Biden to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors to $15: Live Updates

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Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday raising the minimum wage paid by federal contractors to $15 an hour, the latest in a set of ambitious pro-labor moves at the outset of his administration.

The new minimum is expected to take effect next year and is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of workers, according to a White House document. The current minimum is $10.95 under an order that President Barack Obama signed in 2014. Like that order, the new one will require that the new minimum wage rise with inflation.

White House economists believed the increase would not lead to significant job losses, a finding in line with recent research on the minimum wage, and that it was unlikely to cost taxpayers more money, two administration officials said in a call with reporters. They argued that the higher wage would lead to greater productivity and lower turnover.

The White House also contends that although the number of workers directly affected by the increase is relatively small as a share of the economy, the executive order will indirectly raise wages beyond federal contractors by forcing other employers to bid up pay as they compete for workers.

Several cities have a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, and several states have laws that will raise their minimum wage to at least that level in the coming years. There is so far little evidence on how a $15 minimum wage affects employment in lower-cost areas of such states.

Two years ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but the legislation has faced long odds in the Senate. Mr. Biden sought to incorporate such a measure in his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package so that it could pass on a simple majority vote, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it could not be included.

Mr. Biden’s executive order will also eliminate the so-called tipped minimum wage for federal contractors, which currently allows employers to pay tipped workers $7.65 an hour as long as their tips put them over the regular minimum wage. Under the new minimum, all workers must be paid at least $15 an hour.

The order will technically begin a rule-making process that is expected to conclude by early next year. The wage will be incorporated into new contracts and existing contracts as they are extended.

Traffic in Philadelphia last month. BP reported higher earnings on Tuesday, and said it expected demand for oil would continue to recover from the pandemic.Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

BP reported a sharply higher profit for the first quarter of 2021 on Tuesday, signaling that after a grim 2020, oil companies’ earnings are recovering along with demand for their products.

BP said that underlying replacement cost profit, the metric most closely watched by analysts, was $2.6 billion, up from $791 million in the period year earlier. The London giant said that the price it received for its oil in the quarter was up more than 20 percent. BP described its trading and marketing of natural gas, where prices also increased, as “exceptionally strong.”

Citing strong economic growing in China and the United States, BP said that it expected the oil market to continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Bernard Looney, the chief executive, has said he wants to use the cash from oil and gas operations to finance a shift toward electric power and other clean energy.

In the first quarter, the plan seemed to work well. The company raked in about $10.9 billion, a sum that included revenue from sales of fossil fuel businesses, among them a stake in a gas field in Oman. Because of divestments, BP’s oil production fell by 22 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

At the same time, BP expanded into the offshore wind business. It entered into a partnership with Equinor, the Norwegian energy company that is developing wind farms off the East Coast of the United States, and is acquiring offshore wind acreage off Britain at what some in the industry considered high prices.

BP also said that, having met debt reduction targets, it would resume a program of buying back shares, a way to increase the price of BP stock; it had not bought back shares since the first quarter of last year, as its business was battered by the pandemic. In the second quarter the company plans to spend $500 million on such purchases.

Last summer, BP also cut its dividend for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago, to 5.25 cents a share. The dividend will remain at that level, the company said.

BP said it could generate a surplus with oil prices above $45 a barrel. Lately, prices have been considerably higher, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at about $66 a barrel.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted. Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

A Supreme Court case argued on Monday has created strange bedfellows, which did not escape the attention of the justices.

The matter pits charities against the State of California over donor disclosure requirements, and it’s a dispute over a seemingly small technical issue that some say has serious implications for political donations. It has turned groups that are often on opposite sides of political fights into — tentative — allies, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting the petitioners, the Koch-backed charity Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted. The foundation argues that California violates the constitutionally protected right to anonymous association by collecting major donor data and failing to protect it (the state’s website has experienced security breaches). Justice Kavanaugh cited a filing from the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Education Fund and others who all agreed that “a critical corollary of the freedom to associate is the right to maintain the confidentiality of one’s associations.”

“Certainly, we don’t see eye to eye with the petitioners in this case on every issue,” Brian Hauss of the A.C.L.U. said at a news conference after arguments at the court. In this case, the A.C.L.U. standing with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation because of what it calls California’s “systemic incompetence” in failing to protect nonpublic data. Legally speaking, however, it recognized a distinction between public disclosure and nonpublic disclosure. In other words, the brief didn’t argue for a general extension of anonymity.

Opponents say this is a case about “dark money.” Democratic senators argued in a brief that the foundation is advancing the matter as a way to make it easier for special interests to influence politics with untraceable money. “This case is really a stalking horse for campaign finance disclosure laws,” Justice Stephen Breyer said. A ruling is expected in June.

Shares in UPS were rising in premarket trading after the delivery company released first-quarter results that showed consolidated operating profit up 158 percent compared with a year ago.Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

  • U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors digested more company earnings reports and awaited the Federal Reserve’s next policy decision on Wednesday. The S&P 500 drifted between gains and losses soon after the start of trading.

  • Tesla fell 2 percent even after the electric-car maker posted a quarterly profit of $438 million, its highest ever. UPS rose 11 percent after the parcel delivery company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.

  • Alphabet, Microsoft and Visa are among companies also reporting earnings on Tuesday after the market closes.

  • By last Friday, a quarter of companies in the S&P 500 had published their first-quarter results, with 84 percent of them reporting earnings that were better than expected, according to FactSet. If this trend holds, it would be the highest percentage since FactSet started tracking the metric in 2008.

  • Most European stock indexes fell. The Stoxx Europe 600 declined nearly 0.3 percent.

