally

Rather than buying new, I automatically check eBay and Facebook Marketplace to see if I can find things secondhand – you can pay a fraction of the price.

Check to see if your bank will refund late payment and unarranged overdraft charges, especially if you’ve been experiencing financial difficulty. They might be able to refund up to 12 months of charges, which can be a much-needed boost.

Inquire about your interest rate on borrowing. By reducing, or freezing, interest, you can save more than £100 a month on large balances.

Use a switch service to keep on top of your bills. By getting the best gas, electricity and broadband deal, you can save hundreds a year.

Audit your subscriptions. Get rid of any you aren’t using (especially at the moment). Often if you go to unsubscribe from services like NowTV or Audible, they’ll offer you a slashed price to tempt you to stay.

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Categories
Economy

Banking apps: what do they offer – and how is your cash protected?

When the Financial Conduct Authority ordered the UK arm of payments firm Wirecard to freeze customer funds, hundreds of thousands of people who had probably never even heard of the company suddenly found they could not access their cash.

Customers of several UK banking and payment services, including FairFX, Pockit, U Account and Anna Money, were told that their money was caught up in the regulator’s action against the firm, leaving some unable to buy food or pay bills.

Normal service was resumed on Tuesday but the events of last weekend have thrown a spotlight on the financial technology sector, which includes a number of major players offering bank-style products such as Revolut, Curve and gohenry.

Many of these usually smartphone-based services are aimed at the millions of people who the traditional banks either do not want or struggle to cater for, such as those with a poor credit history or who have just arrived in the UK.

Most of the players offering such bank-style accounts are not actually banks – typically they are e-money institutions, which are not covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This puts them into a different category to companies such as Monzo, Starling, Tandem and Atom, which are all fully-fledged banks offering FSCS protection up to £85,000.

There are lots of UK firms in this market that do not use Wirecard and were therefore unaffected. However, some of them piggyback on other third-party companies, which often provide their accounts or payment cards for them.

Revolut

What is it? Launched in 2015, it claims to have 3 million UK customers, and more than 12 million globally. It offers a bank-style account with a debit card, plus various other services, and is popular with people who frequently spend and send money abroad.

It says the majority of its customers are serviced via Revolut Ltd, an authorised e-money institution based in London.

What does it offer? There are three plans available. The standard option has no monthly subscription and lets you withdraw up to £200 a month from ATMs before fees are applied. You can also spend abroad in more than 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate. Then there are the Premium and Metal plans at £6.99 and £12.99 a month respectively. These offer higher limits on withdrawals and other services including some travel cover and accounts for kids.

How is people’s money protected? In terms of the UK, it says customer funds are securely held in ringfenced accounts with “a tier one UK bank”. Revolut said in December that it intended to acquire a UK banking licence in the future. If and when that does happen, it would be covered by the FSCS.

Curve

What is it? A service allowing people to spend from any of their accounts using only one card. You add your eligible Mastercard or Visa debit and credit cards to the Curve app and then spend using your Curve card.

Launched in 2015, Curve says it has 1.3 million customers across Europe. It was one of the companies caught up in the Wirecard incident. Curve’s cards were suspended for two or three days because it relied on Wirecard for its financial transactions – but it was already well on the way to migrating to its own systems and this process was completed a few days ago. Curve cards and e-money are now issued by Curve OS, an authorised e-money institution based in London.

What does it offer? There are three plans available. Curve Blue has no monthly subscription and comes with some perks, including an introductory cashback offer and some fee-free foreign ATM withdrawals, and there are also £9.99 a month and £14.99 a month options with extra benefits, including travel insurance.

There is no money stored in your Curve account, so it is not a pre-paid card. You select the account you would like to pay with by tapping the related payment card in the app.

How is people’s money protected? Curve says: “We have a safeguarding account that means there is a pot of money separate from the company’s money, should anything happen to us as a business.”

Monese

What is it? Launched in 2015 and initially targeting “unbanked, expat and immigrant consumers”, it claims to have more than 2.5 million people signed up in the UK and across Europe. It offers a bank-style account that comes with a debit card.

Monese says it is a registered agent of PrePay Technologies, a London-based authorised e-money institution. (For EU customers, it is a different e-money institution: a Belgian company called PPS EU SA, authorised by the National Bank of Belgium.)

What does it offer? There are three plans available. Simple has no monthly subscription (you pay £4.95 for your card to be delivered) and lets you withdraw up to £200 a month from ATMs before fees are applied. Plus, there is £2,000 a month of “free” foreign currency card spending. There is also a Classic option for £5.95 a month and a Premium one for £14.95 a month.

How is people’s money protected? Monese told us it has to keep all customer money separate to its own company finances. “This guarantees that even in the unlikely event that Monese is no longer in business, all of our customers would receive 100% of their balance back.”

gohenry

What is it? A prepaid card and app with parental controls for young people aged six to 18. It counts as an e-money product. Founded by a group of parents in 2012, gohenry boasts more than 900,000 customers in the UK (it also operates in the US).

It works with two companies that help provide its services. Its cards are issued by IDT Financial Services, a Gibraltar-based bank regulated in the territory. It also works with Adyen, a Dutch-based payments firm that obtained a European banking licence in 2017 and whose customers include Facebook and Uber.

What does it offer? It is a pre-paid card that lets children spend money with retailers where they cannot pay cash. Parents can top up their child’s card and set spending rules, so they stay in control. They can decide where the card can be used – in shops, online or at cash machines – and are notified when and where their child is spending. It costs £2.99 a child each month, although you can join free for one month.

How is people’s money protected? It says customers’ money is ringfenced and held in a secure NatWest account. It told us: “Should IDT Financial Services go out of business, both Visa and the regulator [in Gibraltar] would step in to protect customer funds and ensure they are returned to customers.”

Cashplus

What is it? Set up in 2005, it offers personal and business current accounts, and says that since launch it has had more than 1.6 million customers. Its personal account offers a debit card.

What does it offer? It claims to be “like a bank account, just better” and offers things such as payment alerts, where you are notified if a direct debit is due and you do not have enough cash ready to pay it, and a Creditbuilder plan that helps you build up your credit score when you pay the monthly fee. You can pay cash in at any post office. There are three pricing plans where the monthly fee varies from zero to £9.95. Everyone pays a £5.95 card issue fee. The option with no monthly fee, Flexiplus, has charges for various things, such as 99p for each UK purchase and direct debit, and £2 for UK ATM withdrawals.

How is people’s money protected? It is an authorised e-money institution with an e-money licence, although it says it is in the final stages of applying to become a bank, at which point it would be covered by the FSCS. It says customers’ money is held in a safeguarded bank account held by a major UK bank.

Thinkmoney

What is it? A digital banking service that went live in 2001 and offers a current account with a debit card, plus loan options. It says it has “helped thousands of people pay their bills on time, avoid late payment charges and improve their credit score”. It is an authorised e-money institution.

What does it offer? With this account, money for regular payments is held separately so they are paid on time and any cash not needed for bills is then available to spend. It promises no fees if it refuses a payment because of a lack of funds – for example, if a direct debit bounces. However, its standard monthly fee is £10.

How is people’s money protected? It says customers’ cash is held in a separate safeguarded Royal Bank of Scotland account. It adds that its cards are directly issued by Think Money Ltd, so it is not reliant on another company.

Are you covered by a compensation scheme?

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protects your money up to £85,000 for all banks, building societies and credit unions that are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Some firms may be authorised and appear on the FCA’s financial services register but if they are not a bank, building society or credit union, they are not covered by the compensation scheme.

For example, the FSCS does not protect people if they have money in an electronic money – or e-money – firm or payment services company and it goes bust. Electronic money (including prepaid cards) is considered a method of payment, not a deposit held by a bank or building society, so it is not covered by the FSCS.

The FCA says e-money institutions have to safeguard customers’ money – this means they must either keep it separate from their own cash, ie in a separate bank account, or protect it with an insurance policy or comparable guarantee. “This should mean that if that company becomes insolvent, you get most of your money back,” it says.

However, the FCA warns that it could take longer to be refunded than if your money was in a bank and some costs are likely to be deducted by the administrator or liquidator of the insolvent company.

You can check if a firm is an e-money firm or payment services business by searching the financial services register.

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Economy

England eases lockdown: how pubs, hairdressers and restaurants will work

Saturday marks the biggest easing of lockdown rules in England since the government announced businesses could start reopening.

The social distancing guidance has been cut to 1-metre-plus, and people can stay away from home overnight. Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and tourist attractions can throw open their doors, hairdressers and barbers can power up the clippers, and hotels, B&Bs and campsites can welcome holidaymakers.

All businesses are promising more cleaning and an abundance of hand sanitiser, and will have to take other measures to keep staff and customers safe. Things will look very different from when we went into lockdown in March. So what can you expect if you venture out?

Hairdressers and barbers

Take a good book if you’re off to get your lockdown locks shorn – there won’t be any magazines to flick through while you are there. Refreshments are off the menu at many salons, although some will still have a limited range. Music will be turned down or turned off, so you won’t have to raise your voice when making small talk.

Hairdressers and barbers will all be wearing see-through visors, and many will provide you with a face mask. At Supercuts, you’ll get a disposable gown, too – the chain is charging customers a £3.60 fee to cover the extra measures it has had to put in place. At Toni & Guy, disposable towels, made of biodegradable viscose fibres, will be used. Salons using reusable towels and gowns will have to wash them after each customer. Payment will be contactless – either via a terminal, or some businesses will be settling bills through their websites and apps.

