Day: July 13, 2020

After Kelly Preston’s breast cancer death, a reminder of the disease’s financial toll

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Actress Kelly Preston’s death at age 57 from breast cancer is a reminder that this common cancer takes many lives too soon — and, unfortunately, getting treatment can be a financial obstacle for many.

Preston was known for roles in films including “Jerry Maguire” and 1988’s “Twins.” She was married to actor John Travolta and died after living with the disease for two years. The couple had two children, Ella Bleu and Benjamin, as well as a son, Jett, who died at age 16 in 2009, the Associated Press reported.

“I have never met anyone as courageous, strong, beautiful and loving as you,” Ella Travolta wrote in a tribute to her mom on Instagram FB, -2.47% .

Preston is one of an estimated 42,170 women in the U.S. who will die from breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease is the most common type of cancer in U.S. women after skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

“While we have made significant progress in successfully treating breast cancer, approximately 20% of patients will develop distant metastatic disease,” said William G. Cance, the chief medical and scientific officer at the American Cancer Society. “Kelly Preston’s death underscores our need for better treatment for metastatic breast cancer.”

Unfortunately, that treatment can be expensive, even for patients with robust health insurance. About one in four cancer patients have to borrow money, go into debt or file for bankruptcy to pay for treatment, a 2019 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found.

“Cancer and its treatment are associated with many costs for patients and their families, including out-of-pocket costs for medical care and lost income due to time away from work for patients and caregivers,” said Robin Yabroff, the senior scientific director of health services research at the American Cancer Society. “These costs can result in financial strain, medical debt, and depletion of assets for patients and their families.”

Annualized medical costs associated with breast cancer are about $34,000 in the first year after diagnosis, Yabroff said. Nationally, about $25.8 billion was spent on medical care for patients with breast cancer in 2015. “This estimate does not include costs associated with lost productivity, which can be substantial,” she added.

Because of the disease’s complexity, it’s difficult to cite an exact figure for the average cost of breast cancer treatment, said Amanda DeBard, spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen organization, a nonprofit that raises money for breast cancer research and provides financial assistance to patients. “Some patients may only require surgery, whereas others might require intensive treatment which can run over $10,000 per month,” DeBard told MarketWatch.

Data from the National Cancer Institute found the average cost for female patients in 2015 was $23,078 for initial treatment and $2,207 for continuing treatment, USA Today reported. Even patients themselves sometimes have a difficult time getting information on the costs of various surgeries.

There are also “hidden costs” on top of medical expenses, including gas to and from appointments, child-care expenses for patients who are parents, and hotel stays for patients who have to travel far for treatment, DeBard added. Komen runs a helpline that patients can call for support and information about financial assistance.

It’s common for metastatic breast cancer patients and low-income patients to experience “financial toxicity,” meaning severe financial burdens paying for treatment, a 2019 study suggested.

The financial hardship for women of color can be worse: Black women who are diagnosed with breast cancer experience significantly greater financial strain than white women, and that may play a role in Black women dying from breast cancer at higher rates, a 2018 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found.

Some patients use credit cards or retirement savings to fund treatment, and 41% said they skipped treatment or medication to save money, according to a 2018 survey by The Pink Fund, a nonprofit that helps breast cancer patients pay for treatment.

What’s worse: Screening can be cost-prohibitive too. While the Affordable Care Act provides free mammograms for women age 40 and over every one or two years, some patients wind up with surprise mammogram bills after their doctors send them for further testing. And the national median cost of a mammogram without insurance was $243 as of 2016.

Celebrity deaths from cancer capture public attention, and they can be moments for learning more about the disease, noted Molly MacDonald, founder and CEO of The Pink Fund.

“Every single day 1,400 women lose their lives to breast cancer,” McDonald told MarketWatch, referring to worldwide statistics. “We were so sorry to learn of the death of Kelly Preston. It might be important to other women to understand more about her disease. Did she carry the [BRCA] gene? At what stage was she diagnosed? Is there anything we can learn about her illness that might encourage women to get genetic profiling, perform monthly breast exams and get an annual mammogram?”

CityWatch: Data will determine where schools can open in New York in September, Gov. Cuomo says

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday outlined the metrics that will determine whether schools can welcome students back to the classroom in September, although the final decision will not be made until next month. He also issued new orders for out-of-state travelers as coronavirus cases continue to surge nationwide. 

The state’s plan to get students back in class includes both a formula for regions to determine if it is safe to consider reopening, plus guidelines for how that school will do so. A final decision about which schools will get a green light to open will be made the first week of August, according to Cuomo.

“Everybody wants to reopen the schools,” he said. “It’s not, do we reopen or not? You reopen when it is safe to reopen…we’re not going to put our children in a place where their health is endangered.”

The statewide formula is driven by data, Cuomo explained. Schools will reopen if that region is in Phase 4 (all regions are currently in Phase 4 except for New York City) and the daily infection rate remains at 5% as of the first week of August or lower over a 14-day average. 

The current statewide infection rate is below 2% in most of New York, according to state data. 