  • HSBC rose 2 percent, becoming the best performer in the FTSE 100, after the bank said its pretax profits rose nearly 80 percent in the first quarter compared with last year. As the global economic outlook has improved, the bank released $435 million it had set aside for loan losses.

  • UBS dropped 3 percent after the Swiss bank said it lost $774 million in the first quarter from the collapse of the American hedge fund Archegos Capital Management.

Talasheia Dedmon enrolled her son Braylon in a college savings account through SEED for Oklahoma Kids, an effort to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets. Credit…September Dawn Bottoms for The New York Times

An experiment called SEED for Oklahoma Kids, or SEED OK, is one of a growing number of efforts by cities and states — governed by Democrats and Republicans alike — to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets

SEED OK is a far-reaching research project begun in Oklahoma 14 years ago to study whether creating savings accounts containing $1,000 for newborns would improve their graduation rates and their chances of going to college or trade school years later, Patricia Cohen reports for The New York Times.

Research about the Oklahoma project published this month by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which created SEED OK, found that families that had been given accounts were more college-focused and contributed more of their own money than those that hadn’t been. And the effects are strongest among low-income families.

The 1,300-plus children who were chosen at random to be given accounts in 2007 had an average of $3,243 saved by the end of 2019. Among the control group — another 1,300 children who were randomly selected to take part but were not given any money — only 4 percent had an account.

Proposals at the federal level to establish savings accounts at birth, for college, homes, business or retirement savings, go back to the 1990s. Canada, Israel, South Korea and Singapore have established versions of the idea. Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Illinois are among the states that have created programs.

Technical problems marred the Small Business Association’s first attempt at accepting applications for the grant program.Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

After months of delays and technical problems, the federal government finally opened a $16 billion grant fund for music club operators, theater owners and others in the live-event business on Monday.

Thousands of people hit the website for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program the moment it began accepting applications. Speed mattered: The money — awarded on a first-come-first-served basis — is widely expected to run out fast.

One applicant posted a screenshot showing that he was in line behind more than 6,000 others waiting for their turn to apply. “Hunger Games” memes — “May the odds be ever in your favor” — popped up in Twitter posts from desperate business owners venting their collective anxiety.

But this time, the system stayed up. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the agency had received 6,040 grant applications, according to Andrea Roebker, an agency spokeswoman. Nearly 8,400 more had been created but not yet been completed.

Sarah Elger, chief executive of Pseudonym Productions, an events production company in Philadelphia, successfully submitted her application 16 minutes after she got access to the system.

“It was such a relief,” Ms. Elger said. She was one of thousands of business owners who had their hopes dashed earlier this month, when the Small Business Administration, the agency that runs the program, tried — and failed — to start taking applications. After four hours, the agency took the system offline for what turned into weeks of technology repair work.

Ms. Elger estimated that she uploaded more than 100 documents for her application, which she and her husband, Ricky Brigante, spent months preparing. They knew they would have to move quickly once the application website opened.

“We turned it into a game,” Ms. Elger said. “We had lots of folders on the desktop and raced through the uploads.”

The Small Business Administration said it would immediately start reviewing the applications, which are intended to yield grants for 45 percent of applicants’ prepandemic gross earned annual revenue, up to $10 million.

“We recognize the urgency,” said Barb Carson, the deputy associate administrator of the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance. “With venue operators in danger of closing, every day that passes by is a day that these businesses cannot afford.”

The program, created in the $900 billion economic support package that President Donald J. Trump approved in December, is the first large direct-to-businesses grant program the Small Business Administration has ever run. The process, for both the agency and applicants, has for months been fraught with complexity and confusion.

John Russell, the executive director of the Montford Park Players, a nonprofit community theater group in Asheville, N.C., submitted his application on Monday afternoon. He is relying on the grant to help cover his group’s return to the stage.

After a full year of hosting only virtual events, the group is planning to open its first full in-person production, the Shakespeare play “The Comedy of Errors,” next month.

“We figured people are in the mood for comedy,” Mr. Russell said. The show’s actors are volunteers, but the production creates paid jobs for its director, stage manager, lighting designer, food vendors and others, as well as for the theater troupe’s support staff.

The Small Business Administration is also preparing to open a second grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion support fund for bars, restaurants and food trucks that was created in last month’s $1.9 trillion relief bill. That program is planning a seven-day test to help the agency avoid the kind of technical problems that plagued the venue program.

Lyft lost $1.8 billion last year as the pandemic cut into its revenue.Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

Lyft will sell its unit devoted to developing autonomous vehicles to Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary, the companies announced on Monday. Woven Planet will pay $200 million in cash for Level 5, Lyft’s self-driving car initiative, and will follow up with additional payments of $350 million over five years.

Lyft is among several tech companies that have stepped back from developing autonomous vehicles over the last year as the technology has proved difficult to master and the pandemic has placed pressure on the company’s bottom lines. In December, Uber essentially paid Aurora, a self-driving truck start-up, to take its autonomous vehicle unit.

Some automotive executives have said they overestimated how soon the technology would be ready for the road. And although Waymo, the autonomous vehicle unit owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has recently expanded its operations, the chief executive of Waymo stepped down earlier this month to pursue “new adventures.”

Lyft said unloading Level 5 would cut about $100 million in annual expenses, helping the company edge closer to profitability after the pandemic sliced into its revenue. Lyft lost $1.8 billion last year. The company is set to report earnings for the first three months of 2021 next month.

Lyft will still have a team focused on third-party self-driving technology and will continue to collect data from trips to help train autonomous systems, the company said.

“Not only will this transaction allow Lyft to focus on advancing our leading autonomous platform and transportation network, this partnership will help pull in our profitability timeline,” Lyft’s president, John Zimmer, said in a statement.

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