Day: November 18, 2020

Americans shifting travel and commuting budgets to home repairs during pandemic

There’s no place like home in 2020 – and Americans who are spending more time in the house continue to invest in their living spaces during the pandemic.

The average household spending on home services such as maintenance, landscaping and cleaning projects jumped to $13,138, up from $9,081 on average in 2020, according to a new State of Home Spending: 2020 report by HomeAdvisor, a marketplace that lets people find and vet home service professionals.

Home improvement spending amounted to an average of $8,305, while home maintenance spending totaled $3,192 and spending on at-home emergency projects like leaking pipes or flooding came to $1,640, the survey suggests. The average homeowner also upped their home projects to 11 this year, up from 8.1 in 2019 — a 23% increase.

The average household spending on home services such as maintenance, landscaping and cleaning projects jumped to $13,138, up from $9,081 on average in 2020. (iStock).

The average household spending on home services such as maintenance, landscaping and cleaning projects jumped to $13,138, up from $9,081 on average in 2020. (iStock).

The boom in home-buying this year is what seems to have spurred consumer spending on renovations and projects around the house, the survey suggests. And the top three most completed projects involved bathroom remodels, interior painting and installing new flooring.


“A greater cultural focus on home design and home entertainment, an aging housing stock and a shortage of new home construction — among many other fundamental factors — were already resulting in more spending on home improvement, home maintenance, and home emergency repair, and also continued this year,”  said Mischa Fisher, chief economist at HomeAdvisor.

The top reason for home improvement spending was to make the home better suit lifestyle needs, according to 41% of all consumers surveyed. By contrast, in 2019, the No. 1 reason for home improvement was to replace or repair damages, defect or decay, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has affected people’s lifestyle and spending habits. 


“Those factors, combined with a shifting range of needs for households as a result of coping with COVID-19, such as 27% more outdoor living needs, 40% more home entertaining, 50% more working from home, and 70% more home cooking, resulted in a shift in spending patterns,” the report notes.


The survey also found that more Americans were shifting their budgets from spending money on experiences such as dining out, trips or even commutes, to more tangible goods. Indeed, 33% shifted commuting budgets; 48% shifted vacation budgets, and 54% shifted restaurant budgets into home services, the report said. 

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Planning To Travel In 2021? Make Sure Your Passport Is Good To Go

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Biden says if Trump administration doesn’t coordinate with his transition team, ‘more people may die’

President-elect Joe Biden is calling for access to the Trump administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, saying “more people may die” if there’s no coordination with his transition team.During an address on Monday, Biden celebrated the “great news” that COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer appear to be more than 90 percent effective, but said “the sooner we have access to the administration’s distribution plan, the sooner this transition would smoothly move forward.” As President Trump continues to refuse to concede the 2020 presidential election, Biden’s transition team “does not have access to the administration’s COVID-19 data and vaccine distribution plans,” CNN reports.Asked what is the biggest threat of Trump obstructing a smooth transfer of power, Biden said, “More people may die if we don’t coordinate.” It’s crucial for his transition team to know what the “game plan” is for the “huge undertaking” of vaccinating over 300 million Americans, he added.”If we have to wait until January 20th to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month, month and a half,” Biden said. “And so it’s important that there be coordination now, now or as rapidly as we can get that done.”Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff pick, previously emphasized the importance of the transition being able to access the administration’s vaccine distribution plan, saying, “Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20th.” And asked on Sunday whether it would be best if health officials could begin working with Biden’s team, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN “of course” it would be, adding, “That’s obvious.” > “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden says about Trump administration’s refusal to help his transition and COVID-19 plans> > — CBS News (@CBSNews) November 16, 2020More stories from 7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump’s refusal to concede Trump is reportedly ‘very aware’ he lost the election but is putting up a fight as ‘theater’ Texas senator suggests it’s too soon to declare Biden the winner because Puerto Rico is still counting votes

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Brazil’s Azul posts $220 million loss but signals travel demand recovery

A check-in banner of Brazil’s Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras S/A, that cut flights to Portugal and Florida due to coronavirus, is pictured at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso/Files

(Reuters) – Brazilian airline Azul SA AZUL.N on Monday reported a third-quarter loss of 1.2 billion reais ($220 million) but signaled a faster-than-expected recovery in air travel demand, forecasting it will be operating 80% of its normal flights by year-end.

Revenue doubled versus the second quarter to 805 million reais, although was still 70% lower than a year earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Azul’s guidance is the most optimistic on Brazilian domestic travel recovery yet. Its rival Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes has forecast a 70% recovery by next year. Still, both forecasts are more bullish than what U.S. airlines have seen so far.

Executives said that Azul leisure travelers were already paying fares that were within 10% of pre-pandemic prices, although business travel has not seen a meaningful recovery.

Azul is focused on connecting Brazil’s smaller cities, most often focusing on routes where it can have a monopoly that gives it pricing power. Executives said they had seen the strongest recovery in Brazil’s northeast region, and that Sao Paulo’s business-focused Congonhas airport was lagging in recovery.

But while domestic travel may be recovering faster than expected, the same does not apply to international flights. Azul said the only international route it hopes to resume in the short-term is to Orlando, if the United States were to lift its travel ban on Brazil.

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Jason Neely and Marguerita Choy

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Inside Michelle and Barack Obama’s D.C. Mansion and Vacation Compound

After living at the most famous address in the U.S. one may wonder just what your next home will look like. Well, for Michelle and Barack Obama it’s not exactly a downgrade.

The former president and first lady spent eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but when they left the White House they didn’t move too far. In 2016, the couple decided to stay in the area so their youngest daughter, Sasha, could finish school there. The home they moved into is absolutely stunning and so is their vacation home in Massachusetts.

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama | Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Read on to get a glimpse inside the Obamas’ two lavish residences.

The Obamas’ D.C. mansion

Hello! Magazine noted that the pair purchased a Tudor-style mansion in the affluent Kalorama neighborhood of Washington D.C. for $8.1 million.

The property is more than 8,000 square feet and boasts nine bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms, gardens, terraces, and an au pair suite downstairs. It was built in the 1920s and renovated with marble trimmings and modern touches.

In 2018, Mrs. Obama told Ellen DeGeneres: “We were in the White House for eight years, but it wasn’t the house, it was us in it. It was our value and our love for each other. We just moved that to another house.”

RELATED: George Clooney Joked About His ‘Racy’ Texts to Barack Obama

Michelle also spoke to the talk show host about how Sasha has her own suite with a separate living area.

“Sasha actually killed in this house,” Michelle said. “She has a two-room suite, it’s all decked out. She has like a living room area and a bedroom.”

The former FLOTUS explained that Sasha even designed it all herself. And what about the space her husband got for his office?

“He’s got the smallest room for his office so he’s really hating on her,” Michelle joked.

Their Martha’s Vineyard vacation home

The Obamas also purchased a breathtaking vacation property in Martha’s Vineyard. According to TMZ, they bought the beachfront estate, which was formerly owned by Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, for $11.75 million in 2019.

The home spans 6,892 square feet with seven bedrooms and sits on 29 acres. The living room has vaulted ceilings, exposed steel beams, and a stone fireplace. There’s is also a formal dining area surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Their kitchen features all-white cabinetry and countertops, a stainless-steel topped island, and a breakfast area. There are also two separate guest wings.

There is another fireplace in the master suite, a marble-covered bathroom, and a private sun deck. The compound comes complete with sea views and has a pool and spa. There’s also an outdoor fireplace and a boathouse.

Martha’s Vineyard had long been a favorite vacation spot for the Obamas even back when they were still at the White House so it makes sense that they would purchase their own pad there.

RELATED: Michelle Obama Dreamed

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California’s Newsom issues additional $62 million to Project Roomkey


A Palm Springs man who was living the American Dream is now on the streets and homeless.

Palm Springs Desert Sun

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced an additional $62 million in emergency funding to allow counties to keep homeless individuals sheltered who were slated to be evicted from temporary hotel rooms by the end of the year.

Project Roomkey is a statewide program launched in April to temporarily house thousands of people in hotel rooms across California to prevent high-risk homeless individuals from contracting COVID-19 while living in encampments, mass shelters or on the streets. The program targeted seniors, pregnant women and others at risk for having severe COVID-19 symptoms.

More than 28,000 people, which is 17% of the state’s homeless population, have received a hotel room placement under the program.

The state previously said initial funding needed to be spent by the end of the year. As a result, nearly 12,000 people still housed in Roomkey hotel rooms — mostly clustered in California’s largest counties — were facing the possibility of returning to homelessness as the pandemic rages on, according to an analysis by The Desert Sun published two weeks prior to Monday’s announcement of additional funding.


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It is not clear how many of those individuals will be able to remain in their current hotel room placements with the additional funding. Riverside County, for example, should be receiving a portion of those funds, but the total is unknown, according to Greg Rodriguez, policy advisor for Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. The amount of funding will help determine how many people can stay housed and how many can be assisted in transitioning to permanent housing.

The state is making the one-time funds immediately available to local governments that still have Project Roomkey sites operating “so that clients living in motel or hotel rooms under this life-saving program will not be forced to return to street homelessness while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact California,” according to a statement.

Of the total allocation, $24 million will go directly to funding the hotel rooms.

“Project Roomkey exceeded all expectations, providing safe shelter to more than 22,300 Californians experiencing homelessness,” Newsom said in a statement. “But this pandemic is very much still with us — and we can’t take our eye off the ball. That’s why we’re supporting our counties with this new money, so they can continue this critical life-saving Roomkey mission and help clients transition into more stable, permanent housing.”

The state initially distributed $150 million to counties to address the need, but that funding quickly ran out. Many counties already have shut down their programs completely, kicked clients out due to lack of funding, or stopped taking new clients in.

Our analysis: These Californians could become homeless, again

Palm Springs: Homeless say they need more than protection from virus

Coachella Valley: 3 emergency shelters close due to lack of funding

Overall, only 5% of Roomkey clients have

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San Diego Housing Commission Earns Award For New Palace Hotel Seniors Project

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New Palace Hotel
Located in Bankers Hill, the New Palace Hotel was transformed into 79 affordable studio apartments by San Diego Housing Commission in partnership with a nonprofit affiliate, Housing Development Partners. Photo courtesy of HDP.

The San Diego Housing Commission Tuesday earned an Award of Excellence from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for its work to turn a hotel property into housing for seniors.

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SDHC earned the award for its work rehabilitating the single-room occupancy property New Palace Hotel to provide permanent housing with supportive services for seniors who experienced homelessness or were at risk of homelessness.

“This national recognition reflects the San Diego Housing Commission’s outstanding work to provide affordable rental homes for vulnerable seniors in the city of San Diego,” said Richard Gentry, SDHC’s president and CEO. “I thank and congratulate Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council, who supported this rehabilitation, as well as our staff and the community organizations that worked with us to make this project possible.”

The NAHRO Awards of Excellence recognize “outstanding innovation and achievement in housing and community development programs throughout the country.” Nationwide, 21 programs or projects received NAHRO Awards of Excellence this year. NAHRO announced the awards  during its virtual 2020 National Conference.

Located in Bankers Hill, the New Palace Hotel was transformed into 79 affordable studio apartments by SDHC in partnership with a nonprofit affiliate, Housing Development Partners.

It was the first major renovation of New Palace in about 25 years and included energy-efficiency upgrades and the addition of kitchenettes in each unit, which also received new shower enclosures and bathroom fixtures and was furnished with a bed and dresser.

Residents of the renovated New Palace receive federal rental assistance from SDHC and have access to supportive services provided by the nonprofit organization Serving Seniors, which also operates the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center located three blocks from the property.

Supportive services and resources include healthcare, legal services, entitlement and retirement benefits assistance, transportation, community events, and one-on-one support.

New Palace also includes one unrestricted studio manager’s unit.

— City News Service

San Diego Housing Commission Earns Award For New Palace Hotel Seniors Project was last modified: November 17th, 2020 by Christine Huard

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UPDATE 1-South African court rules insurer Santam should pay hotel group’s virus-related claim

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 17 (Reuters) – A South African court on Tuesday ruled that insurer Santam should pay coronavirus-related claims made by hotel group Ma-Afrika, which it had rejected, according to a written judgement.

Globally, firms like Ma-Afrika, forced to close under coronavirus restrictions, have been fighting the rejection of claims made under business interruption policies. In South Africa, insurers say these policies did not apply to government lockdowns.

Tuesday’s judgement however, following a case brought by the small hotel group and a related restaurant, ordered Santam to pay out on the group’s claims made under an extension of its business interruption policy.

“The applicants have established that they have an existing contractual right to indemnity under the infectious diseases clause to the policies,” the judgement stated.

The judgement said the combined total of business interruption cover for loss of revenue under four policies held by Ma-Afrika’s hotels, and another policy held by the restaurant, stood at 122.43 million rand ($7.94 million).

A spokeswoman for Santam, the country’s largest non-life insurer that has previously indicated it will appeal any decision against it, said the insurer would comment on the news on Wednesday morning.

Other insurers, under pressure from regulators and with their reputations bruised by the dispute, have also been watching the case. It is seen as providing some legal certainty around their obligations in relation to the policies.

Ryan Woolley, CEO of Insurance Claims Africa, a loss adjuster representing over 750 affected firms in South Africa including Ma-Afrika, said the case provided the certainty required to finalise all such disputed claims.

“We believe it is now time for the sector to step up and display the ethical leadership that has been missing from their response to this crisis thus far,” he said in a statement.

Andre Pieterse, chairman and CEO of Ma-Afrika, said the decision would greatly assist his firm and others in his sector to weather the pandemic, and he hoped it bought an end to the litigation.

He also thanked Santam for a payment received under a 1 billion rand initiative the insurer offered to affected clients. The payments were interim relief intended to tide them over while legal battles played out. ($1 = 15.4255 rand) (Reporting by Emma Rumney Editing by Nqobile Dludla and Alexandra Hudson)

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U.S. travel spending will plunge in 2020, not fully recover until 2024 -travel group

By David Shepardson

a group of people in a room: FILE PHOTO: People walk around the terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York

© Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
FILE PHOTO: People walk around the terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. travel group said on Tuesday that travel spending is expected to fall by more than $500 billion in 2020 and is not expected to recover to pre-coronavirus levels until 2024.


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The U.S. Travel Association projects spending in 2019 will be $617 billion, down from its July forecast of $622 billion, compared with $1.13 trillion in 2019.

The decline reflects the dramatic falloff in business travel. The group said the industry has lost nearly 40%, or 3.5 million, of all direct travel jobs and warned another 1 million jobs could be lost without additional government relief by year-end.

The group forecasts a 75% reduction in international visitors to the United States in 2020, accounting for a $119 billion decline in spending. The United States currently bars most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Europe, China, Brazil and some other countries.

The forecast comes as new U.S. COVID-19 infections has reached an all-time daily high and many U.S. states are issuing new orders limiting indoor activities and in some cases temporarily barring indoor dining.

“A lot of businesses that need help to retain and rehire their people won’t be there in January if we wait until the next Congress to get more aid passed,” said U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow.

The U.S. Transportation Department said last week the country’s airlines carried 65% fewer passengers in September versus the same month last year, the smallest decrease since March. Airlines say travel demand in November remains down 65%.

The U.S. cruise industry has agreed to suspend cruises through Dec. 31 and many major tourist attractions like Disneyland in California and Broadway in New York remain closed. Others remain at limited capacity.

Airlines have made a renewed push for $25 billion in assistance after a $25 billion program of mostly cash grants for payroll approved by Congress in March expired on Sept. 30.

American Airlines and United Airlines last month furloughed 32,000 workers.

Hotels, rental car companies and other travel businesses are still struggling even as demand has improved over lows following the coronavirus pandemic.

Marriott said on Nov. 6 that third-quarter occupancy at North American hotels rose to 37%, nearly double the prior three months based mostly on an increase in leisure travel.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates)

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