However, should a spike occur between the announcement and the start of school, the state does have a “safety valve.” 

“Schools will close if the regional infection rate is above 9% on a seven-day average,” Cuomo said. “It’s purely on the numbers.”

The New York State Department of Education also issued guidelines for reopening on Monday. These include testing and screening, social distancing mandates, a framework for in-person and remote learning and other education guidelines. 

However, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that New York City schools will reopen in a limited way in September. Cuomo’s office published a statement calling the mayor’s “premature.”

See: While politicians squabble, New York schools make their own plans

Numbers in all New York regions across the state “are good,” Cuomo added, noting that around 51,000 people were tested on Sunday and the amount of positive tests hovering was just over 1%. There were 792 new hospitalizations, the lowest since March 18, according to Cuomo. Ten people died on Sunday of the virus. More than 400,000 cases have been reported in the state, and close to 25,000 fatalities. On Saturday, New York City reported no deaths for the first time since March. 

But concerns remain about travelers from states that have seen recent peaks in positive COVID-19 patients—such as Florida, Arizona and Texas—spreading the virus in New York. 

The state has already instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for these travelers, but non-compliance has led to outbreaks, the governor said. He pointed to rising cases in upstate Rensselaer County, where someone visited from Georgia. About 2.5% of tests there came back positive for the virus as of Sunday, according to New York state data.

To combat a resurgence, Cuomo announced an emergency health order mandating that everyone flying into New York must provide information to airport officials about where they are coming from and where they are staying. Location forms will be available on the airplane or electronically.

“If you leave the airport without providing the information, you will receive a summons immediately with a $2,000 fine,” Cuomo said. “You can then be brought to a hearing in order to complete mandatory quarantine.” 

The mandate will be carried out at all New York state airports. No other details on the mandatory quarantine were provided at the news conference.

Read next: Online food prices jump as food companies struggle to meet demand 

Travelers’ compliance to the quarantine is crucial to keeping the virus under control in New York, Cuomo noted. 

“It came in through the airports,” he said. “It will come in through the airports once again.”

The Margin: He flaunted fancy cars and designer clothes on Instagram for years — now he’s facing 20 years in prison

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His most recent Instagram post included a picture of a Rolls-Royce with the caption: “[T]hank you lord for the many blessings in my life” followed by some praying-hands emojis and “continue to shame those waiting for me to be shamed.”

Well, those waiting to shame Ramon Abbas need not wait any longer. Abbas, who goes by “Hushpuppi,” has long flaunted his wealth to his 2.5 million Instagram followers. Helicopters, Gucci, Fendi and fancy cars — it’s all part of his social-media persona.

Apparently, this kind of stuff resonates:

It turns out that lavish lifestyle wasn’t the result of his savvy as a real-estate developer, as his self-billing claims. No, according to CNN, a federal affidavit alleges that his riches were financed by hacking major companies across the U.S. and Europe.

Abbas, a Nigerian national, was arrested in his luxe Dubai residence last month and flown to Chicago on July 2, where he awaits transfer to Los Angeles. There he is to face accusations of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through cybercrime schemes, CNN reported.

Along with multiple alleged co-conspirators, Abbas allegedly used computer intrusions, business email compromise schemes and money laundering to steal hundreds of millions of dollars. Snap Inc. SNAP, -4.93% , Facebook FB, -2.47% unit Instagram and Apple AAPL, -0.46% reportedly helped the FBI make connections among chat histories, phone contacts and email addresses.

CNN explained that this birthday post, for instance, helped authorities track him down, with federal law enforcement reportedly using it to verify his date of birth on a previous visa application:

Investigators reportedly seized during its arrest of Abbas and 11 others some $41 million along with 13 luxury cars worth almost $7 million. The investigation reportedly uncovered the email addresses of nearly 2 million possible victims.

The alleged cybercrime victims include a paralegal at a New York law firm said to have wired about $923,000 meant for a client’s real-estate refinancing to a bank account controlled by Abbas and his co-conspirators. The wire instructions were fraudulent, and the bank’s email address was “spoofed.”

Abbas is also accused of trying to steal $124 million from an unnamed English Premier League soccer club, though CNN reported that it’s unknown whether he was successful.

If convicted of money laundering, he would face up to 20 years in prison.

How to Protect Your Bitcoin Wallet

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Bitcoin wallet

Bitcoin is a hot commodity lately. This cryptocurrency is usually at the top of experts’ and users’ lists of recommendations for investments in the digital world. If you’re thinking about using Bitcoin or have already started your crypto journey, there are steps you can take to secure your currency. Here’s how to protect your Bitcoin wallet.

1. Use a Hardware Wallet

There are a few types of cryptocurrency wallets. Hard wallets connect to the internet for you to access at any time. This constant internet connectivity comes with certain cyber risks, though. If you want more protection, use a hardware wallet.

Hardware wallets are “cold,” meaning they do not connect to the internet, but you can still receive funds at any time. The disconnect makes it harder for cybercriminals to hack or breach your Bitcoin. Trezor and Ledger offer various hardware wallets that store your currency in an external, USB-like device.

