The Week in Business: A Plan for Paid Family Leave

Good morning and have a nice May. Does anyone else want to go on vacation or just get a chance to go elsewhere? Good news: if you are vaccinated, you could be fleeing to Europe this summer (and strengthening the ailing tourism industry). Here’s what you need to know for the business and technical news week ahead. – Charlotte Cowles

In his first address to Congress, President Biden outlined his American family plan, the third major spending proposal he made in his 100 days in office. (The first was the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, which went into effect in March, and the second was the US infrastructure-focused employment plan, which has not yet passed Congress.) The most recent proposal includes that Funding of a universal preschool kindergarten and federal paid family leave, a permanently expanded tax credit for children, subsidized childcare for families with low and middle incomes and a free adult education center, among other initiatives. To pay for that, Mr. Biden wants to raise taxes for the rich. But most Republicans are against tax hikes, saying the plan costs too much.

Further signs of life from the economy. According to the Ministry of Commerce, the country’s gross domestic product rose by 6.4 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter. That is almost the prepandemic high again. Consumer spending is also rising, and some analysts believe it could grow more than 9 percent this year – a record – as health and working conditions continue to improve and travel and dining reopen.

The pandemic was great for the tech giants. Amazon’s most recent quarterly report showed such blockbuster sales – up 44 percent year over year – that it exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts. Meanwhile, Apple’s profits rose 54 percent, largely thanks to soaring iPhone sales. And Facebook nearly doubled its sales over the same period, while Twitter grew 28 percent. (Both companies have stopped former President Donald J. Trump and some extremist figures from posting on their platforms since January, but this clearly hasn’t hurt their bottom line.)

The battle between Apple and Epic Games, which makes up the popular video game Fortnite, takes place in federal court in California this week. The dispute started last year when Epic began selling Fortnite directly to its customers, in breach of its contract with Apple, which earns a 30 percent commission from App Store sales. Apple reciprocated by kicking Fortnight out of its store, and Epic fought back with a lawsuit. The case is being closely monitored by other companies and lawmakers who have raised concerns about the App Store’s anti-competitive practices. These include European regulators who on Friday accused Apple of violating antitrust laws by imposing unfair rules and fees on competing music streaming services.

For the good of those around you, do not store toilet paper. But keep in mind that it will get more expensive soon. Companies like Procter & Gamble, General Mills, and Kimberly-Clark are raising prices for everyday items like tampons, toilet paper, diapers, and cereal this year to offset soaring production and shipping costs. These costs rose during the pandemic, particularly when supply chains were pinched, but companies were reluctant to pass them on to ailing consumers. Now that the economy is starting to stabilize, expect some price adjustments for the past year.

The travel industry is ready to go – when you are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relaxed the rules for resuming cruise ship operations, allowing some ships to set sail as early as mid-July when they confirm that 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated. And the European Union said American tourists with vaccine certificates will be allowed to visit the bloc this summer, more than a year since they banned unnecessary travel from most countries.

The Food and Drug Administration announced a long-awaited ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, as well as all flavored cigars. (Possession remains legal, though.) Amazon will raise salaries for half a million of its workers to anywhere from 50 cents to $ 3 an hour. And the Federal Reserve kept interest rates close to zero, downplaying a spike in inflation, and pledging to continue to support the recovering economy.

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