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Coronavirus has infected 532,263 and caused 24,090 deaths. India is under lockdown till April 14. Stay tuned for LIVE updates on Covid-19

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Trump says $70 billion in coronavirus rescue loans authorized. But where’s the cash? By Reuters



© Reuters. The downtown district of Washington, looking east to the U.S. Capitol, remains largely empty to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the coronavirus disease pandemic in Washington

By Michelle Price and Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Roughly $70 billion of a $350 billion pot of loans to cover the payrolls of ailing small businesses have been originated by U.S. lenders in recent days, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, adding that that money was “essentially loaned.”

In fact, no one, including the administration, seems to know how much of that money has made it into the hands of small businesses, many of which say they have yet to see a penny.

“They’re saying it’s going great but on the street no one’s received any funds yet,” said Sachin Mahajan, who shut down his restaurant, Karma Modern Indian, in the heart of Washington, D.C., on March 16 after business nosedived.

“All the business owners I have spoken with, none of them have seen anything come through yet,” said Mahajan, who submitted his payroll application on Monday, after his bank asked him to resubmit online his Friday paper application.

Neither the U.S. Treasury Department nor the Small Business Administration, which are jointly administering the program, have formal data on disbursements, which are issued by participating banks, a senior administration official told Reuters.

Reuters contacted five major Washington-based bank trade groups, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of which said they did not have that data as of Tuesday.

Only one of the groups, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), said it was trying to gather information on loan disbursements from its members.

“As a one-off anecdotal example, one of our largest SBA-lenders is trying to get out disbursements today,” said Paul Merski, an executive director at the ICBA.

“That’s the first one I heard of that would actually be putting cash out the door.”

Wells Fargo & Co (N:), a major small business lender, on Sunday hit a $10 billion cap on loan applications it plans to accept under the program, but on Tuesday said it had yet to disburse any funds to clients. JPMorgan (M:) and Bank of America (N:), which have been processing applications since the scheme began on Friday, declined to comment on disbursements.

Launched on Friday as part of a $2.3 trillion congressional economic relief package, the $350 billion program allows small businesses hurt by the coronavirus to apply for government-guaranteed loans with participating banks. Those loans will be forgiven if they are used to cover payroll costs, subject to some conditions.

Speaking on Tuesday, Trump said $70 billion had “been loaned,” but that figure is likely to refer to loans that have been processed by the SBA, as opposed to cash that has been released to businesses, three banking sources said.

They said the amount of money dished out to small businesses is likely to be much smaller because many lenders are still waiting for the SBA and Treasury to issue a loan authorization form – the last piece of the paperwork puzzle required for money to be handed to the customer.

The form lenders had initially been using turned out to be incorrect, according to an SBA email seen by Reuters on Monday and the sources, and a compliant form has yet to be issued.

The cause of the hold-up was not clear, the sources said. SBA and Treasury did not respond to a request for comment on regarding loan authorizations.

Without that paperwork, banks worry loans may not qualify down the line for the government guarantee, or for forgiveness, the sources said. Lenders are also getting mixed signals on how to proceed: Treasury officials have told banks verbally to go ahead and issue loans, on the basis they will be grandfathered into the compliant regime once the correct paperwork is issued.

But some regional SBA offices emailed banks on Monday telling them to hold off, according to two of the sources, and another email seen by Reuters. That has left many banks in limbo, said a spokesman for the Consumer Bankers Association.

“Some banks are disbursing funds but many are concerned without final language from SBA, there could be forgiveness issues down the road,” he said.

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Acting US navy head resigns over carrier controversy



The acting head of the US navy has resigned over his controversial handling of the firing of the aircraft carrier captain who had asked for help dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on the ship.

US defence secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday he had accepted the resignation of Thomas Modly, who has been the navy’s acting civilian head since November. Mr Modly “resigned on his own accord,” Mr Esper said in a statement. 

The acting secretary — the top civilian leadership position in the navy — had come under intense criticism for saying that Captain Brett Crozier had been “too naive or too stupid” to command the USS Theodore Roosevelt in remarks during a visit to the carrier, which is docked in Guam as the navy grapples with dozens of coronavirus cases on the ship.

Capt Crozier was dismissed last week after urging the navy in a dramatic letter that became public to do more to protect the several thousand sailors on the ship. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

After he dismissed Capt Crozier, Mr Modly said he should not have sent the letter to so many people, accusing him of going against the chain of command and increasing the likelihood that the document would go public and signal to adversaries that the carrier had a problem.

When Capt Crozier disembarked last week, however, he received a rapturous send-off from the crew, which cast a harsh spotlight on Mr Modly. The acting navy head created more problems for himself by travelling to Guam and castigating the departed captain in front of the crew in profanity-laced attack.

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Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said Mr Modly had shown “a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership”.

Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, said he had “mishandled the situation” by removing Capt Crozier “against the advice of senior navy uniformed leadership”, and that his disparaging comments about the former commander were “troubling”.

President Donald Trump had also threatened to weigh in on the issue, saying that Mr Modly and Capt Crozier were “two good people,” while at the same time remarking that the captain should not have sent the letter.

The incident is just the latest problem to beset the US navy, which has seen its reputation badly tarnished in recent years over everything from collisions at sea to a series of personnel scandals that have involved top officials and senior uniformed naval officers.

Mr Esper in November fired Richard Spencer, the previous navy secretary, for trying to negotiate a deal with the White House after Mr Trump intervened in a military justice case involving a Navy seal who was convicted of war crimes and accused — and later acquitted — of murdering a wounded Afghan detainee.

The navy has also been roiled by the “Fat Leonard” case, in which a number of navy officers have been fired or demoted over a scandal that involved a contractor bribing officers in Singapore with lavish entertainment and prostitutes.

Joe Biden, the former vice-president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the resignation was appropriate. “Our sailors, our nation, and Captain Crozier deserve better,” Mr Biden said.

Guy Snodgrass, a retired Navy officer who previously served with Capt Crozier, said the situation was a “crisis of leadership” that the navy had not seen “in decades”.

He said it was also showed “what happens when you’re wrapped too tightly in your own bubble and you lose sight of the men and women you’re responsible for.”

Mr Snodgrass said it was extraordinary that Mr Modly flew to Guam to deliver a tirade, saying it risked leaving junior officers unclear whether to alert leaders to issues that might save lives or stay quiet to avoid being fired. 

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As work from home becomes the norm, companies get more comfortable hiring fully remote employees



Working from home for the past few weeks? You might have a serious case of cabin fever by now. Or then again, you may have found you prefer it to your former routine. If you’d rather not go back to the office even after the pandemic is finally over, this might be the moment to start looking for a new job that allows—or requires—you to stay home.

Remote job openings were proliferating well before this crisis, rising 270% since 2017, according to new research by job search engine Adzuna that analyzed 4.5 million U.S. postings. Now, spurred on by COVID-19, it seems even more employers want the chance to recruit from a vast talent pool unrestricted by geographic distance.

“Our data shows a continued increase in work-from-home vacancies,” notes Adzuna cofounder Andrew Hunter. Companies that never recruited many (or any) virtual employees before are “embarking on a giant work-from-home experiment,” he adds. “The standard office-based job is increasingly a thing of the past.”

One place to start looking for remote work: Job site FlexJobs has come up with a list of the 35 U.S. employers who are doing the most work-from-home recruiting right now, along with brief descriptions of what kinds of roles they need to fill. For instance, Aetna (#2 on the ranking behind Adobe) is looking for social workers, a lead data scientist, and registered nurses to work as case managers. Dell (#6) is seeking cybersecurity pros and an infrastructure automation engineer.

While both Adzuna and FlexJobs data suggest many current openings call for tech or health care skills, employers are also hiring remote employees in sales, accounting, customer service, human resources, and other fields, some of them highly specialized. UnitedHealth Group, for example, is seeking an expert in dealing with the medical bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration.

Planning to apply? Beyond having the skills and experience in the job description, employers want to see evidence that you’re flexible enough to work alone. So rewrite your resume and cover letter to emphasize, for instance, projects where you collaborated with distant teammates, maybe across different time zones. Since working at home means you’ll have limited access to the company IT help desk, it’s smart to include a list of the collaboration software and web and video conferencing tools you know how to use.

A tip from FlexJobs: Interviewers for remote jobs usually ask the same questions as for other roles, but get ready for a few twists. The virtual-work equivalent of the old stand-by “What’s your greatest weakness?”, for example, is “Why do you want to work remotely?”

This query can be such a minefield for the unprepared that FlexJobs’ report recommends bringing it up yourself even if the interviewer doesn’t ask. Maybe you’ve found that you’re much more productive working at home than in your old noisy open-plan office, or maybe you live in an area where opportunities in your field are scarce (or require a long commute). If you’re enthusiastic about the chance to work for this particular company, remotely or not, don’t forget to say so.

If you can draw a specific example or two from your current remote work, demonstrating how you’ve been able to achieve results from home that equal or exceed what you could have accomplished in the office, so much better. The point is to reassure the interviewer that, even if your only work-at-home experience so far has been dictated by COVID-19, you’re a safe bet as a stellar remote employee in the future.

More must-read careers coverage from Fortune:

—3 ways to manage conflict when you work remotely
—How to job hunt during the coronavirus pandemic
—Everything you need to know about furloughs—and what they mean for workers
—4 things to say if recruiters call you during the coronavirus pandemic
—Listen to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: 401(k) withdrawal penalties waived for anyone hurt by COVID-19

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