2. Keep Your Private Key Offline

When you use a hardware wallet, it doesn’t actually store all your cryptocurrency. Instead, it stores a private key. This private key corresponds to a public key that includes certain amounts of Bitcoins, giving you the correct balance.

You must keep this private key secure. You can keep it offline by writing it down on a piece of paper and storing it in an emergency disaster kit that only you have access to. The more secure and offline it is, the less you have to worry about it.

3. Encrypt Your Wallet

Encrypting your wallet is a helpful step to take. You can start simple with two-factor authentication and go from there. Any form of encryption will help. Two-factor authentication helps with verifying your identity in two ways so that cybercriminals have a harder time breaching your wallet. You can also include encryption software if you want extra protection for your Bitcoin.

4. Keep Your Currency in Multiple Places

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The phrase rings true for cryptocurrency. If you have all your digital currency in one wallet, you have a higher chance of losing more. If you place your funds in different wallets, though, you have a better chance of protecting your assets. When saving, especially, you’ll want to keep your Bitcoin safe however you can.

5. Enact Smaller Transactions

If you’re a big Bitcoin spender, you might want to step back. High-value transactions and trades can draw attention from cybercriminals. If they see that you have assets to spend, they may be more likely to target your funds. Of course, you should spend your cryptocurrency however you’d like. Just keep in mind that you’ll need more protection.

>> Bitcoin Halving: How the Miners are Faring So Far

6. Use a Secure Internet Connection

Using the right internet connection is an easy way to protect your Bitcoin wallet. Of course, your home internet connection is likely a safe option since it’s secure and isolated. However, you should keep in mind that public internet connections can be risky.

Public Wi-Fi isn’t always secure, and since many people use it, cybercriminals may have an easier time accessing your wallet. When on public Wi-Fi, it’s best to not have an active wallet. If you do make transactions, strongly consider using a reputable, logless, paid VPN service.

7. Keep Your Finances a Secret

Be cautious about who you share your Bitcoin status and private key with. You’ll likely only want to keep those numbers to yourself unless you have a partner you’re willing to share them with. Otherwise, the fewer people who know, the better. Think of cryptocurrency as a real bank account. You don’t want people knowing your PIN number or account status—and your private key is the same.

8. Use Antivirus Software

Viruses are a digital plague in their own way. Cybercriminals use them to steal information and finances from vulnerable accounts. Antivirus software can help, though. Since cyberattacks are frequent and often come in the form of viruses and malware, you’ll want protection. With the most up-to-date features, antivirus software can do just that.

9. Watch Out for Phishing

Like viruses and malware, phishing is another form of cyber scamming. Certain criminals use emails and links to scam users into giving up private information about their wallets. Sometimes, phishing scams can link to viruses and malware, too. Watch out for suspicious content—it’s better to be safe than sorry.

10. Double-Check the Recipient

As you carry out your transactions, make sure you’re sending your Bitcoin to the right person. Scammers may try to skew transactions or trick you into giving your money elsewhere. You can get software or programs to help detect errors, as well. Be sure to vet your transactions and partners thoroughly before any money changes “hands.” Sometimes, it can be hard to recover your Bitcoin currency.

11. Back Up Your Wallet

Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to back up your wallet. A backup never hurts and always comes in handy if you need it. There are different ways to back up your wallet, so choose the one that works best for you. Then, you have what you need to fully protect your Bitcoin wallet if something goes wrong.

A Safe Crypto World

As cryptocurrency grows in popularity, you can expect some changes to come about. Keep an eye on the security trends and follow the best practices as they emerge. Staying ahead of the curve will bring you the best Bitcoin protection to stay safe in the cyber world.

This article was curated through CryptoCurrencyNews’ Contributor Program. If you would like to write for us, send us your submission!

Featured image: DepositPhotos © 3DSculptor

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Key Words: As COVID-19 cases surge and many states reopen, Trump administration points finger at Democrats, media — and Fauci

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With a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and states pausing their reopening plans, the Trump administration is pointing a finger at Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades and one of the leading experts on pandemics in the U.S. for four decades.

Fauci told the Financial Times that he has not briefed the president since June 2.

On Sunday, Adm. Brett Giroir, the testing coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Fauci was not correct with his advice to states to slowdown the opening of businesses: “I respect Dr. Fauci a lot, but Dr. Fauci is not 100% right, and he also doesn’t necessarily, he admits that, have the whole national interest in mind. He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view.”

On Sunday, President Trump retweeted this tweet from April that was critical of Fauci: “So based on Dr. Fauci and the Democrats, I will need an ID card to go shopping but not to vote?” He also retweeted this tweet: “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

‘I respect Dr. Fauci a lot, but Dr. Fauci is not 100% right … He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view.’

— Adm. Brett Giroir, the testing coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services

Last week, Trump also doubled down on his criticism of Fauci’s response to the pandemic. “Dr. Fauci’s a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes,” President Donald Trump said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. “Like you don’t have to ban them coming in from very infected China. I did it anyway and we saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I banned Europe from coming in when Italy and France and Spain were having all the problems.”

