The Week in Business: Throwing Money at a Pandemic


No, it’s not your imagination: The pandemic is slowing down the internet. Now that we’re all stuck at home, holding meetings on Zoom, doing virtual happy hours, watching Netflix and poking around online to distract ourselves, broadband networks are buckling under the sudden surge in traffic. Median download speeds have dropped 24 percent in New York, and they’re down 4.9 percent across the country. To ease stress on internet infrastructure, YouTube has said it will lower the definition of its videos worldwide, while other tech companies have pushed back new streaming services and product releases. Tips for impatient consumers: Watch videos on standard definition instead of high, and make sure to install software updates.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

A hallmark of the new stimulus bill is that most Americans will get cash payouts deposited straight into their bank accounts within the next three weeks, a historic move by the federal government. (If the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t have your banking information, you’ll have to wait a little longer for a check to arrive in the mail.) So how much are we talking? If you’re a single adult with an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 a year, you’ll be eligible to receive $1,200. Married couples who make less than $150,000 a year can receive $2,400. And any of the above can tack on $500 for every dependent child. Those who make more than $75,000 (or couples who make more than $150,000) will get less, and those who make more than $99,000 a year (or $198,000, for a couple) won’t get anything.

Contradicting health officials, President Trump said early last week that he hoped Americans would go back to work around Easter, adding that the economic damage of the coronavirus should not be worse than the disease itself. But medical professionals have cautioned that prematurely resuming business as usual would be disastrous. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, sided with science, reiterating — in case it was up for debate — that the deadly virus was a bigger enemy than a recession. “The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control, and then to resume economic activity,” he said.

You thought gas was cheap now? Just wait until later this week, when the current OPEC deal to curb oil production runs out on April 1, opening the floodgates. Negotiations among the major oil-producing countries fell apart after the two biggest players, Saudi Arabia and Russia, failed to agree on terms. This is good news, theoretically, for your next trip to the gas station — whenever that day may come — but not great for stock markets, which plunged after efforts to renew the deal collapsed two weeks ago. Analysts predict that oil prices will remain unusually low for months, especially as the coronavirus continues to hurt demand.


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