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‘Sari-sari’ stores to the rescue



Go Negosyo holds online forum“The CEO Checklist for COVID-19.” Clockwise, from left: LT Group president and COO Michael Tan, Wilcon Depot founding chair William Belo, Bountry Fresh CEO Tennyson Chen, Universal Leaf Philippines CEO Winston Uy, and Jeron Travel and Tours CEO Chal Lontoc

While a few Filipino CEOs see “no end in sight” just yet to the economic crisis brought about by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, they do see huge promise in a humble establishment that can be found on almost any street in the country: The “sari-sari” (variety) store.

In the online forum “The CEO Checklist for COVID-19” organized by Go Negosyo on April 16, Michael Tan, president and COO of LT Group, Inc. (Asia Brewery Incorporated, Eton Properties Philippines Inc., PMFTC Inc., Philippine National Bank, Tanduay Distillers) said one way to ease the transition from an enhanced community quarantine to a barangay-level one would be to bring essential goods closer to people—and the best way to do that would be to fully utilize sari-sari stores in each village.

“[The sari-sari store is] one of the smallest MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) units we have in the economy. Because of its limited capa­city, it will carry only what’s fast-moving—what’s needed in the barangay,” Tan said. “People wouldn’t need to go to the wet market or grocery. The idea is to bring the goods to them, rather than have them go out.”

He added that although measures implemented by government, such as cash assistance, relief goods distribution, and rolling markets, have been a big help, the sari-sari store would still be the most efficient business unit that could get people to minimize their movement when buying the provisions they need.

“They would even know who in the neighborhood has good or bad credit, since they even have their own ‘pautang’ (loan) system,” Tan said. “So the suggestion is to allow distribution of goods to sari-sari stores, so people wouldn’t need to get out of their barangays.”

With their stores open, sari-sari owners would then be able to earn their own income again, and not just rely on financial aid given by government. The eco­nomy will also stand to benefit from such setup, Tan said.

“From what I’ve read, sari-sari stores contribute 13 percent to our GDP (gross domestic product)—that’s around P1.5 trillion,” he added. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Joining Tan during the discussion, which was modera­ted by Jeron Travel and Tours CEO Chal Lontoc, were fellow Universal Leaf Philippines Inc. CEO Winston Uy; Wilcon Depot founding chair William Belo; Bountry Fresh Food Inc. CEO Tennyson Chen; and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion. The business leaders talked about plans for their respective companies once lockdown measures become more lax and, eventually, are completely lifted.

They also gave advice to other business owners who are still trying to figure out what they need to prioritize when they restart their enterprises. The consensus: A leader’s prio­rity in a crisis such as this should always be the people.

“This thing happened so quickly, that [CEOs] must be able to make their own checklist. And No. 1 on that list should be the health and safety of your people. If they are not confident about that, they will not go to work,” Uy said. “Health and safety, actually, is No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 on our list—and all the business processes will just follow after that.”

Tan also voiced his agreement, and gave examples as to how LT Group promptly responded to the pandemic: As early as mid-February, emplo­yees were asked to wear face masks and undergo thermal scanning at entry points, and elevator capacity was limited to six people at a time.

“We were also one of the first to do rapid tests. We have around 2,000 kits—PNB, PAL, our factories have it. We’ve also ordered another 10,000 of these kits that will come in two to three weeks’ time,” Tan said.

Ultimately, protecting one’s employees also means protec­ting one’s livelihood, Uy added.

“Livelihoods don’t happen overnight. All of us in this forum took a lifetime to build and grow our businesses in order to feed our families, and take care of our stakeholders. When livelihoods are lost, the social fabric that binds us together as a community is ruined, and when that breaks down, I don’t know how many more lives will also be lost,” Uy said.

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Evicted California renters at greater risk of getting COVID-19



After 70 years in Monterey County, 87-year-old Mary Martinez moved in the middle of a pandemic, evicted from her modest one-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 1118 Parkside St. in north Salinas.

According to her former landlord, Martinez was evicted because she allowed a “violent man” to live with her, violating the conditions of her lease. Martinez said the man is her epileptic nephew.

Advocates say that while evictions like Martinez’s are rarer during the pandemic, landlords are feeling the financial squeeze. Some have sold rental properties to make up for lack of income. That can leave renters out in the cold when their new landlord raises the rent by hundreds of dollars or requires all renters move out before they take over the building.

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New program to help Black-owned online businesses | Technology



ATLANTA _ Many Black entrepreneurs struggle to get bank loans and professional help to launch new businesses. A new program aims to remove those stumbling blocks.

