U.S. Coronavirus Blog: Unemployment Hits High; Small Biz Reels

Megan VerHelst

This story on the new coronavirus is updated throughout the day with national news and developments from around our network of local Patches. Scroll down for links, helpful for day-to-day living and the most recent stories.

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April Unemployment Hits 14.7%, Highest Since Great Depression

The new coronavirus's devastation of the U.S. economy became even clearer Friday with the release of April's unemployment numbers. In one month, nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the last recession has been lost.

On top of that, small businesses that were forced to lay off many of the now-unemployed were dealt another blow as funding was slashed for a loan program designed to help them ride out the pandemic.

First, a snapshot of April's unemployment data:

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record. The losses, reported by the Labor Department, reflect what has become a severe recession caused by sudden business shutdowns in nearly every industry.

The collapse of the job market has occurred with stunning speed. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at a five-decade low of 3.5 percent.

In the last seven weeks, 33.5 million people Americans have applied for unemployment benefits.

Additionally, a recent survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center For Public Affairs Research shows that people of color have not only been hit harder by the coronavirus than Americans overall, but they're also bearing the brunt of the pandemic's financial imapct.

Americans remain hopeful, though.

The vast majority of laid-off or furloughed workers — 77 percent — expect to be rehired by their previous employer once the stay-at-home orders in their area are lifted, according to a nationwide Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

Nearly 6 in 10 also believe they are "very likely"to get their old job back.

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A woman wearing a mask walks past a closed theater. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

SBA Slashes Disaster Loan Limit, Shuts Out New Applicants

Small businesses across the nation may not get the financial relief they were hoping for as a Small Business Administration program, separate from the new Paycheck Protection Program, encounters its own challenges.

Congress gave an emergency disaster lending program administered by the SBA more than $50 billion to dole out quick turnaround loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the program is failing spectacularly, sources told The Washington Post.

Businesses were supposed to be able to borrow up to $2 million; however, the SBA has now imposed a $150,000 limit without publicly announcing the change. The federal agency also shut down the application portal after receiving an onslaught of applications. Now, only agricultural businesses are allowed to apply.

The changes come as the SBA faces a massive backlog of applications from businesses taking a financial hit during the ongoing pandemic. Agency officials told the Post the holdup is also due to lack of funding.

Nail salons are being allowed to reopen in some states. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Detailed CDC Advice On Reopening Buried: AP

A detailed document created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was intended to provide a step-by-step guide to states as they navigated the tricky waters of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the agency was reportedly told the 17-page document — which was supposed to be released last Friday — would "never see the light of day," a CDC official told The Associated Press.

However, the White House has reportedly asked the CDC to revise the guidelines, after determining the advice it contained was “overly specific," a coronavirus task force official told The Washington Post.

The report, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework," was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

The guidance contained detailed advice for making site-specific decisions related to reopening schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day care centers and other institutions. It had been widely shared within the CDC and included detailed "decision trees," or flow charts, to be used by local officials to think through different scenarios.

A person close to the White House's coronavirus task force said officials have refrained from offering detailed guidance for how specific sectors should reopen because the virus is affecting various parts of the country differently.

Across the nation, more than 1.25 million cases of the new coronavirus have been reported as of Friday morning, along with more than 75,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

President Donald Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx speak during a briefing. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Pence Spokesperson, Trump Valet Test Positive For Virus

Katie Miller, a top spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence, has tested positive for coronavirus, two people with knowledge of Miller's diagnosis told Politico. The news comes just one day after a personal valet for President Donald Trump also tested positive.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed the case Friday, according to the Washington Post, but did not say who or how closely that person worked with Pence.

Miller's husband is top White House aide and senior adviser Stephen Miller. Through both her and her husband’s daily work, it's possible a large number of White House staffers were possibly exposed to the virus.

As of Friday, a total of three White House staffers have tested positive for the virus. Another employee in Pence's office was the first to contract the virus in March.

The valet who contracted the virus is a member of the U.S. military and part of an elite team that works closely with Trump and the first family. A White House source told CNN the man started showing symptoms Wednesday morning.

Trump and Pence are regularly tested for the virus. The White House also administers rapid tests to people traveling with Trump or Pence or who meet with them in person, The Hill reported.

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A man wearing a mask depicting American flags jogs past the U.S. Capitol Building. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republicans Not Sold On New Round Of Relief Checks

As leaders in the Senate and House go back and forth and back again on the specifics of a possible new economic relief package, Republicans aren't sold on including another round of payments to Americans.

While the White House and Democrats have indicated support for doing at least one more round of checks, some Republicans don't seem as eager, according to a report by The Hill.

“Well, people in hell want ice water too,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) when asked about another round of checks. “I mean, everybody has an idea and a bill, usually to spend more money. It’s like a Labor Day mattress sale around here.”

Including the first round of checks in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was already a point of contention for some Republicans, but the payments had too much bipartisan backing to be pulled from the legislation.

It’s unclear what the next relief package will look like and when the Senate will start negotiations after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a “pause” to see what parts of the $2.8 trillion already appropriated by Congress are working and what aren’t.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Americans can expect a package he described as “Rooseveltian” in its scope and size.

“We need big, bold action," Schumer said in an MSNBC interview Thursday, adding that he and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi "are working very closely together on putting together a very strong plan, which you will hear shortly.”

Food boxes are packed in Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Too Many Children Hungry As Crisis Wears On

Research released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution shows that food insecurity has increased dramatically in the United States since the the onset of the coronavirus crisis, especially for households with young children.

Nearly a fifth of American households of mothers with children under the age of 12 are not getting enough to eat, based on a national survey of mothers by the Brookings Institution.

The Brookings Institution found that 17.4 percent of mothers reported their children weren't getting enough food, which is three times higher than the 5.7 percent reported during the 2008 Great Recession.

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Patch Coronavirus Resources

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This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch