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As the coronavirus reshapes our economy, we’re here to help you unpack the day.

Today: the relief package’s pain points, watching out for deflation and … what’s up with Apple?

What happened today?

Concerned that the $2 trillion relief package will not be enough to rescue the U.S. economy, lawmakers are discussing hundreds of billions of dollars more in emergency stimulus.

Stimulus programs passed just over a week ago as part of the federal CARES Act are being put to the test, with state unemployment systems buckling under a flood of new claims and banks having trouble meeting demand for the $350 billion in small business loans provided for by the act. The latter led the Federal Reserve to announce the creation of a lending facility that will either buy some of the loans from banks or lend to banks directly in order to keep credit flowing.

As CARES Act programs struggle to get off the ground, uncertainty is mounting in other parts of the relief system. Today, President Donald Trump ousted the chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the government watchdog group tasked with overseeing the administration of the COVID-19 stimulus bill.

From Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Relief for small businesses is already too little, too late

The treasury secretary is asking for another $250 billion to help small businesses. (Listening time, 35:09)


The Long Tail

It’s a question on many of our minds: When does a recession turn into a depression? As economists told Kai Ryssdal on today's show, one indicator that depression could be coming is a period of “significant and prolonged deflation” — meaning the prices of goods and services keep falling. During the Great Depression, prices fell by about 30%.

When prices start to fall, people’s expectations change. They may postpone big purchases to wait for prices to go even lower, a decision that can hit retailers, who could lose sales they were counting on. Retailers end up with debt on the big-ticket stuff stocked in their warehouses, which they can’t sell. The same goes for homeowners: When home prices start falling, folks might end up underwater on their mortgages.

For the moment, we’re not seeing deflation in the U.S. economy. In fact, the prices of some things — like eggs and orange juice — have shot way up. The next official measure of where prices have been headed, known as the consumer price index, comes out on Friday.

My Economy

“Marketplace Tech” spoke today with Kimberly James, a delivery driver in Georgia, about her concerns as an “essential worker” during the COVID-19 outbreak. Like many gig workers, James was faced with the choice between keeping her gigs or taking care of her health, and she chose her own safety.

James said she was asked to bring an order into an emergency room where coronavirus patients had been treated. “That's when I got scared for my life,” she said. “I can't die for somebody's milkshake or somebody's hamburger.”

If COVID-19 is affecting your economic situation, let us know.

Final Note

Blink and you’ll miss it. Apple announced two new acquisitions in the last week: of the weather app Dark Sky and of voice-assistant AI firm Voysis. The tech giant is also reportedly on the cusp of acquiring live events virtual reality company NextVR — a timely choice.

“I’m not saying it’s not smart business, I am only saying there is a timeline in which there would have been a real competition conversation that’s not happening now,” Molly Wood said on yesterday’s daily “Make Me Smart” podcast. “Tim Cook is no dummy. Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

No sensationalism. No fearmongering. Just facts.

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