An Atlanta nonprofit and another business have committed $150 million to the 1 Million Black Businesses effort, which will make loans and provide financial and business advice to Black-owned startups and established small businesses. Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation Hope, which helps consumers improve credit scores, is kicking in $20 million, and Shopify, the online e-commerce is adding another $130 million for the loans and website-hosting services.

Other services firms providing expertise or help include Aprio, an Atlanta-based accounting firm, and First Horizon Bank.

It’s a package of products that many Black entrepreneurs couldn’t get through a bank or credit union, said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope.

“A bank won’t lend you money unless you can prove that you don’t need it,” Bryant said. “That’s especially true with minority-owned small businesses.”

Small businesses with Black owners were half as likely to obtain business loans as whites, according to a Federal Reserve survey published earlier this year.

The initiative is the latest effort to help Black consumers and businesses enter the financial mainstream. Earlier this month, a group that includes rapper Killer Mike opened a digital bank aimed at Black and Latino consumers.

Banks and credit unions have tried for years to help Black consumers open checking and savings accounts. The efforts helped, as the number of U.S. households without bank accounts fell to 5.4% in 2019 from 6.5% in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday.

Consumers who own checking and savings accounts typically have access loans with better rates and a wider variety of financial services.

The federal government’s $660 billion loan initiative for businesses hit by COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program, also helped few Black-owned businesses, Bryant said. PPP loans were based on a company’s number of employees and its rent obligations. many Black-owned small businesses typically didn’t have enough workers to qualify and are based out of the owner’s residence.

Bryant said a bad credit history may not prevent applicants from receiving a loan.

He hopes more companies will contribute services such as insurance advice or software typically available only to well-established businesses.

Bryant noted that 1MBB is not a charitable organization, as participating companies like Shopify will likely get a pipeline of new business customers through the program.

“This is not pure philanthropy,” he said. “Shopify believes that Black-owned businesses are good businesses if they’re properly supported.”

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This Week’s Top Car Deals & Analysis – October 30, 2020



The final days of October offer a chance to take advantage of outstanding model year-end deals. Most offers end November 2, which means there isn’t much time left to enjoy this month’s best lease deals and deepest new car discounts. We even found incentives that can help those with bad credit buy a new or used car.

2021 car deals. Interestingly, 2021 new car incentives are showing some surprises. For example, Audi is already offering up to $12,000 in savings when leasing the 2021 e-tron all-electric crossover. We even learned that the new Genesis GV80 SUV will debut with a $589/month lease deal plus special financing rates.

Believe it or not, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N could prove to be a great value despite a nearly $4,700 price increase compared to the previous year. That’s because our analysis finds that better incentives can make it just $10/month more expensive to lease than the 2020 model. Talk about getting more for your money.

Why are small cars bad to lease? Even though smaller cars typically come with lower price tags, that isn’t always the case when leasing. A mix of lower discounts, worse residual values, and smaller discounts can actually make a Nissan Altima cheaper than a Versa despite having an almost $10,000 difference in MSRP.

Shorter-mileage leases. More brands are offering shorter mileage allowances on car leases. Although this is typically used to offer consumers more flexibility, we’ve found cases in which you can end up getting less for your money. If you don’t read all the fine print, this could make comparison-shopping difficult.

Bad credit car deals. If you have subprime credit, you may find it harder to get financed. However, some manufacturers are offering special incentives to help make cars & trucks more affordable. For example, Chevy is offering $2,000 in down payment assistance plus 9.9% APR for 72 months on the 2020 Trax.

$0 down leases. If you’re adamant about now putting down any money on a lease, you’ll love Sign & Drive leases. In addition to requiring no money down, $0 down lease deals can cover your first month’s payment. Even hot sellers like the Honda CR-V Hybrid offer $0 down and as little as $330/month on a lease.

The high cost of safety? Even though most major automakers are offering more safety features than ever before, our analysis finds that the highest IIHS safety ratings still require costly options in 2020. That’s starting to change, but the cost of buying a car with the most bragging rights is still very high.

Disaster relief. Those affected by some of this year’s natural disasters should be aware that automakers are offering assistance. California wildfire assistance programs like Ford Employee Pricing can save thousands when replacing a car. Similarly, a 2020 hurricane relief program from GM offers $1,000 in savings.

Spooky loan situations. There are some scary scenarios you can avoid when getting a car loan. However, boosting your credit score is possible with some determination because negative items on your credit report fall off after 7 years. Our network of dealers is specially equipped to help those with bad credit.

Upcoming vehicles. Genesis finally revealed the new GV70, a small luxury crossover based on the highly-rated G70 sedan. Whether it’s a redesigned car, truck, or SUV, odds are you’ll find it on our Previews page. That said, as we reported last week, discounts ahead of a redesign can result in substantial savings.

This Month’s Cheapest Lease Deals »

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