March 30, 2020

Help Is On The Way

Individual Americans and businesses crippled by the coronavirus outbreak are about to receive $2 billion in federal aid, but President Trump says even that largest relief package in U.S. history won’t be enough to deal with the continuing health and economic threat. GPG has a lengthy summary on the latest $2 trillion legislation available here, but a fourth relief package is likely. No one in Washington likes to let a chance to advance their agenda go to waste, and this crisis is providing an opportunity for action. Much of what has been in the first three coronavirus bills has been some combination of non-controversial items and low hanging fruit from each party’s to do list. If Congress turns to a next round, the pull of election politics is likely to be a growing factor in each side’s calculations. Those political and policy differences could make it harder to reach fast consensus on future bills. For now, senators are heading for their own social distancing back home with no plans for session until late April.

Voters Want American Businesses To Step Up

GPG held an in-depth conversation with voters last week and found Americans are judging brands based on their actions in this time of crisis. They expect companies to use their resources to help the most vulnerable, from retooling to make PPE and ventilators to increasing paid leave. And they expect those companies that benefit from federal aid to keep workers on the payroll while limiting executive pay. They want to see brands showing empathy for employees and customers and taking actions to help, even if it hurts the bottom line. As one participant put it, “Money is optional. Lives are not.” More detailed findings on the study, including what companies can be doing to earn trust, are available here. Meanwhile, other new research out shows President Trump has a modest bump in approval ratings and that Americans who primarily get news through social media are most likely to follow misinformation about the virus.

The Businesses Dilemma

Many of our clients that temporarily suspended operations are grappling with questions of when to re-open. GPG’s research shows voters clearly support staying home to mitigate the public COVID-19 threat, picking health precautions over returning to work at this point. President Trump is urging Americans to stay home through the end of April to slow the disease’s spread, saying a good case scenario would be death toll of 100,000 even with social distancing. Companies are conflicted about how to fulfil their deep sense of duty to their employees – cutting jobs as cash reserves dry up or getting people back to work as soon as possible to save their jobs. Meanwhile, this is the first week that many Americans face rent and mortgage payments coming due amid record unemployment filings.

Not All Industries Are Tweeted Equally

The economic impact of the novel coronavirus is being felt everywhere—but some sectors are getting more attention than others, at least in the Twittersphere. Over the last week, COVID 19-related Twitter chatter about the airline and financial industries made up the bulk of industry-focused coronavirus conversation. On the other hand, the tech and restaurant industries consistently filled the fewest tweets. But as the week ended, some attention appeared to be shifting to sports, entertainment and manufacturing. The shift could be for many reasons but came as entertainment companies reported a record surge in streaming services, some manufacturers looked to re-tool operations to provide needed medical supplies and the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. As the crisis continues to bruise the economy at all levels, this is a trend we’ll be watching.