Your trip won’t be the laid-back pampering experience it was before: salons have been advised to get you out of the door as quickly as possible. You can still get a colour, but if you’re a man looking for a shave, you’re out of luck – barbers can only do haircuts initially.

Pubs

Don’t assume that your local is open – some owners have decided to delay their emergence from lockdown until a quieter day of the week. Revolution Bars, for example, will only open from Monday. Those that are open may insist that you book in advance, and you may have a limited time at a table.

Even if you do just turn up, you could be asked to provide your contact details. Wetherspoons, for example, will be collecting names and phone numbers on forms which say when you arrived and left – this is for the NHS test and trace programme.

Once there, you may be asked to sanitise your hands before being led to a table by a staff member. There will be no standing at the bar. Pubs will have table service, either sending staff to take customers’ orders or using an app to allow people to buy a round. Most will not offer their usual range of food, and instead of your burger coming with a bottle of ketchup that is moved between tables, you may get a selection of sachets.

There won’t be live music, but there may be football to watch and you can play pool, as long as taking a shot doesn’t mean breaking distancing rules.

You can meet up to five people from different households if you sit outside, so expect groups of friends to have booked up the beer gardens. Inside, members of two households can meet, but many pubs will not let you move chairs between tables. Some pubs are taking over pavements or car parks to provide enough outdoor seating.

Face masks

Wearing face masks is only mandatory on public transport in England, but other traders may ask you to wear one.

In some hairdressers, for instance, you will be given a mask. You are not legally obliged to wear one, but if you refuse to, you may not get served – different companies are taking different stances.

As a customer, you may be concerned about other people who aren’t wearing them. You could ask to be seated as far away from them as possible, but with space at a premium this may not be possible. Your only option could be to leave if you don’t feel safe.

Hotels

You will spot the difference as soon as you enter reception, with many hotels installing screens to protect staff as they greet visitors. Your keycard may have a faint tang of bleach, as it will have been sterilised after its last use, and you may need to lug your cases up the stairs as lift use will be restricted.

When you get to your room, you can still expect tea and coffee making facilities and toiletries, but hotels are paring back everything else. Malmaison is replacing magazines and newspapers with digital versions for guests instead. The notebooks and pencils are also out, replaced with complimentary sanitiser wipes. The minibar will be empty, but you can order drinks and snacks for it when you check in. IHG, which runs hotels including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, has removed some furnishings from its rooms.

For many, the biggest disappointment will be the loss of the breakfast buffet. Instead of being able to help yourself to an assortment of pastries, cereals and cooked food, you may be offered a pre-prepared box of goodies, or order cafe-style at the posher hotels.

While you stay, Travelodge says, staff won’t enter your room. IHG says you will be able to see when areas were last cleaned.

Parks

Parks could end up being the overspill areas for pubs, which are now allowed to sell drinks for consumption off their premises. Councils are urging people to behave responsibility and take their litter home.

The government has said playgrounds can reopen, but some councils have decided it isn’t yet safe to allow children back on the climbing frames. If you are planning to take to the swings, remember they won’t be cleaned down between use, so pack some sanitiser and gloves.

Toilets

Councils have been reopening public toilets, but not all will be available again, so don’t count on being able to go to the loo when you’re out. Now pubs are open, things should be better than when they were just offering off-sales. The same is true of restaurants, which will be opening toilets to those who are eating in. Some pubs are introducing a traffic light system for the toilets – Greene King pubs will ask customers to flip an indicator when they enter and exit. Wetherspoons is asking people to keep left as they approach and enter its loos.

Tips

Your gratitude at not having to wash up after dinner, combined with the knowledge that the hospitality sector has had a bad time, may well inspire a generous tip. Most retailers are going cashless, or at least doing everything they can to encourage people to use cards. And the same will generally apply to tips – where you may have previously left cash on the table, you will be asked to tip when paying electronically. The Mexican food chain Wahaca says tips will need to be made by card, and that is pretty standard across the sector. At Supercuts, if you want to tip your hairdresser in cash you will need to put it in an envelope with the stylist’s name on, and it will be quarantined for 72 hours.

Eating out

Paper menus which are thrown away after every visit, or digital versions available on your phone, have replaced the reusable versions used by most restaurants and cafes pre-pandemic. What’s on the menu may have changed since your last visit, too – Pizza Express, which will open 44 of its branches from 9 July, has reduced its offering, and many others have done the same to make social distancing easier for kitchen staff.