“They’ve been wrong about a lot things, including face masks,” Trump added. “Maybe they’re wrong, maybe not, but a lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Now they are saying wear a mask. So a lot of mistakes were made — a lot of mistakes.”

The president has rarely worn a mask in public and has not said Americans should wear masks and, in a change with his tradition of eschewing any face covering, wore one this past weekend when he visited a hospital.

On April 13, when reporters questioned Fauci about possible tension between him and the administration, Fauci said he made recommendations to Trump to restrict travel. “The travel was another recommendation, when we went in and said, ‘We probably should be doing that,’” Fauci said. “And the answer was yes. And then another time was, ‘We should do it with Europe,’ and the answer was yes. And the next time, ‘We should do it with the U.K.,’ and the answer was yes.”

Trump himself has previously been circumspect on masks. On April 3, the administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed their policies on masks, and said everyone — not just medical workers, as they previously said — should wear face coverings. Trump cited “recent studies” of asymptomatic transmission for the U-turn, while the CDC cited “new evidence.”

That same day, Trump said his administration recommended wearing cloth face coverings. However, he said he wouldn’t wear a mask himself. “From recent studies, we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood,” he said. “You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it.”

‘We know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread.’

— President Donald Trump has declined to wear a mask during almost all of his public appearances

On April 15, New York Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear masks in public. “Put the mask on when you are not in socially distant places,” he said. “It is your right to go out for a walk in the park, go out for a walk because you need to get out of the house. Fine, don’t infect me. You don’t have a right to infect me.”

Fauci recently said that the U.S. government had not been doing well with contact tracing, the process of tracing people who have been in contact with someone identified to have the virus, instructing them to stay home, and connecting them with the resources they need to do so. “I don’t think we’re doing very well, for a number of reasons, and not all of which is the fault of the system,” he said in an interview last month with CNN’s T, -0.80% Elizabeth Cohen.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, has already proven extremely infectious. It had infected nearly 13 million people globally and over 3.3 million in the U.S. as of Monday, according to official figures collated by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The disease had claimed at least 569,878 lives worldwide and 135,219 in the U.S.

The sharp words aimed at Fauci from the White House are happening as the confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in nearly 40 U.S. states. Meanwhile, New York, which was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. and still has the most cases than anywhere in the U.S. (at least 406,400 confirmed cases and 32,350 fatalities from the disease), reported zero deaths for the first time since the pandemic began.

New Jersey (15,525 deaths) and Massachusetts (8,325 deaths) are among the top three states with the highest number of fatalities. To put that in context, there has been 135,272 deaths from the virus in the U.S. to date.

Florida’s Department of Health reported 15,299 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, bumping the total confirmed case tally for the Sunshine State to 269,811 cases, as the Associated Press reported. The previous record was 11,694 cases in a single day, set last week by California.

In more bad news, Florida counted a record of 514 fatalities last week, compared with the average of 30 deaths a day the state was recording just three weeks ago. Testing has doubled in the past month to almost 50,000 a day from 25,000 and the percentage of people testing positive has risen to an average of 19% in the last week from few than 5% a month ago, the AP reported.

Studies have concluded that face masks have helped reduce contagion by reducing droplets being sprayed into the air during flu season; another Japanese-based study says this works when paired with vaccination. It may be that they work in a small amount of cases and/or just wearing them helps to promote healthy behaviors.

Scientists writing in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the novel coronavirus was detectable in the air for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Above all else, health professionals recommend washing hands, cleaning surfaces and social distancing in public spaces.

The rift between Fauci and Trump widened against a backdrop of rising cases. Last week, in an interview livestreamed on Twitter TWTR, +1.11% and Facebook FB, +1.15% with the head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, Fauci said that unlike Europe, U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up” and “we’re still knee-deep in the first wave.”

‘The number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals has exponentially increased.’

— Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, has criticized the state’s response to the rise in cases in Texas

Arizona reported more than 2,500 new coronavirus cases Sunday and 1,354 deaths on Monday. It now has more than 123,824 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,245 deaths in total. Over the past seven days, nearly 27% of tests there were positive, the highest rate in the nation.

“We have for the last three weeks been the worst in the entire country,” Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told CBS.

What’s more, Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, previously told CNN T, -0.80% : “If we don’t change the trajectory, we are within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun.” Citing comments by President Donald Trump that COVID-19 would go away, and that 99% of cases were harmless, Adler, a Democrat, said, “It makes me angry. You know, I understand he has a tough job, but it is dangerous not to be sending a clear message to Americans.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also a Democrat, echoed those sentiments on CBS VIAC, +4.09%. “A month ago one in 10 people were testing positive. Today, it’s one in four. The number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals has exponentially increased. The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased.” Turner also said hospitals in his city could be in “serious trouble” if they don’t get a handle on the spread.

