Americans fret as time runs out on aid

Finance | Bloomberg and Xinhua 20 Nov 2020

A whole range of pandemic aid programs are set to expire in the new year, leaving millions of Americans without the government support that's helped keep them afloat - and threatening to hold back a rebounding economy.

The biggest blow will likely come from the end of two federal unemployment-insurance programs, with roughly 12 million people facing a late December cutoff, according to a study released Wednesday by The Century Foundation. Measures that froze student-loan payments, offered mortgage forbearance and halted evictions have a year-end deadline -- and so do Federal Reserve lending facilities for small businesses and local governments.

Some Covid-19 assistance could potentially be attached to a spending bill needed to avoid a federal government shutdown, but with Congress deadlocked and a White House transition looming, the outlook for another stimulus package this year is bleak.

President Donald Trump hasn't outlined a plan to extend the aid programs via executive order and his successor Joe Biden won't take office until the second half of January.

All of this poses risks to a US economy that's recovered faster than expected yet still has a long way to go, particularly with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases bringing a new wave of restrictions on business.

While in aggregate household finances are in great shape, the strength is uneven, with jobs still 10 million below February levels.

Meanwhile, tariffs and an uncertain business environment have prompted precipitous declines in US exports to China over the past two years, but China remains a top market for US exporters, according to a study released Wednesday by the US-China Business Council.

US goods exports to China contracted 11.4 percent in 2019 to US$104.8 billion (HK$817.44 billion) after contracting by more than 7 percent the year prior, according to the study.

Separately, China's non-financial outbound direct investment went down 3.2 percent year on year in the first 10 months of the year, official data showed yesterday.

The ODI amounted to 602 billion yuan (HK$708.85 billion) in the period, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

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