Most restaurants will have fewer tables and chairs to allow more room around customers. At the noodle chain Wagamama the shared tables and benches remain, but there are moveable screens which will be put between groups and cleaned between visits. The company, which will open its Royal Festival Hall branch on Saturday and others later in the month, will also sanitise sauce bottles after every group has left. At Wahaca there will be no sauce bottles on tables. But you can still sip your Corona, and other beers, out of the bottle if you want to.

Cinemas

Lights, camera, anti-viral cleanser … while several of the big chains such as Vue, Cineworld and Picturehouse have said they will not start to open their doors until 31 July, the Odeon chain is due to open 10 locations on Saturday. Showcase is opening nine venues and Everyman, six.

There will be no more tall people sitting in front of you or children kicking the back of your seat, because cinemas are limiting the number of seats available for each film and guaranteeing unoccupied seats between parties.

Staff are likely to be wearing masks, and many chains are encouraging filmgoers to do the same. People are being urged to book in advance online, and the Odeon is among those that will not be accepting cash.

Pick ’n’ mix stands have been banished, but there will be food and drink: the Odeon will be selling prepackaged items, while Everyman will bring your orders to your seat to avoid queuing.

A video on the Showcase site makes clear that there will be a great deal of cleaning going on – it features a man in a hi-vis tabard, gloves and mask liberally spraying anti-viral cleanser all over the seats. You may want to check for damp patches before you sit down.

Theme parks

If strapping yourself into a rollercoaster and being hurled around at 80mph is what’s needed to cure your lockdown blues then, good news: theme parks due to reopen on Saturday include Thorpe Park in Surrey; Alton Towers in Staffordshire; Legoland Windsor in Berkshire; Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey; Blackpool Pleasure Beach; and Paultons Park in Hampshire.

In many cases visitors must book online in advance to guarantee entry, as the parks are restricting the numbers who can visit. And some rides may be closed – for example, Legoland said Lego City Deep Sea Adventure and Haunted House Monster Party would be shut for the time being. The same applies to the dodgems at some locations, including Blackpool.

On arrival, visitors to many theme parks will have their temperature checked. If you don’t agree to this or you are found to have a high temperature, you won’t be going in.

When it comes to face masks, the rules vary. At Thorpe Park, you will need to bring one, and everyone over the age of six must wear one on certain rides. For water rides it recommends you remove them “in case they get wet”. Paultons Park says visitors will not be required to wear a face covering. Chessington says a securely fitted mask will be mandatory on certain rides, and that if you forget to bring yours, you can pick them up there … for £6 each.

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Weather

Rain and drizzle is forecast for the north, lasting well into the afternoon. In other parts of the country there will be grey skies and strong winds – putting a damper on outdoor pub lunches, making socially distanced queuing less attractive and ensuring more people stay at home than could have been expected.

Roads

Some motoring groups are predicting the easing of lockdown could mean the busiest day of the year so far. RAC Breakdown’s prediction that 10.5 million drivers could take to the road may be a worst-case scenario, but areas around tourist hotspots and visitor attractions are likely to be busy. By contrast, the AA says it “does not expect mass congestion across the road network”, adding: “Many will choose to stay home or close to home.” Trains are up and running, but you must remember a face mask.

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Economy

Unemployment is highest in these 10 states

America sees record job growth as the economy adds 4.8 million jobs and the unemployment rate drops to 11 percent

Fox Business Briefs: The job market shows signs of improvement as close to 5 million jobs added and a drop in the unemployment rate.

The U.S. economy added almost 5 million jobs in June as more businesses reopened from the coronavirus-induced lockdown and hired idled workers.

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Buoyed by the record-shattering figure, the nation's unemployment unexpectedly dropped to 11.1 percent from 13.3 percent in May. Over the course of the past month, every state has started to navigate reopening their economies.

VIRUS STILL KEEPING CLOSE TO 140,000 BUSINESSES CLOSED, REPORT SHOWS

But the unemployment level, which is still at the highest level in decades, is expected to remain elevated for years to come, particularly as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases threatens to put the brakes on the economy's nascent recovery. New cases surpassed 50,000 twice in a row this week, reaching a new single-day record on Thursday.

"Today’s jobs report is a look in the rearview mirror," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor. "With surging COVID-19 cases hitting new highs in the past week, rough waters are surely ahead for the economy in the coming months as a second wave could again shutter millions of American small businesses and put a freeze on hiring."

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IF YOU REFUSE TO GO BACK TO WORK?

Job losses are not proportional across the country. Some states have experienced a tidal wave of layoffs — in May, 43 states set record jobless rate highs — while the losses have been more tempered in other states.