Texas reported 8,196 new cases on Sunday, and 10,410 patients hospitalized due to coronavirus, up 25% increase in one week. There have been more than 264,810 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and at least 3,216 deaths.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has warned of another lockdown if people don’t wear masks. “It’s disappointing and again, I can understand the mind set being a kid who grew up in Longview myself, that this may not be the top priority. A murderer, or a rapist or a robber is far more serious to concentrate on,” he told local news station CBS19.

“However, I know this also, and that is if we do not all join together and unite in this one cause for a short period of time, of adopting a mask, what it will lead to the necessity of having to close Texas back down,” he said, adding, “The only way those businesses are going to stay open is to make sure people wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.”

Fauci previously said the virus may be mutating to become more transmissible, and focused on three main failings by both the public and authorities: Many states have reopened too quickly, people are not abiding by rules of social distancing, and the authorities could do a better job at contact tracing to track people who’ve been in contact with those who test positive.

Fauci said earlier this month that America needs to balance the needs of the nation’s economic and public health; he said people need to practice social distancing and wear face masks. “We do need to open up again, no doubt about it, we want to get the economy back,” he said. “But you’ve got to do it in a measured way, and now we’re seeing the consequence of community spread.”

How COVID-19 is transmitted

Tax Guy: Self-employed and considering a PPP loan? There’s good news for you

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The rules for SBA-supervised Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) have been a moving target. If you took out a PPP loan for your small business, or if your employer has tasked you with keeping up with PPP loan developments, you know what I mean. As this was written, the target was still moving.

Fortunately, it was moving in the right direction, in Tax Guy’s opinion.

Here I cover some key PPP loan facts that were known to be true during the microseconds it took to write this. Things could be completely different by the time you read this. Just kidding. Sort of. Anyway, onward.

New law eases PPP loan forgiveness rules

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (PPPFA) became law on June 5, which seems like a long time ago. The new law makes it much easier for many PPP borrowers to do what it takes to have all or part of their loans forgiven. The PPPFA also allows borrowers to take advantage of the CARES Act payroll tax deferral privilege (see the sidebar below for more info), even if their loans are forgiven. Good.

According to the original CARES Act rules for PPP loans, no forgiveness was allowed unless the borrower spent at least 75% of loan proceeds on payroll expenses. The PPPFA lowers the threshold to 60%.

The PPPFA also gives borrowers up to 24 weeks to use PPP loan proceeds for purposes that will result in loan forgiveness, versus only eight weeks under the original CARES Act rules. However, if you received your loan before the June 5 enactment date of the PPPFA, you can choose to follow the old eight-week rule and apply for loan forgiveness after only eight weeks. Regardless of when you receive your loan, you can now choose to follow the new 24-month rule.

The PPPFA also extends the employee rehiring deadline from 6/30/20 to 12/31/20. Businesses were unhappy with the CARES Act rule that employees had to be rehired by 6/30/20 for their salaries to count towards PPP loan forgiveness. The PPPFA favorably addresses that concern.

Under a new exception granted by the PPPFA, an employer can still qualify for PPP loan forgiveness, based on otherwise-insufficient payroll expenditures, if the employer can demonstrate that: (1) suitably-qualified replacement employees could not be hired by 12/31/20 or (2) the employer was unable to return to the pre-2/15/20 level of business activity.

Finally, thanks to the PPPFA, borrowers now have up to five years to repay PPP loans that are not forgiven, versus only 24 months under the original CARES Act rules. This favorable change automatically applies to loans made on or after 6/5/20. For earlier loans, borrowers and lenders can modify the loan terms to allow the five-year repayment deal.

Key Point: The latest SBA guidance says borrowers can qualify for partial loan forgiveness even if they spend less than 60% of their loan proceeds to cover payroll expenses. Previously, we were given to understand that you had to spend at least 60% on payroll expenses to qualify for any forgiveness at all. So, this is very good news.

SBA issues new forms to apply for loan forgiveness

The SBA just released a new-and-improved loan forgiveness application form (SBA Form 3508) that reflects the favorable PPPFA changes explained above. See here. The earlier pre-PPPFA version of the form was widely criticized. Figuring out how to make the necessary calculations and properly fill out the old version would have challenged the skills of the nation’s best CPAs and attorneys. So, we are making progress.

More progress: eligible borrowers can now use a simplified form to apply for loan forgiveness (SBA Form 3508EZ). See here.

Clarity for self-employed borrowers

After much confusion, it’s now clear that self-employed individuals who have no employees, and therefore no actual payroll expenses, can qualify for PPP loan forgiveness by simply paying themselves so-called owner compensation replacement. The amount that can be forgiven is based on your 2019 net self-employment income and can be up to 100% of the loan amount. However, the maximum loan amount for a self-employed person with no employees is $20,833.

Advice: It will be much easier to prove that you paid yourself owner compensation replacement if you maintain a separate business checking account to gather your business income and disburse it to your personal checking account. If you only have one account that’s used for both business and personal transactions, things are not so clear. Since the SBA has so far struggled to execute its task of supervising PPP loans, and since the SBA must approve all loan forgiveness applications, you are well-advised to make things very easy for the SBA to understand. That will make it easier for the SBA to approve your righteous application for loan forgiveness. Fingers crossed.

IRS says no deductions for expenses paid with proceeds from forgiven PPP loans (but stay tuned)

Moving right along, the IRS has opined that you cannot deduct expenses paid with proceeds from a PPP loan that’s forgiven. This conclusion relies on Internal Revenue Code Section 265, which states that federal income tax deductions are not allowed for expenses relating to tax-exempt income. Because forgiveness of a PPP loan is a federal-income-tax-free event, the IRS has taken the highly debatable position that Section 265 applies. Therefore, no deductions are allowed, according to the IRS. Reportedly, more than a few members of Congress are very unhappy with that position, because they feel it’s contrary to what they intended when they authorized the PPP.

Prediction: Future legislation will allow you to claim federal income tax deductions for expenses covered with proceeds from your forgiven PPP loan. Stay tuned.

Should you be afraid to take out a PPP loan?

Valid question, but I think not. You’ve probably seen reports about business owners who have either already paid back PPP loans or been afraid to take them out in the first place. Why? Because the rules are constantly changing and hopelessly confusing. Borrowers are rightfully concerned that they may have committed a foot fault somewhere in the loan application process and will be caught, forced to pay back their loans, and maybe penalized to boot. Potential borrowers have the same fear.

I say fear not. When all is said and done, PPP borrowers won’t be taken to the gallows for committing foot faults. Sooner or later, the SBA bureaucrats and rules writers will get that message — after whatever gentle persuasion is required from Congress, the Treasury Department and the White House to make it so. Bet me if you think I’m wrong. I’ll take that bet. How much are you willing to lose?

Key Point: All that said, I think applications to forgive PPP loans of $2 million or more will face lots more scrutiny. If your loan is that big, be ready for some resistance.

Sidebar: Employers can defer some federal payroll taxes

Thanks to a CARES Act provision, an employer can defer the employer’s 6.2% share of the Social Security tax component of FICA tax owed on the first $137,700 of an employee’s 2020 wages. The deferral privilege applies to payroll tax deposits and payments that would otherwise be due during the deferral period. The deferral period began on the 3/27/20 and will end on 12/31/20. This payroll tax deferral privilege is available to all employers (small and large) for eligible payroll taxes on wages paid to all employees. There’s no requirement to show that your business has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Your business must then pay in the deferred payroll tax amount in two installments.

* 50% by 12/31/21. Wow. That date is not a misprint.

* The remaining 50% by 12/31/22. Nice.That date is also not a misprint.

Self-employed individuals can defer some self-employment tax

Sole proprietors, owners of single-member LLCs who are treated as sole proprietors for tax purposes, partners, and LLC members who are treated as partners for tax purposes are generally classified as self-employed individuals. As such, you can defer half of your liability for the 12.4% Social Security tax component of the self-employment (SE) tax for the deferral period, which began on 3/27/20 and will end on 12/31/20. The Social Security component of the SE tax hits the first $137,700 of your 2020 net SE income. You must pay in the deferred SE tax amount in two installments.

* 50% by 12/31/21.

* The remaining 50% by 12/31/22.

Bottom line: What’s not to like about these tax deferral deals? Nothing. Please take advantage!

NerdWallet: 6 ways to invest in racial justice

This post was originally published on this site

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

Antiracism protests have called for action and change in our police departments and other systems that have historically oppressed people of color — including the financial system.

In addition to joining those protests, donating to organizations that fight for racial justice or shopping at Black-owned businesses, you can put your investment dollars to work for the cause.

“What comes after protests is money, and money is what will make change sustainable,” says Tiffany Aliche, a financial educator and founder of The Budgetnista.

Here are six ways to support racial justice with your investment portfolio.

1. Invest in Black-owned companies and funds that support racial justice

Kenneth Chavis, a certified financial planner at Mercer Advisors in Scottsdale, Arizona, says investing in stock of Black-owned companies can have two major advantages for investors: diversification and the potential for strong performance.

Diversification — which involves spreading your investment portfolio across companies of different industries and locations — is key to reducing risk in your portfolio, as is choosing companies of different sizes. As Chavis notes, small companies are often known for their growth potential. “Keeping in mind that some of the Black-owned companies are smaller, there is a ton of research that shows that over long periods of time, on average, the probability that a smaller company will outperform the average large company — or just the broad market — is extremely high.” Of course, small companies are also known to be much higher risk, so as always, you’ll want to vet your investment carefully.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these stocks listed on public exchanges, and weeding through individual stocks to build a portfolio requires research and expertise. So another option is to use your dollars to invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that will do that work for you. The Impact Shares NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF NACP, +0.95% tracks the Morningstar MORN, +0.83% Minority Empowerment Index and provides exposure to companies that meet the NAACP’s guidelines (though the fund itself is not sponsored, endorsed or promoted by the NAACP). Plus, all net advisory profits from the fund’s management fee are donated to the NAACP.

2. Explore peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending companies like SoLo Funds give people who have historically been overlooked by financial institutions and traditional loan programs the ability to access capital. SoLo borrowers can set the terms of their loan themselves, and there is no formal approval process. Lenders earn “appreciation tips,” and there are no minimum requirements, so you can get started with any amount.