The unemployment rate is highest in these 10 states, according to Department of Labor data released at the end of June:

EXTRA $600 IN UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ENDS NEXT MONTH AS MILLIONS OF AMERICANS REMAIN OUT OF WORK

Nevada's economy was hit hard by the shuttering of its massive casino and tourism industries. The unemployment had actually ticked down slightly from 28.2 percent the prior month.

At the beginning of June, the state reopened casinos, restaurants and bars at a limited capacity. But after an increased number of COVID-19 cases, the state mandated that everyone in a public space must wear a mask and hit pause on moving into the next phase of reopening (which was slated to begin on June 30).

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Economy

IMMU Continues Ascent, IDXG On Fire, REGN’s Kevzara Disappoints In COVID-19 Trial, BLFS On Watch

Today’s Daily Dose brings you news about BioLife Solutions’ preliminary second-quarter revenue estimate; Immunomedics’ immediate catalyst; Interpace Biosciences’ stock price spike; MEI Pharma discontinuing Pracinostat trial in AML patients due to lack of efficacy and disappointing outcome from Regeneron/Sanofi’s study evaluating Kevzara in COVID-19 patients.

Read on…

1. BioLife’s Q2 Revenue Defies Covid-19 Impact

Shares of BioLife Solutions Inc. (BLFS) were up over 12% in Thursday’s trading, following better-than-expected revenue estimates for the second quarter of 2020.

The Company has announced preliminary revenue for the second quarter of 2020 of $9.6 million to $9.8 million, representing 43% to 46% growth over the same quarter in 2019. Wall Street analysts are expecting revenue of $8.52 million for the quarter.

BLFS closed Thursday’s trading at $17.98, up 12.09%.

2. Immunomedics To Provide Clinical Update On Monday

Immunomedics Inc. (IMMU) is all set to provide a clinical update on Monday, July 6, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

The Company’s lead product is TRODELVY (sacituzumab govitecan-hziy), which received accelerated FDA approval as recently as April, for the treatment of adult patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC) who have received at least two prior therapies.

Continued approval depends upon verification of clinical benefit in phase III confirmatory trial of Trodelvy in third-line mTNBC, dubbed ASCENT. The topline data readout from the ASCENT study is expected around mid-2020.

A phase III study of Trodelvy in hormone receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative metastatic breast cancer, known as TROPiCS-02, is underway.

Trodelvy is also being tested in a phase II trial in stage IV urothelial cancer after failure of a platinum-based regimen and/or anti-PD-1/PD-L1-based therapies, dubbed TROPHY U-01.

IMMU touched a new 52-week high of $37.69 in intraday trading before closing at $37.54, up 1.71%. In after-hours, the stock was up 3.89% at $39.00.

3. Interpace Biosciences On Fire

Interpace Biosciences Inc. (IDXG) has developed COVIANT, a qualitative blood test for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in human plasma and serum.

According to the Company website, the test has not been reviewed by the FDA but its availability and performance have been determined to be appropriate with Emergency Use Authorization approval granted to the kit manufacturer, EUROIMMUN US, Mountain Lakes.

Historically, the Company has been providing molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and pathology services for evaluation of the risk of cancer. ThyGeNEXT for the diagnosis of thyroid cancer from thyroid nodules utilizing a next-generation sequencing assay; ThyraMIR for the diagnosis of thyroid cancer from thyroid nodules utilizing a proprietary gene expression assay; PancraGEN for the diagnosis and prognosis of pancreatic cancer from pancreatic cysts and RespriDX that differentiates lung cancer of primary vs. metastatic origin are the Company’s four commercialized molecular tests. One test is also in clinical development and it goes by the name BarreGEN for Barrett’s Esophagus.

COVIANT, the serology antibody ELISA testing for COVID-19, was developed in response to customer interest.

IDXG closed Thursday’s trading at $6.14, up 39.23%. In after-hours, the stock was up another 11.07% at $6.82.

4. MEIP/Helsinn Pull The Plug On Pracinostat Trial In AML Patients

Shares of MEI Pharma Inc. (MEIP) tumbled on Thursday after the Company’s decision to discontinue the ongoing phase III study of Pracinostat in combination with chemotherapy drug Vidaza (azacitidine) in patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia who are unfit to receive standard intensive chemotherapy.

In August 2016, MEI Pharma licensed Pracinostat to Helsinn, a Swiss pharmaceutical group, in Acute Myeloid Leukemia and other indications, including MDS.

The decision to discontinue the trial was based on the Independent Data Monitoring Committee’s interim futility analysis that has demonstrated the study was unlikely to meet the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to the control group.

However, patients currently enrolled in other Pracinostat studies will continue treatment, noted the companies.

MEIP closed Thursday’s trading at $3.49, down 18.27%.

5. Regeneron/Sanofi’s Arthritis Drug Kevzara Disappoints In COVID-19 Trial

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (REGN) and Sanofi (SNY) on Thursday announced that their U.S. phase III trial of arthritis drug Kevzara 400 mg in COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation did not meet its primary and key secondary endpoints when Kevzara was added to best supportive care compared to best supportive care alone (placebo). Moreover, adverse events were experienced by 80% of COVID-19 patients treated with Kevzara and 77% of placebo patients.

Based on the disappointing outcome, the U.S.-based trial of Kevzara in COVID-19 patients has been stopped.

A separate phase II/III trial led by Sanofi outside of the U.S. in hospitalized patients with severe and critical COVID-19 using a different dosing regimen is ongoing. The companies expect to report the results of this trial outside of the U.S. this quarter (Q3, 2020).

Kevzara is an approved drug for rheumatoid arthritis and it is being tested for repurposing to treat COVID-19 based on data from a single-arm study in China suggesting that the interleukin-6 pathway may play an important role in the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients with COVID-19. Kevzara is also an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist.

REGN closed Thursday’s trading at $622.45, up 2.18%. In after-hours, the stock was down 1.54% at $611.

6. Stocks That Moved On No News

MTBC Inc. (MTBC) closed Thursday’s trading at $9.55, up 12.88%.

Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. (AGTC) closed Thursday’s trading at $6.43, up 10.29%.

Rocket Pharmaceuticals Inc. (RCKT) closed Thursday’s trading at $22.55, up 10%.

Liminal BioSciences Inc. (LMNL) closed Thursday’s trading at $16.75, down 26.50%.

Qualigen Therapeutics, Inc. (QLGN) closed Thursday’s trading at $4.10, down 10.28%.

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Economy

IRS urges Americans to activate prepaid stimulus cards

Next round of stimulus could come as late as September: Gasparino

FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has confirmed the FOX Business report that the next stimulus could be delayed to give more targeted relief.

The IRS is looking to make sure people who were supposed to receive their economic impact payments on prepaid debit cards have them in their possession.

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The tax agency is starting to send out reminders to people to activate their cards, according to the National Consumer Law Center.

About 4 million people, who did not have direct deposit information on file with the IRS, were expected to receive their economic impact payments on prepaid debit cards.

TRUMP SUPPORTS STIMULUS PAYMENTS LARGER THAN $1,200 IN NEXT STIMULUS BILL, HE TELLS FBN

The memo might be an indicator to some that they either never received the card, or may have tossed it.

There were concerns that people may mistake the plain envelopes for junk mail and accidentally throw out their prepaid cars.

Another sign you may have missed your card in the mail is if you receive a letter from the IRS, signed by President Trump, which details how much money you should have received.

These letters were expected to be sent two weeks after the economic impact payments.

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One way you might want to address the issue is by calling the number at the bottom of the IRS letter, 800-919-9835. The agency has recalled some staff who will be available to take phone calls.

Further, if you believe you threw the card away or misplaced it, you can also follow directions specifically for the prepaid cards, which will allow you to block unauthorized transactions as well.

The government provides information for people whose card is lost or stolen, which directs them to log in at EIPCard.com to block unauthorized transactions and call 1-800-240-8100 to report it.

Meanwhile, President Trump told FOX Business on Wednesday that he supports issuing more direct payments to people, which could potentially be valued at more than $1,200.

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Economy

3 reasons to pay student loans in coronavirus forbearance

US adults carry an average student debt of $24K

42 percent say they regret taking out a student loan; Fox Biz Flash: 6/24.

Since March, federal student loans have been put into forbearance through to Sept. 30 under the CARES Act, which has paused interest for borrowers who have been actively making payments. For individuals who have the funds to pay down debt can choose to save or spend their money elsewhere, however, there are some incentives for targeting student loans.

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WHAT THE CARES ACT MEANS FOR YOUR STUDENT LOANS — EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Here are three ways borrowers benefit from paying their student loans during the coronavirus-related forbearance period, according to a money expert.

Paying Reduces the Principal

(iStock)

“Right now, student loans are at zero percent interest. That means every dollar you pay towards you loan goes to principal, shortening the life of the loan and the total amount repaid,” said Amy Lins, a senior director of learning and development at Money Management International.

STUDENT LOAN DEFERMENT VS. FORBEARANCE: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

To pay student loans as soon as possible, pay more than that standard payment, she said.

“Stimulus money, tax refunds or extra money in your budget: put it all towards paying down or paying off your loans,” Lins said.

HOW STATES ARE HELPING PRIVATE STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS DURING CORONAVIRUS

Not Paying Can Change Spending Habits

(iStock)

“If you skip your payment when you don’t have a financial need to do so, the temptation is to spend that money on non-essential items,” Lins explained. “Don’t spend your student loan payments on consumables that will be long gone while your student debt remains. Don’t get used to that ‘extra’ cash. It’s not extra. [You can] put it towards paying down your loans.”

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Adjusting Payments Can Help

(iStock)

“If you’ve had a reduced household income or increased expenses, don’t wait for October. Go to studentaid.gov now and review your different payment options, including income-driven repayment,” Lins shared as an alternative. “Estimate your new payment amount, apply for a new plan and start paying that amount immediately.”

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“This will help you gauge whether your budget is livable with your new payment,” she added. “You can see if you need to make more budget adjustments before the forbearance expires and you are required to start making payments.”

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Economy

US economy created 4.8M jobs last month: These industries saw the biggest gains

4.8M jobs added in June

The June jobs report revealed 4.8 million jobs were added last month with the unemployment rate at 11.1 percent. FOX Business’ Cheryl Casone with more.

The U.S. economy created a better-than-expected 4.8 million jobs in June as states gradually eased coronavirus restrictions, allowing more businesses to reopen and rehire idled workers.

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UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS TO 11.1% IN JUNE AS JOB GROWTH BLOWS PAST EXPECTATIONS

It marked the second consecutive month of growth in the millions, indicating a continued improvement in the nation's stressed labor market as business activity resumed. The unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent, down from 13.3 percent in May.

Still, economists cautioned the news was not all positive: Because the report was conducted in mid-June, it does not capture the recent closures in states that have seen a spike in cases. A separate report on Thursday showed that another 1.43 million Americans filed for jobless aid last week, indicating that layoffs are continuing to mount.

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IF YOU REFUSE TO GO BACK TO WORK?

"The number of weekly unemployment claims remains alarmingly high, having barely dropped from the previous week," said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. "This means that while hiring is occurring in areas such as leisure and hospitality, many are being laid off in support industries and in state and local governments."

Indeed, leisure and hospitality once again accounted for the biggest bulk of jobs created last month, with more than 2 million new positions added. About 1.48 million of those jobs were added by food services and drinking places — one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic as states ordered restaurants and bars to close and directed Americans to stay at home — while the accommodation sector added about 238,000.

EXTRA $600 IN UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ENDS NEXT MONTH AS MILLIONS OF AMERICANS REMAIN OUT OF WORK

Retail also saw a sizable gain last month, with an increase of 740,000. Auto dealers added 58,100 workers, and 201,600 employees returned to clothing and clothing accessories stores.

Education and health services rose 568,000, with health care accounting for 358,000 of those workers. Dentists added 190,400 jobs and physicians created 80,000.

Manufacturing surged by 356,000.

“Manufacturing looks like it’s ready to take off to a level that it’s never been,” Trump said during a White House press conference Thursday morning, following the release of the report.

CORONAVIRUS JOBLESS CLAIMS TOP 48M

Construction jumped by 158,000, and social assistance jobs climbed by 116,900. In particular, child daycare services saw a surge of 80,000 jobs as more parents returned to work.

Overall, the private sector made up more than 4.7 million of the job gains last month. The government accounted for just 33,000.

But state governments, which face significant budget shortfalls as a result of the virus-induced recession and a lack of tax revenue, lost 25,000 jobs.

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Economy

How to clear your credit card bill fast

Here’s what to do if you went on an online shopping spree during COVID-19. (iStock)

When the coronavirus crisis forced millions of Americans to hunker down at home this spring amid shelter-at-home and stay-in-place orders, online shopping surged.

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If you shopped a lot online while in quarantine, you may be struggling to pay off your credit card bills, especially if you were furloughed, laid off, or had your work hours reduced. (In fact, roughly 47 million people have filed for unemployment during the pandemic).

The good news is there are several ways you can pay off your credit card debt. Here are some smart tactics you can use to attack your credit card bills.

1. Open a 0% balance transfer card

The average credit card interest rate is 19.02 percent for new card offers and 15.10 percent for existing accounts, according to a recent credit card report. If you’re carrying high-interest credit card debt, transferring the debt to a zero percent balance transfer card may be a wise move.

Most balance transfer cards offer a zero percent interest rate for a year or longer, which can give you some much-needed breathing room to pay off your credit card bills without accruing any interest.

You can shop and compare balance transfer cards through Credible.

GET 0% CREDIT CARDS TO SAVE MONEY: HERE'S HOW IT WORKS

2. Take out a personal loan

If you can find a personal loan that has a lower interest rate than your credit card’s rate, jump on it. Paying off a loan with a lower rate will enable you to pay off more of your debt principal each month and wipe out the debt faster than if you kept it on a high-interest credit card.

Use a tool like Credible to find a lender that offers the best terms for your financial situation.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PERSONAL LOANS

3. Pay off your bills using the debt snowball or avalanche method

Two of the most popular debt payoff strategies are the snowball method and the avalanche method. The snowball method entails paying off credit card debt in order from the card with the smallest balance to the card with the largest balance. The “snowball” name comes from the idea that, much like a snowball rolling downhill, wiping out your smaller balances first will enable you to gain the momentum that you need to pay off all of your credit card debts.

DEBT SNOWBALL VS. DEBT AVALANCHE: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

The snowball method’s counterpart is the debt avalanche method, which involves paying off the card with the highest interest rate first. This approach saves you more money in interest than you’d save with the snowball method.

To select the right payoff method for you, it’s important to consider how you approach debt. If you’re the kind of person who needs encouragement, the debt snowball method may be the right solution; but, if you’re already self-motivated to eliminate your credit card debt, the avalanche method may be a better strategy.

4. Pay in small installments

Many banks are helping customers navigate financial hardship from COVID-19 by allowing customers to pay off their bills through smaller installments or bi-weekly payments, in order to make their debt more manageable. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for credit card forbearance, a method of debt management that allows you to skip or reduce your payments for a set period of time.

FED’S EMERGENCY RATE CUTS AFFECT YOUR CREDIT CARD — HERE’S HOW

Check with your credit card company to see what relief package you qualify for.

Clampdown on your spending

U.S. e-commerce sales jumped 49 percent in April alone, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index. Online grocery shopping purchases saw a 110 percent spike in daily online sales that month, Adobe found. Consumers also shelled out on timely apparel: pajama e-commerce sales increased more than 143 percent.

In turn, large online retailers are making a killing. For example, Amazon reported a 26 percent increase in first-quarter revenue, with sales soaring to $75.5 billion, up from $59.7 billion the same quarter a year ago.

The bad news: Many consumers racked up credit card debt. According to a recent survey, 28 million U.S. adults have added to their credit card debt as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Millennials have been hit the hardest — 34 percent said they went more deeply into debt because of the pandemic, compared to 23 percent of Gen Xers and 15 percent of Baby Boomers.

The last thing you want to do when you’re taking steps to pay off credit card debt is to add to your debt. So, make sure you rein in your discretionary spending, especially online, in the coming months.

One way to curb online shopping is by unsubscribing to emails from online retailers with daily deals, to avoid being tempted to purchase products that you don’t need. You can also install a web extension like StayFocusd, which allows you to set a limit of much time you spend on a particular website.

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Economy

Trump says 'phase four' coronavirus bill underway, could include payroll tax cut

Mnuchin, Kudlow celebrate economic recovery post-coronavirus

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow on how coronavirus economic recovery programs are working as the U.S. bounces back.

President Trump took a victory lap touting strong jobs numbers on Thursday morning with a press briefing at the White House, in which he alluded to work on a "phase four" coronavirus relief bill, saying that payroll tax cuts might be included in the legislation.

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Trump, riding high on 4.8 million jobs added to the economy and unemployment that fell to 11.1 percent — both better than expectations — said the apparent recovery "is the result of historic actions" his administration took, in conjunction with Congress.

The "phase 3" relief bill was the historically large $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was passed in late March.

"We're working on a 'phase four.' We're working with Congress," Trump said. "Work has started. Steve Mnuchin can give you a little briefing. Talking about payroll tax cuts, we're talking about more money being infused. And it comes back to us."

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS TO 11.1% IN JUNE AS JOB GROWTH BLOWS PAST EXPECTATIONS WITH 4.8M ADDED

Trump has tossed around the idea of a payroll tax cut in response to the coronavirus for months, but it was put on hold due to likely resistance from congressional Democrats.

The president in the briefing lauded the effectiveness of certain elements of the CARES Act, including the highly-popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

"Through the Paycheck Protection Program we've extended over $520 billion in loans to nearly 5 million small businesses, saving and supporting the jobs of tens of millions of American workers," Trump said. "This has been a tremendous success."

TWITTER REMOVES IMAGE SHARED BY TRUMP AFTER NEW YORK TIMES COMPLAINT

"We also rushed urgently needed relief to millions and millions of hardworking taxpayers," he said, in reference to stimulus checks sent to Americans. "They got that directly."

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed an extension of the PPP a day after a procedural stunt by Democrats in the Senate resulted in the bill surprisingly passing the Senate by unanimous consent. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Tuesday night expressed reservations and tried to change Democrats PPP bill, but Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., objected. Democrats asked for unanimous consent to pass the bill, and no Republican objected, concerned about being seen as standing in the way of the popular proposal.

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The House's passage of the PPP extension Wednesday sent the bill to Trump's desk. He has yet to sign it.

Fox Business' Megan Henney and Fox News' Marisa Schultz and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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