Also read: 5 ways to support Black-owned businesses

The benefit of peer-to-peer lending, Chavis says, is asset class diversification: P2P loans are typically not correlated to the stock market. “It’s also a good way to help disadvantaged communities get access to capital, either for business reasons or personal reasons,” he adds.

P2P lending comes with one main risk: There is always a chance the borrower may not be able to repay the loan. SoLo attempts to counteract this by providing every borrower a “SoLo score,” which acts as a platform-specific credit score and is based on your initial registration and how you handle your loans. To further reduce risk, Chavis strongly advises diversifying the loans you offer by lending to multiple people and allocating no more than 10% of your overall portfolio to this practice.

3. Invest in companies that financially support racial justice

You can reward public companies that donate money to support racial justice with your own investment dollars. Over the past few months, several large corporations have pledged money toward antiracism efforts. By investing in companies that are committed to putting their money where their mouth is, you are letting those companies know you support their decisions.

Remember, too, that “spending money is investing money,” says Aliche. “You might not be seeing a return if you’re not an actual stock shareholder, but you’re putting money into those companies.”

Don’t miss: Venture funding remains elusive for Black tech entrepreneurs

Before spending your dollars, she advises looking at a company’s social media, their website and reviewing who is on their team. “Spending your money with companies that are in alignment is critically important,” says Aliche.

4. Explore startups or real estate crowdfunding

You may not have angel investor status yet, but you can still invest in some cool startups that aren’t yet publicly traded. Republic allows investors to find emerging businesses and get in on the ground floor for as little as $10. The site also lets you filter listed businesses to those with Black founders (as well as to those with female founders and other socially responsible investing criteria).

You can also invest in real estate (and in some cases, the businesses those buildings will house) with Buy the Block, a crowdfunding platform that is all about providing people with an equity stake in their communities and working to stop gentrification. You can invest on Buy the Block for a minimum of $100 (which is significantly less than most real estate crowdfunding platforms). Many of the projects listed on Buy the Block are in historic Black neighborhoods or benefit a local Black community (such as markets that aim to bring produce grown by Black farmers into food deserts).

Investing in startups and real estate crowdfunding carries a significant amount of risk, and you may lose your entire investment. As always, do your research before making any investment.

5. Rethink your bank

If your current bank doesn’t meet your needs, consider a Black-owned bank. According to a 2019 FDIC study, minority deposit institutions originate a greater share of their mortgage loans to minorities than non-MDIs. Some are also designated Community Development Financial Institutions, which means 60% of their financing activities are targeted to low- and moderate-income populations.

“I really like small, local banks,” says Aliche. “Put your money toward banks that are reinvesting back into the community where you are, and don’t be afraid to ask what initiatives they have for the African-American community. Even if it’s not an African American-owned bank, they might have more community-focused initiatives than a larger bank.”

6. Learn from and work with Black financial professionals

Working with a Black financial adviser not only invests your money back into the community, it helps that adviser continue adding their perspective to the predominantly white space of financial advice. You can find a directory of Black financial advisers through the Association of African-American Financial Advisors.

You can also opt to invest and get financial guidance through a Black-owned investment platform. For example, Freeman Capital is a Black-owned and -founded investment platform that recognizes that the wealth gap is hurting women and people of color, and offers everything from automated investing to consultations with CFPs.

More from NerdWallet:

Alana Benson is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: abenson@nerdwallet.com.

FA Center: The No. 1 market-timer of the 1980s and 1990s has this message for buy-and-hold investors now

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The best-performing stock-market timing system of the 1980s and 1990s is saying that you be in cash until the last two days of July. But before you rush to sell your stocks as part of a short-term trade, you should know that this system’s record in recent years has been less impressive. Nevertheless there’s hope that the system can return to its winning ways.

I’m referring to the Seasonality Timing System first introduced in the 1970s by Norman Fosback, then the head of the Institute for Economic Research. The system calls for being invested in equities around the turns of each month as well as immediately prior to exchange holidays. The rest of the time it’s in cash.

My Hulbert Financial Digest began tracking Fosback’s system at the end of 1981. Not only was it top-ranked over the next 20 years, it was the only market timing system the HFD tracked over that period which made more money than a simple buy-and-hold strategy. Moreover, given that the approach incurred far less risk than the overall market, it nearly doubled the market’s return on a risk-adjusted basis.

Yet Fosback’s market timing system has lagged the market over the most recent decade. Consider a hypothetical portfolio that is 100% invested in the Wilshire 5000 Total Return Index whenever the system calls for being in the market, but otherwise earns the 90-day T-Bill rate. For the decade through this past Jun. 30, this portfolio produced an 8.4% annualized return, versus 12.5% for buying and holding. Though this portfolio came closer to equaling the market on a risk-adjusted basis, it nevertheless lagged on that basis as well.

What accounts for this deterioration? The most likely explanation is that it’s a victim of its success. As more and more investors began following it, they killed the goose laying the golden egg.

Middle of the month strength

It may be possible to tweak the Fosback system to give it new life, according to Vincent Deluard, head of global macro strategy at investment firm StoneX. In a recent communication to clients, Deluard highlighted another monthly pattern that, while similar to the ones exploited by Fosback’s original system, has not weakened over the past decade.

This additional pattern recognizes the above-average strength in U.S. stocks during the middle of a month. But why would the market exhibit strength at that time?

Deluard believes it’s for the same reason that equities previously exhibited strength around the turns of the month: Inflows from 401(k)s. Money withheld from employee paychecks to deposit in their 401(k)s (and often matched by employers) quickly make their way into the stock market.

Many employees are paid on a twice-monthly payroll cycle, so it’s not just at the end of the month that these 401(k)-sourced inflows take place. Some also take place mid-month. Deluard hypothesizes that because the turn-of-month strength was more widely known, it was arbitraged away while the mid-month strength was able to persist.

How to follow seasonal patterns

You might think that you have to be a day trader to exploit this seasonal pattern. Not exactly. There will be times, for other reasons entirely, when you will invest new money in the market or pull money out. Based on the historical pattern of monthly strength, you could invest new money a couple of days before any of the seasonally strong periods. That way your investment will get a little extra boost if and when that strength appears.

You also could pull money out of the market a couple of days after those seasonally strong periods. That way you would benefit from any abnormal market strength during that time.

Should you focus these inflows and outflows only before or after the mid-month period? Deluard, in an email, suggested also doing so before or after turns of the month. That’s because there’s always the chance that the turn-of-the-month pattern will come roaring back. Even if doesn’t, there is no evidence that the market is a below-average performer on those days.

There’s a broader lesson here too about how efficient markets operate: Once too many investors know about a profitable pattern and try to exploit it, that pattern stops working. Insofar as the mid-month strength pattern that Deluard identified continues to work in the future, it will do so only so long as too many investors don’t know about it. (So don’t tell.)

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at mark@hulbertratings.com

Read:‘It’s like trying to beat the casino’ — Rookie trader turns $15,000 into $1 million, then loses almost everything

More:  Retired and want to try day trading? Read this first

FA Center: 4 reasons why being a responsible ESG investor can help your 401(k) do better

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Environmental, Sustainable and Governance (ESG) focused investments are performing as well, if not better, than traditional investments.  In 2019, $21.4 billion went into sustainable funds, according to investment researcher Morningstar and this trend is strengthening, with deposits of $10.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020 alone. One out of every four investment dollars is in a socially responsible investment, according to a study from the US SIF Foundation.

If your 401(k) and other investments aren’t part of this developing, future-focused part of the market, you are missing out. Rather than listen to the naysayers and old-school financial professionals, learn more. Then, take action today to align your investments with your values.

Here are four arguments against ESG investing — and why they don’t hold water:

1. ‘It’s been tried before’: Socially responsible portfolios used to be one-issue campaigns: South Africa and apartheid; tobacco; weapons, “sin stocks,” for example. Many religious and cultural institutions invest only with responsible-investing companies that meet their strict requirements to cover only aligned investments. This approach is targeted, rather than comprehensive, and returns suffered as a result.

Nowadays, socially responsible investments (SRI) embrace a larger investment landscape, going beyond the exclusion of companies to including companies that make an impact. 

2. ‘They don’t make money’: ESG funds have performed well in downturns, and that was true in the first quarter of 2020. Among ESG-focused U.S.-equity index funds, 10 out of 12 surpassed iShares Core S&P 500 ETF IVV, +1.00% by an average of 1.37 percentage points, net of fees. All 11 ex-U.S. equity index ESG funds outperformed their respective indexes by an average of 1.89 percentage points.

Only 3%-4% of employer-sponsored retirement plans feature an ESG option. If you want it, ask for it.

3. ‘My 401(k) does not have that option’: Only 3%-4% of employer-sponsored retirement plans feature an ESG option. If you want it, ask for it. This is your plan and your investment dollars. Your employer may not have considered this option unless you bring it up.  

Petition the trustees of the plan about this shortfall. The trustees may think they know the traditional norms of Wall Street and therefore believe it’s safer to stick with the tried and true. Include data to show you’re informed; that will help your advocacy of ESG as a practical and solid investment option. 

Working in your favor is the 401(k) trustees’ goal is of having more employees and more dollars enrolled in the company plan. According to a Natixis study, more participants invest when there is an ESG option. For example, millennials are more likely to invest in ESG funds, so offering them the opportunity could increase 401(k) enrollment.

4. ‘The fees are too expensive’: Be wary when an investment professional says that ESG funds are too expensive. Looking only at fees is a narrow view. The total outcome is what you want to know. What is the fund’s net return versus similar investments? As with an investment, evaluate the risk, the return and the impact.   

CD Moriarty is a Vermont-based financial speaker, writer and coach. She can be reached through her website.

Read: As boomers hand over the keys to the stock market, sustainability-minded younger investors let their consciences lead

More: The only way to truly solve the race problem in America is to narrow the wealth gap, Black economists say

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